Do Horse Need Fall Vaccines?

by Matt

We typically think of the vaccine schedule in spring, when pre-partum mares require boosters, and insect-borne illness is on the rise. But could your horses also need fall vaccines? The answer lies in both your performance schedule and your regional risk factors. Let’s look at a few vaccinations which you might want to add to your fall healthcare check-list.

Tetanus: The tetanus bacteria know no season; they can lie dormant in soil and find their way into your horse’s system through a wound. Vaccinated horses should receive an annual booster, but if your horse has a wound more than six months after that booster, he should have another tetanus shot immediately.
Season: Any

Eastern & Western equine encephalitis, West Nile Virus: Mosquito-borne illnesses have the highest risk factor in summer, so horses should receive their initial vaccine, and their annual booster, in spring. The shot should be given at least several weeks before the mosquito season starts in your region, to give your horse time to build up immunity. In south Florida and other regions where mosquitoes often flourish year-round, a fall booster can help protect your horse from this often-fatal virus.
Season: Spring; Regionally Fall

Equine Influenza: Although the equine flu is common infectious disease, it’s also only shared from horse to horse. For this reason, the American Association of Equine Practitioners acknowledges that horses in closed herds, who never come in contact with outside horses, may not need this vaccine. Show horses should receive a booster every six months; horses who rarely make contact with outside horses should only need an annual vaccine.
Season: Spring and Fall, or Every Six Months

Equine herpesvirus (EHV-1): This serious virus can cause abortion in pregnant mares, along with EHM, a neurological disease. Carrier horses who carry the virus but only shed it in times of stress are common. Any horse that comes into contact with breeding horses should be vaccinated every six months against this disease, along with show horses who are out mixing with strange horses.
Season: Spring and Fall, or Every Six Months

Most other vaccines can be part of your annual schedule, such as the annual rabies booster, and risk-based vaccines such as anthrax, botulism, strangles, or Potomac Horse Fever—meaning that your decision to vaccinate against these at all is based on regional and competition factors.

One other factor to consider is pre-partum vaccines—although we typically think of mares foaling in spring and early summer, if your mare is going to foal in another time of year, you’ll need to carry out a series of vaccines during gestation. This chart from offers a helpful timeline for broodmare vaccinations.

Will you be vaccinating your horse this fall? Take a look at your risk factors, talk with your vet, and make a careful decision. Every horse’s needs are different!

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