Why a Veterinarian Should Vaccinate Your Horse

Why a Veterinarian Should Vaccinate Your Horse

In order to be safe and effective, vaccines need to be properly handled (which includes being stored at the correct temperature), given in the right location, and given in the proper dosage.

Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse

Q. Why can't we give our horses their vaccines ourselves? My barn friend said my shots won't count if I give them myself.

Via e-mail


A.Thank you for sending in your question about vaccinating your horse. Vaccinations are critical to help protect your horse against debilitating and potentially life-threatening diseases such as rabies, West Nile virus, Eastern equine encephalomyelitis, and Western equine encephalomyelitis, along with some additional diseases such as equine herpesvirus, equine influenza, and Potomac horse fever.

I don’t recommend that owners administer their horses’ vaccinations for a number of reasons. First of all, it is important to make sure your horse is receiving the proper vaccinations, both core and risk-based (as defined by the American Association of Equine Practitioners), and the best person to determine what your horse needs is your veterinarian.

Another important factor to consider regarding your horse's vaccinations is that you want to ensure the vaccines are safe and effective. In order to be safe and effective, vaccines need to be properly handled (which includes being stored at the correct temperature), given in the right location, and given in the proper dosage. Your veterinarian is trained to know and understand all these variables.

Vaccines are designed to stimulate an immune response, and not all horses will respond the same. While adverse events following vaccinations are typically rare, your veterinarian is trained to properly manage such an event.

Typically, the vaccine manufacturer will not support the self-administration of equine vaccinations. The products are labeled for use by veterinarians, and if something should happen to the horse, the manufacturer is not likely to accept any liability if the product was given by a nonveterinarian and not used according to the label.

Lastly, in some cases, a veterinarian is not going to be willing to issue a health certificate to a competitive horse or one that needs to be transported if he or she has not administered vaccinations to that horse.

I know you care about your horse and want the best health care you are able to provide, and that includes having your veterinarian give vaccinations in the fall and spring. The few dollars you might save by doing it yourself isn’t worth risking your horse's health.

About the Author

Megan Green, DVM

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