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Vaccinations

It is the owner's responsibility to ensure that their horses are vaccinated in time to comply with the Jockey Club rules of racing and/or FEI Sportshorse competitions and that these details are entered in their passport.

Spring Paddocks Equine provides routine vaccinations to protect horses from equine influenza, tetanus and equine herpes and wherever possible we try to remind you when these are due.

If your horse competes under Jockey Club or FEI rules you should inform us of this so records can be updated and booster-reminders sent at the appropriate time. It should be noted that whilst we endeavor to remind clients about vaccinations, FEI influenza vaccination regulations have changed recently and an extract detailing the recent FEI rule change is shown below.

Equine Influenza

Equine influenza is an acute, highly contagious respiratory disease caused by the Influenza virus. It produces signs similar to those of a range of other viral respiratory diseases, although these are usually more severe in the case of ‘flu’. These develop within 1 -5 days following exposure to the virus.

Horses develop a fever and a dry, hacking cough and become lethargic and anorexic. They may have a watery nasal discharge. Many horses develop secondary bacterial infections, which can lead to pneumonia and other problems. These secondary infections can be fatal in foals. Recovery normally takes 2 -3 weeks.

The disease is extremely contagious and ‘flu’ epidemics can occur. The virus can be spread via direct contact, aerosol from coughing (up to 30m), wind (up to 8km) and indirect contact with infected material. Because it is a virus, there are no drugs that influence the outcome of the disease. Good nursing care and antibiotics to treat any secondary bacterial infections associated are important in managing affected horses. The most important part of dealing with this illness is effective vaccination.

Influenza vaccination can be given by itself or combined with the Tetanus or Equine Herpes Virus vaccination.

For horses competing under FEI or Jockey Club rules, the different equestrian regulating authorities dictate the timing of influenza vaccination.

Extract: FEI equine flu vaccination regulation rule change

Equine Influenza (EI) is a viral respiratory disease, which is highly contagious to susceptible horses. Outbreaks of the disease are occurring with increased frequency worldwide despite the widespread use of vaccines. The highly contagious nature of EI means that it has the potential to seriously compromise international movement of horses. For a number of years FEI rules have required an annual booster vaccination, but recent research indicates that, for many vaccines, protection declines after a few months. This means that towards the end of the vaccination year horses may become increasingly susceptible to infection again, but may not show clinical signs of disease. These cases are particularly dangerous as they can spread virus and could initiate outbreaks of disease.

The FEI Veterinary Committee reviews FEI vaccination rules annually. Current Regulation Rule From 1 January 2005 onwards, influenza vaccination for all horses competing in FEI competitions requires a vaccination within six months + 21 days of the competition. Horses competing regularly consequently require twice yearly boosters. As from 1 January 2006 a system of fines is being imposed by the Appeal Committee / Ground Jury for failure to comply with 6-month booster vaccinations rule detailed below: 

All horses that intend to compete in FEI competition must have received at least an initial primary course of two vaccinations, the second dose of which must have been given between 21 and 92 days after the date of administration of the first dose. Thereafter, a third dose must be given within 150 and 215 days after the date of administration of the second primary dose, with at least annual boosters given subsequently (i.e. within 365 days of the last dose). If the horse is scheduled to take part in an FEI competition, the last booster must have been given within 6 calendar months + 21 days of the day of competition or of entry to the FEI stables, whichever is the sooner. (The 21-day window has been provided to enable vaccination requirements to fit in with the competition schedule).

Horses competing regularly consequently require twice yearly boosters. It is also important that no vaccination be given within 7 days of the day of competition, or of entry to the FEI stables, whichever is the sooner. All horses that were certified correctly vaccinated under the previous FEI equine influenza vaccination rule prior to 1st January 2005, should not need to start a primary course again provided they have complied with the previous rule of primary course and annual re-vaccinations and the new rule of a booster vaccination within 6 calendar months + 21 days of the day of competition or entry to the FEI stables whichever is the sooner.

Vaccines, Administration and Certification: All proprietary equine influenza vaccines are acceptable to the FEI irrespective of the route of administration. A Veterinarian must administer all these vaccines. The vaccination should be administered according to the manufacturer's instructions (i.e. intra-muscular injection or intranasal). The FEI will accept intranasal vaccines for both primary and booster doses. However, it is not possible to change the route of administration between the first and second vaccination of the primary course. The details of the vaccine, serial/batch number, the date and route of administration must be recorded in the FEI passport. Where vaccination details are to be entered into new FEI passports / recognition cards or duplicates, if the vaccination history of the horse is very long, the Vet who completes the descriptive page of the passport / recognition card may use a specific statement to certify that the vaccinations have been administered in accordance with FEI regulations (for the extract of wording see Veterinary Regulations, Annex XIV.I.11).

Tetanus

Tetanus occurs when a wound becomes infected with spores from the bacteria Clostridium tetani. These spores, which can be found in the soil, germinate and multiply within the wound, producing a very powerful neurotoxin, which causes the muscles of the body to go into spasm. Horses are the most susceptible of all domestic animals to the effects of the toxin.

An affected horse moves with a stiff-legged gait, often with the tail held out stiffly and the ears pricked. As the disease progresses the muscles become rigid and stiff. The horse may fall and not be able to get up again and convulsions may occur. Death is caused by paralysis of the breathing muscles. Approximately 80% of horses affected by tetanus will die within a few days of the signs first appearing.

Vaccination is the only way to provide safe, effective long-term protection against tetanus. For this reason we recommend that every horse is vaccinated against tetanus. The initial Tetanus vaccination course consists of two injections 4 to 6 weeks apart. Thereafter boosters should be given every other year. It can also be given combined with Influenza.

Pregnant mares should be given a booster vaccination 4 to 6 weeks prior to the expected foaling date to allow transfer of antibodies in the colostrum to the foal. Foals should be further protected with tetanus antitoxin within 24 hours of birth. This provides protection until passive antibody levels from the colostrum reach protective levels. They should then start their primary course at 4 to 5 months of age, once levels of passive antibody begin to fall.

Equine Herpes Virus

Equine Herpes Virus is a highly infectious viral disease, which can cause a variety of diseases ranging from respiratory disease and paralysis to abortion. It is spread via the respiratory tract, or from aborted foetuses and membranes. It can survive up to 14 days in the environment.

Weanlings and yearlings are the most likely age group to develop overt respiratory disease. Older horses can show mild respiratory signs or may just exhibit a loss of performance. Infected pregnant mares can abort from 5 months, but abortion usually occurs around 9 months, 4-14 weeks after infection. ‘Abortion storms’ can occur, with a large percentage of mares in a group being affected. Abortion usually occurs without any premonitory signs. Occasionally the foal is born alive, but is weak and rarely survives beyond a few hours. Occasional strains of EHV-1 can cause paralysis (tetraparesis).

Immunity to natural infection is short lived (3-5 months). Horses can become latently infected with the virus and become carriers without showing any signs. Clinical signs can develop if the virus becomes re-activated during times of stress e.g. training, competing, traveling, and re-homing.

Vaccination for horses involves a primary course of 2 vaccinations 4-6 weeks apart, followed by boosters every 6 months. These can be given at the same time as influenza and tetanus vaccinations. Vaccination minimizes clinical signs if a horse becomes affected and greatly reduces shedding of the virus between horses. Horses can be vaccinated against EHV from 5 months of age.

Pregnant mares should be vaccinated in the 5th, 7th and 9th month of pregnancy.