As spring approaches (we can dare to hope, right?) so, too, approaches the time for your horse’s annual vaccines. Following a protocol of regular vaccination will help protect your horse and assure them a healthy life. At the same time, it protects you from the pain of facing a costly or deadly disease in your equine companion.
In today’s world there are many sources of these vaccines. Tack stores, online and catalogue sources can be tempting cost cutting options to your veterinarian, but there are several reasons why we recommend that your veterinarian design a protocol and administer your vaccines.
Vaccine companies stand behind their products, but the improper handling of vaccines can, at best, reduce their efficacy, and at worst, cause injury and disease. When your vet purchases vaccine to administer to your horse, that supply chain remains intact, and should your horse suffer unwanted effects, the company that manufactured the vaccine will cover the cost of treatment. That guarantee goes away when vaccines are sold to tack stores or catalogue companies. Some vaccines, like the original West Nile vaccine, come with a guarantee that proper vaccination will prevent disease, backed by the company’s offer to treat the disease, should it occur. Again, however, that guarantee applies only to vaccines administered by your vet.
There are many vaccines out there that your horse doesn’t need, because he won’t be exposed to that disease. In these winter months, your vet is spending snowy evenings reading up on new products and disease distributions. Rather than guessing, and over-vaccinating or missing an important disease, use your vet’s brain to tailor a protocol for you and your horse.
The timing of when you vaccinate your horse for certain diseases can also affect the immunity the vaccine confers. Your vet can tell you when to vaccinate for maximum protection.
Your plans may indicate a need to change your vaccination protocol. Maybe this year you will be doing more or less traveling; or perhaps you are considering breeding, buying a new horse, or moving your horse home. All of these things play into the decisions your vet makes about vaccines and other management issues.
The environment in which your horse lives contains many dangers that your equine friend is dying to find and demonstrate for you. Veterinarians, seeing the illnesses and injuries these animals inflict upon themselves, are highly attuned to these potential hazards, and a visit to your farm gives us a chance to point them out and possibly prevent a costly emergency call later.
First and foremost, your horse’s health is our primary concern. The opportunity to examine your horse, talk with you about your plans, and spend time on your farm offers your vet the chance to catch changes in your horse’s weight, musculature, body type, eyes, mouth and cardiovascular system that can signal the early onset of disease or aging conditions. Early intervention can save you money in the long run, and add years of health to your equine companion’s life – and isn’t that the real goal, after all?
-David A. Jefferson, DVM