*This post, while not technically sponsored by Zoetis, was written as an entry for their Equine Blogger Challenge. If you know me at all, you know how competitive I am. Even though I don’t normally post more than once a week, once I read about the “Challenge” I was in. Though this post highlights Zoetis and their products it also provides information on equine health and vaccines that I think you will find useful. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that I’m a Zoetis fan.

During an inevitable lull between horse show classes a friend of mine and I were having a discussion about the vaccination programs that we follow for our horses. Both of us hold degrees in Horse Science from a well respected program in the equine industry yet both of us have slightly different protocols in place for our horses. Other horse owners around us who dropped in our conversation also had different vaccination protocols in place. This led me to thinking, why is that?

According to Zoetis, “Vaccination is the best way to help prevent equine disease. A vaccination program designed to fit your horse’s individual risk factors helps your horse live a long and healthy life. Additionally, vaccination can help prevent the spread of disease from horse to horse. Several equine diseases are spread when horses shed the virus or bacteria through coughing, sneezing or bodily fluids.” How then, is the best way to assess your individual horse’s risk factors?

Rather than simply relying on my own background I have it found it far more helpful to have a candid conversation with my horse’s team of caregivers which is led by her veterinarian. He, by virtue of his practice, sees far more horses from this region on a daily basis than I will see. Therefore, he is knowledgeable about disease outbreak in the area and can match this against the activities in which my horse and I participate. He is poised to offer me credible advice as to what diseases I should be vaccinating against above and beyond the “core” vaccines. I always strongly recommend speaking first with your veterinarian.

That said, both Zoetis and the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) offer the following factors to consider for “risk based” vaccines. These are: exposure to other horses and wildlife, travel, standing water, association requirements, and age. My own horse is exposed to other horses as well as travel during trail rides and shows. She is on twenty-four/seven turn out which increases her exposure her to wildlife. Her water tank, though frequently cleaned, exposes her to standing water where mosquitoes and other disease carrying insects may breed. Finally, her mature age of fifteen and long established vaccination protocol also factor in to what vaccinations she requires. Her breed association offers only vaccination suggestions rather than requirements and so is not a factor in my decision making process.

My friend’s horse and the horses belonging to those around us, all had similar yet slightly differenent responses to their own “risk based” considerations which was a partial explanation to our differences but there were more.

Zoetis and the AAEP list the following “core” vaccines that every horse should have:

  • Eastern equine encephalomyelitis virus
  • Western equine encephalomyelitis virus
  • Rabies
  • Tetanus
  • Equine West Nile virus

Every horse owner present, including my friend and I, both regularly administer these vaccinations. Our differences and “why” behind our different protocols comes in the “risk-based” disease vaccinations. Once again, according to Zoetis and the AAEP, these vaccines are:

  • Equine herpes virus
  • Equine influenza
  • Equine viral arteritis
  • Equine leptospirosis
  • Strangles

Neither my friend nor I routinely vaccinate against the following “risk-based diseases” based on recommendations from our respective veterinarians who follow the AAEP guidelines incorporated below:

  • Equine herpes virus – Our horses do not meet the recommended vaccination criteria. Both are well over the age of five, neither are housed at breeding farms or in contact with pregnant mares, we rarely house our horses at facilities with frequent equine movement nor do we travel to high risk areas.
  • Equine influenza – As previously stated our horses are over the age of five and are not in frequent contact with large numbers of outside horses.
  • Equine viral arteritis – Our horses are not moved globally. They do not have access to carrier stallions nor to cooled or frozen infected semen.
  • Leptospirosis – While this vaccine can be added to the schedule of horses’ age six months of age and older, currently neither my friend nor I vaccinate against it. Though my horse is a mare, I have no plans to breed her now or in the future which is one of the prime considerations for administration of this vaccine. My friend’s horse is a gelding. However, leptospirosis has been linked to equine recurrent uveitis which has made this vaccine one that I plan to talk with my veterinarian about in the future. It was Zoetis who introduced the first licensed vaccine for the prevention of leptospirosis.

My friend and I differed our protocol slightly on the Strangles vaccine. The vaccine for strangles for adult horses with a known vaccination history is every six to twelve months based on risk and the vaccine manufacturer’s recommendations. Based upon past experience and an assessment of my horse’s needs completed with my veterinarian, I do vaccinate for this disease while my friend, for similar reasons, does not.

However, several others present in the group did choose to vaccinate against many of these diseases because their horses met the vaccination protocol requirements.  Of course, there are also additional vaccines that your horse may need based on his individual risk factors for exposure. I found it both helpful and inspiring to have such an open and honest discussion with other owners about horse health and equine vaccines.

For more help in determining the best way to protect your horse Zoetis offers the following link “Key Questions to Consider:” https://www.zoetisus.com/_locale-assets/horse/pdf/horse-owner-preventative-health-questionaire.pdf.

Zoetis also offers a poster, “Vaccine Care & Handling,” designed to aid those horse owners who wish to take an active role in the vaccination process: https://www.zoetisus.com/_locale-assets/horse/pdf/proper-vaccine-care-and-handling-poster.pdf.

Looking for more information about Zoetis vaccines? Visit their equine product page at https://www.zoetis.com.

Regardless of product chosen, I encourage every horse owner to evaluate and re-evaluate their own vaccination protocols annually with their veterinarian.

Hope Ellis-Ashburn earned her M.S. in Agriculture Education from The University of Tennessee, Knoxville & her B.S. in Animal Science-Horse Science from Middle Tennessee State University. While attending MTSU she was a member of the Horse Judging and Equestrian Teams. A former Extension Agent with UTK holding, among other credentials, a teaching endorsement in agriculture education she is currently a teacher, freelance writer, and blogger. Hope is the author of "The Story of Kimbrook Arabians" and "Always Hope: How dairy cows and Arabian horses inspired grit in a young girl's life." A rider on a variety of breeds since the age of twelve, she has competed in Western, English, halter, dressage, hunter, and jumper classes. She currently owns a Half-Arabian mare with whom she enjoys farm life, trail riding, and competing locally in halter as well as hunter classes.

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