Establishing a good horse vaccination schedule is vital to protecting your horse against infectious diseases.
A neurological disease caused by the rabies virus. Signs include behavioral changes and progressive signs of paralysis, but signs can vary from case to case. Rabies is always fatal, no treatment exists, and any human that is exposed to a rabid animal should have post-exposure treatment. Raccoons and bats are common carriers of the disease. Vaccination is performed with an intramuscular product, given yearly. Unlike in dogs and cats, there is no vaccine labeled for use every three years in horses.
Caused by a bacteria, Clostridium tetani, that is found in the soil and can enter the body through wounds. Clinical signs of disease are muscle stiffness and spasm that proceeds to a “sawhorse” stance, and the inability to move, chew or swallow. Treatment for tetanus is intensive and often unsuccessful. Horses are particularly sensitive to this bacteria, and require more frequent vaccination than humans. Vaccination is with an intramuscular product, given yearly in combination with the Eastern/Western encephalitis vaccine. If your horse suffers a wound and it has been six months since the last vaccination, a tetanus booster will be given as a precautionary measure.
West Nile Virus
A neurological disease caused by a virus and transmitted by mosquitoes that may result in fever, weakness or paralysis, and other signs of neurologic disease. There is no specific treatment for West Nile Virus other than supportive care. To reduce the likelihood of exposure, areas of standing water should be removed from farms (tires, buckets that are allowed to fill and then not used, etc.) Vaccination is with an intramuscular product, given in the spring (before mosquito season). Horses that travel to Florida or other Southern climates should be given a booster in the fall, because the mosquito season is longer in the South.
Potomac Horse Fever
Caused by a bacteria carried by freshwater snails and small insects (caddis flies, for example). This disease is characterized by fever, colic, diarrhea and laminitis. The horse is exposed when it ingests insects that are carrying the bacteria. Treatment includes antibiotics to kill the bacteria, and supportive care for the signs of diarrhea and laminitis. Vaccination for Potomac Horse Fever is an intramuscular vaccine.
Contagious upper respiratory conditions that cause fever, lethargy, cough and nasal discharge. Rhinopneumonitis (also known as equine herpes) can also cause abortion in pregnant mares, and there is a specific strain that can cause neurologic disease. The upper respiratory signs are treatable, but during infection the horse is very contagious, and infections can quickly spread through entire barns. There is no vaccine for the strain that causes neurologic disease. Vaccination for these diseases is usually quarterly, as the vaccine does not give good coverage for a full year.