Friday, February 12, 2010

Friday, Feb 12, 2010 - Vaccination

Vet Tip of the Day: Vaccination
Key Words/Phrases: Immunity, West Nile Virus, Influenza, Encephalitis, Veterinary Consultation

It is mid-February, almost time to begin gearing up for spring, which means administration of spring vaccinations.  For the next few vet tips, I would like to discuss some of the theory behind the practice of vaccination, in order to give you the tools to make informed decisions about appropriate vaccination strategies for your particular horses.  Rule #1: never be afraid to ask your veterinarian the basis for choosing your horse's vaccination program.  You deserve this attention.  However, I am as guilty as anyone else in this regard - the words "hectic" and "springtime" are virtually synonymous for equine practicioners.  We are usually scrambling to keep our heads above water during the months of March, April and May, from gelding colts, to getting mares in foal, to welcoming new babies into the world, to preparing performance horses for upcoming show seasons our days (and nights!) are already full, so we tend to be on the go when it comes time to administer routine vaccinations.

You may want to try this strategy: avoid trying to slow your veterinarian down to talk in the spring when they are most likely to be distracted.  Instead, talk to your veterinarian about routine health strategies such as vaccination during the quiet winter months.  Schedule a consultation appointment and let your vet know the topics you would like to discuss ahead of time.  This approach allows your veterinarian to sit down and focus on your questions in a relaxed fashion that will lead to a more thorough, rewarding information exchange.

To begin our discussion of vaccination strategies, let's determine how we decide whether a horse should receive a certain vaccine.  Consider vaccinating a horse against Disease A.  I ask myself the following questions:
1.     How likely is it that this horse will be exposed to Disease A?
2.     Is Disease A a deadly disease, such as Tetanus? (this assesses risk to this horse)
3.     Is Disease A highly contagious, such as Influenza? (this assesses risk to neighboring horses)
4.     Is the vaccine used to protect against Disease A highly effective?
5.     What is the cost vs. effectiveness vs. safety value of the vaccine for Disease A?

With these questions answered, I then can make an informed decision whether or not to recommend vaccinating this horse against Disease A.

The diseases against which we routinely vaccinate horses in the Western United States are listed below.  Test your own knowledge and try to answer the questions above for each of them - I will post the answers in tomorrow's Vet Tip of the Day.

West Nile Virus
Influenza, Rhinopneumonitis
Eastern & Western Encephalitis
Strep Equi (Strangles)

Our new and improved website if coming on line.  It is like a fledgling chick pecking its way out of the egg - if you want to watch it emerge, then keep checking in over the next week or so.  If you'd rather just see the final product, wait a couple of weeks and then look.  Either way, you can now get to this blog through the website - it's an easier address to remember and the link to the blog is on the home page.  Just log on to

There is quite a bit of information on the website as well for your education. 

Finally, for my local clients, the spring vaccination clinic schedule will be posted by Monday, February 15th.



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