As most horse owners know, a regularly scheduled vaccination program is one of the best ways to safeguard your hours(s) against viruses or diseases that are common to a specific geographic region, could present a public health risk, or are mandated by law.
There are many types of vaccines to give horses. Novice and even experienced horse owners have a difficulty knowing which vaccine to administer. However, there are four vaccinations that every horse must have. As a service to horse owners everywhere, we prepared this guide of the top 4 vaccines your horse must have.
Before you decide to give your horse any type of vaccine, we strongly recommend that you consult your veterinarian. Only a qualified, local veterinarian will be able to tell you which vaccine is appropriate for your horse. The following guide is meant to be suggestive only and not prescriptive.
- Eastern/Western Equine Encephalomyelitis – Eastern Equine Encephalomyelitis (EEE) is generally found in the eastern, southeastern and some southern states in the United States (US). Western Equine Encephalomyelitis (WEE) is typically found in the western and mid-western states. EEE and WEE is transmitted to horses through mosquitoes or other blood-sucking insects. EEE has the highest incidence of equine mortality; while WEE has the lowest equine mortality rate.*
When should a horse be vaccinated against EEE and WEE?
Previously Vaccinated: vaccinations should be given at 4- to 6- month intervals.
Previously Unvaccinated: a primary series of two doses with a 4- to 6- week interval; revaccinate before the start of the next mosquito vector** season and every year after that.
Previously Vaccinated: administer 4- to 6- weeks prior to foaling
Previously Unvaccinated: start a 2-dose primary series with a 4-week interval between doses right away. Administer a booster 4- to 6-weeks prior to foaling or before the start of the next vector season (whichever comes first)
Foals of Mares Vaccinated in the Pre-Partum Period: administer a primary 3-dose series starting at 4- to 6-months of age with a 4- to 6-week between the first and second dose. Give the third dose at 10- to 12- months of age before the start of the next mosquito season.
Foals of Mares Not-vaccinated or with no known history of vaccination: begin a primary series of 3 doses within a 4-week interval between the first and second dose. There should be an 8-week interval between the second and third dose. If the series is started during the mosquito vector season, it is preferred to give the second and third doses at a 3- to 4-week interval.
Naturally infected and recovered horses: Horses that have recovered on their own usually develop lifelong immunity. If your horse’s immunity status changes and it becomes susceptible to infection, you should seriously consider revaccination.
To vaccinate your horse against the EEE and WEE virus, we suggest the following vaccines: Equiloid Innovator, Fluvac Innovator 4, or Prestige V+ WNV
- Rabies – the chances of a horse getting rabies are relatively low, but due to rabies’ fatal nature and public health risk, it is recommend that a horse be vaccinated against rabies. A horse can be infected if bitten by a rabid bat, fox, raccoon or skunk. Typically, the bites occur on the horse’s face, muzzle or lower limbs. Once infected with the rabies virus a horse can develop fatal encephalitis in a short period of time.
When should a horse be vaccinated against rabies?
Previously Vaccinated: annually
Previously Unvaccinated: administer a single primary dose, and revaccinate annually
Previously Vaccinated: Vaccinate 4- to 6- weeks prior to foaling
Previously Unvaccinated: Administer 4- to 6-weeks prior to foaling
Foals of Mares Vaccinated: vaccinate a primary 2 dose series. Administer the first dose at six months of age (no earlier). Provide the second dose 4- to 6-weeks later. After that revaccinate yearly.
Foals on Mares Not Vaccinated: The first dose should be give at 3- to 4-months of age. Annually thereafter.
Horses exposed to a rabid animal:
Vaccinated horses: revaccinate immediately. Place your horse under observation by a licensed veterinarian for 45 days for development of clinical signs of rabies.
Unvaccinated horses: contact public health officials immediately.
To vaccinate your horse against rabies, we suggest the following vaccine: Rabvac-3
- Tetanus – Horses are at great risk of contracting tetanus – an often fatal disease. While not contagious, a horse can easily get tetanus through an open wound, a puncture wound, a surgical incision, a foal’s navel, or a postpartum mare’s reproductive tract that has been infected by the Clostridium tetani bacteria.
When should a horse be vaccinated against Tetanus?
Previously Vaccinated: vaccinate on an annual basis. Your horse should be revaccinated immediately after suffering a wound or surgery if the wound or surgery occurs 6 or more months after their previous tetanus booster.
Previously Unvaccinated: provide a primary 2-dose series of tetanus toxoid at a 4- to 6- week interval between doses. After that vaccinate yearly.
Previously vaccinated: Yearly vaccinations 4- to 6-weeks prior to foaling is recommended.
Unvaccinated: Give a 2-dose primary series with a 4- to 6- week interval between doses. Four to six weeks prior to foaling revaccinate.
Foals of vaccinated mares in the pre-partum stage: administer a primary 3-dose series starting at 4- to 6- months of age with a 4- to 6-week interval between the first and second dose. Give the third dose at 10 to 12 months of age.
Foals of unvaccinated mares: Start with a primary 3-dose series at 3 to 4 months of age. Wait 4 to 6 weeks before administering the second dose. The third dose needs to given at 10 to 12 months of age.
Naturally infected and recovered horses: Annual vaccination is recommended.
To protect your horse against tetanus, we suggest the following vaccines: Tetanus Toxiod
- West Nile Virus – a deadly virus that causes arbovirus encephalitis in horses and humans too. This virus is widespread throughout the entire United States and it is transmitted by mosquitoes.
Previously Vaccinated: Spring is the best time of the year to vaccinate your horse just prior to the start of the insect vector season.
Previously Unvaccinated: Based on the actual vaccine being used, a primary series of 2 doses is given to adolescent horses with a 4- to 6-week interval between doses is recommended. Annual revaccination is recommended.
Previously Vaccinated: Typically, four to six weeks prior to foaling.
Previously Unvaccinated: A primary vaccination series should be implemented immediately.
Foals of vaccinated mares: Depending on the type of vaccine used, the administration of a primary 3-dose series starting at 4 to 6 months of age is recommended with a 4- to 6-week interval between the first and second dose. The third dose needs to be given at 10 to 12 months of age.
Foals of unvaccinated mares: At 3 to 4 months of age, a primary series of vaccinations should be given with a 4-week interval between the first and second dose, and an 8-week interval between the second and third dose. This recommended dosage is based on the type of vaccine being administered.
Naturally infected and recovered horses: Most recovered horses might develop a life-long immunity. Revaccination is recommended if the horse’s immune status has changed or if advised by a veterinarian.
Protect horses against the West Nile Virus with one the following vaccines: Prestige V+ WNV, Recombitek rWNV EWT, Recombitek West Nile Vaccine , West Nile Innovator + EWT, West Nile Innovator +VEWT, or West Nile Innovator
For a comprehensive list of vaccines for horses, please download our free Equine Vaccine Chart
Need to buy horse vaccines online? Please click on horse vaccines.
*Source: American Association of Equine Practitioners http://www.aaep.org/info/core-vaccination-guidelines Accessed on 2/16/16.
** According to Merriam-Webster online dictionary, “a vector is an organism that transmits a pathogen.” Source: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/vector Accessed on 2/17/16.