Protect Your Horse From Equine Infectious Disease

Now is the time to consider vaccination

By The LifeMinute Team

April 4, 2018

Dr. Amanda House University of Florida, College of Veterinary Medicine and Dr. Craig Barnett of Merck Animal Health explain how some equine infectious disease threats are significant enough to justify vaccination for every horse.

These are called “core” equine infectious diseases, as defined by the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP):
•    Eastern/Western Encephalomyelitis (EEE/WEE)
•    Tetanus
•    West Nile Virus

These are considered core because they protect from diseases that are endemic to a region, those with potential public health significance, those which are required by law, virulent/highly infectious, and/or those posing a risk of severe disease or death. Common signs and symptoms of these diseases in the horse can vary based on disease. Most of these diseases have a neurological component, which can be particularly devastating to the horse.

Risk-based vaccination protocols vary according to your horse’s specific needs and should be directed by a veterinarian. These are especially important if your horse travels frequently and is in contact with many horses. Some of these include:
•    Equine influenza
•    Equine herpesvirus – also referred to as rhino or rhinopneumonitis 


Common signs and symptoms in the horse vary, but most of these respiratory diseases carry signs that would be similar to cold or flu symptoms in humans such as fever, nasal discharge, lethargy and cough. It’s critical to work with your veterinarian as every horse is unique. Visit AAEP.org/guidelines to learn more about core and risk-based vaccinations.

Similar to human flu season, equine flu season peaks from December to April and can be particularly challenging, not only because it is extremely contagious, but also because it is a unique virus that changes over time. Just like human flu vaccines, equine flu vaccines must be periodically updated to protect against the strains of influenza currently circulating and threatening horses.

As a result, the Merck Animal Health line of Prestige vaccines provides the most current equine influenza protection available. For more information, visit PrestigeVaccines.com.

To help you stay aware and track disease threats in your area, the Equine Disease Communication Center is a system that reports outbreaks in horses similar to how the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) alerts the human population about diseases in people. Visit equinediseasecc.org to sign up for alerts  

Vaccination plus biosecurity is best. Keeping your horse’s vaccinations up to date while implementing management practices that reduce his exposure to pathogens at home and away is the best way to protect your horse. Make sure to monitor your horse’s temperature daily as an elevated temperature is often the first sign of disease. Also wash your hands after you touch one horse before touching another, inimize nose-to-nose contact and avoid use of communal equipment and water sources. Plus, separate and monitor horses post travel, as well as new arrivals for signs of infectious disease.

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