Horse Vaccination Service

Vaccination is a very important part of your horse’s annual health program and is an effective way to protect your horse from some potentially fatal equine infectious diseases. Vaccines either prevent or help reduce the severity of the clinical signs if your horse does contract a disease and will help reduce the spread of disease between animals.

In the UK horses are commonly vaccinated against tetanus and equine influenza (Flu), but may also be vaccinated against:

  • Equine Herpes Virus (1 and 4)
  • Rota virus
  • Equine viral arthritis
  • West Nile virus

Tetanus ‘Lock jaw’

Tetanus is caused by toxins released from a bacteria called Clostridium tetani. The bacteria, which is present in soil, usually enters the animal through wounds or through the gastrointestinal tract.

Clinical signs include prolapse of the third eye lid, muscle spasms and hypersensitivity to stimuli.

All equines should be vaccinated against tetanus. The initial course comprises of 2 injections 6 weeks apart which are often given along with influenza vaccination. Booster vaccinations are given every 2 or 3 years.

Foals are given an injection of tetanus anti-toxin at birth which gives short lived protection until the foals immune system is able to respond to a vaccine.

Foals may be vaccinated from 5-6 months of age. The vet may give your horse a tetanus anti toxin injection if it has a wound and is not vaccinated. This injection does not replace vaccination.

Equine Influenza

Equine influenza is a highly infectious viral disease that affects the respiratory tract of horses causing a high temperature, cough and snotty nose. Equine influenza spreads very rapidly through unvaccinated populations of horses (1-3 day incubation) and may require long periods of rest for recovery.

The recommended primary course of vaccination is:

  • 1st vaccination
  • 2nd vaccination 4-6 weeks after 1st
  • 3rd vaccination 6 months after 2nd

Following the primary course horses should have a booster injection yearly.

We try to send reminders to everyone for the 6month and yearly vaccinations but it is solely the owners responsibility to ensure that vaccinations are given on time, please check the rules and make a note on your calendar so you do not miss any of your competitions.

The rules of most competitive events require that participating horses are vaccinated in accordance with the jockey club rules:

  • Two vaccinations to be given not less than 21 and not more than 92 days apart (primary vaccination).
  • Third booster vaccination to be given between 150 and 215 days after the second part of the primary vaccination.
  • Booster vaccinations to be given at no more than yearly intervals (on or before 365days).
  • Horses may not enter a racecourse for 7 days after any of these vaccinations.

If your horse is taking part in competitions run under FEI rule it requires a booster every 6 months (+/- 21days).

Equine Herpes Virus (EHV)

EHV 1 and 4 are associated with respiratory infections and abortion in horses. Clinical signs associated with respiratory infection are similar to those seen in flu and can cause horses to perform poorly or miss training. Many young race horses are vaccinated against this disease. Pregnant mares and in contact horses should be vaccinated to reduce the risk of Herpes associated abortion. Pregnant mares are usually vaccinated at 5, 7 and 9 months of pregnancy.


Strangles is a bacterial respiratory disease caused by the bacterium Streptococcus equi equi. The signs of equine strangles include fever, nasal discharge and depression, and abcesses can also develop around the head and neck. It is one of the most common equine respiratory infections in the world and can affect equines of all ages.

The disease causes major economic losses to the equine industry worldwide due to its prolonged course, extended recovery period and associated complications. Strangles can be fatal, but the major reason for its concern is the speed with which strangles spreads among horses, especially in a stable setting. In large horse populations, established outbreaks may last for months, essentially shutting down stabling premises.

Some “recovered” horses (carriers) can harbour Strep. equi with no outward clinical signs. Consequently, new or recurrent outbreaks are likely unless costly diagnostic procedures and aggressive quarantine measures are used. A strangles vaccine has been developed which is given into the mucosa of the upper lip. Most horses tolerate this very well.

The primary course of vaccination is 2 vaccinations 4 weeks apart followed by a booster every 6 months unless your horse is in a high risk situation where we may vaccinate every 3 months. Horses can be vaccinated from 4 months of age. For further information on the strangles vaccination click here.

Rota virus

Rota virus causes diarrhoea in young foals and vaccination of pregnant mares during pregnancy causes increased antibodies to be produced in the mare’s colostrum (first milk). These antibodies provide increased protection to the foal as long as it drinks the first milk.

Equine viral arthritis (EVA)

This is a viral disease that causes abortion in mares and so is of importance in breeding animals. It is not possible to differentiate between vaccinated and infected animals so horses have to be tested prior to vaccination. This vaccine is not commonly used in horses other than breeding stallions.

West Nile virus

A vaccine against West Nile virus has recently become licensed for use in horses in the UK. West Nile disease is a virus that is spread by mosquitoes. It is endemic in Italy, Hungary and the USA. Clinical signs can be similar to those seen in flu and also a wide range of neurological signs. This disease can be fatal in horses and people, so it is worthwhile vaccinating horses that are traveling abroad to affected areas to compete.