Utah Owners Urged to Vaccinate Horses

Utah Owners Urged to Vaccinate Horses

The AAEP considers tetanus, Eastern and Western equine encephalomyelitis, WNV, and rabies vaccines “core,” meaning nearly all horses should receive them each year.

Photo: Erica Larson, News Editor

It’s that time of year again. West Nile virus (WNV) has been detected in mosquitoes in Salt Lake County, Utah. Now is the time for area horse owners to call their veterinarian for appropriate vaccinations for your work, pleasure, and companion equine partners.

West Nile is transmitted to horses via bites from infected mosquitoes. Clinical signs for WNV include flulike signs, where the horse seems mildly anorexic and depressed; fine and coarse muscle and skin fasciculation; hyperesthesia (hypersensitivity to touch and sound); changes in mentation (mentality), when horses look like they are daydreaming or "just not with it"; occasional somnolence (drowsiness); propulsive walking (driving or pushing forward, often without control); and "spinal" signs, including asymmetrical weakness. Some horses show asymmetrical or symmetrical ataxia. Equine mortality rate can be as high as 30-40%.

There are a multitude of vaccinations available for equids, but that doesn’t mean your horse needs all of them. It is best to develop a program or plan with your local veterinarian that reflects what your animals’ specific needs are based on risk of disease even if you vaccinate them yourself. Some basic parameters to consider are the animal’s use, location, age, and lifestyle, such whether they travel to shows and other venues or remain on the ranch or farm.

The American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) considers several vaccines “core,” meaning nearly all horses should receive them each year. These vaccines include those that protect against tetanus, Eastern and Western equine encephalomyelitis, WNV, and rabies. The AAEP considers other vaccines “risk-based.” Veterinarians recommend risk-based vaccines depending on the horse’s region, population, and disease risk. These include: anthrax, botulism, equine herpesvirus type 1 and 4, equine viral arteritis, equine influenza, Potomac horse fever, rotaviral diarrhea, snakebite, and strangles.

If your animal has never had a particular vaccination, he or she might require more than one shot to build the proper immune response and then receive periodic boosters after the initial series. The vaccinations should be given at least two weeks before exposed to an anticipated risk. It is important to remember vaccines are designed to reduce disease but not necessarily eliminate them. They should be used as “one tool in the toolbox” to accompany good management strategies and biosecurity practices.

In addition to vaccinations, horse owners also need to reduce the mosquito populations and their possible breeding areas. Recommendations include removing stagnant water sources, keeping animals inside during the bugs’ feeding times, which are typically early in the morning and evening, and using mosquito repellents.

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