November 04, 2008 | | Comments 0

Vaccination Against Common Infectious Diseases in Horses

Horse Vaccinations

Horse Vaccinations

Diseases are either noninfectious or infectious.  Noninfectious diseases are predominantly environmental in nature and are not usually contagious.  Nutritional deficiencies and genetic defects are examples of noninfectious diseases.  Infectious diseases, on the other hand, are caused by pathogenic organisms such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites like worms that are present in the environment or are easily transmissible from one animal to another.

Vaccination Defined

Since horses are usually housed adjacent to each other in stables or are placed in environments such as racetracks where they are clustered together, contagious diseases are easily spread.  Thus, vaccination is a worldwide practice in the equine industry.  Vaccination is done to develop an animal’s immune system through either the administration of antibodies produced from another animal (passive immunity) or by challenging the horse itself to make its own antibodies (active immunity) against a specific infectious disease. Immunization is a vital preventive method in particular against viruses since there are no available medications to treat viral diseases. However, it is important to note that immunization is not available for all viral infections currently afflicting horses.

An ideal vaccine should do the following:

  • Prevent the manifestation of signs and symptoms of the disease
  • Trigger an immune response
  • No adverse side effects
  • Will not result to the disease itself
  • Stable during storage
  • Affordable

Vaccination Basics

A vaccination schedule is based on the horse’s age, use, and level of exposure.  Generally, initial vaccines are administered either as a single injection or divided into a series of shots over several months.  Subsequent booster shots are given on a more or less annual basis.  Pregnant mares follow a different and more rigid vaccination schedule for the protection of the unborn animal.

Infectious diseases to which horses are commonly vaccinated against include:

  • Tetanus – is caused by the bacteria Clostridium tetani.  A horse, despite having already been vaccinated against tetanus, sustains an injury should receive another does of tetanus antitoxin with tetanus toxoid.  Tetanus is a significant disease in the racing industry because it often causes mortality of expensive horses.
  • Influenza – is an acute and very contagious disease caused by myxoviruses resulting to high fever and coughing
  • Rabies – is a fatal viral disease affecting the nervous system
  • Encephalomyelitis – also known as sleeping sickness which is caused by viruses that affect the nervous system
  • Rhinopneumonitis – caused by herpesvirus 1 and 4 that usually affect young animals.  A      characteristic symptom of this disease is excessive nasal discharge.
  • Equine infectious anemia (EIA) – otherwise called swamp fever, is also a viral disease causing red blood cell destruction resulting to anemia
  • Strangles – is a very contagious infection caused by the bacteria Streptococcus equi.  The bacteria produce abscesses not only on the skin but also within the internal organs.
  • Potomac horse fever – is an acute infectious diarrhea that mostly affects adult horses under stress.
  • Botulism – is caused by the bacteria Clostridium botulinum that results to locomotive abnormalities and, in severe cases, paralysis

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Filed Under: Horse Health

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