Vaccinations Are Critical for Protecting Your Horse

The American Association of Equine Practitioners recommends core vaccines be given to your horses at least yearly. Core vaccines include the West Nile Virus (WNV), Eastern and Western Equine Encephalomyelitis (EEE/WEE), tetanus, and rabies. Due to the year-round mosquito population, vaccination boosters are recommended every six months for EEE/WEE and WNV. While vaccines do not necessarily prevent all disease, they encourage the horse’s immune system to create antibodies that can fight off the virus if the horse is infected. Horses that have been vaccinated have a significantly better chance of surviving an infection.

There is a Core vaccine on the market that protects your horse against West Nile Virus, Eastern and Western Encephalitis, tetanus and rabies. Some vaccinations such as influenza and strangles can be given on an at-risk basis

West Nile Virus and Eastern and Western Encephalitis are transmitted from the bite of an infected mosquito. Since Florida’s mosquito population thrives, the risk is continuous throughout the entire year. Every year horses in Polk County die from this preventable disease. 

Tetanus occurs after infection with a bacteria called Clostridium tetani. This bacteria is commonly found in soil and any wound or cut can become infected.  

Rabies is the only one of the core vaccines that is zoonotic. This means that if your horse is infected, they can infect you. There is no effective treatment for horses or humans with rabies, and the end result is death. 

Working with your veterinarian, you can decide which of these vaccinations your horses should receive. Factors can include age, location, health status, and whether the horse travels. Unless there is a significant reason a horse can’t be vaccinated, all horses should at least receive the core vaccinations yearly. 

Contact your veterinarian to discuss what options are best for your horses. 

This column is sponsored by Polk Equine, and the opinions expressed herein may
not reflect those of CFAN or of its advertisers.

BIO: Dr. Katie Hennessy graduated from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary
Medicine in 2008 with a degree in large animal health and equine medicine. She
completed an advanced internship at The Equine Medical Center of Ocala and is
currently the owner and practicing veterinarian at Polk Equine. Her expertise ranges
from small and exotic creatures to large animals, specializing in equine medicine.

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