Horse Podcast Ep 125: Equine Vaccines – What You Need to Know!

It’s that time of year again when we need to look at Equine vaccines.  Today’s episode will help guide you through equine vaccines and help you plan the best protection for your horse. Horses can contract infectious diseases in two ways: from other horses, and their environment.

The number one way to do this is through an effective equine vaccine program. Equine vaccines are essential to keep your horse healthy—and in some cases, alive—for the long run. Your veterinarian is an important resource when developing an equine vaccination protocol that is right for your horse.

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Equine Vaccines – The Core 4

The American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) has defined four core vaccinations that veterinarians consider basic and essential for all horses. Core equine vaccines have demonstrated efficacy and safety, giving horses a high level of patient benefit and a low level of risk.

Tetanus: Tetanus bacteria are everywhere, including the soil, where they form spores and become dormant. If they find their way into a penetrating wound, they germinate and begin to produce a potent neurotoxin. Horses are highly susceptible to the toxin, which causes violent muscle spasms and potentially fatal complications.

Rabies: A virus that attacks the nervous system causes rabies. It occurs in every state except Hawaii, mainly among wild animals (especially skunks, raccoons, foxes, coyotes, and bats). Although it’s not common in horses, there are equine cases every year. A rabid animal wanders out of the woods and bites a horse, or the horse has a wound that becomes contaminated with saliva or blood from a rabid animal.

Eastern equine encephalitis/Western equine encephalitis: Biting mosquitoes spread viruses that cause EEE and WEE. The viruses attack the horse’s nervous system, and EEE is the deadlier of the two—only about 10 percent of clinically affected horses survive. It occurs mainly in the eastern, Gulf Coast, and midwestern states; WEE, which is less common, occurs mainly in the west.

West Nile virus: Although WNV belongs to a different viral family than EEE, it also spreads via mosquitoes and attacks the horse’s nervous system. It first appeared in North America 15 years ago and has since spread throughout the continental United States and into Canada and Mexico. About a third of horses who develop clinical signs of WNV infection die, and survivors may have long-term gait and behavior problems.

How to give a equine vaccine?

Vaccines can be administered to horses in several ways, including injections into the muscle or application into the nostril. Are there other ways I can protect my horse? Supportive care, including good nutrition, proper housing, regular exercise, clean water, and a clean environment, helps to keep your horse or pony healthy. These practices are important parts of your daily care routine and can help minimize disease exposure as well as support your horse’s immune system. They are only part of the equation when it comes to looking after the complete health of your horse.

Vaccination makes sense for every horse

Horses can contract infectious diseases in two ways: from other horses, and from their environment. Even horses that live alone can contract infectious diseases from contaminated feed, water, or soil, or from infected insects or wild animals. That’s why prevention is important. Infectious diseases can be devastating, and they are much easier (and less expensive) to prevent than to treat. That’s why an effective vaccination program, planned by a veterinarian who knows you and your horse, is the cornerstone of your horse’s annual health plan.

When should I vaccinate my horse?

It takes time, usually a few weeks, between when a vaccine is given and when the animal is expected to be immunized. That makes the timing of the vaccine very important. A vaccination program should be completed two or three weeks before there’s a risk of exposure to a certain germ. For most horses, that means vaccination happens in the spring, ahead of the busy riding season. Many vaccines will need to be administered every year to ensure your horse remains protected from certain infectious diseases

Your Host today:

Heather (Canada)

Don’t forget to check out the resources section in this article!


  • The Core 4 equine Vaccines
  • Creating a plan with your veterinarian
  • What is a vaccine

Thank you for tuning in and happy trails!

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Thanks for listening to our horse podcast: Equine Vaccines – What you need to know!

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