Horse Vaccination Guidelines and Considerations

Mon, 10/07/2019 - 15:05
Posted in:
Woman wearing a long-sleeve Best Friends shirt cradling a horse's head in a stall

If you have horses, you most likely have questions about what vaccines your horse should have and how often. The answers to those questions can depend on several factors — among them, where you live, your horse’s disease risk and the horse’s overall health. Do you take your horse to shows, clinics or group trail rides where he will be around other horses? Do you live in a dry climate or a wet climate? Does your horse have health conditions that could make vaccines unsafe? All these questions and more will help your veterinarian make a vaccine plan for your horse. 

How do I develop a horse vaccination schedule?

Vaccine schedules for horses should be developed under the supervision and expertise of your veterinarian. There is no “one size fits all” recommendation for horse vaccines, and it is not a good idea to choose which vaccines your horse needs on your own.  

Your veterinarian will assess the overall health and disease risk of your horse, and then create an individual vaccination plan. Vaccinations are designed to be used in healthy animals only; vaccination of unhealthy animals can lead to vaccine failure and other complications. 

How often should I get my horse vaccinated?

Some vaccines are given yearly, while others need to be given more frequently. Your veterinarian will make a schedule that’s the best fit for your horse. 

What are the core horse vaccinations?

For adult horses, core vaccines are given to prevent:

  • Tetanus
  • Eastern/western encephalitis
  • West Nile virus
  • Rabies (depending on the risk in your area)

Those are the vaccines that are considered vital to most horses’ health, based on the severity of the disease they prevent, transmissibility to humans or risk of exposure. These core vaccines are typically given once, followed by a booster a month later, and then once a year. 

What other vaccines might a horse need?

In addition to core vaccines, your veterinarian will talk to you about vaccines that he or she recommends for your horse based on risk. Risk-based vaccines include those given to prevent equine herpesvirus, influenza and streptococcus equi (strangles).

What are the signs of an allergic reaction to vaccines in horses?

Symptoms of allergic reactions to vaccines can include swelling or abscess formation at the administration site, hives, fever and colic. Giving a horse multiple vaccines at one time may increase the risk of reactions.

What should I do if my horse has an allergic reaction to a vaccine?

If your horse shows symptoms of having a vaccine reaction, call your veterinarian right away. Depending on the type of reaction, you may be able to alleviate your horse’s discomfort with simple treatment. If the reaction is more severe, your horse might need veterinary help. 

It’s also a good idea to report reactions to the vaccine’s manufacturer, as well as to the USDA Center for Veterinary Biologics. To contact the USDA center, call 800-752-6255; for more information, go to the agency’s website.

Learn about horse dental care