During the first 90 days of a foal’s life, the colostrum received when nursing provides protection. As we learned in a previous blog, antibodies are transferred from the dam via the colostrum and offer immunity from disease, but what happens when this protection begins to dissipate?
Once he or she is 90 days of age, a foal will receive their first vaccinations. Providing protection from many illnesses, vaccinations are the best way to ensure that a foal builds a strong, long-lasting immune system.
A core group of four vaccinations are recommended by veterinarians for foals; Tetanus, Eastern/Western Equine Encephalitis, West Nile Virus, and Rabies.
- Tetanus is a bacterial infection. It is caused by a bacterium found in soil and enters the body through cuts or wounds creating a toxin, which attacks the nerves controlling the muscles.
- Eastern/Western Equine Encephalitis (EEE/WEE) is a disease that is transferred via mosquitos or ticks and attacks the central nervous system.
- West Nile Virus (WNV) is also transferred via mosquitos or ticks and causes encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) in horses.
- Rabies is a disease that also attacks the central nervous system and is transferred by either a scratch or bite from an animal infected with rabies.
Beyond this core group are vaccinations including Botulism, Influenza, Rotavirus, and Rhinopneumonitis.
- Botulism is a neurological disease caused by a bacterium found in soil
- Influenza, or the flu, is a spreadable virus that causes fever, coughing, and loss of appetite, a familiar feeling if you have had the flu before.
- Rotavirus is a virus that attacks the digestive track causing maldigestion, malabsorption, and diarrhea.
- Rhinopneumonitis affects the mucosa of the nasal cavities creating inflammation.
Foals will receive a series of vaccinations throughout their first year of life. Administering vaccinations on a schedule is important to make sure they are effective.
Vaccinations are administered by intramuscular (IM) injection. The needle is inserted into the large mass muscle at the base of the neck. Just like humans, foals may not enjoy the feeling of vaccinations being administered, so no more than two are given at once. Afterwards, they are rubbed on the spot to relieve any discomfort.
Many of the vaccinations are a series, meaning they receive once a month shots of a single vaccination for a certain period of time. These include Tetanus, Rhino, Botulism, EEE/WEE, and WNV. Other vaccinations are administered once only including Rabies. Geographic location based vaccinations like Botulism may be administered annually for the rest of their lives.
While viruses can be scary, vaccinations are a simple preventative measure and mean a safe horse and peace of mind.