horse vaccinations

What is Equine Influenza and why vaccinate?

An acute and highly contagious viral disease, Equine Influenza left its mark on the Australian horse industry during a major outbreak in 2007-2008. In this article, we discuss the importance of vaccinating your horse against Equine Influenza.  Caused by strains of the influenza virus type A, Equine Influenza results in a severe upper respiratory tract infection that can rapidly spread from horse to horse. Shown to have a 100% infection rate in unvaccinated horses exposed to the disease, vaccination remains the only protection for your horse. While an earlier subtype of the virus – known as A1 (H7N7) – is now believed to be eradicated, the current subtype A2 (H3N8) still requires vaccination.  Signs of Equine Influenza  With a very short incubation period of just one to three days, the clinical signs of Equine Influenza can become apparent in three to five days following exposure. However, veterinary diagnosis is essential to rule out other common upper respiratory tract infections, as Equine Influenza may be mistaken for Equine Herpes Virus, Rhinovirus, Strangles, Equine Viral Arteritis and a number of other conditions. The most common symptoms of Equine Influenza include: Sudden onset of fever Coughing Nasal discharge Swelling of the submandibular lymph nodes Depression Loss of appetite Laboured breathing Muscle pain and/or stiffness In some cases, the infected horse’s limbs and trunk may swell. This symptom is known as Epizootic Cellulitis. In addition, some horses may develop a secondary bacterial infection, including Bacterial Pneumonia, which can prove fatal if left untreated. Treating Equine Influenza  Being a virus, there is no known cure for Equine Influenza. As such, treatment usually involves: Strict quarantine Administration of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs Equine Influenza can be easily transferred to other horses via human skin, hair, clothing and shoes, along with equipment and vehicles. As such, containment also involves rigorous hygiene to prevent its spread. Rest is imperative for any infected horse to overcome the disease. As a general rule of thumb, the horse should rest one week for each day of fever. Training should not resume until the horse’s symptoms, including coughing, have completely subsided. Preventing Equine Influenza  Vaccination is available for Equine Influenza but not in Australia.  It is a major problem in the United States of America and Europe, but we have managed to avoid the recurrence of Equine Influenza and therefore don’t vaccinate.

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What is Tetanus and why vaccinate?

A potentially deadly disease, Tetanus can persist in the environment for many years — placing your horse at risk of infection even at home. In this article, we discuss the importance of vaccinating your horse against Tetanus. The bacterium Clostridium tetani, which causes Tetanus, survives as spores in manure and soil where it gains access to your horse’s body via wounds — most often, puncture wounds. Between four and 21 days following entry, a neurotoxin is released with insidious effects. Signs of Tetanus As the bacterium multiplies rapidly, the neurotoxin may cause severe:  Sadly, in 80% of cases, Tetanus is fatal as treatment is often costly, time-consuming, and ultimately unsuccessful. However, with routine vaccination, the risk of Tetanus infection can be avoided in the first place. Treating Tetanus  It should be mentioned that if your horse contracts Tetanus and you’re unsure of their vaccination history, your veterinarian may administer the Tetanus antitoxin injection. Although, this vaccine isn’t 100% effective and you may still be faced with the prospect of euthanasia.  That’s why vaccination against Tetanus is the best decision for your horse. Preventing Tetanus  If your horse is unvaccinated against Tetanus, you should follow the below schedule to give them the full benefits of immunity:             4-week interval             12 month interval             12 month interval It’s important to remember that even if your horse never leaves your property, Tetanus simply cannot be avoided. Horses, by their very nature, are injury-prone, and stabling and paddock injuries are common, resulting in puncture wounds that are the ideal entry for Tetanus. Routine vaccination is the only way to prevent Tetanus infection from beginning.

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Can I vaccinate my own horse?

