5“Posing a Risk of Severe Disease”
Although I’m sure you wouldn’t want
your horse to get any disease, my guess is
that if he’s going to get one, you’d rather
him get one that doesn’t make him too
sick for too long.
As such, it’s a good idea to prevent diseases such as rabies, tetanus and encephalitis because if your horse gets one of those,
his disease is essentially a death sentence.
West Nile virus, while its virulence has
decreased since horses in the United States
were first exposed in 1999, can still make
horses pretty sick, and if you’re in an endemic area, or thinking about traveling to
an area where the disease is endemic, it’s a
really good idea to get your horse covered.
6“Efficacy and Safety” For many equine diseases, it’s hard to
know what to say about how well the vaccines work (efficacy). And while most are
pretty safe, none of them are 100 percent
free of side effects.
While we can say with a reasonable
amount of confidence that most equine
vaccines are pretty safe (they test for that
before they release the vaccine), it’s much
harder to say that all of them are equally
effective at preventing disease.
7Risk/Benefit Unless you’re vaccinating because you
have to, it’s the risk/benefit analysis of
vaccinations that is probably the most
important consideration when it comes to
making a decision about which vaccines to
give to your horse.
The person who is likely to be most
knowledgeable about which vaccines are
needed for your horse in his particular
circumstances is your veterinarian.
Medicine changes, and so will vaccination recommendations. It’s important to
stay abreast of current developments for
the good of your horse.
DAVID RAMEY, DVM, is an equine veterinarian
based in Los Angeles, Calif. He is also a researcher,
author, lecturer, and blogger. Clinical practice: www.
rameyequine.com; blog: www.doctorramey.com
FIELD GUIDE TO VACCINES
Here are some guidelines that might help you decide
which vaccines you should give your horse.
EASTERN EQUINE ENCEPHALITIS/WESTERN
EQUINE ENCEPHALITIS (EEE AND WEE)
Largely safe, minimal risk, pretty effective at preventing very serious diseases that
kill horses. Depending on where you are, your veterinarian might even advocate
vaccinating more than once a year (and that might not be a bad idea).
WEST NILE VIRUS
Largely safe, minimal risk, pretty effective at preventing a disease that can occasionally be severe enough to kill your horse. Depending on where you are, that one
might be worth doing more than once a year, as well.
Very safe, minimal risk, and very effective at preventing an awful disease. The
vaccine can prevent the disease for years, even though it seems that tetanus is in
about every other dose of vaccine available. That said, there’s really no reason why
a properly cared for wound should ever develop tetanus.
Very safe, minimal risk, and very effective. It’s the law in some areas, and even
though research is showing that its effects last a long time, where it’s required, you
still have to vaccinate against it every year.
Very safe, minimal risk, but perhaps not that effective. It might help decrease clinical
signs of disease in a horse, but it’s apparently not that good at keeping horses from
spreading the disease. If you show horses, you’re going to have to give it at least
twice a year.
Very safe, minimal risk, and probably not very effective at all. It’s required by the
United States Equestrian Federation to compete at their recognized shows, however.
In certain areas, such as Central Kentucky, it may be recommended. Seems to work
pretty well, and it’s safe.
STREP EQUI (“STRANGLES”)
This vaccine is more commonly associated with side effects, such as muscle swelling
and soreness (if given in the muscle) or, infections with the vaccine-strain of the disease (if given intranasally). There isn’t much evidence that the current strangles vaccines are very effective. On farms where it’s endemic, efforts to eliminate the disease
should focus on identifying carriers, quarantining new arrivals, and good hygiene.
There’s currently no Lyme Disease vaccine produced for horses. The vaccine that is
used in horses is made for dogs. It appears to be fairly safe, but it’s harder to say
how effective it is. Your veterinarian probably has a strong opinion about it.