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Vaccinations in horses.

Vaccinations provide effective protection against many infectious diseases in horses. Therefore, the possibility of such preventive medicine should not be neglected, but regularly performed. Most vaccinations are an individual decision of the owner, however in the case of horses competing in sports competitions, regular vaccination against influenza at intervals of 6 months is an obligation. There must also be a period of 7 days from the moment of vaccination to the performance at the competition. Each time a vaccination is made, it must be recorded in the horse's passport along with the date, number of the vaccine series and the signature of the veterinarian performing the vaccination. The appropriate program and vaccination plan should be established by a veterinarian.

Possible vaccinations performed in horses:

Influenza (horse flu) - after basic vaccination in foals, as well as older horses not previously vaccinated, we vaccinate at regular 6-month intervals. In order to obtain better resistance of foals in the first months of life, a mare should be vaccinated 4-6 weeks prior to foaling.

Herpesvirus infections - caused by two types of EHV4 virus responsible mainly for respiratory diseases (rhinopneumonitis) and EHV1 causing miscarriage in foal mares. In the case of aborted pregnancy, in 99% of examined fetuses, the presence of EHV1 virus could be demonstrated, hence vaccination of the filly mares becomes very justified. As with influenza, the vaccination schedule begins with baseline vaccination and then booster vaccination are repeated at intervals of 6-9 months. In order to effectively protect mare from miscarriage, base vaccination is carried out before insemination, additional booster vaccinations in 3/4 and 7/8 months of pregnancy.

Tetanus - a deadly bacterial disease caused by anaerobic tetanus (Clostridium tetani). Unfortunately, there is a constant risk of tetanus infection, as they are microorganisms that occur in the environment, each even the smallest wound, especially the limb injuries, and can become a potential source of infection within the hoof. The baseline vaccination schedule is similar to that of other diseases, two vaccinations with an interval of 6 weeks, a third vaccination after 12 months, and then only every 24 months. Breeding mares should be vaccinated at 9 months of pregnancy regardless of the plan.

 Mycosis - there is a possibility to vaccinate the horse against mycosis. Usually sick horses are vaccinated, as part of the therapy and prevention of the further development of the disease. They are then two injections at an interval of 14 days. We also prophylactically vaccinate the vaccine twice with an interval of 14 days. Resistance is acquired for a period of 12 months. 

Due to the persistent high levels of maternal antibodies for up to 4 months, which ensure effective and sufficient protection, we should not vaccinate foals younger than 4 months. In these cases, no proper post-vaccination immunity develops. It should be remembered that each vaccination may have side effects and short-term decline in the resistance and efficiency of the horse after vaccination. The horse should not be used 2-3 days after vaccination. Vaccination of horses showing any disease symptoms should be postponed to another date. We vaccinate only healthy horses!

Important note: vaccination with two-component vaccines (influenza + tetanus) is unjustified every 6 months. We perform such vaccination every two years. We will vaccinate one-component vaccine every six months against influenza. Resistance to tetanus after proper base vaccination is effective for 2 years, so it is unnecessary to vaccinate every 6 months.

The most common myths and the truth about deworming horses:

My horse is healthy and looks good, so there are no parasites!

Unfortunately, nothing is more wrong! At the beginning, parasitic infections, caused by the most common strongyles, horse bot fly or tapeworms, are completely asymptomatic! This situation may last for months or even years, until the appearance of external symptoms (eg weight loss or deteriorating hair quality) that could indicate the presence of internal parasites. Gastric intestinal parasites in the early stages of their development cause damage to internal organs, unfortunately elusive to the owner. Over time, colic episodes appear more and more frequently, at increasingly shorter intervals and, in principle, for no apparent reason. In such cases, it is necessary to consult a veterinarian who will perform a parasitological examination of faeces. In the case of external symptoms, often changes in internal organs are so large that it becomes impossible to heal them. Remember! External appearance can confuse us, also in the animal world :).

I haven’t noticed worms in feces, so my horse does not have internal parasites!

If only the parasitological diagnostics were so simple… The presence of parasites in the feces can actually be noticed, but only when very massive worming! However, eggs of mature parasites are excreted in millions of quantities, but their presence can only be demonstrated by microscopic examination of faeces! It should also be remembered that the eggs of some parasites can not be demonstrated in the study. For example, horse bot fly's eggs are placed by mature females on horse's hair, this is due to their different life cycle (see internal parasites).

I deworm my horses once a year, after the pasture season, that's enough!

Unfortunately not! Knowing the life cycle of parasites and the duration of antiparasitic agents, it was determined that deworming should take place 4 times during the year as sufficient prophylaxis. And now I am going to explain why. Most ivermectin-based antiparasitic agents is active only 13 weeks. Since we have 52 weeks a year, effective prophylaxis is a fourfold deworming during the year! However, anti-anoplocephala (Tapeworms) agents operate for a period of 26 weeks, hence their double use during the year is sufficient. In addition, it must be remembered that most of the available antiparasitic agents are effective only for the form of mature parasites, it does not include larval forms, hence the need to repeat the treatment.

Too often deworming harms the health of my horse, and especially impairs the work of the intestines!

No way! Modern antiparasitic agents are friendly to the horse's body, which is proven by many years of research before the product hits the market. During these tests, no harmful effects have been proven even at doses twice as high as those recommended. The intestinal function is not disturbed in any way, just the opposite. By getting rid of the unwanted passengers, we prevent unpleasant damage to the intestinal mucosa.

I use a different preparation each time, thus preventing the development of antiparasitic resistance!

There are many antiparasitic agents on the market with different names, but this does not mean that each has a different active ingredient. It's like in human medicine, there are a dozen painkillers, but it turns out that most of them have the same active ingredient, just for example in a different dose, different packaging and other name. So let's remember that only the active ingredient of the antiparasitic agent is important.

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lek. wet. Bożena Latocha
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