Vaccinating your horse against disease

Vaccinating our horses against disease is one of the most important things we can do for them. Prevention is always better than cure and with vaccinations so readily available you would be crazy not to protect your most prized possession. A quick consult with your veterinarian is all it takes to make sure your horse stays happy and healthy.

Below are the most common vaccines available for horses.

  • Tetanus – the Clostridium Tetani bacteria is found in dirt or surfaces and can live there for a long time. It produces a Neurotoxin that enters the system through wounds or cuts. It can develop quickly and result in colic, stiffness in neck and muscles and third eyelid prolapse and it can be fatal if not treated immediately. However, the good news is its easily preventable with a simple vaccine. Vaccination is started at a young age generally at 12 weeks of age and continues to be done yearly, however if your horse has no previous history of being vaccinated and it does injure itself it will also require a Tetanus Antitoxin to give it immediate cover. It is highly recommended that broodmares receive a tetanus booster 4-6 weeks from foaling to provide some immediate cover for the foal once it is born as well. Tetanus also comes in a combined 2 in1 vaccine with strangles making it very easy to keep track of where your horses vaccination status is at.
  • Strangles – Streptococcus Equi, a highly infectious disease. It causes upper respiratory tract infections that form abscesses around the throat, also causing nasal discharge, skin necrosis and asphyxiation. Horses can become very ill and extremely contagious; infection is passed on by the nasal pus. Vaccination is yearly and is started when a horse is 12 weeks of age.
  • Salmonella – A disease that causes diarrhoea in young horses and foals. It is mainly a concern for studs or large breeding operations where Salmonella outbreaks are most common. As with all vaccinations it should be discussed with your veterinarian.
  • Equine Herpes 1,4 (EHV1,4) – A condition that affects the respiratory system. It is normally recommended for mares and young horses that are more susceptible to the disease or where there are multiple horses with a lot of movement of horses on and off the property. Vaccination starts with 2 injections 4 weeks apart then 6 monthly boosters.
  • Hendra – Is found in bats and can be transferred to horses by them consuming contaminated feed or water. It is a fast-moving disease that can be fatal to horses. It causes increased temperature and heart rate, respiratory problems, colic and neurological symptoms. It is mainly a concern in northern NSW and Queensland where exposure to bats is more of a risk. It is transferable to humans. Vaccinations start with 2 shots 3-6 weeks apart a booster at 6 months then yearly boosters.

When deciding on vaccinations for you horse it should always be in consultation with your vet to work out what vaccinations your horse needs and a program that suits, this will ensure your horse stays happy and healthy and you know you are providing them with the best possible care. Remember prevention is better than a cure and generally a lot less expensive.

Written by Selena Phillis


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Every product in the Ranvet range has been developed to meet a horse’s most specific need at any given time, be it in a training environment or on a breeding farm. Having pioneered the formulation of specific medications and dietary supplements for horses, the company is now recognised as a leader in the areas of equine health and nutrition.

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