Vaccination Fever !Spring is blooming! And so is everyone’s excitement for the upcoming riding season. It may not seem the time to talk about a dry subject like vaccinations, but now is the time to get educated on the latest thinking in equine diseases to keep your equine riding partner healthy and primed.
With a growing frequency of some illnesses and the unnerving appearances of other
diseases in areas that until now saw no occurrences, such as West Nile disease, the old routines and old protocols are fast becoming outdated. The good news is that the process of a vaccine – deliberately infecting a well body with a tiny amount of a disease to stimulate and create a ‘memory’ in the immune system in hopes of keeping the individual from ever falling ill again from that disease – has been practiced since ancient times, and it remains a top health approach today.
For humans, the use of vaccinations has proven so successful that it has eradicated some diseases and rendered others almost harmless. But “almost” is the operative word when thinking about vaccines. Vaccines attempt to provide protection from bacterial and viral diseases, but they provide no guarantee of immunity. Failing that, they are used to limit the severity of the disease and its spread in the case of actual infection and illness. This latter use is particularly true for viral infections, and vaccines can be a very important tool in reducing the spread and duration of a viral outbreak in a barn. An equine disease that is not life-threatening can be business-threatening if it is of the highly contagious variety – a ’flu or strangles outbreak in a barn can stop lessons, showing, racing and sales in their tracks for weeks. Therefore, vaccines are usually highly effective and are a must for any horseowner.
Spring and fall are the traditional seasons for equine vaccinations. Boosters, however, are given throughout the year, and vaccines addressing mosquito-borne diseases are timed to be most effective at peak mosquito season.
When inoculating, remember:
If you are concerned about over-vaccination …
… you are not alone. The frequency of re-vaccination (but not vaccination itself) has come under scrutiny recently. Some research on re-vaccination has been performed for the cat and dog populations, the conclusions of which suggest that annual re-vaccination is unnecessary. Little definitive research exists, however, on the duration of vaccines in horses.
A number of horseowners, guided by their own principles of horsecare or by the concern of potential side effects of over-treatment, are drawing titers instead of looking to the calendar as a way to determine the need to re-vaccinate. Many are finding that their horses’ antibodies are remaining robust well past the usual 12 months for such annual vaccines as rabies and are expanding the intervals between re-vaccination. On the other hand, it is well-known the effectiveness of the flu/rhino vaccine can decline within a few months, which is part of the reason for its frequent re-application.
Also contributing to this new caution is the bundling of vaccines, which means dosing the horse with multiple vaccines simultaneously. Many owners are concerned about the subsequent immune-system overload and are now seeking out these vaccines in a stand-alone format.
Keep in mind that using titer levels instead of the calendar as a guide to inoculations requires discipline on the part of the horseowner to monitor them regularly. Also, the well-being of the horse in the neighboring paddock or stall and that of the humans frequenting the stable are enormously important considerations when making your vaccination decisions. As it is, most boarding operations require certain vaccinations to be administered annually, so this may factor into your vaccination outlook.
A word about homeopathic approaches:
Nosodes, the homeopathic approach to vaccination, are often used in addition to traditional vaccines, in place of them, or in the face of an outbreak. Again, extensive research has not been performed on their efficacy, although it must be said that nosodes have continued to exist because of their apparent usefulness. As well, it is being proved that horses that are not subject to inoculations -- either none or only a few -- seem to have a strong resistance to disease.
If you found this article interesting and informative, please let us know! Send us your comments via email at editors@TheEquestrianCorner.com.
Disclaimer: This article is not a substitute for qualified veterinary advice and care. Consult your veterinarian on this and any equine health-care issue.
Copyright © TheEquestrianCorner.com, April, 2007
Note: All prices in US Dollars