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Respiratory Viruses: How to Protect Your Horse at Home and On the Road


Over the past few years there have been numerous outbreaks of these contagious diseases across the country – and close to home. It could happen anywhere. Are you and your horse prepared?

Vaccination is a highly effective way of preventing disease, but not all vaccines are created equal.

Intramuscular (IM) and intranasal (IN) vaccines both carry good protection but they work differently.

  • Intramuscular vaccines take up to 2 weeks to stimulate the immune system and so cannot be given days before a horse show and be expected to provide protection.

  • Intranasal vaccines stimulate a local immunity at the site of challenge (the nasal mucosa) and start providing protection in about 5 days post administration; they also have very minimal vaccine reactions.

A modified-live intranasal vaccine called Flu Avert I.N. is a great option for high risk horses, such as those living at busy boarding facilities or those showing.

  • It seems to also provide cross-protection for respiratory viruses other than just influenza.

  • In horses never vaccinated for the flu, the immunity will still remain for 6 months without a 30 day booster, as is needed with the IM vaccines.

Some cheaper equine vaccines do not necessarily provide protection against current strains of influenza, so stick with a reputable brand, not the cheapest one in the feed store.

Purchasing your vaccines from a veterinarian provides several advantages.

  • It ensures vaccines have been handled properly.

  • Your vet will now have a record of when your horse was last vaccinated and with what, taking away some of the burden of remembering when to booster your horse’s vaccines.

  • If your horse does contract a respiratory virus, the vaccine manufacturer will back their product and provide testing to identify the virus and may pay for treatment. Most companies will not provide this for vaccines not purchased from a licensed veterinarian.

If you are interested in adding the Flu Avert vaccine to your horse’s vaccine regimen or have questions regarding respiratory vaccines, please don’t hesitate to contact us! All of our doctors are happy to talk to you and help prepare an individual vaccine schedule that is tailored to your horse.

Good bio-security should be practiced at home and away.

Here are a few tips to help reduce your horse’s potential exposure:

  • Do not allow your horse to touch noses with unknown horses.

  • Do not let them share water and feed buckets with other horses. If using a communal water hose, do not submerge the end in the water while filling the water bucket.

  • Always wash your hands after touching another horse and make sure other people have washed their hands before touching your horse.

  • If there is any concern as to the health of another horse (i.e. coughing, snotty nose, etc.), you should consider changing your clothes before touching your own horse, as many diseases are spread between horses by fomites (e.g. clothing, brushes, tack).

Be observant and know your horse.

Monitor your horse’s rectal temperature daily (esp. while at shows).

  • Normal temperature for a horse is 99 – 101.5 °F.

  • It is advantageous to know your horse’s normal before they get sick.

Always keep an eye out for any abnormal behavior or signs of disease, such as nasal discharge, cough, decreased appetite, lethargy, and/or fever.

(Featured image courtesy of The Bend Equine Medical Center, Bend, Oregon)

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