Vaccinations: Readers Share Experience with Adverse Reactions

More than 880 readers of TheHorse.com responded to a poll asking, "Has your horse ever had an adverse reaction to his vaccinations?"

results of poll on reactions to vaccinations

Results were as follows: 

  • No: 51.47% (454)
  • Yes, but only to particular vaccinations: 40.48% (357)
  • Yes, all the time: 8.05% (71)

Readers shared their experiences with vaccination reactions in the comments below.

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  • We don't use rhino vaccines anymore, too many reactions including long term immune issues.
  • Once my mare was vaccinated in the neck in the afternoon by am nose to ground, trouble breathing
  • My mare became colicy when given all spring shots at once-so we staggered them.
  • in neck, cannot put head down, cannot eat, sore for days
  • never
  • Swelling at the site and lethargy following 4-way shot. No reaction to tetnus alone or WNV.
  • Ki'd pony - swollen neck. Only one time. No problem with the other 30+ horses.
  • only sometimes & i'm not sure which
  • One of our BLM mustangs (mare) always reacts. Two others to particular vac's.
  • he got purpura hemorragica , foundered, and had to be euthanized
  • A horse I owned had a prior history of reactions - I had no problem as I split his shots to 2 visits
  • Large lump at site of West Nile vaccination
  • but the vet gave shot with blood in needle as a yearling
  • Reaction to the flu/rhino. She will not get it again. Scared me to death.
  • Th-bred Eventer 10yr G reacts badly to Flu Vac. Gets flu like sympt & weightloss.
  • Strangles vaccination: Did not want to move much and acted like his neck was stiff.
  • years ago, my mare got a hard lump on the injection site. Possibly caused by the vehicle in the inj
  • my horse never does anything
  • occasionally one will swell and get a stiff neck with rhino. Almost always a yrlg or younger
  • swelling at shot location
  • My new horse got all vacs and got VERY sick - nearly died!
  • Arab gelding get reactions to all combination vaccines He gets West Nile & Tetanus only
  • rhino - softball sized swelling - eventually lanced to relieve pressure and pain
  • bad batch, dumb vet
  • We overvaccinate! Yearly vaccines are damaging to the immune system!
  • one time reaction to strangles- mis diagnosed. now the most expensive solid paint in the world
  • flu vacine in neck had sore swollen hot to touch large area,had difficulty lowering neck to graze yr
  • horse would colic when given shots all at once had to space them out when sold was told to new owner
  • Once to Fort Dodge flu/rhino - don't use that brand now & no reaction
  • lost a very expensive foal and mare due to reaction to west nile vaccination.
  • As he's gooten older the reactions are becoming more severe
  • 1 horse had abscess at injection site of WNV vaccine
  • the 4 way made by Fort Dogde, now use Intervet
  • Flu have gone to intranasal admin. not a problem w/ it given that way.
  • stiff neck/rump with swelling on needle site
  • Rhino
  • Shots in the chest caused reaction, the neck is always ok.
  • rabies - it was horrible, very sick horse
  • Fever and swelling with a Rabies vac.
  • Fort Dodge 5-Way caused severe reaction with swelling and hives. Turned haircoat white.
  • swelling at injection site for flu/rhino...give intranasal now
  • Rabies brings on mild colic has happened 3 times so now the vet gives him a shot of Banamine after.
  • Sometimes localized swelling or stiffness, friend's horse foundered and died from Potomac Fever vac
  • I have the vet administer Bute IV at the same time as the vaccinations, then give 1g orally 2-3 days
  • Vaccine under the skin causing irritation and swelling
  • Reacts badly - only do them in thigh now
  • he is very sensitive to vaccination ,my vet needs 2 trips to give vaccinations (total 4)
  • allergic to all intervet, not allergic to merial recombinant or boeringer
  • appaloosa lymph nodes swell
  • the last two times her injection site swelled after rhino shot
  • septic cut
  • Only once, years ago. I switch manufacturer and never had an issue again.
  • strangles, had to quatentine our barn, several other horses got mild cases
  • Can't give the 5 in 1 to my Paso. He gets a large swelling. Breaking it down into 2 helps
  • Ft Dodge has produced sore necks many times...I try to avoid that brand
  • no other than just being sore
  • A paint that his neck will swell up to twice its size, sore & lasts for 7-10 days.
  • A paint that his neck will swell up to twice its size, sore & lasts for 7-10 days.
  • Only some swelling in the chest area, never when shots were given in the neck
