Many owners believe that once a full grown horse has had vaccinations annually for the first 3 or 4 years of life their horse no longer needs vaccinations. Some owners will tell you that the vaccinations build up in the immune system and after a few years can make the horse ill. There are no concise studies that state this however, my suggestion to anyone who owns a horse or foal to be honest and clear with your Vet on what is and is not necessary to keep your horses safe from disease throughout their lifetimes. The most accurate information owners can get is directly from their horse’s veterinarian.
It is necessary for equine owners of young foals to be clear on what kinds of equine vaccines are needed to keep that foal healthy while he grows. It is always a good idea to ask the equine vet what equine vaccines are ones your foal may need, and the correct schedule for these equine vaccines. It is necessary to know this information because of the importance of mounting a strong immune response to the vaccines given and in what order and time periods are necessary for this immune boost to happen.
Core vaccinations can protect against endemic diseases in certain regions. Your local equine vet will agree that core vaccines demonstrate efficacy and safety at a high level to benefit the patient with low risk.
Less than 12 months of age if the mare is vaccinated pre-partum:
Tetanus – 3 dose series first shot at 4-6 months, second at 4 – 6 weeks after first vaccination, 3rd dose at 10-12 months of age is recommended. Owners of foals need to seek their veterinarian if a foal who has not been vaccinated yet obtains an open puncture wound.
Eastern/Western Equine encephalomyelitis -3 dose series with first shot at 4-6 months, second dose 4-6 weeks after first dose, and third does at 10-12 months of age. (And prior to the onset of the next vector season).
If your foal is in the Southeastern area of the US then keep in mind primary vaccinations should be initiated with an additional dose when the foal is 3 months old.
Rabies – 2 dose series with first dose at 6 months of age and second dose 4-6 weeks after first vaccine is recommended by most equine veterinarians.
Many barns do not require the rabies vaccination since it israre however, in the Southwest and Southern States there have been recorded cases of rabies in skunks and bats.
West Nile Virus – a 3 dose series:
Again with west nile foals in the Southeastern US need and additional dose at 3 months due to the early vector presence.
Inactive vaccine – 1st at 4-6 months, 2nd 4-6 weeks after 1st, 3rd 10 – 12 months old.
Recombinant canary pox vaccine – 3 dose, 1st at 5-6 months, 2nd 4weeks after 1st, 3rd prior to vector season.
There is no evidence that protection is better afforded to the foal if an owner uses an inactive vaccine or the recombinant canary pox vaccine.
Flavivirus chimera vaccine – 2 dose series – 1st 5-6 months and 2nd 10-12 months old.
Less than 12 months of age with mare unvaccinated:
The same notes apply to equine vaccines for a foal less than 12 months of age born to an unvaccinated mare as with a vaccinated mare. tetanus, rabies, west nile virus carry the same suggestions.
Tetanus – 3 dose series with first shot at 1-4 months, second 4 weeks after first dose, 3rd does 4 weeks after second dose, it is important to seek the assistance of your equine vet if there is an open wound just in case a tetanus vaccination is needed.
Eastern/Western Equine Encephalomyelitis – 3 dose series – first dose 3-4 months old, second dose 4 weeks after first dose and the third dose is 10-12 months old and prior to the onset of the next vector season.
Rabies – 1 dose series with 1st dose at 3-4 months, annually thereafter is recommended by most equine vets.
West Nile Virus –
Inactivated vaccine – 1st at 3-4 months, 2nd 4 weeks after 1st, 3rd 10 – 12 months old.
Recombinant canary pox vaccine – 3 dose, 1st at 5-6 months, 2nd 4 weeks after 1st, 3rd at 10-12 months old orprior to vector season.
Flavivirus chimera vaccine – 2 dose series – 1st 5-6 months and 2nd 10-12 months old
Again, with west nile, foals in the Southeastern US need an additional dose at 3 months due to the early vector presence.
If younger foals are at increased risk due to the presence of vectors then scheduling can be amended. Also keep in mind a foal that is born during the vector season may need the beginning equine vaccines administered at an earlier age.
