Equine - Vaccination - The Role of Vaccines in Horse Health

How do vaccines impact the health and protect the wellbeing of my horse?

Horses are susceptible to many diseases that can be contracted from their environment. Using vaccines, we're able to decrease the risk and the severity of some of these diseases. How this works is that the vaccine primes the horse's immune system by causing them to make antibodies to specific pathogens that are included in the vaccine. When the horse is infected with that pathogen, the immune system is ready to attack it, which then causes the horse to display no or limited clinical signs compared to what they would have had if not vaccinated.

Dr. Emily Guest
Tennessee Equine Hospital

Does my horse's lifestyle factor into what vaccinations my doctor will recommend?

We recommend some vaccines for all horses, regardless of lifestyle, and these are vaccines for diseases that the horse can get from their environment, such as diseases contracted from insects or the soil. These include things like tetanus, West Nile Virus, and rabies. Then other vaccines are lifestyle dependent, and those include things like Flu/Rhino and Strangles, which, for example, would only be needed in a horse that travels and is around other horse. A horse that stays on the farm with a closed herd, however, would not need those. So you should consult with your veterinarian, and they'll recommend the best lifestyle vaccines for your horse.

Why is it important to get an annual Coggins test?

Coggins tests test for a disease called Equine Infectious Anemia, and this disease is very contagious among horses and can be deadly, but it also can be carried in horses that show no signs. Therefore, we use the Coggins test as a screening tool to make sure the horses aren't infected before they go places like shows or boarding barns where they could potentially infect other horses.

How often should I get my horse or foal vaccinated?

When a horse or foal initially gets vaccines, they require a two to three vaccine booster series. So they'll receive the first vaccines and then about four to six weeks later, receive a second set. And then for some vaccines, such as botulinum, they'll receive a third booster in that initial series. After that, we recommend annual vaccinations for our core diseases, and then we recommend more frequent vaccination for Flu/Rhino for those horses that travel and show, and that can be every three to six months.

What diseases are prevented with vaccinations?

As you can see in our vaccines here in our vaccine fridge, we have many options. The core vaccines for horses that we do here include tetanus, rabies, West Nile Virus, and Eastern and Western equine encephalitis. And then, we also offer many other vaccines, including botulism, Flu/Rhino, strangles, and leptospirosis, so it's best to consult with your vet to see which ones they recommend for your horse.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (615) 591-1232, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as soon as we can.