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Common diseases that are routinely vaccinated for here in North Carolina include Tetanus, Eastern Encephalitis (EEE), Western Encephalitis (WEE), West Nile Virus, Influenza (Flu), Rhinopneumonitis, and Rabies. Other diseases that may be encountered and have vaccines include Strangles, Botulism, Venezuelan Encephalitis (VEE), and Potomac Horse Fever.  


The most suitable vaccine schedule for your horse depends on many factors including your horse’s age,
use, exposure risk, geographic location and overall health status. We are happy to provide this guidance for you and your horse in order to choose which vaccines are appropriate.  




Vaccines can prevent and/or reduce the severity of the disease by stimulating the horse’s immune system, but vaccines are not 100% effective. Vaccines are not a benign product. Localized vaccine reactions can occur at the site of injection and generalized lethargy, stiffness, and a low-grade fever may also occur. These are all part of the body’s natural response to the vaccine. The effectiveness of a vaccine decreases over time, and some vaccines need to be boosted more often than others.

If the vaccination status of your horse is unknown it is recommended that the horse is vaccinated immediately.

Vaccines that are given for the first time need to be followed up with a booster shot 4-6 weeks after the initial shot. While most vaccines are available at local feed stores, the best way to ensure that the vaccine was properly handled is to have your veterinarian administer all of your vaccines. Manufacturers will stand behind their vaccines when they are given by a veterinarian. 





Eastern Encephalitis (EEE), Western Encephalitis (WEE), and West Nile Virus (WNV):

These are mosquito-borne diseases that cause fever, loss of appetite, and neurological symptoms including hypersensitivity to sound, touch, and light, muscle tremors, lack of coordination and paralysis. In unvaccinated horses, EEE has a mortality rate up to 75-100%. The only treatment for these viral infections is supportive care. Because of the long mosquito season here we highly recommend vaccination twice a year with the first shot given before mosquito season begins.


Influenza (Flu) and Rhinopneumonitis (Equine Herpesvirus):

Symptoms of flu in horses include fever, cough, nasal discharge, lack of appetite, and stiffness. Equine Herpesvirus can manifest in three forms: respiratory, neurological and abortive. The respiratory form looks very much like flu, with fever, cough, nasal discharge, and loss of appetite. The symptoms of the neurologic form include lack of coordination, paralysis, and recumbency. Abortive form occurs in pregnant mares during the last few months of their pregnancy – 7-11 months and causes abortion.

We recommend at least twice a year vaccinations for horses that travel and/or show. We recommend vaccination of pregnant mares with the Pneumabort vaccine at 5, 7, and 9 months of gestation, and with regular flu/rhino 4-6 weeks prior to foaling.



Tetanus is a bacterial infection associated with wounds. Specifically, puncture wounds and contaminated soft tissue. Symptoms start with stiffness, retracted lips, ears pulled down and back and progress to muscle spasms, spasms of the third eyelid, sawhorse stance, hypersensitivity to light, sound, and touch, and death. The mortality rate can be as high as 50%. We recommend vaccination once a year and if needed because of injury, a dose of tetanus antitoxin.



Rabies is a disease that is contracted through the bite or contact with the saliva of a rabid animal (usually wildlife). There is no test available for a live animal, and it is 100% fatal. Symptoms include lack of appetite, excessive salivation, difficulty swallowing, lack of coordination, depression, hypersensitivity to light, sound, touch, and eventually paralysis and death. Because of recent cases of rabies in our area, we recommend that all horses be vaccinated for rabies annually.



Strangles is a bacterial infection of the upper respiratory tract. Symptoms include fever, nasal discharge, and abscesses under the jaw that rupture and drain. Strangles is a highly contagious disease and can be easily spread through contact with contaminated objects, by direct contact, and poor hygiene. We recommend horses that travel and/or show be vaccinated annually.

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