An important part of your horse’s healthcare plan is the regular administration of vaccines. These vaccines are designed to expose your horse to a small, weakened form of certain viruses or diseases so that their body is able to build up the antibodies necessary to fight off these viruses or diseases should they encounter them.

Important Equine Vaccines

If you take the time to research recommended or available equine vaccinations, you may find the list nothing short of completely overwhelming. In fact, the list is constantly expanding and changing based on newly available vaccinations, new research, illness outbreaks and much more. But before you start worrying about how you will be able to afford all those vaccinations, realize that your horse may not actually need all of the recommended or available equine vaccinations. In fact, there really is no one-size-fits-all approach to equine vaccinations, and actually your horse’s vaccination schedule will depend primarily upon a thorough evaluation of their own unique needs. Your veterinarian will consider whether your horse travels or remains at home, whether their pasture or barn mates travel or remain at home, where in the country you are located, what the environments in the pastures or the barn are like, what cost considerations your may have, and other similar concerns. That said, there are a few basic equine vaccines that are generally recommended in most situations:


This vaccine should be administered every spring. While there are four separate vaccines available to protect a horse against Eastern and Western Encephalitis, Tetanus and West Nile Virus, this four-way vaccine is often viewed as far more appealing as it does the same job with just a single intramuscular injection. Mosquitoes are responsible for the spread of Eastern and Western Encephalitis and West Nile, while the Tetanus bacteria is carried on soil and other surfaces. Horses that contract Eastern or Western Encephalitis and West Nile often suffer from inflammation of the brain or spinal cord, sometimes both, as well as neurologic issues, so it is worthwhile to add these vaccines to their Tetanus vaccine.


This vaccine should be administered every spring or fall. Rabies is spread by carrier animals, such as bats, raccoons, squirrels and other animals. Unfortunately, as there is no cure or treatment for equine rabies, it is just about 100% fatal in horses who contract it. On a very rare occasion, a horse has survived rabies, but there is currently no way to ensure this except by vaccinating horses against it.


This vaccine should be administered every spring and fall, especially to horses that travel. Influenza and rhinopnuemonitis are contagious respiratory diseases, but they may not need to be vaccinated against if a horse is isolated and rarely or never travels.


This vaccine should be administered every spring. The Strangles bacteria enters a horse’s system and creates abscesses in the lymph nodes, which can then cause a pus discharge from the nostrils. Horses with strangles also suffer from a high fever and a hacking, strangled sound when breathing. Though it’s not normally life-threatening, Strangles occasionally can be fatal if the lymph nodes in the throat latch swell and cause airway occlusion.

Potomac Horse Fever

This vaccine should be administered every spring and fall. The Potomac Horse Fever, or PHF, is a bacterial infection that occurs when a horse digests dead mayflies and other insects. Unfortunately, there are many forms of this infection, and the vaccination only vaccinates against one of them. Fortunately, it appears that horses that have been vaccinated against PHF and still acquire the illness seem to experience a milder form than those who have not been vaccinated at all.


This vaccine should be administered to a pregnant mare at specific veterinarian-recommended intervals. There is a form of the Rhinopneumonitis virus that can infect pregnant mares and cause abortion, and this vaccine can help to protect against that. The vaccine is often recommended during the fifth, seventh and ninth months of pregnancy, but your veterinarian will design a specific vaccine schedule depending upon your mare’s exact needs.

There are, of course, other available equine vaccines that may be valuable for your horse to receive at certain times. To learn more about available equine vaccines and which ones may work best to protect your horse’s health, contact La Crosse today.