  • Some get hives others are sore for days after
  • once a horse had a large lump at the injection site
  • Adverse reaction to rabies vaccine the second year he received it.
  • I now split my spring and fall shots 2 weeks apart and have no problems
  • Stiff & sore, worsening each year. Vet recommended vaccines for emergency only.
  • Have had severl react to Rabies Vaccine
  • usually colic
  • stiff neck after intramuscular injection - unable to lower head to eat
  • high fever with giving West Nile shot at the same time as 5 way vaccination.
  • swelling, stiff neck...
  • was unable to move his head up or down or side to side afterwards. Now we eliminate that vaccination
  • No, thank goodness. Give them off for the day of vaccinations.
  • mostly swelling at the injection site
  • he starts sweating and get a low grade fever, lays down with rabies vaccine
  • It was the carrier for the vaccines. We switch brands and split them up. Took care of it.
  • TB mare had severe rx to IN strep vax. We no longer give strep vax.
  • Vet gave usual shots.Mare had six inch wide swollen spot next day on her neck. Carrier / culprit
  • Can't lower their necks for days
  • To west nile virus shots
  • Vet had to switch Rabies vaccine brand. Too many reactions
  • severe swelling at vaccination site, couldn't lower his head to eat.
  • Horse went into sepsis, had to be euthanised in 1 week, despite ICU and isolation care at a Universt
  • I try not to give more than one vaccine at a time other than EWT, which seems to be an OK combo
  • got hives a month later.caused her immune sytem to go nuts
  • Usually the rabies shot will cause a mild reaction. I always give my horses a gram of bute.
  • Rabies vac left hard, hot lump for several months
  • I can't give Rabies and the 5 way to one of my horses. He has a bad anaphalatic reaction.
  • "Shotgun" vaccine-caused acute laminitis
  • My TB mare is so sensitive, she always has some swelling and stiffness.
  • Final strangles injec caused such a sore and stiff neck horse couldn't eat off ground for days.
  • Pain at the injection site from West Nile vaccination
  • the strangles vaccination affected my horse negatively for a few days
  • any shots in her neck she swells and is letharic, shots in chest area same and barely could walk
  • Had one horse develop 102 fever. Another had marked swelling and hives, but not the next time
  • No. And benefits FAR outweigh the risks.
  • Mare so sore she could not reach the ground to graze for three days
  • My mare reacted after a rabies shot-swelling on her neck & painful 2 raise her head for few hours
  • My PRE stallion suffered from anaphylactic shock after a rabies vaccine.
  • Had one whose neck would swell above the injection site--crest of neck
  • Yes flu vac. Got them for years than boom, big reaction,. He lived as vet still in stable
  • It is routine to give 2 grams bute IV before his vx to reduce rxn. Adjuvents most likely cause.
  • Thankfully no with all the other issues
  • My horse had a reaction to the Ft Dodge Flu/ Rhino Vaccine. Mostly swelling
  • All 4 of mine from rabies vaccine
  • Yes, but only when given in the neck
  • Nearly lost TB mare 13yrs ago, horrible infection, severely foundered, out of 4 only she lived
  • bad swelling and stiffness with the WNV
  • Yes! Ft. Dodge vaccines. 3 out of 5 got large, painful lumps at injection site.
  • Usually to flu shots. A few of our mares have had soreness and swelling after rhino shots during pre
  • Her neck was so sore we had to forgo all vacs. She couldn't put her head down to eat or drink.
  • only to Ft Dodge shots
  • fort dodge rabies vacine
  • Hives from strangles nasal shot
  • they had a slight reaction coming out of anesthetic for floating, but not to vaccs.
  • could not move neck down to eat for three days, painful
  • Severe neck swelling into the leg for up to 2 weeks
  • The rabies vaccination seems to be the worst.
  • New horse, had VERY stiff neck for 3 days.
  • Certain flu shots = swelling & stiffnes in area of injection (neck)
  • are would break out in hives after some vax
  • I get the vaccines from my vet, and give one every 2-3 weeks to prevent reactions.
  • Major swelling at injection site that lasted several days.
  • Rabies
  • we no longer give her the rabies vaccine
  • Neck swelling from Rabies vaccine only.
  • hives and swelling on face from west nile vaccine
  • reacts to EW now have to give benadryl first
  • but the vet had blood in the needle
  • Only once - not sure which vaccine
  • Swelling at injection site, colic type symptoms
  • Had severe hives from Fort Dodge 5-way on several occasions. No problems with Intervet.
