The American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) considers the core
vaccinations for horses to be Eastern and Western encephalomyelitis (EEE and
WEE), rabies, tetanus, and West Nile virus.
If you look a little deeper, the definition highlights some important considerations
for any horse owner. So let’s break that down a bit, and see what we come up with.
1“Endemic to a Region” If you live in San Francisco, Calif., or the Bronx, N. Y., I’d think that you’re
much more likely to run into a good, authentic Italian restaurant than if you live,
say, in Jasper, Ind. That’s not to say that there’s zero possibility of a really good
marinara sauce in a small town in Indiana, just that it’s more likely to find one
where there’s a higher concentration of Italian chefs.
Diseases are like that, too.
For example, if you live in Florida, there are lots more mosquitoes than in Arizona.
You’ll find many more rabid animals in Michigan than you will in Southern California.
As such, if you’re living in Charleston, S.C., it makes a lot of sense to vaccinate often against mosquito-borne diseases such as viral encephalitis (especially
Eastern and Western), but it’s probably much less important if you’re living in
the middle of the Mojave Desert. Your veterinarian should be a good source of
information about which diseases are prevalent in your area.
2“Potential Public Health Significance” By and large, there are not a whole bunch of communicable diseases that you
can get from your horse. One big one, of course, is rabies.
Rabies is a really bad disease for which there is no cure. Fortunately, the
vaccines that are available to prevent rabies are very effective. If you live in an
endemic area (see above), you should vaccinate your horse against it.
3“Required by Law” Even if you don’t agree with the law, the people who make laws get rather
upset when other people break them, and they can make life fairly miserable
for scofflaws. So, in addition to there being a public health reason to vaccinate
against rabies, it’s also the law in some states.
A disease that is
both virulent and
highly infectious is
about as bad as a
disease can be. Virulent means that it’s
really harmful, and
means that it’s easy
to transmit between
horses. I’m pretty
sure most owners
would agree that it’d
be great to prevent
CAN I VACCINATE
MY OWN HORSE?
Some horse owners choose to get vaccines
from catalogs or feed stores, and vaccinate their horses themselves. Others may
choose not to vaccinate at all. Is that OK?
Assuming that the product is good,
has been properly stored, and properly
administered, there’s really no reason
why a horse owner can’t give his or her
own vaccinations. The vaccine doesn’t
know whose thumb is at the end of the
syringe, after all. The problem is that vaccine companies may not support issues
that may occur (vaccine reactions and
such) when a vaccine is purchased from
a catalog or other source.
As for not vaccinating at all, that’s not
a good idea. Some people seem to have
an exaggerated fear of vaccines, but there
are certain diseases that horses can get
that don’t require them being around other
horses (for example, any of the diseases
carried by mosquitoes, or tetanus).
If you love your horse, it’s hard to think
of a reason why you wouldn’t want to
protect him from fatal diseases. Plus, in
some cases, vaccination is the law.