By Judy Van Put
SULLIVAN COUNTY August 13, 2002 As this is the time of year many people, especially youngsters, get their first horse, its important to know some guidelines for vaccinations to keep your horse healthy.
A new horse owner should be in contact with a veterinarian, who will recommend a customized vaccination program; unfortunately, there is no single injection that will cover all the maladies and diseases our horses should be protected against. Horses should not be vaccinated against a disease if there is a low risk of contracting it, unless the consequences of developing the disease would be fatal or near-fatal.
Following are the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) recommendations for vaccines which are available in North America to aid in the prevention of the following equine infectious diseases:
1. Tetanus: this is a non-contagious but often fatal disease initiated by bacteria organisms which are abundant in the soil. Infections occur by puncture wounds, open cuts, surgical incision or exposed tissues. All horses should be vaccinated against tetanus.
2. Equine Encephalomyelitis (Eastern, Western, and Venezuelan): It is recommended that all North American horses be immunized against EEE and WEE because of the serious effects of this sleeping sickness disease, which causes brain and spinal cord inflammation, and is transmitted mostly by mosquitoes.
3. Equine Herpesvirus (Rhino-pneumonitis): This vaccine is mainly used to prevent abortion in pregnant mares and to prevent respiratory disease in foals, yearling and young performance and show horses at risk of exposure due to contact with new horses. Rhino, as the disease is commonly called, causes respiratory disease, abortion in pregnant mares, early neonatal death, and neurological disease.
4. Strangles: Vaccination against Strangles, also know as distemper, is not routinely recommended except for horses kept in area where the bacteria Streptococcus equi is often present. As this is a highly contagious disease, and can be transmitted by direct or indirect contact, when an outbreak of Stangles occurs, word circulates quickly and horse owners are encouraged to get the vaccination.
5. Rabies: In recent years, rabies has been present in our area. While the occurrence of rabies in horses is still low, the disease is fatal and is dangerous to public health. All horses in our area should be vaccinated against rabies.
6. Equine Monocytic Ehrlichiosis (Potomac Horse Fever): Vaccination against this disease, which is transmitted by snail parasites, is undergoing a re-evaluation. There is a lack of evidence that there is a significant benefit from the vaccine.
7. Botulism: This is a rare disease caused by the bacterium clostridium botulinum, and is contacted by ingesting the toxin-producing bacteria, or by contamination of a wound with the bacteria. Use of the vaccine is for the prevention of Shaker Foal Syndrome through maternal immunity and is not otherwise recommended.
8: Equine Viral Arthritis (EVA): This disease is found throughout the world and can cause abortion in pregnant mares, death of young foals and can be carried by stallions. The main use of the EVA vaccine is to prevent infection and establishment of a carrier state in previously unexposed stallions, and to protect non-pregnant mares being bred to carrier stallions.
9. Anthrax: Vaccination against this serious and rapidly fatal disease is recommended only for horses pastured in areas where it is endemic.
10. Equine rotaviruses: These viruses are the major cause of diarrhea in foals. The rotavirus A vaccine in administered to pregnant mares in areas where it is endemic and is not otherwise recommended.
New Vaccines EPM and West Nile Virus
Fort Dodge Animal Health has developed vaccines for these two diseases which are of great concern to horse owners:
Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis (EPM) attacks and devastates the central nervous system of the horse, and creates brain and spinal cord inflammation. The organism that causes the disease, Sacrocyctitis neruona, is thought to be transmitted by opossums and has recently been found in raccoons and skunks as well.
Horses can become contaminated by ingesting the sporocysts in contaminated feed or water. If left unattended, your horses feed buckets can become contaminated, as well as a watering area that is available to wild animals, such as an outdoor trough. It has been found in this area.
West Nile Virus is one of the fastest growing new health threats to horses in the United States. Hardly a day goes by without word of the spread of this disease, which is transmitted via mosquitoes and causes swelling of the brain and spinal cord.
According to Fort Dodge Animal health, these new vaccines (EPM and WNV) may help in stimulating the development of neutralizing antibodies to aid in the prevention of new infections. While field tests are ongoing for both these new vaccines, check with your vet to see if they are recommended for your horse. There have been reports of horses in the Mid-Hudson area that have contracted EPM and WNV.
Lastly, keep good records of your horses immunizations. Proof of certain vaccinations, as well as a negative Coggins test (a blood test to determine if your horse has or is carrying Equine Infectious Anemia, or Swamp Fever; no vaccination is yet available) are required to enter horse shows, organized trail rides, or when travelling across state lines. Always ask for a horses immunization records before purchasing a new horse and keep the health record current.