Tuesdays with Tony
The Inside Scoop on Vaccines
Ahh, spring is in the air! I hope all you humans are taking advantage of the beautiful weather and getting some saddle time in. I personally have extended the duration of my naps in the parking lot, interrupted only by the occasional horse trailer or UPS truck. Hopefully that lovely scent of spring blooming (mixed with a little pollen of course) also reminds you that it’s time for your horse’s spring shots! Let me take this opportunity to refresh your memory on why the best person to administer those vaccines is your veterinarian.
I love Tractor Supply as much as the next cat. I mean, who can make it down those aisles at the checkout counter without grabbing one of their irresistible impulse-buy gifts, snacks, or nick-nacks? But one thing I wouldn’t trust Tractor Supply for is handling the vaccines I plan to give my beloved horse. Did you know that vaccines must be maintained within a very narrow temperature range from manufacture all the way up until they are administered?
At Springhill, we will not accept a shipment of vaccines if the ice has melted during transport; we unpack all cold boxes immediately upon receipt; the docs carry the vaccines in coolers in their trucks; the techs don’t draw up vaccines into syringes until they arrive at your farm; and the docs keep the vaccines on ice until immediately before administering them to your horse. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t trust the high school kid working at your local feed store to be this careful.
Do you know which vaccines your horse needs? Do you know how often your horse needs a booster for each vaccine to maintain immunity? Do you know what’s really in a 5-way? If you answered ‘no’ to any of these questions, you should probably have a veterinarian vaccinate your horses. Vaccines are not one-size-fits-all. A horse’s disease risk varies by geographic location, age, and lifestyle. Depending on your horse’s prior vaccination history, what you are vaccinating against, and which brand of vaccine you are using, your horse may need a booster anywhere from 6 weeks to 1 year later.
I didn’t go to vet school, but I know 2 kinda awesome women who did. I highly recommend you take advantage of their education when it comes to vaccinating your horses! Not to mention, they literally vaccinate horses every day, so they have the system pretty down pat. Young horse? Needle-shy horse? Sensitive horse? No worries. Our docs can handle it, and will probably turn it into a positive experience that they look forward to next time.
Everybody thinks the pharmaceutical companies that make vaccines are “in the pocket” of veterinarians, or that there are “kick-backs” for using their vaccine versus another brand. Here’s the inside baseball: I get visits from the representatives of the major companies we buy medications from (including vaccines) about once or twice a year. They always scratch me behind the ears and comment on how handsome I am. Sometimes they bring lunch and I may get a pepperoni off a slice of pizza or a bit of tuna from someone’s sandwich. They talk about their vaccines, the extensive research behind them, the newest changes they have made to decrease the incidence of vaccine reactions from 0.02 to 0.01 percent. They may leave us with some pens, hats, notepads, or keychains. One time a pharmaceutical rep gave us drawstring bags, which I found amusing to play with for about 5 minutes.
However, if you think our docs are choosing which vaccines to carry based on who gave out the coolest pens this year, you are sadly mistaken! They look at the research. They choose the vaccine that has the best combination of disease prevention and lowest reaction rate. That sometimes means carrying a Flu vaccine from one company and a West Nile vaccine from another. Our doctors don’t have their own interests or the interests of some major pharmaceutical company in mind- they only care about what is best for your horse!
I’ll leave you with 2 reminders: 1) Schedule your horse’s spring shots. 2) Make sure you have my next See Tony event, the Deworming Seminar, marked on your calendar for Thursday, March 8th at 6:30pm.
Happy Tuesday! -Tony