Vaccinate Your Horse

Spring is the time we deworm horses for bots with Ivomec® or Panacur®, but what about vaccines? We should also be vaccinating our horses for a variety of diseases including Encephalitis and West Nile. The people who study bugs tell us this will be a bad year for mosquitoes. There is no way to prevent mosquitoes that carry Encephalitis and West Nile from biting your horse, but you can prevent the viruses from becoming an issue.


Eastern and Western Encephalitis are of concern all through the mosquito season. Signs of Encephalitis in a horse are head pressing and stumbling. Even if they recover from the disease, they will continue to stumble and are a safety concern if ridden. Prevention with vaccination has been the only sure way of avoiding encephalitis. The "EW" in vaccines is Encephalitis. West Nile Virus is Encephalitis and the symptoms are much the same as "EW" but with more muscle fasciculation. The usual early signs are twitching and shaking of the chest muscles and stumbling. Once they start with clinical signs, the treatment to save them as a horse that can be ridden is expensive and seldom successful. Water fowl are a common carrier for the West Nile Virus. If you live in a waterfowl flyway, you will see a second rise in West Nile Virus when the birds return from the arctic. Prestige® V + WNV vaccine protects healthy horses against Eastern and Western Encephalitis, Influenza, Tetanus, Rhino, and West Nile Virus.


Tetanus or lockjaw is caused by Clostridium tetani bacteria found in horse manure. If your horse gets cut or steps on anything that punctures them, they will get exposed. There is no treatment that works for tetanus so you need to vaccinate yearly to ensure horses stay safe. It is called lockjaw because the muscles contract with this disease and “lock up” and cannot be relaxed. Horses get very scared and rigid and any sound can cause them to throw themselves to the ground when they jump.


Influenza and Rhinotracheitis are both viruses that cause respiratory diseases in a horse. Influenza is similar to our flu with a respiratory snot nose. Rhino acts much like a cold in humans and starts with coughing. You can treat your horses to get over it, but the biggest issue is you can’t ride them during recovery which takes two or three months. If it happens to be during the time frame for that trail ride you waited for, it doesn’t make your day! Prevent it from happening by vaccinating for it.


Once you get your horses vaccinated, you also should make sure their living conditions are treated for adding protection. Eliminate standing water and containers that hold standing water. Discourage birds from living around your stable. Use sprays safe for the environment to control the mosquito population. We like Adams Plus Yard Spray, Country Vet® Mosquito & Fly Spray, or Permethrin 10%, these products are long-lasting and work to kill mosquitoes.

We want to encourage everyone to vaccinate your back yard horse! This year, with lots of mosquitoes predicted it will be a bad year for Encephalitis. Look for a vaccine that lists "EWTF with West Nile” to cover them all. Remember horse vaccines when you place your next order and win this disease fight before it ever gets started.

If you need help, call us at 1-800-786-4751.

-Dr. B
Don Bramlage, DVM, Director of Veterinary Services at Revival Animal Health

The materials, information and answers provided through this website are not intended to replace the medical advice or services of a qualified veterinarian or other pet health care professional. Consult your own veterinarian for answers to specific medical questions, including diagnosis, treatment, therapy or medical attention.

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