  • He tends to get hives with some, so we have to spread the boosters out over a period of weeks.
  • Sore necks in the past, but not lately. Vaccines are improved, I think.
  • Rabies vaccination
  • My QH gelding gets Hives each time he is vaccinated
  • Thank Goodness
  • Three horses over 35 years. Shots twice a year for all - no reactions
  • actually only 1 horse, 1 time. It was a combo shot, and left a permanent lump the size of a marble
  • I know another horse that almost died from one.
  • Usually Rhino with soreness, lump on neck, sometimes hives
  • Severe Hives. Took 5 days to clear them up
  • especially when receiving more than one at a time.
  • Flu Rhino horse imported from Germany could be different strain
  • nearly died, foundered
  • mostly to tetanus-swelling,heat, couldn't lift or lower head much
  • large lumps in neck and sleeping all day the following day.
  • localized swelling & edema
  • no..he has not gotten anything more than normal vacs. either..
  • Problem when multiple vaccines at one time
  • Older horse gets very stiff and sore after certain vaccinations - notably Rhino/Flu but also others.
  • had a colt get real 'itchy' after penicillin injection - I'm terrified to try again!
  • increase temp, lethargcy after rabies/5 in one last year. Lasted 4-5 days. 2 others had localized sw
  • HIves after a West Nile vaccination. Only happened once the 1st year the vaccine was available.
  • Lethargic
  • Only minor swelling at injection site
  • West Niles in some years has cause lethargic symptoms for several days
  • we have had several in the rescue who had reactions 2 vaccs. we give Dex to decrease reaction.
  • Only one horse and in a localized area with the WNV vaccine.
  • i have one horse that almost always swells up at injection site
  • Not to vaccinations, but to penicillin.
  • severe reaction to West Nile vaccine...develped 105F, flu like sypmtoms and was sick for 2 weeks.
  • Swelling and stiffness of the neck at the injection site.
  • had a mare years ago that had anaphalactic shock to WEE booster
  • 2 horses in 20 years had true anaphalaxsis - and never had another vaccination - per the vet's inst
  • He developes a large swellen lump, 10" and decrease ROM in the neck or hip. along with fatigue
  • one QH would always swell at injection sites
  • He ran a fevor for 3 days and would not get up and move.
  • In 1990, my mare nearly died from a reaction to a modified live Pfizer equine influenza vaccine
  • Almost lost my horse due to a servere strangles vaccine reaction and now spread out the rest.
  • yes, once
  • When rabies are combined with any other shot. fine if given alone
  • Fort Dodge
  • has a reaction to everything except the West Nile vac
  • Rabies, when it was given in the chest muscle. It cost $1800.00 to treat the 4 animals for 6 weeks.
  • had a horse come down with what she was vaccinated for from the vaccine and almost die.
  • One of my horses tends to get really sore and stiff from the Rabies vaccine, the others, not as bad
  • Creates breathing problems. I have owned 2 horses that have had the problem with 5 way flu shot.
  • Slight swelling at vaccination site.
  • quite a bit of swelling at the injection site with every vaccine
  • Only happened once - he's since had the same combination with no reaction. Suspect bad vaccine.
  • They both were sick, heads down, not eating, moping around, for about 36 hours, not rabies.
  • Thankfully neither one of them have I hope they never do.
  • Site swelled, horse felt bad. Broke shots into 2 batches. Too many shots now.
  • violent reaction to Potomac we are in the NE
  • Only had 1 horse out of 20 I've owned to have reactions
  • flu and strangles
  • I've, by far, had the most rouble with rabies vaccinations
  • I found that by splitting the shots into two sessions, app. 2 weeks apart, it solved the problem.
  • One mare several years ago had a very sore & stiff neck after a 5-in-1 shot.
  • rhino-stiff neck; rabies-general malaise and neuro symptoms
  • Fort Dodge strangles vaccination
  • I suspect rabies vaccine
  • Rabies vaccine. Fever, swelling, sensitivity to light, can't move
  • Some discomfort but no serious reaction
  • No reaction to any vaccine.
  • they usually run a fever for a couple of days
  • flu/rhino makes sore necks
  • He only reacted to Fort Dodge vaccines
  • the first time my mare had a west nile vacc., she got a lump the size of a softball on her neck.
  • I had used the same ewt for years and 1 yr didn't, now have switched back.
  • Contracted the flu after being injected with the flu vaccine
  • I answered yes b/c Mine reacted from Rhino but I gave it to shallow. My error.
  • Significant swelling at the injection site. Vet changed brands to resolve.
