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Horses: To Vaccinate or Not to Vaccinate?

Unlike humans who have a standard vaccination program that they are generally expected to follow, a standard vaccination program does not exist for horses. Rather, a number of different criteria are taken into consideration when determining which vaccines a horse should have and when. 

Risk factors are the biggest variables taken into consideration when determining whether or not vaccinations are necessary. Risk factors include:

  • Anticipated amount of exposure to the disease
  • Environmental factors
  • Geographic factors
  • Age of the horse
  • Breed of the horse
  • Gender of the horse
  • How the horse is used

Other factors that are taken into consideration include the risk of death or permanent health issues if the horse is exposed to the disease as well as the potential for adverse reactions to the vaccine and the anticipated effectiveness of the vaccine. 

The cost of immunization versus the cost of the disease is also a factor to consider, as some vaccinations can be quite costly to complete. In addition, it is important to realize that vaccinations alone do not guarantee immunity from certain conditions. Good management and infection control strategies are also necessary to keep your horse healthy. In addition, protection does not always take effect immediately and proper immunization may require the completion of a set of multiple doses. Therefore, it is important to talk with your veterinarian to determine if vaccinations are right for you and your horse.

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