Equine Vaccinations and health care

Maintaining a comprehensive vaccination regime is very important for any horse or pony’s well being, and in the U.K equines are protected against two important diseases using inoculations.

Equine Tetanus

As with all mammals, and in fact even more so than most, horses and ponies are highly susceptible to tetanus. This awful disease, caused by the toxins of the bacterium Clostridium tetani, causes paralysis of the major muscle groups resulting initially in stiff limbs and an inability to move. The affected animal also becomes unable to open its mouth, which is why tetanus has the old-fashioned title of ‘Lock Jaw.’ The bacterium is technically known as ubiquitous, which mean that it can be found almost everywhere, and especially within the soil. Horses and ponies contract tetanus through small cuts and abrasions, usually to the feet or lower limbs, which are often too small to even be noticed. Once contracted the disease is almost inevitably fatal, and even animals which may eventually survive often have to be euthanased on welfare grounds. For this reason, if for no other, tetanus vaccination is essential for every horse, pony and donkey. The tetanus vaccination regime is as follows:

  • Initial primary vaccination
  • Second primary vaccination 4-6 weeks after the first
  • First revaccination between 12-17 months after the second primary vaccination
  • Booster vaccinations at an interval of not more than 24 months (2 years) following the first revaccination, and then every two years after this

Equine Influenza

Equine influenza vaccination is especially important in competing horses and ponies, as well as those stabled on livery yards or establishments with a high turn over of animals. Unlike tetanus, equine influenza, or ‘Flu,’ is rarely fatal, though it does make the affected animal very unwell, often rendering them unusable for several weeks or months. The main signs of equine influenza include a loss of appetite, severe cough, nasal discharge, very high temperature and weight loss; and unvaccinated horses often suffer terribly once the disease is contracted. In addition to this an increasing number of shows and events are now stipulating that attending animals are vaccinated against influenza, and will eject any animals found not to be. The influenza vaccination regime, which can be combined with the tetanus vaccination program, is as follows:

  • Initial primary vaccination
  • Second primary vaccination 21-92 days after the first
  • First booster vaccination 150-215 days after the second
  • Yearly booster vaccinations at an interval of not more than 12 months following the first booster.

*** Please note that the FEI rules for vaccination differ from those of the vaccine manufacturer’s. Any horses competing under FEI rules must have their first booster vaccination not more than six months and twenty one days after the second vaccination of the primary course. They must also be vaccinated within six months and twenty one days of any competition, but not within seven days of the competition.***

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