Worth a Shot for Spring Vaccinations


By: Kyla Szemplinski, MS. With springtime, comes the time of year horse owners should be checking and updating their horses’ health records.

Every horse should have their own health record (hard copies and digital forms) that should detail the following information: horse’s name (registered name and barn name,) date of horse’s birth, breed, owner’s information (name, phone numbers, mailing address, email address, alternate contact,) veterinarian’s information (name, phone numbers, clinic’s mailing address, email addresses, alternate veterinarian contact)

The health record should also include columns for farrier and dental appointments. The vaccination column should be the most detailed since equine vaccinations are critical from an environmental health standpoint. The vaccination column should include:  name of vaccination, veterinarian who gave the vaccine, date of vaccination, vaccine dosage, where on the horse the vaccine was administered, vaccination expiration date and vaccinations serial number. 

By federal law, the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) requires that all horses in the United States MUST receive core vaccinations. Core vaccinations by definition from the AAEP “protect from diseases that are endemic to a region, those with potential public health significance, required by law, virulent/highly infectious and/or those posing a risk of severe disease.” Core vaccines include: Rabies, Tetanus, Eastern and Western Equine Encephalomyelitis (EEE/WEE) and West Nile Virus.

Other vaccinations are called, “risk-based”, meaning these vaccinations should be included in the vaccination program if a horse has a higher risk of being impacted by a specific disease. Examples of risk-based vaccinations include: Equine Influenza, Equine Herpesvirus, Strangles, Botulism , Equine Viral Arteritis, Rotaviral Diarrhea, Snake bites and Venezuelan Equine Encephalomyelitis.

Horses that have been previously vaccinated just need an annual dose of vaccines. If your horse’s vaccine history is unknown or your horse has never been vaccinated, vaccines will be in an either single dose or two to three dose series. 

Consult with your veterinarian about which risk-based vaccines best suit your horse’s lifestyle. Develop an annual vaccination schedule that has core and risk-based vaccines and is consistent.

Possible Allergic Reactions
Like most vaccinations, some horses can have swelling or soreness at the injection site. Other symptoms can include fever, anorexia and lethargy with severe reactions including purpura hemorrhagic and anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis, or allergic reactions, can happen in horses following routine vaccinations. These reactions are taken seriously by veterinarians and there are precautions taken to prevent an allergic reaction. 

According to Dr. Lew Strickland, UT Extension Veterinarian, “My team gives horses an antihistamine and an anti-inflammatory (usually Banamine) when we arrive on site. We perform other exams and vaccinations that need to be done and come back to the horse that had reactions to give the vaccines.”

As a precaution, Dr. Strickland and his team remain at the farm for an additional 30-45 minutes to ensure no reactions take place. When asked which vaccine causes the most reactions, Dr. Strickland says, “While I do not know which vaccine results in reactions the most, I suspect that Rabies is the usual cause.” 

If a horse is known to have an allergy sensitivity to vaccines, please make sure your veterinarian is aware so the appropriate steps are taken to minimize reactions. It is critical to public health that all horses receive, at minimum, the core vaccinations to prevent the spread of deadly diseases. 

As always, if you have any questions regarding spring vaccinations, contact your horse’s veterinarian and also contact UT-TSU Extension Shelby County at 901-752-1207.



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