The Top Five Ways to Get Your Horse Ready for Spring Vaccines

SpringShotsIt’s that time of year, again, when horse owners need to schedule their vaccines with their veterinarian.  Knowing which ones are necessary, and preparing for their administration is beneficial to everyone included: the horse, the vet, and the handler.

“Don’t assume that because your horse has always been good for your vet, or has never had an adverse reaction to their shots that it won’t happen,” said Laurie Cerny, editor of publisher of www.good-horsekeeping.com.  “I’ve had horses that have always been perfect angels become difficult over something as simple as the vet having an assistant or vet student come along on the day of the shots.”

In addition, more horses appear to becoming sensitive to vaccines – especially with the increased number we now give.  Distributing where they are given on the body can help decrease soreness at the injection site; however, it doesn’t help the amount of vaccine/serums the horse receives.

“Last year three of my four horses had reactions to their shots, and my vet injected both in the neck and in the rump to try to avoid any soreness.  Not only did these three become sore to the point of front-end lameness, they also stocked up,” Cerny said.  “This year I’m having the vet come out twice to give their spring shots to break up the number of injections given at one time.  I will also give Banamine prior to the injections.”

Cerny added, “And it wasn’t just my horses that had reactions; I’ve heard of several other horse owners having horses with mild to fairly serious reactions from their vaccines.”

Here are the top five ways to help prepare your horse for their vaccines:

  1. Do your research. Check with your vet regarding what vaccines you really need.  If your horses are strictly backyard animals and never leave the property and outside horses never come in, then you probably just need the basic flu shots and vaccinations for insect transmitted diseases like West Nile.  You can also read the vaccination guidelines set by the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) at http://www.aaep.org/ Another good resource for checking if there our disease outbreaks, as well as Rabies, is Outbreak-Alert at https://www.outbreak-alert.com/default.aspx.   You also want to make sure that you don’t schedule vaccines too early.  Some vaccines only last for six months . . . so if you vaccinate in early April you may not be covered through fall for things like West Nile. You would then need to booster later in the summer.
  2. Handle your horse prior to your appointment and practice a similar routine used when giving shots.  Make sure that your horse is comfortable with strangers coming into the barn and into their stall.  Practice holding the horse and then have a partner rub the possible injection locations (neck/rump), for a few seconds and then quickly thump their index and middle fingers (together) as if it were the syringe.  Most of the time the horse is startled from the motion – so doing this a couple of times prior to the actual vaccine will help to de-sensitize them.  For Strangles, which is given in the nostril, handle your horse’s mouth/nose and gently stick your finger in their nostril.
  3. Ask your vet to distribute where the shots are given:  both sides of the neck, instead of just one side, and in the rump.  You might also want to have your vet out more than once and divide the vaccines between the visits.
  4. Administer Banamine.  Doing this in advance not only helps to relax the horse, but it will also be in their system to help with any soreness/swelling around the injection site.  For horses, who have had mild reactions previously, a vet may also want you to continue giving a dose daily for several days.
  5. Give your horse a break.  Try to schedule vaccines at least two weeks prior to your first show or event.  Nearly all horses become a little lethargic after vaccinations – so giving them a day or two off from riding is a good idea.  Also, avoid blacksmith appointments and worming for a couple of days, as well.

For more practical horse care information go to www.good-horsekeeping.com

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