The following vaccinations are available for your horse in the UK:
- Equine Flu
- Equine Herpes Virus Strains 1 & 4
- Equine Arteritis Virus
- Equine Rotavirus
What does it do?
It causes symptoms similar to true flu (as opposed to ‘man flu’) in humans. The virus attacks the lining of the respiratory system and can make the horse very sick. Secondary complications can include pneumonia and even meningitis. Recovery can be prolonged. Affected horses may not show any signs but things to look out for are nasal discharge and a bad cough
Why should I vaccinate my horse?
In the UK there have been eleven outbreaks of equine flu in 2015, and thirty three outbreaks were confirmed in 2014, all occurring in unvaccinated horses. Most of these outbreaks are well controlled and rarely spread beyond the affected yard. This is due to the number of horses vaccinated and strict biosecurity policies in an outbreak. However the flu virus can travel more than 2km by wind so it is vital to keep your horse up to date with flu vaccinations.
It takes a minimum of about 6 weeks to get an unvaccinated horse prepared: 2 initial injections 4 weeks apart and time for the immune response to develop. Equine Flu is a nasty disease and our greatest protection is in having a high percentage of the horse population protected by vaccination so that if an outbreak occurs it is unable to spread as fast. You have a responsibility not just to your horse but also to the national horse herd to vaccinate your animal.
The Animal Health Trust provide a free service to test for horse flu, please contact your vet if you suspect a case on your yard. More information, including details of recent outbreaks can be found here http://www.equiflunet.org.uk/
I have a foal – when do I start the vaccinations?
Vaccinations are generally started at 6 months. Before that the mare’s colostrum may interfere with the effectiveness of the vaccination.
What does the starter course entail?
Two injections usually 4 weeks apart, followed by a 3rd injection 5 months after the 2nd vaccination. Multiple vaccinations are required for 2 main reasons. Firstly, nearly all inactivated vaccines need one shot to ‘prime’ the immune system and then subsequent shots to develop a really strong antibody response. In addition, not all vaccines are as good at generating an immune response. Flu vaccines need extra doses to provide a really good response.
If you are competing your horse under FEI or Jockey Club rules, a specific starter course must be followed. If you are going to pony club camp the Jockey Club Rules apply. We advise you check with your affiliation whether you need to adhere to FEI or Jockey Club regulations.
Jockey Club Regulations
- 1st Equine Influenza vaccination
- 2nd vaccination after 21 to 92 days from 1st vac
- 3rd vaccination after 150 to 215 days from 2nd vac
- Thereafter annually, with the last permissible day being the same date as the previous year's vaccination.
- Horses may not compete until the 8th day after the day of vaccination.
These are slightly different and are outlined in the table below. This table was taken from the FEI website where more information can be found.
Equine Influenza Vaccination Requirements
|Vaccination||Protocol||Eligibility to Enter Venue|
1st Vaccination: day 0 (e.g.1 January 2010).
2nd Vaccination: day 21-92 (e.g.1 February 2010).
|May compete 7 days after the 2nd Vaccination.|
|First Booster||Within 7 months of the 2nd vaccination of the Primary Course (e.g. 1 August 2010).|
May compete for 6 months +21 days after the 2nd vaccination of the Primary Course.
Must not compete in the 7 days after receiving a vaccination (e.g. may enter venue after 7 August 2010).
MINIMUM: within one year of previous booster vaccination.
COMPETING: must usually be in the 6 months +21 days of previous booster vaccination.
Must have been vaccinated with the 6 months +21 days before arriving at the Event.
Must not compete in the 7 days after receiving a vaccination.
Will the vaccination definitely cover a new flu strain?
Possibly not. The situation is exactly the same with human flu. The scientists have to try and make predictions about which strains of flu may hit next and develop vaccines to combat those. There are 2 Types of Equine Flu and lots of strains. Type 1 (H7N7) and has not been seen for some time. Type 2 (H3N8) has European and American sub-strains.
