West Nile has been very quiet for the last 5-6 years. This is largely due to widespread vaccination and a reduction in natural spread in the wild bird population. Over the past several months however, there has been an increase in virus-infected sentinel birds (birds used to detect natural virus levels in the wild) and one confirmed fatality from the disease in a horse in Alachua County. You may have thought this disease was dead and gone, but much like Eastern Encephalitis it will most likely be an occasional presence in our area. At Springhill Equine, we are doing our part to keep your horse protected from this killer virus by providing your horse with the highest quality vaccine, along with our reminder system and Wellness Program to make sure your horse gets vaccinated at the right time. Keep in mind that mosquitoes spread this virus, so we may not see the true extent of resurgence before our mosquito levels peak next spring, but your horse will still be at risk over the temperate fall and winter months in Florida. Be sure you horse is not left unprotected.
The EWT vaccination is a combination product that provides a six-month duration of immunity against deadly Eastern and Western Equine Encephalomyelitis viruses and Tetanus infection. Despite its availability and effectiveness to prevent these diseases boosters must be done every six months, and as a result there have been several documented cases of Eastern Equine Encephalomyelitis in Alachua and surrounding counties this year alone. The more numerous these cases become, the more risk there is to any horse in the area, which remains unvaccinated and consequently unprotected. Although this vaccination is widely available in most local feed stores, it is important to keep in mind that this vaccine is only effective if properly handled up until the vaccine is administered. That being said, any period of time the vaccine is not kept adequately refrigerated will reduce and possibly eliminate its efficacy.
Rabies is a yearly vaccination that provides protection against the deadly rabies virus. Rabies is an important disease among our domestic animals because it is one of the very few diseases that we as humans can catch from direct contact with our horses. Animals with rabies spread the disease through saliva or other bodily fluids, and do so for weeks prior to showing any outward signs of infection. That being the case, there are strict requirements with regard to a horse that may have been exposed to a rabid animal trapped on or near your property, in order to insure that your horse may not have inadvertently exposed you to the virus. Unfortunately, it is impossible to test an animal for exposure to the virus while it is still alive, so this necessitates euthanasia of the horse. If vaccination by a licensed veterinarian within the previous 12-month period can be proven, than the horse is simply quarantined for the next 14 days and released if no symptoms are seen. Again, appropriate vaccination handling and correct administration is imperative for this vaccination to ensure adequate immunity, but when done properly this vaccination will serve to protect not only your horse but also all those in contact with your horse.
Flu and Rhino
These two vaccinations have historically been given to horses as a combination product, but recently a more effective nasal influenza vaccination has been developed which provides yearlong immunity over the previous IM injection that only lasted for six months. In addition, the rhinovirus vaccination can now be combined with your horses EWT shot, so that your horse will need only receive one injection every six months. The next question that most owners ask is “does my horse need to be vaccinated against flu and rhino?” It is true that these viruses are not usually life-limiting, however they can certainly put your horse out of commission for several days with nasal discharge, fever and general malaise. In addition, the flu and rhino viruses can even result in death when contracted by young or debilitated animals. So, the answer to this question is yes if you have foals or geriatric hoses, or if your horse travels off the farm (or is exposed to any other horses traveling off the farm) on a regular basis. If your horses remain isolated from exposure to other horses, you can feel very comfortable skipping these vaccinations. It is also important to recognize that although these vaccinations are effective against many forms of these viruses, there are new forms that develop (much like the H1N1 version of flu in people) that even a vaccinated horse can contract. Therefore, it is important to contact us if you notice these symptoms even if your horse is already vaccinated.
To help ensure your horse stays well protected, Springhill Equine is once again happy to offer our Wellness Programs. There will be three programs, each available with customized deworming program targeted to your horse’s lifestyle. We take care of remembering everything and you get a discount on services!