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Vaccinating Horses: Risk-Based Vaccines
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Vaccinating Horses: Risk-Based Vaccines

We vaccinate our horses because we want to minimize their risk of contracting a life-threatening and/or infectious disease. Vaccination, however, is not an exact science and should be tailored to each horse’s individual situation. Use this American Association of Equine Practitioners’ Vaccination Guidelines and work with your veterinarian to devise an immunization program that’s right for your horse.

Before administering vaccines to horses, you have to think of the type of horse you want to vaccinate, how many times a year to vaccinate your horse, and any other special considerations.

Veterinarians recommend the following risk-based vaccines depending on the horse’s region, population, and disease risk.

  • Anthrax Vaccine: This vaccine must be given to horses that pastured in areas where alkaline soil conditions favor the disease-causing organism once a year after an initial two-dose series at a two to the three-week interval. This should not be given to pregnant mares.
  • Botulism Vaccine: This vaccine must be administered annually on horses, particularly pregnant mares, in Kentucky and the mid-Atlantic seaboard states. It should be administered on horses consuming large round hay bales, haylage, or silage and foals born in endemic areas after an initial three-dose series at four-week intervals.
  • Equine Herpesvirus Vaccine: This vaccine should be given to almost all horses, especially those on breeding farms or in contact with pregnant mares, horses younger than 5 years old, and other equine populations every six months, after an initial three-dose series at four- to six-week intervals. Veterinarians recommend vaccinating pregnant mares during 5, 7, and 9 months of gestation.
  • Equine Viral Arteritis Vaccine: This vaccine must be given to all stallions and breeding stock once a year. Isolate vaccinated horses for three weeks to avoid virus shedding.
  • Equine Influenza Vaccine: This vaccine must be given to horses younger than 5 years old and those in frequent contact with large numbers of horses once in six to 12 months, depending on the horse’s age and risk factors. Pregnant mares and foals require different vaccination schedules, so work with your veterinarian before vaccinating them.
  • Leptospirosis Vaccine: This vaccine must be given to horses over 6 months of age once a year, after an initial two-dose series at three- to four-week intervals. This vaccine is safe for pregnant mares in their second trimester.
  • Potomac Horse Fever (PHF) Vaccine: This vaccine should be given to horses on farms or in geographic areas where PHF has been confirmed once in six to 12 months, depending on risk factors, after an initial two-dose series at three- to four-week intervals. Time vaccination to precede the anticipated peak challenge period of summer and fall.
  • Rotaviral Diarrhea Vaccine: This vaccine must be given to pregnant mares. A three-dose series must be given to mares at 8, 9, and 10 months of gestation.
  • Snakebite Vaccine: This vaccine must be administered to horses living in or traveling to regions where rattlesnakes are prevalent once in six months, after an initial three-dose series at one-month intervals. Have your veterinarian contact the vaccine manufacturer regarding use in pregnant mares and foals younger than 6 months old.
  • Strangles Vaccine: This vaccine must be given to horses on premises where strangles is endemic once in 6 to 12 months, depending on risk factors, after an initial two-dose series at three-week intervals.

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