Monthly Equine Wellness Tips

Help ensure your horse’s safety through annual vaccinations against the five core equine diseases: Eastern and Western equine encephalomyelitis, rabies, tetanus, and West Nile.

Photo: Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief

Every horse deserves quality care and welfare. As an educational leader in the equine industry, Zoetis provides best-in-class equine wellness solutions, ranging from vaccines and dewormers, to pain and sedation products. To help ensure your horse’s health by working with the best resource—your veterinarian—Zoetis has complied a calendar containing 12 months of health and wellness tips.

January

  • Schedule a spring examination.
    Call your veterinarian to schedule your horse’s spring wellness exam and vaccination appointment. The threat of deadly equine diseases like West Nile and rabies is closer than you think. Don’t leave your horse exposed!
  • Understand changing senior horse health.
    Do you have a horse older than 15 years old? One significant change in senior horses is their immune system, as they can become more susceptible to disease because of their immune system’s inability to work as well as it did earlier in life. Prioritize vaccinations to help prevent disease and schedule routine dental care to help him properly process feed and prevent colic risks.

February

  • Evaluate your horse’s diet.
    Is your horse receiving the nutrition he needs to sustain weight through the winter months? Snow, freezing rain, and below-freezing temperatures increase a horse's energy requirements, especially if he's housed outdoors. Maintaining core body temperature can often result in weight loss over winter.

March

  • Prioritize horse health.
    It’s time for your horse’s spring wellness exam and vaccination appointment. Help ensure your horse’s safety through annual vaccinations against the five core equine diseases: Eastern and Western equine encephalomyelitis, rabies, tetanus, and West Nile. Based on your horse’s lifestyle, discuss with your veterinarian whether he needs additional risk-based vaccinations, such as equine influenza, equine herpesvirus, leptospirosis, or strangles. Prepare for travel with you Coggins tests, health certificates, and first aid kit. If you plan to travel with your horse in the coming months, check your files to see whether it’s time for an updated Coggins test or health certificate.

April

  • Schedule your horse’s annual dental examination.
    Horses require an annual dental examination, at a minimum, to help maintain a healthy weight and perform at their best.
  • Request a fecal egg count (FEC).
    Ask your veterinarian about conducting an FEC exam for a quantitative assessment of your horse’s parasite burden to identify the frequency of treatment needed.

May

  • Deworm your horse in spring.
    Parasite levels can be at their highest during the spring and fall, and spring is the ideal time to treat for encysted small strongyles (strongyles in the larval stage). Moxidectin can treat and control encysted small strongyles, bots, and roundworms.

June

  • Follow biosecurity best practices.
    In the heat of competition and trail-riding season, make sure you are following biosecurity best practices to help keep your horse healthy while traveling. Bring your own equipment, including buckets, and do not retrieve water from a communal source. Also limit exposure to other horses, especially direct nose-to-nose contact, as strangles and equine herpesvirus can be passed on to your horse from passive carriers. Use caution in communal areas, like grazing areas, as bacterial infections and parasites can live outside of the host.

July

  • Help prevent injury.
    Fireworks displays can cause not only great disruption to lives of horses but also grave danger and injury due to fireworks-related anxiety. Maintain your horse’s health and safety and, before celebrating July Fourth, ask your veterinarian about prescribing an oral dose of detomidine hydrochloride, which provides mild sedation lasting up to three hours.

August

  • Know signs of heat stress.
    Without taking proper steps, heat stress can be a dangerous reality for your horse. Familiarize yourself with the signs of heat stress, which include weakness, stumbling, and increased respiration and temperature. Help ensure your horse’s safety by providing all-day access to fresh water, free-choice salt or mineral blocks, and properly ventilated barns.

September

  • Prepare for winter.
    Winter will be arriving soon. Make sure your barn and the horses stabled within it are prepared. Do you have a plan for snow removal or have hoof-friendly salt to help prevent injury in the paddocks? Is the roof able to handle extra weight from snow and precipitation?

October

  • Administer booster vaccinations.
    Administer booster vaccinations to help protect your horse’s health. While annual spring vaccinations help offer disease protection and can activate an immune response, the American Association of Equine Practitioners’ (AAEP) vaccination guidelines recommend at-risk horses be vaccinated for equine influenza and equine herpesvirus, also called rhinopneumonitis, every six months.

November

  • Deworm your horse in fall.
    The AAEP recommends tapeworm treatment once a year, in the late fall or early winter. Treatment with moxidectin and praziquantel helps control bots, encysted small strongyles, roundworms, and tapeworms in a single dose. Horses can harbor tapeworm infections without showing signs of discomfort; however, the parasite can cause colic, ranging from mild to severe colic episodes requiring surgical treatment.

December

  • Keep close watch on blankets.
    As winter is in full swing, keep a close watch on your horse’s blankets for both fit and condition. Ensure his blanket is snug and does not slide off to one side, which can cause injury.

Work with the veterinarian on your team to ensure your horse’s health and wellness year-round.

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