Horse Vaccines


If you’re looking for “low-cost insurance” to keep your horse healthy, then vaccines are a great way to defend your horse against expensive and even life threatening diseases.

You may already be aware that there are no standardized vaccination programs for horses like there are for small animals such as dogs and cats. Don’t let the lack of a standardized vaccination schedule stop you from vaccinating your horse.

Large animal veterinarians like Dr. Pol recommend horse vaccinations that are personalized to your horse based on numerous factors including the area where he lives, the primary role of your horse, and what kind of interaction he has with people and other horses. A veterinarian who is familiar with your horse is your most valuable resource for developing an appropriate vaccination plan and schedule.

Essential Vaccines

The American Association of Equine Practitioners endorses four essential vaccinations that they recommend be given yearly to every horse no matter what the circumstances.

  • Tetanus: A major concern with Tetanus, also known as lockjaw, is that it’s not easily recognized which can lead to a delay in treatment. Missing Tetanus or catching it too late most often leads to death or costly treatments.
  • Rabies: Though Rabies is not common in horses they can be infected via a bite from a wild animal, which is always fatal. This lack of a treatment makes the vaccine imperative.
  • Encephalomyelitis (Western, Eastern and Venezuelan strains): Mosquitos spread this neurological disease that can infect the brain and spine. While most often it’s fatal, if the horse does survive there is a high probability that there will be brain damage. This interactive map visually depicts the reported cases of equine encephalitis, as well as West Nile Virus, over the last 12 years.
  • West Nile Virus: Recovery from West Nile Virus, which affects the central nervous system, can be difficult and costly. This is a good example of a preventative vaccine being a huge cost saver if a horse is exposed to this disease.

Risk-Based Horse Vaccinations

In addition to the essential vaccines recommended for every horse, there are other risk-based vaccines that should be given based on the probability of exposure. These types of vaccines will be different based on region, seasons and weather. Your veterinarian should be consulted to determine if there are additional risk factors that would call for these types of vaccines.

Interesting Facts

  • Did you know, it takes at least two weeks after a vaccination for enough antibodies to be developed in a horse’s immune system?
  • It is vital to vaccinate your horse a minimum of three to four weeks prior to exposure to a disease.
  • Spring is the best time to get your horse vaccinated because it provides protection prior to the beginning of insect season.
  • Horse manure contains the organism that leads to Tetanus. Since horses cannot possibly escape horse manure in their surroundings a Tetanus vaccination is imperative.

Quick Tips

  • Horses should be in good health prior to getting vaccinated. Delay vaccines if you believe your horse is not well.
  • After a vaccination horses can suffer from minor discomfort or fatigue so they should be allowed to rest for two to three days. Sometimes, a lump will form from the Tetanus part, but do not let this stop you from getting your horse vaccinated.
  • In addition to protecting your horse, vaccinations can thwart the spread of disease to you and other pets.
  • A regular immunization plan is a vital part of being a responsible horse owner, however, it’s important to remember that sometimes while vaccines will reduce the impact of a disease they may not entirely prevent it. A close relationship with your local horse veterinarian is important to keeping your horse healthy.

The Final Word from Dr. Pol. . .

“It’s like I always say, an ounce of prevention is definitely better than a pound of cure. Oh geez, that’s a funny saying! Just keep your horse vaccinated and she’ll be happy and healthy for years.”

Star, the Horse.