In the wild, horses do not get vaccines for flu, tetanus, sleeping sickness, or anything else. In the wild, many get sick and die as a result.
Using vaccines to protect your horse makes sense. We all love our horses and we want them to remain as healthy as possible. Having your veterinarian give necessary vaccines to your horse on a regular basis is the smart horsemanship thing to do.
Here are some reasons why...
Equine influenza, like human influenza, could kill your horse. Yet a simple vaccine combination can either prevent the flu, or at the very least, minimize it to a simple cold, not a killer.
In addition, the cost of lost use of your horse and the cost of treating the horse with medications and veterinary care can be quite high. It is much less expensive to vaccinate. By the way, did you know that you can catch the flu from your horse? It has been documented that equine influenza can be transmitted to people and can lead to secondary and severe pulmonary problems such as Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis.
Tetanus or lockjaw is a veritable certainty if a horse receives a deep puncture wound in a muscle or foot and is not treated properly. Wherever there is manure, there is the tetanus bacterium. A puncture wound in the foot can lead to an abscess in the foot, which can then lead to tetanus. If left untreated, tetanus will cause your horse to die a terrible death with convulsions. But here is the important information: If a horse has ever received a tetanus vaccine, even just one, it will survive if it gets tetanus. Of course, it will need treatment. But a horse that gets regular tetanus vaccinations, as directed by your veterinarian, will not die, and probably won’t even get sick. The tetanus vaccine is one of the most effective vaccines ever made. By the way, people too get tetanus(lockjaw) from puncture and other types of wounds of all kinds. But if they have ever had a vaccination for tetanus they not only will not die, they likely will not even get sick. How’s that for a good deal?
Equine sleeping sickness is another disease complex which has a quite effective vaccine available. There are several different types of sleeping sickness including Eastern, Western, Venezuelan and West Nile virus. While there are more strains, these are the ones we have effective vaccines for. Equine sleeping sickness in the horse usually presents by signs of headache such as pressing the head against a wall and physical depression or staggering. In most advanced cases, the disease is fatal; however, it is almost never seen in a vaccinated horse. Sleeping sickness is carried by mosquitos and likely some other biting insects that take blood. Prevention is key: keeping water pools dry and changing watering pails frequently so mosquitos cannot breed and reproduce.
A final vaccine to discuss is for Strangles. This is an infection of the upper respiratory system, especially the lymph nodes in the throat and chest. This infection usually results in abscesses under the chin and throat. It is highly contagious and can result in long term ill effects. While the vaccine for Strangles (streptococcus equi) is not nearly as effective as the tetanus vaccine, it is nevertheless well worth vaccinating for.
Of course there are other vaccines and diseases such as pnuemonitis which can cause illness and abortion.
Luckily for us and our horses, these diseases can be lessened or prevented altogether by vaccination. Although many of these vaccines can be purchased from feed stores and online, if they are not stored, shipped, or administered correctly, they may be worthless to use. Your veterinarian is the best person to advise you and administer the vaccines.
Good vaccination response also depends on the nutritional state of the horse. We use Equivite® as a vitamin and nutritional supplement to help the immune system be at its peak. It can be purchased at any feed store or here at PRL, Inc. Vitamins.