Now is the time to think about preventive health care, spring vaccines, Coggins tests, dental exams, and fecal floats, to keep your horse healthy. Last year four Ohio-based horses died from Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), a fatal disease that is transmitted by mosquitoes. In addition, horses in Knox County (Central Ohio) succumbed to West Nile virus infection - a disease also transmitted by mosquitoes. So be aware: even if your horse never leaves the farm, mosquitoes can travel great distances and infect your horse. To keep your horse healthy, we need to administer vaccines for EEE, Western Equine Encephalitis (WEE), West Nile, rabies and Flu/Rhino this spring.
How often do I need to vaccinate?
There is great debate on how often to vaccinate your horse for these preventable, deadly diseases (EEE and West Nile). When the vaccine manufacturer does tests to prove the vaccine works, they look for antibodies (antibodies fight off infections) in the horse’s blood. These antibodies cannot be found 12 months later. With this data, we feel it would be safer to vaccinate every six months, rather than run the risk of the vaccine not protecting your horse from these fatal viruses. Most cases of EEE and West Nile virus are seen during late summer and early fall. The Flu/Rhino vaccine needs to be administered every six months (spring and fall) to horses actively showing, living in boarding stables or horses commingling with other horses. Biannual physical exams and preventative medical care are important to keep your horse healthy.
Another underused vaccine is botulism. Botulism is a bacteria that can be found in soil and is ubiquitous in Central Ohio. The bacteria is ingested by the horse eating hay or grass, and is very commonly found in round bales, no matter how they were made. The bacteria attack the nervous system, causing muscle weakness, esophageal choke and death. Treatments for this condition start at $3,000 and in some cases have gone as high as $10,000. A simple vaccine will prevent your horse from getting this disease.
This vaccine is made in Kentucky - which has the same strain of bacteria found in Ohio - giving the vaccine even better efficacy. We recommend all horses eating hay outside, and especially round bales, be vaccinated for botulism once a year.