Adult Horse Vaccination Schedule:
Tetanus – if previously vaccinated this should be annual, 4-6 weeks pre-partum. However a previously unvaccinated or broodmare that schedule is unknown should have a 2 dose series of one shot and then the second dose 4-6 weeks after the first. Your broodmare should be vaccinated again 4-6 weeks pre-partum.
Eastern/Western Equine Encephalomyelitis (EEE/WEE) – previous vaccinations, then annually and 4-6 weeks pre-partum. Unvaccinated previously should be a 2 dose series with the second dose 4 weeks after the first.
West Nile – with previous vaccination the broodmare should receive annual vaccinations and 4-6 week vaccination pre-partum.
Rabies – Annual and 4-6 weeks pre-partum or prior to breeding the broodmare. Please check with your horses vet regarding the rabies vaccinations. As mentioned above, there are many areas in the US that have had no signs of rabies in the wildlife or domesticated animals since 1959.
Horses 1 year of age and older:
Tetanus – if previously vaccinated should be annual. If not previously vaccinated then a 2 dose series with the second dose 4 to 6 weeks after 1st dose then annually after that time.
Eastern/Western Equine Encephalomyelitis – Previouslyvaccinated should be given annually in the spring or prior to the vector season. Unvaccinated then a 2 dose series with the 2nd dose 4-6 weeks after first and then an annual schedule as above.
West Nile – Spring is the season for west nile equine vaccines however, also vaccinate prior to the vector season, even if previously vaccinated. If unvaccinated then a 2 dose series with the 2nd dose 4-6 weeks after 1st dose and then annually beginning the next year.
If the horse is unvaccinated for west nile then follow this schedule:
Inactivated vaccine – 2 dose series with 2nd dose 4-6 weeks after 1st dose.
Recombinant canary pox – 2 dose series with 2nd dose 4-6 weeks after 1st.
Flavivirus Chimera Vaccine – single dose first, with the next vaccination prior to onset of the next vector season.
Rabies – If vaccinated then a single dose annually, if unvaccinated then a single dose first and annually thereafter.
Note: With an injury that penetrates the skin on any adult horse then tetanus should be administered if last dose was six months prior to the injury. For EEE/WEE owners may consider a 6-month revaccination interval for horses who are in endemic areas or immune-compromised.
Traveling Horses/Horses Exposed to Others:
Influenza – Annually, just as done in human influenza vaccinations these equine vaccines are administered prior to the flu season.
Rhinopneumonitis (herpes 1 and 4) – annually
Strangles – Annually
Strangles is a horrible looking disease and horses who will be around other horses should have their immunization semi-annual to annually. Strangles spreads by the transference of the infectious materials by the barn flies. There are two kinds of strangles vaccinations being used today, inter-muscular and also intra nasal. It has been noted however, that with the intra-nasal spray some horses may horse sneeze the live virus after the intra nasal treatment. It is this live virus coming directly into contract with the horse’s skin that can cause an immune compromised horse to contract strangles.Equine Viral Arteritis – Annually
If you board a horse at a stable, travel to shows, rodeos, fairs or other areas where you are unaware of the care given to the horses that will come into contact with your personal horse then by all means these vaccinations are most important.
Vaccines for Pregnant Mares:
Equine Herpes virus – 7 and 9 months of gestation
Spring Vaccinations – 4 to 6 weeks before birth
Additional vaccines that may be needed:
Consult with your veterinarian for a complete list.
Potomac Horse Fever – annually
Owners with horses in endemic areas with high risk may want to revaccinate at 3-4 month intervals.
Leptopirosis – annually
Anthrax – annually
Anthrax should not be given during gestation periods.
When vaccines are administered, for instance, any or all of the ones listed, horses can have adverse reactions. The usual reactions however, are local muscular swelling and soreness and transient, self-limiting signs including fever, anorexia and lethargy. There have been severe reactions noted at times such as infections at site of the injection. If an infection becomes apparent this may require the assistance of your Equine Vet.
Keep vaccine lot and serial numbers in your horses vaccination records for future needs.
Also keep in mind that most equine barn owners are capable of giving vaccinations intramuscularly, however, only a Equine Vet can administer the Rabies Vaccine to any horse.