As a horse owner, it can be a challenge keeping up with equine vaccination recommendations. Your horse means almost as much to you as their human counterparts – if not just as much! Why wouldn’t you, therefore, give them all the same tools to live long, stay strong and experience maximum health?
Of course, you would, and vaccines are an inescapable part of any equines health plan. They help them fight disease before it takes hold. It also keeps the pet populations as a whole safe from infection. To see exactly why vaccines are so important and how best to ensure your pet’s safety, it’s critical to understand how they work.
Here are some of the most common questions, and their answers.
How Do Vaccines Work?
Vaccines administer a very low dose of a pathogen to a horse so that their immune system can “learn” to fight it. When a virus or bacteria enters the animal’s body for the first time, they will not possess an immunity, but introducing the disease prompts their system to manufacture antibodies to help fight it, explains the American Veterinary Medical Association.
Those antibodies then live in their bloodstream from then on, so should they encounter that pathogen in real life, full-strength, they will already have the tools to fight it.
Will My Horse Be 100 Percent Immune?
This is a tricky question. Some animals who receive vaccines do develop total immunity. Others only develop partial immunity. Still, if they don’t receive booster shots regularly, they may lose part or all of their previous immunity.
That’s why the concept of “herd immunity” is so important. When the entire population susceptible to a particular disease is vaccinated, the disease can’t find a foothold. Therefore, even if an animal didn’t have 100 percent immunity, it wouldn’t matter, because other animals couldn’t get infected and pass it on.
Which Vaccines Does My Equine Need?
Your horse needs “core” vaccines and may need “non-core” vaccines. Core vaccines include rabies, tetanus, the West Nile Virus and Eastern and Western Equine Encephalomyelitis.
Depending on your horse’s lifestyle and location, your vet may recommend other vaccines as well. For instance, broodmares need to get revaccinated four to six weeks before foaling and if your horse goes to shows or other venues it may encounter diseases from other horses.
Are There Side Effects to Vaccinating?
Usually, no. Vaccines are safe and well-vetted, and we’ve been using the same ones on horses for years. At most, some horses may experience a bit of mild fever or discomfort associated with the low dose of the disease they’ve received.
In rare cases, however, you may notice a serious allergic reaction: itching and swelling of the skin and face, vomiting and diarrhea, or difficulty breathing. If you notice any of this, please seek veterinary assistance right away.
Mostly, though, vaccinations are a routine part of any pet’s life, and there’s nothing for you to worry about.