DEFRA/AHT/BEVA Equine Quarterly Disease Surveillance Report, Volume 8, No. 2: April – June 2012
The biggest threat to the UK horse population at the moment is Florida Clade 2. We use Merial’s Proteqflu, which is the most up to date vaccine for equine influenza, containing Florida Clade 1 and Florida Clade 2. Proteqflu is currently the only vaccine containing the Florida Clade 2 strain. At Intake we take pride in using the most up to date vaccine to ensure your horse is as best protected as possible. Merial have put together some great videos highlighting why this is so important:
What happens if the vaccination is overdue?
This can be confusing. Put simply, there are 3 sets of rules:
If you do not use your horse in competitions or events which require vaccination checks, then a few days over probably does not matter. Exactly how far over you can go before you have to restart is a matter for discussion with your vet. Bear in mind however that if you sell the horse, the next owner may then have to restart the vaccinations if they wish to compete the horse.
Tetanus doesn’t happen anymore does it?
Yes it does.
What does Tetanus do?
The bacteria normally start by colonising dead tissue in a wound. Incubation of the disease can be slow, up to 3 weeks. Eventually the bacteria release a toxin travels throughout the body and ‘locks’ all muscles in a terrible rigid state. The horse is completely conscious and aware of what is going on but unable to move and it cannot eat or drink because of lockjaw. It is an awful disease and a horrible way to die. Treatment is possible but it is intensive, expensive and there is no guarantee of success. There is no justification for not vaccinating your horse against tetanus.
Equine Herpes Virus Strains 1 & 4
What do these viruses do?
There are 4 strains of the Equine Herpes Virus (EHV1, EHV2, EHV3 and EHV4). Vaccinations are unavailable for EHV2 (respiratory disease) and EHV3 (a sexually transmitted disease). Strains 1 & 4 primarily cause respiratory disease but EHV1 can also attack the nervous system causing hindleg paralysis. Importantly both EHV 1 and 4 can also cause abortions in pregnant mares. Anyone breeding should think carefully about protecting their mare against herpesvirus abortion.
How common are they?
The viruses are very similar to human cold sores (also a herpes virus). Once infected, the horse will never get rid of the virus although it may lie dormant for long periods. The latest data suggests that around 50% of adult horses have been infected with the EHV1 virus.
Equine Arteritis Virus
What does it do?
Primarily it damages the lining of small blood vessels causing oedema and damage to organs. Although it can be spread by aerosol, it is primarily a problem when an infected stallion is used for breeding. The virus is carried in semen and will go on to infect over 85% of the mares covered or inseminated. Although these mares will not necessarily abort the foal if they do become pregnant, the infected mare will then spread the disease to the other horses around her. Infection of an already pregnant mare may well cause abortion.
Should I be concerned if I want to breed my mare?
This is an important disease and if it occurs it is a legal requirement to notify DEFRA who will then (hopefully) take action to limit the spread of the disease. The 2009 HBLB recommendations are that you should not vaccinate your mare. The emphasis is on preventing any infected stallions from breeding. Responsible stallion owners will blood test their stallions to ensure they have never been exposed to the virus – that they are ‘seronegative’.
What does it do?
This virus causes diarrhoea in foals less than 2 months old. If severe, this can be life threatening.
What does the vaccine do?
The vaccine is given to the pregnant mare in the 8th, 9th and 10th month of pregnancy. The aim is to boost the levels of anti-rotavirus antibodies in the mare’s colostrum. These antibodies are then passed onto the foal and protect the foal from the virus. Obviously, it is crucial that the foal gets a good intake of colostrum otherwise the vaccine is ineffective.
Should I use it?
Rotavirus diarrhoea is most common on stud farms with large numbers of foals. The risk is low if you have one mare and wish to put her in foal. If you breed regularly it is worth investigating any diarrhoea outbreaks. If this shows up rotavirus, it will give you warning that you need to vaccinate the following year.