Above all, every horse owner should vaccinate their horse — even if they never leave your property or interact with other horses. While we recommend a veterinarian administers all vaccines, let’s examine the pro’s and con’s of vaccinating your own horse yourself.  Yes, Vaccinate Your Own Horse  Before we delve into vaccinating your own horse, the most important consideration is making the choice to vaccinate. No horse is immune from the debilitating and potentially life-threatening diseases that can be prevented by vaccination.  While some horse owners may argue “My horse never leaves my property” or “My horse doesn’t come into contact with other horses”, the reality is that diseases, such as Tetanus, can still occur — without vaccination. Tetanus lives in the soil and environment, so all horses are at risk unless vaccinated.  While we, at Exclusively Equine, recommend a veterinarian administers all vaccines, there’s a few important things to remember if you decide to vaccinate your own horses, including:  Only use a reputable, trusted product — recommended by your veterinarian Ensure the vaccine has been properly stored, with no signs of damage or tampering the use by date is valid. Learn how to vaccinate your horse safely and efficiently Follow the advice of your veterinarian when making decisions regarding your horse’s health  No, Don’t Vaccinate Your Own Horse  However, even if you’re competent at administering vaccines, the choice to vaccinate your own horses without the assistance of a veterinarian is something we simply don’t recommend — and here’s why.  Your veterinarian is the most qualified person to make decisions regarding your horse’s health care, including choosing the most suitable vaccine and administering it correctly. Vaccines can be dangerous if given at the wrong temperature, incorrect dose or in the wrong location. Your veterinarian has been trained to ensure the vaccine is administered safely. A vaccine may trigger an unexpected immune response in your horse, which can place both you and your horse at risk. Your veterinarian is able to handle such events with ease. Many vaccine manufacturers simply won’t support self-administration of their products. As such, they won’t accept liability if the vaccine isn’t administered by a qualified veterinarian. Finally, if you plan to transport or compete your horse and require a health certificate, your veterinarian may not be inclined to issue one as they haven’t administered the vaccine themselves.  The choice to vaccinate — and how to vaccinate — is in your hands.

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How often should I vaccinate my horse?

Vaccination is the easiest way to safeguard your horse against potentially deadly diseases. While routine vaccination should begin from three months of age, there will be some variation from horse to horse, depending on their history. The First Vaccination Following birth, most foals will receive immunity from their dam by consuming colostrum (as long as the mare is up to date with her vaccinations), rich in colostral antibodies, within the first two hours. These antibodies will provide your foal with instant and potent immunity for its first three months of life. Vaccinating your mare during pregnancy is critical to build up antibody levels. To learn more about what vaccines your mare should receive, click here. Routine Vaccination As your horse grows, vaccination should become part of their preventative health care, alongside worming, teeth, and hoof care. For this article, we’ll focus on Tetanus, Strangles, Equine Herpes Virus, and Hendra Virus – which can be avoided with routine vaccination. Tetanus Vaccination The risk of Tetanus is high for any unvaccinated horse, even if they never leave your property. Horses are injury-prone and Tetanus may infiltrate even the smallest puncture wound, leaving your horse susceptible to a potentially fatal neurotoxin. To protect against Tetanus, every horse needs an annual booster. However, if your horse is currently unvaccinated against Tetanus, you should follow the below schedule: Four-week interval 12 month interval Every 12-month interval For more information about Tetanus vaccination, click here. Strangles Vaccination Any horse may contract Strangles, however the risk is greatest for young horses, particularly when housed in groups. A highly contagious upper respiratory disease, Strangles results in a distressing fever that can rapidly spread from horse to horse along with extremely enlarged lymph nodes around the throat region and a thick nasal discharge. To protect against Strangles, every horse needs a booster every 6 months. However, if your horse is currently unvaccinated against Strangles, you should follow the below schedule: 2-week interval 2-week interval 6 month interval For more information about Strangles vaccination, click here. Equine Herpes Virus Vaccination A highly contagious and rapidly spreading disease, with five known subtypes, Equine Herpes Virus has no cure, so vaccination is imperative. When Equine Herpes Virus is detected, strict quarantine, antibiotics, and anti-inflammatories are the only options. But, the virus can still be deadly. The most important strains are EHV1 and EHV4 which are the respiratory form and the reproductive form.  The vaccine covers both of these forms.  A regime is available depending on whether your horse is being covered for the respiratory form or is in foal. To protect against Equine Herpes Virus, every horse needs an annual booster. For more information about Equine Herpes Virus vaccination, click here. Hendra Virus Vaccination When detected, Hendra Virus has a 100% mortality rate for horses as any infected horse must be humanely euthanized to prevent its spread to other horses and humans. Vaccination against Hendra Virus is the only method to protect your horse against this deadly disease. To protect against the Hendra Virus, every horse needs an annual booster. However, if your horse is currently unvaccinated against Hendra Virus, you should follow the below schedule: 3-6 week interval 6 month interval 12 month interval For more information about Equine Hendra Virus Vaccination, click here.

