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Equine Vaccinations

Equine Vaccinations

The following information is relevant to the UK only and may differ to that given in other countries.

Vaccinating your horse is not compulsory, but vaccinations can prevent some serious and potentially life-threatening diseases. Only competition horses must be vaccinated, in accordance with the governing body of their discipline, although some livery yards may also insist on your horse being vaccinated.

All vaccinations should be recorded in your horse’s passport, and the passport needs to be filled in and certified by the vet who administered the vaccine.

There are three main vaccinations available:



Tetanus is caused by the production of endotoxins by the bacteria Clostridium tetani, and it can be fatal. Found in soil, the bacteria can enter the body through wounds, with punctures of the sole being a very common route. Endotoxins then affect the horse’s nervous system, which can be seen in clinical signs such as muscle stiffness, difficulty moving and eating, and seizures.

Fully vaccinated horses are able to neutralise the toxin before it can cause any ill effects.

A primary course of two vaccines is given, four to six weeks apart, followed by a booster 12 months later.  The vaccine is then given every two years.


Equine Influenza (Flu)

This is a virus which affects the respiratory system of a horse. It presents with a high temperature, runny nose and cough. It is not often fatal, but it can be very debilitating.  It is also highly contagious as it is an airborne virus that can spread easily and quickly.

An initial primary course of three vaccinations needs to be given to horses over the age of five months. The second vaccine is given between 21 and 92 days after the first, and the third is given between 150 and 215 days after the second. There are then yearly boosters.  It is very important to stick rigidly to the recommended protocol otherwise it could invalidate your horse’s passport.


Equine Herpes Virus (EHV)

There are five strains of herpes virus that affect horses, with the most common ones being EHV-1 and ENV-4.

EHV-1 causes abortion in mares and can also cause neurological disease. It can also produce respiratory disease in younger horses.

EHV-4 causes respiratory disease and, occasionally, abortion in mares.

EHV is a widespread problem within the horse population, with some horses being carriers without any clinical signs. Both EHV-1 and 4 are spread directly via droplets in the air from coughing horses, but also indirectly via humans, tack, feed and equipment. Contact with aborted foetuses and placentae can also spread the disease.

EHV vaccination protocols should be discussed with your vet as it can differ depending on your horse’s needs and age.

For more information on EHV, click here.

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