All horses, ponies and donkeys should be regularly vaccinated in order to prevent some serious and potentially life-threatening diseases.
In the United Kingdom, horses are commonly vaccinated for equine influenza, tetanus and equine herpes virus (EHV).
Owners should make sure that their horse is vaccinated in accordance with the rules of governing bodies under which they are competing (e.g. British Horseracing Authority, FEI, British Eventing, British Show Jumping, etc.), as vaccination rules are different amongst these organisations.
All horses should be vaccinated against tetanus. If contracted, typically through a penetrating wound, it is usually a fatal condition. Vaccination is often given as a combination vaccine with equine influenza. A primary course of two vaccinations is given 4−6 weeks apart, followed by a booster in 12 months. Subsequent vaccinations are usually given every 2 years. Tetanus vaccine produces a strong, long-lasting immune response.
Many foals are given tetanus antitoxin shortly after birth. Primary vaccinations are usually started in horses at the age of 5−6 months.
Equine influenza (flu)
Equine flu affects the respiratory system of horses. Symptoms are a high fever, runny nose and coughing. It is rarely fatal, but it can take months to clear up.
Foals should be vaccinated for flu and tetanus at about 5−6 months of age. Horse passports come in handy at reminding us when, as the vaccination schedule is clearly highlighted in the specific section.
The second shot is given 21 and 92 days after the first one. The third is given between 150 and 215 days after the second shot. A booster vaccination is then given annually thereafter, or every 6 months for competition horses.
There is a useful app available online that calculates when a vaccination is due, or if the horse's cover has run out of date.
Click on the link below, or simply type “BHA Vaccine Calculator” on google to find the app.
Equine herpes virus (EHV)
Equine herpes virus is a common virus that affects horses. There are mainly 2 types: EHV-1, which causes respiratory disease, abortion and paralysis, and EHV-4, which usually only causes low-grade respiratory disease.
We advise vaccinating horses for EHV at the same time, and following the same protocols, as equine influenza.
Pregnant broodmares should be vaccinated against EHV at 5, 7 and 9 months of pregnancy.
Guidelines and advice on contagious diseases in horses are available in the HBLB's Codes of Practice.