I had a really great week this week.  Thursday evening we had a seminar on vaccines here at the office.  I LOVE seminars.  It gives me a chance to meet my adoring fans up close and personal.  I also enjoyed a bit of cheese from Villagio’s pizza and we all know Villagio’s is never a bad thing.  For those of you who missed out on the seminar I thought I would summarize what Dr. Mackenzie covered.  Next week I will return to my breeding for dummies series.

Dr. Mackenzie covered several topics regarding vaccinations.  She divided it up in to three main categories:  Evaluating the horse to be vaccinated, geographic specific differences, and biosecurity.

The most important category is the evaluation of the horse.  Dr. Mackenzie talked about evaluating the age of the horse.  Dr. Lacher and Dr. King are always talking about this very thing around the office.  They say that while age is not a disease it is very important when picking vaccines.  Young foals must begin with a series of vaccines to prime the immune system.  The timing of this series is very crucial.  It turns out all those good things foals get from mom’s milk can also interfere with our vaccines!  Knowing a history on the mom whenever possible makes our doctors’ job much easier.  Senior horses may need vaccines more often as well if they are experiencing signs of Cushings disease or are otherwise down on their health just a bit.  Dr. Mackenzie emphasized how important is to have Dr. King and Dr. Lacher give your horse a good check-up to determine they are in good health.

Next Dr. Mackenzie discussed the differences around the country and the world.  For instance, here in Florida we have to vaccinate for the mosquito born encephalitis much more frequently than our more northern friends.  One reason is the presence of mosquitoes all year! But we don’t have diseases like Botulism or Potomac Horse Fever.  Geography also involves your horse’s lifestyle.  A horse that doesn’t leave the property doesn’t necessarily need vaccination for Rhinopneumonitis and Influenza.   Once again Dr. Mackenzie emphasized a partnership with Dr. Lacher, Dr. King, and you to determine your horse’s health and what vaccines are required based on your lifestyle.

The last topic was biosecurity.  Here Dr. Mackenzie emphasized taking temperatures! A lot of taking temperatures!  She talked about taking daily temperatures to establish what is normal for your horse and then again after any trips or exposure to new horses.  We also talked about the importance of quarantines.  New horses should be kept separate for at least three weeks.  She also recommended nasal swabs to determine if they are shedding any viruses and fecals to check for parasites. Dr. Mackenzie sure sounded a lot like Drs. Lacher and King when she talked about making sure you have your own water buckets at group events, making sure the hose doesn’t touch the water in the bucket, and limiting nose to nose contact with strangers.

A few other points Dr. Mackenzie covered concerned the nature of vaccines.  She pointed out that vaccines contain two main components: antigen, or the disease we are vaccinating for, and adjuvant, the part that notifies the immune system.   Most of the vaccines we give our horses are killed vaccines.  This means the organism has been inactivated and then combined with an adjuvant.  These vaccines are very stable and cheap.  However, they don’t stimulate an immune response for very long so we have to give these vaccines at least every six months.   We do use one vaccine that is modified live and that is the Intranasal flu.  Modified live means the organism has been altered so that it grows in the horse a very small amount once given.  These vaccines don’t require an adjuvant and offer long lasting protection.

Overall I really enjoyed Dr. Mackenzie’s talk and learned a lot about how, why, and when we give vaccines.  And I once again, learned how important Dr. Lacher and Dr. King are to our horse’s healthcare!

Completely changing topics briefly.  I spoke with Dr. Lacher this week about her horse, Angie’s, response to immunotherapy (allergy shots).  Dr. Lacher tested Angie with our new intradermal skin testing and found she was allergic to all kinds of weeds and trees.  This explains why Angie was still very itchy despite all Dr. Lacher’s efforts to control her culicoides, or gnat, allergy.  Angie has been on allergy shots for about three weeks and is much more comfortable!  Dr. Lacher said Angie normally has her mane and tail itched out by now even with a full fly sheet, fly mask, and daily fly spray.  Now she looks great and no more daily fly spray.  Though Angie still wears a fly sheet and mask for turnout.  Dr. Lacher was very excited about the results!

Well that’s all I have for this week.  May your litter box be clean and your food bowl full!!