25th March 2020 - We understand that many of our clients are concerned about the restrictions that have been placed on the provision of vaccinations during the COVID-19 outbreak. We hope that the information we have posted on our News pages provides some of the answers and reassurance that you need. Find out more here.
We recommend that all horse, pony and donkey owners regularly vaccinate their animals in order to prevent some serious and potentially life-threatening, diseases. Those most commonly vaccinated for are equine influenza, tetanus and for breeding stock, equine herpes virus (EHV).
Competition horse owners should ensure that their horse or pony is vaccinated in accordance with the rules of the appropriate sporting governing bodies under which they are competing (e.g. FEI, British Eventing, British Showjumping, British Dressage, British Riding Clubs, etc.). Vaccination rules will differ amongst these organisations and passports may be requested and checked at any time during events. Our vets are happy to offer you advice and check your horse’s vaccination record prior to a competition. Please be aware, however, that it is your responsibility to ensure that your horse or pony’s vaccination record is up to date and any lapse in the vaccination history, even by a few days, will be considered by a sport’s governing body to be a breach of its rules. This may result in your horse being unable to compete or penalties being imposed.
All horses and donkeys should be vaccinated against tetanus, which is usually a fatal condition in the horse. Tetanus is caused by production of endotoxins by the bacteria, Clostridium tetani. Vaccination is often given as a combination vaccine with equine influenza. A primary course of two vaccinations is given 4-6 weeks apart, followed by a booster in 12 months. Subsequent vaccinations are usually given every 2 years. Many foals are given tetanus anti-toxin shortly after birth as extra protection to the antibodies they have received from the mare via her colostrum. Primary vaccinations are usually started in horses over the age of 5 months but tetanus vaccination may be recommended in younger animals in some cases. If your horse sustains a wound and is not vaccinated or its vaccinations have lapsed, it is essential that your vet gives an tetanus anti-toxin injection as quickly as possible to prevent tetanus infection. Your horse should start a primary course thereafter as this will only provide cover for up to 3 weeks.
Equine Influenza (Flu)
Equine flu is a virus that affects the respiratory system resulting in a high fever, runny nose and coughing. It usually affects young horses. Though rarely fatal, it can be a very debilitating disease. A number of disease outbreaks have occurred amongst unvaccinated animals in UK over the last few years. An initial primary course of 3 injections is required for horses more than 5 months old. The second is given between 21 and 92 days after the first and the third is given between 150 and 215 days after the second, and then booster vaccinations given annually thereafter. Most frequently vaccination for flu and tetanus is given as a combined vaccine.
Equine Herpes Virus (EHV)
Equine herpesvirus is a common virus that occurs in horse populations worldwide. The two most common types are EHV-1, which causes respiratory disease in young horses, abortion in pregnant mares and paralysis in horses of all ages and types, and EHV-4, which usually only causes low-grade respiratory disease but can occasionally cause abortion. Following first infection the majority of horses carry the virus as a latent (silent) infection that can reactivate at intervals throughout life. Comprehensive information about EHV is available in the HBLB's Codes of Practice.