  • We have cut back on the number of vaccines
  • strangles vaccine gives bad reaction
  • abscess; inject site reaction thicken w/ skin itching hairloss
  • yes flu+, neck swelled, couldn't lower it for days, hot compresses. now i break up the vaccines.
  • I give my own, and spread them over several weeks.
  • Very large swollen site reaction to rabies vaccine, two horses. No reaction to next shot.
  • One compant that I do not use any more
  • laminitis symptoms
  • anaphalaxis to tetanus; foot dragging following West Nile vaccine
  • Yes, she ran a fever and didn't want to eat for almost a week, it was two weeks before she was back
  • That's why I no longer vaccinate my horses. Haven't for two decades, and they're all fine.
  • The only adverse reaction is mine when I get the bill
  • Swelling in the area of the injection.
  • 1 mare - to Pneumabort-K - on more than 1 occasion
  • always get site swelling, but once acted like they had had a stroke!
  • Dogs, yes. To the Lepto shot, two of them.
  • rabies makes a large knot
  • Have had a bad reaction to the potomic fever shot. She swelled up totally and was on ivs and such
  • Ran high fever, sore neck. Used banamine, fever gone next time but stocked up! So frustrating.
  • Had hives almost immediately. Called the vet back out to deal with it.
  • he reacts to both rhino vacs
  • He could only have one vacination /month or he wouldn't eat for weeks.
  • Flu vaccine, severe pain and stiffness at site of jab has happened whether done in neck or hindquart
  • reation to west nile vaccination. I now break up shots over 3-4 appointments.
  • once injection site swelling
  • Thankfully No
  • His neck gets so stiff he can hardly lower it to get a drink or eat his hay and grain.
  • Post vaccine edema from Ft Dodge WNV
  • ee,wee combined with tetanus
  • gets hives from head to tail, swollen everything..
  • West Nile Virus - pregnant Arabian mares -foals birth defects
  • 5 way vaccination has a neck strain result to 1 of my 3 horses
  • My mare used to swell horribly at the injection site. Giving a 1 gram dose of Bute am & pm helped.
  • combination of a rabies vaccine and 3 way.
  • Slight reaction to flu/rhino. More severe to equine rabies, he receives canine rabies.
  • Rabies vac always made my QH lame in the leg closest to the injection site no matter where injected
  • My 32 y/o gelding is very sore after EWT made by Fort Dodge
  • West Nile Virus Vacine
  • So far I've had no problems
  • Hives from a new rabies vaccination; corrected quickly with antihistamine.
  • Rabvac 3 injection site swelling regularly
  • Neck swellings after Rabies
  • 22 yr qtr mare swells at injection site-rabie injection in pectoral caused edema pouch.
  • Strangles shot
  • I have 2 horses, both gray pasofino's who get sore necks or abscesses to the 5 way vaccine
  • Rabies & West Nile Virus makes my husbands mare very sick and swells at injection site.
  • Our vet says they may get a little "down" for a day, but they never do.
  • Stiff neck after rabies/Potomac.
  • Strangles vacination - not nasal - just a real swollen area for several days
  • Nasal strangles vaccine gave the disease to all three of my horses.
  • The injectable Strangles Vaccine
  • dif. horses/yrs ( WNV, Strangles, vet gave by accident, sever nose swelling, collapsed, Potomac
  • high fever, colic, inappetence,
  • Injections produces human flu like symptoms
  • He reacts badly to the flu vaccine literally has a dose of flu goes very lethargic tired
  • None of my horses have ever had a reaction to any vaccination.
  • 19 yr old reacts to strangles
  • He gets a sore neck and has trouble bending down to eat grass- but it only lasts a day or two.
  • generalized swelling if not exercised after injections
  • YES! Once. Broke out in hives, colicked right after, legs swelled up. Emergency trip to clinic.
  • He HATES VACCINATOINS!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • haematopinus asini
  • Colic and founder
  • Yes, stiffness - if I spread them out over 2 visits its better
  • One mare is reactive to the flu with swelling and lameness
  • My horses have never shown adverse reactions to vaccs.

About the Author

Megan Arszman

Megan Arszman received a Bachelor of Science In print journalism and equine science from Murray State University in Murray, Ky., and loves combining her love of horses, photography, and writing. In her “free time,” when she’s not busy working as a horse show secretary or riding her American Quarter Horses on her parents’ Indiana farm, she’s training and competing her Pembroke Welsh Corgi and Swedish Vallhund in dog agility and running.

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