Vaccinations Not a Place to Cut Back, Vets Say

In today's economy, many horse owners are looking for ways to cut back on expenses--but skimping on equine vaccinations should not be one of them.

"People are looking for ways to cut costs, and preventive care seems like an obvious choice to them because they're not 'emergency' expenses," said Kimberly Anne May, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVS, of the American Veterinary Medical Association's Communications Division. "However, skipping vaccination is very risky because it can leave the animals unprotected."

"I like to call it inexpensive insurance," explained Camille Knopf, DVM, of Silverado Equine in California. Horses infected with the diseases vaccines typically prevent might require thousands of dollars of supportive and rehabilitative care, or even euthanasia.

The AAEP has recommendations for vaccines at However, not all horses require the same protocol.

"We recommend all horses, regardless of use, are vaccinated for Eastern and Western equine encephalomyelitis and this is almost always combined with the tetanus vaccine, which all horses should have," said Jennifer Selvig, DVM, of Cleary Lake Veterinary Hospital in Minnesota. "West Nile virus and rabies are the other two that we don't recommend skipping. For horses in large barns or in barns where horses frequently travel, we recommend the influenza/rhinopneumonitis vaccine as well as strangles. If your horse has recently had strangles, this might be one to skip."

"The best person to help you determine which vaccines your horse really needs is your veterinarian," May advised.

See a series of Special Reports on vaccinations.  

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Jennifer Walker

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