Fall Equine Wellness: What Your Horse Needs

Fall Equine Wellness: What Your Horse Needs

The AAEP vaccination guidelines recommend at-risk horses be vaccinated for equine influenza and herpesvirus every six months

Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse

With fall approaching, it is important to keep your horse protected from the risks all around them, such as equine influenza virus, equine herpesvirus (EHV), and parasites.

“If you have a horse that travels for fun or competition, it’s recommended that he be vaccinated twice a year against equine influenza and equine herpesvirus to help boost his immunity,” said Kevin Hankins, DVM, senior equine technical services veterinarian for Zoetis.

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.

How do you know whether your horse is considered at risk? Key disease risk factors include:

  • Age (younger than 6 years old or older than 15 years old);
  • Boarding status (horses stabled in boarding barns are considered more at-risk than those residing at private stables); and
  • Traveling off-property frequently (or being housed with horses that do).

Discuss with your veterinarian whether your horse is considered at-risk.

It’s important to be aware of emerging disease risks during the fall months, which can include equine influenza virus and equine herpesvirus. Equine influenza is one of the most common respiratory diseases in horses, spreading by aerosol transmission (coughing or sneezing) from horse to horse in distances as far as 50 yards. Like humans with a cold, horses can experience dry cough, nasal discharge, fever, depression, and loss of appetite.

Clinical infections of equine herpesvirus are most commonly seen in weanlings, yearlings, and young horses entering training or those exposed to other horses through boarding or transport. Equine herpesvirus poses severe risks, including respiratory infection as well as abortion; birth of weak, nonviable foals; and, in some cases, neurologic disease. Equine influenza and equine herpesvirus can lead to costly veterinary bills and days, weeks, or months out of the saddle, making it all the more important to help safeguard your horse’s health with an effective vaccine.

Equine influenza and equine herpesvirus aren’t your horse’s only threats this fall—enter parasites.

Fall is a key time for equine deworming in many parts of the country. Parasite transmission decreases with cold weather and the conclusion of grazing season. Key parasites to target with fall deworming include tapeworms and bots. Horses could harbor tapeworm infections without showing signs of discomfort; however, the parasite can cause colic—from mild to severe colic episodes requiring surgical treatment.

The AAEP recommends tapeworm treatment once a year, in the late fall or early winter. Choose a dewormer that contains praziquantel, which specifically targets tapeworms.

To ensure protection for your horse, work with your veterinarian to identify fall booster vaccination and deworming needs.

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