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Do I really need to vaccinate? Ask The Vet


A monthly column by Daniel H. Grove, DVM


Got a question for Dr. Grove? Send your inquiries to vet@horsetrader.com, and it could be answered by Dr. Grove in a future column. Dr. Grove is based at West Coast Equine Medicine, headquartered in Fallbrook, Calif., where he lives with his wife Kristen.


by daniel h. grove, dvm T


he vaccine debate is not limited to whether or not to vaccinate your children. The debate continues over


into our pets also. With horses, some people have the unfortunate experience of vaccine reactions that give the pause for future vaccines. So, with such concern over the vaccination of animals, we will review what is considered the minimum vaccines for all horses and what the optional ones are. First, let’s answer the question, “Do I really need to vaccinate my horse?” It is mid May when I am writing this article.


Since the beginning of this month, there have been reported outbreaks of strangles, equine herpes virus, equine infectious anemia,


equine influenza, and eastern equine enceph- alitis. All of these disease have vaccines, except equine infectious anemia. All of these disease can lead to the death of your horse, never mind the fact that if your horse has these diseases, they can be spread to other horses. So, do you need to vaccinate? YES! A few years ago, the American Association


of Equine Practioners (AAEP) established their recommendations for core vaccines. These vaccines are recommended for all horses in the U.S. The diseases are rabies, eastern equine encephalitis, western equine encephalitis, West Nile, and tetanus. The vaccines for these disease are very effica- cious and severe reactions are rare. Mild reactions such as sore muscle can occur, but it is usually transient. There are vaccines for other diseases such as equine influenza, equine herpes virus (Rhino), and stran- gles. These vaccines are recommended based off of your risk as determined by your veterinarian. So how do these


vaccines work? Well, most of the vaccines we use in horses are killed vaccines. They contain two main parts, the anti- gen,and the adjuvant.


DEV DEVENPO PO


The antigen is all or part of the organism that causes the disease. The adjuvant is the component of the vaccine that stimulates the body to react and develop immunity against the antigen(s). The companies that make these vaccines have to find the right combination of these two items to get an immune response. They are looking to get the most reaction with the least side effects. It is a difficult balancing act since we are dealing with animals that can react differ- ently to the same thing. How oſten should we vaccinate? This is also a big topic of debate. Some of the vac- cines give a longer term of protection versus other vaccines. Blood testing is a common way we try to evaluate the level of immu- nity an animal may have against a specific disease. Most of the diseases do not have established cut-offs for what titer levels are considered protective. Another twist in the story is that some parts of the immune sys- tem are not able to be measured. All of these things play a role and make it very challeng- ing to answer this question with certainty. Disease prevention is the least expensive and most effective way to eliminate or mini- mize diseases. Vaccines play a crucial role in keeping not only your horse safe, but mini- mizing the risk of your animal geting anoth- er sick. Please, discuss with your veterinar- ian your options, and at least vaccinate your horses for the core diseases.


–Dan


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