by Dr. David Sauter,DVM
It was the Chinese that first practiced methods to inoculate people against smallpox over 1000 years ago. It wasn’t until the mid-1700’s that the first vaccine was developed, using a weakened form of the cowpox virus to vaccinate people against small pox.
For horses, the most important vaccine is against Tetanus. Horses are susceptible and at risk for the disease; it is a fatal disease. The vaccine is safe, effective and inexpensive. Another important disease to vaccinate for is West Nile Virus because horses are susceptible to this mosquito borne disease and up to 40% of WNV cases will die. Survivors are often left with permanent neurological impairment. The WNV vaccine is safe and effective. Other diseases to consider vaccinating against include influenza, rhinopneumonitis, sleeping sickness and rabies.
Vaccines need to be stored properly to be effective and to reduce vaccine reactions. Timing of vaccination is important. It takes time for vaccination to work, so avoid vaccinating less than two weeks prior to transport, anticipated stress or exposure. Vaccinate against mosquito borne diseases prior to mosquito season. Watch for vaccine reactions, such as injection site heat, swelling or pain. Infrequently allergic reactions can or lethargy and mild fever.