Vaccinating your horse is an important part of his/her healthcare. Vaccines help prevent diseases which can have serious health, welfare and economic implications. Equine influenza and tetanus are the most common diseases we vaccinate horses against, as well as various other diseases according to risk.

Equine influenza is a viral infection which affects the respiratory system, usually causing fever, nasal discharge and a cough. It is rarely fatal but can be very debilitating. Outbreaks of the disease do occur and vaccinating horses against the disease offers good protection.

The initial course comprises three injections; the first should be given after 5 months of age. The second injection is within 21-92 days (3 weeks – 3 months) of the first, and the third is 150-215 days (5-7 months) from the second. The boosters are annual thereafter (on or before 365 days).

Pregnant mares should have a booster vaccination in the last four weeks of pregnancy so immunity is passed to the foal in the colostrum (first milk). Foals born from these mares should start their primary course at 5 months of age. Foals from unvaccinated mares should be given an injection of tetanus antitoxin within 24 hours of birth to give temporary protection, then another injection at 3 months old. They can then start the primary course at 5 months old.

Protection against tetanus is vital for every horse, even those who do not compete or leave their field. Tetanus toxin can enter through any wound and is potentially life-threatening and extremely difficult to treat. Tetanus vaccinations are usually given alongside the influenza vaccination, but can be given alone if required. The primary course is two injections 4-6 weeks apart, then a booster every 2-3 years depending on the brand of vaccine given. If an unvaccinated horse has a wound, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, it should be given an injection of tetanus antitoxin to provide temporary cover.

We send out reminder cards to inform you that your horse’s vaccinations (and teeth) are due BUT it is the legal responsibility of the owner or trainer to ensure the horse meets the requirements of any competition authority they wish to compete the horse in. Any lapse in vaccinations, even by a few days, can result in your horse being unable to compete. Our vets are happy to check your horse’s vaccination record prior to competition.

For further information, please see our vaccination factsheet.

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