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What are the common signs of Hendra Virus infection in horses and humans?

Hendra Virus is a potentially deadly disease for horses and humans. Some of the common signs of Hendra are similar to colic in horses and influenza in humans, so prompt testing and strict quarantine are instrumental in preventing its spread.  Signs of Hendra Virus in horses  At present, Hendra Virus cannot be passed directly from flying fox to human, so its imperative that horse owners learn the common signs of Hendra Virus to protect their loved ones from exposure to the disease. The common signs of Hendra Virus in horses include, but are not limited to: Acute onset of illness Increased body temperature Shifting of weight Depression Increased respiratory rate Nasal discharge (clear, white or blood stained) Head tilting or circling Muscle twitching Urinary incontinence  Signs of Hendra Virus in humans  The common signs of Hendra Virus in humans include, but are not limited to: Tiredness Fever Headaches Coughing If you suspect a horse on your property has Hendra Virus, all who come into contact with the horse should adhere to strict hygiene practices, including wearing personal protective equipment (PPE). This equipment can easily be purchased from most hardware stores or veterinary clinics. Items for your PPE kit should include: Hand cleansers Soap Disinfectants Waste disposal bags Disposable gloves Overalls Rubber boots Facial masks Safety glasses P2 respiratory (particulate respirator)

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When can my foal be vaccinated?

While vaccinations can be administered at any age without negative effects, vaccinating your foal too early will not be successful in mounting an immune response. A vaccination program should commence from three months of age for the best results. When your foal is born, they inherit disease immunity by consuming an adequate amount of their dam’s colostrum within two hours of birth. For the first three months of life, these colostral antibodies provide immediate and effective immunity from disease. Any vaccine administered before three months of age will fail to protect your foal as the same colostral antibodies prevent the vaccine from having any lasting effect. As such, you should wait until your foal reaches three months before commencing a vaccination program. First Vaccines At three months of age, your foal should receive a 2-in-1 vaccine, four weeks apart, to protect them against tetanus and a strangles vaccine two weeks after their first 2-in-1 to completely cover for strangles. Then, at four months of age, it’s highly recommended your foal receives the Hendra virus vaccine, depending on the area where you live. Vaccination is the simplest method to prevent the onset of diseases that can debilitate your young horse’s health and rapidly spread from horse to horse. While at first, vaccination may seem expensive, the costs are much higher if your horse becomes ill. Finally, Hendra virus not only poses a high health risk to horses, but also to any human who comes into contact with an infected horse. The consequences can be deadly, and vaccination is the only way to protect your horse, yourself, your family and the general public.

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If You Are Expecting: Part 3

A mare’s gestation is normally between 320 and 345 days – that’s a long time to wait for something to go wrong. Before your precious bundle arrives, there are three important areas of your mare’s health that you need to consider. In this article, we discuss the third, If You Are Expecting: Vaccinations And Worming.  In case you missed Part 1, click here, or Part 2, click here. Mare Care: Vaccinations and Worming  Protecting your mare and her unborn foal is easy with a sufficient vaccination and worming program prior to the foal’s arrival. Vaccinations The most important vaccination your mare should receive during her pregnancy is tetanus, which is usually combined with strangles, commonly named ‘2 in 1’. If you’re unsure about your mare’s vaccination history, it’s best to give her the full course of tetanus and strangles. However, if she’s had the initial course, then she should receive the annual booster four weeks prior to her due date. Herpes virus can cause abortion in pregnant mares and respiratory issues in unborn foals. There are vaccines available to protect your mare and foal against the most common – herpes virus 1 and 4. These vaccines should be administered at five, seven and nine months of gestation. Depending on where you live, you may also vaccinate against salmonella. Salmonella is usually caught by foals either through ingestion or contamination via the umbilicus, leading to infection and diarrhoea, which can develop into septicemia. Your mare should be vaccinated six weeks prior to foaling. If she hasn’t been previously vaccinated, she should also receive an initial vaccine four weeks prior to the six-week one. Worming Finally, worming every 8-12 weeks is crucial for your mare’s health. There are many wormers on the market, so make sure the label states your choice of wormer is safe to use during pregnancy. If you’re nervous about worming your mare, worm her on the day she foals and remove her from the foaling paddock to prevent contamination. Collect any manure from the paddock as well to remove all feces which may contain eggs.

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