Last Updated on May 29, 2022
Before you know it, spring will be here again, which means it will be time for your horse’s vaccinations! But when it comes to spring shots for horses, which ones do they need?
When it comes to horse vaccinations, the choice can be overwhelming. It can be difficult to know which shots your horse needs throughout the year. Let’s take a look at spring shots for horses and find out what they are all about!
What Is A Vaccine?
Vaccines are injections that are given to your horse to give them immunity from certain diseases. They must be administered at specific times and at the correct intervals for them to be effective. Vaccinations are referred to as inoculations.
When vaccinations are given they introduce a tiny, harmless replica or fragment of a disease-causing pathogen into the body. This causes an immune reaction in your horse, creating antibodies that can destroy this pathogen. If your horse is then exposed to the disease in real life, it can swiftly eliminate the disease-causing pathogen before infection takes hold.
Why Do Horses Need Vaccination?
It is very important to get your horse vaccinated to protect your horse against some very dangerous and potentially fatal diseases. Even a horse that lives alone should be vaccinated, as some diseases can be transmitted through soil or rusty objects.
Other equine diseases are highly contagious. This means that they are easily transmitted from horse to horse, rapidly spreading through the vaccination. Vaccination of horses slows or prevents the spread of contagious diseases.
As a responsible horse owner, you should ensure that your horse has all the necessary shots at the right time of year. This not only protects your horse but also helps to contribute to herd immunity. This is when enough horses are vaccinated to slow the spread of disease, helping to protect vulnerable horses with low immunity.
Why Is A Vaccine Schedule For Horses Necessary?
One thing that is quite complicated when it comes to horse vaccinations is that some need to be given at specific times of the year and others can be administered at any time. But what is the reason for this?
Some diseases are a threat to the horse all year round. For example, a horse could contract Tetanus or Rabies at any time of year. The vaccinations for these two diseases are given yearly and can be administered at any time of year.
Other equine diseases are seasonal, and the vaccine is given at a specific time to maximize protection. The prime cause of seasonal diseases is mosquitoes, so vaccinations against mosquito-borne diseases are given a month or two before mosquito season starts. For most areas, mosquitoes are prolific from early summer onwards, so the vaccine is given in the spring.
As it is more convenient to get your horse vaccinated just once every year, it is common to give the core yearly vaccinations and the seasonal spring vaccinations at the same time. Therefore, your horse’s spring shots might include both year-round and seasonal diseases.
What Are The Essential Horse Spring Shots?
There is a huge range of different diseases which horses can be vaccinated against! Inoculations are available for all the following equine diseases:
- Equine Influenza
- West Nile Virus
- Equine Herpes Virus
- Equine Viral Arteritis
- Equine Encephalomyelitis (Eastern & Western)
- Streptococcus Equi
- Potomac Horse Fever
When it comes to vaccinations, they should only be given if the horse is at risk of contracting that specific disease. It would make no sense to vaccinate against mosquito-borne diseases in a region with very low mosquito numbers.
So when it comes to the time for spring shots for horses, which ones should they have? Your veterinarian will most likely advise that your horse has a three-way, four-way, or five-way vaccine. Each of these provides immunity against different diseases, some of them seasonal.
The four-way vaccination is commonly given in spring. This gives immunity against one core disease – Tetanus – and three seasonal mosquito-borne diseases. These are West Nile Virus, Eastern Equine Encephalitis, and Western Equine Encephalitis.
Although the tetanus vaccine can be given at any time of year, it is commonly administered in the spring. This is because it is given as a combined vaccine, with the three other seasonal pathogens.
What Other Spring Vaccines For Horses Can Be Given?
When deciding a vaccination schedule for your horse, you need to consider the risk of contracting each disease. Although we’d all like to protect our horses against everything we can, it is not good practice to vaccinate against diseases that your horse is unlikely to be exposed to.
Here are some other vaccinations that may be given as part of the spring shots for horses, depending on the location of the horse and other risk factors:
- Potomac Horse Fever
The high-risk period for Potomac Horse Fever is July to October, so vaccination against this disease is normally carried out in late spring or early summer. Potomac Horse Fever is only endemic in certain areas of the U.S.
The Rabies vaccination can be given at any time of year, but it is commonly administered in the spring. The reason for this is that Rabies is contained within the 5-way horse shot, along with Tetanus and the most common mosquito-borne diseases.
- Equine Viral Arteritis
Vaccination against Equine Viral Arteritis is only carried out in horses used for breeding. The vaccine is given 2-4 weeks before the breeding season, which is normally in the spring.
- Equine Influenza
Equine Influenza is a highly contagious disease that is only present in some areas. Horses in these regions should be vaccinated at least twice yearly against Equine Influenza. One of these vaccinations can be given at the same time as your horse’s spring shots.
So, as we have learned, some vaccinations for horses should be given in the spring to provide the best immunity against mosquito-borne diseases. These include the vaccinations for Eastern and Western Equine Encephalomyelitis and West Nile Virus. These are often combined with tetanus vaccination, meaning that the horse needs just one vaccination per year.
We would love to hear about your experiences with horse vaccinations – do you dread vaccination time or is your horse not bothered at all? Perhaps you have a new horse and have a few questions about vaccinations? Add a comment below this post and we’ll get back to you!
Next, learn if Horses Eat Broccoli?
Kate Chalmers is a qualified veterinary nurse who has specialized in horse care for the vast majority of her career. She has been around horses since she was a child, starting out riding ponies and helping out at the local stables before going on to college to study Horse Care & Management. She has backed and trained many horses during her lifetime and competed in various equestrian sports at different levels.
After Kate qualified as a veterinary nurse, she provided nursing care to the patients of a large equine veterinary hospital for many years. She then went on to teach horse care and veterinary nursing at one of the top colleges in the country. This has led to an in-depth knowledge of the care needs of horses and their various medical ailments, as well as a life-long passion for educating horse owners on how to provide the best possible care for their four-legged friends.
Kate Chalmers BSc (Hons) CVN, Dip AVN (Equine) Dip HE CVN EVN VN A1 PGCE