It is advisable to vaccinate all horses and ponies against common diseases such as tetanus & influenza.
The horse is highly susceptible to tetanus, more so than any other domestic animal. The causal organism (the bacterium Clostridium tetani) is commonly found in the soil and may be present in horses’ faeces. It usually enters the body via wounds, especially deep and penetrating wounds.
Deep puncture wounds provide an ideal site for infection. The tetanus organism only thrives in an environment deprived of oxygen which is characteristic of this type of wound. You must call your veterinary surgeon immediately if your horse has a deep penetrating wound. The vet may administer either tetanus antitoxin or a booster dose of vaccine, depending on when your horse was last vaccinated.
Immediate veterinary attention is essential if signs of tetanus are noticed, but only rarely will veterinary treatment save the horses life once signs of infection become apparent. The usual incubation period for tetanus is one to three weeks, the first signs being progressive stiffness and a reluctance to move. Muscles in the region of the wound or hind limbs are normally first to be affected. Spasms of the head muscles cause difficulty in chewing (commonly referred to as lockjaw), flaring of the nostrils and a classic startled expression.
Vaccination is highly effective and is the only practical means of longterm protection. The course consists of two primary injections given approximately four weeks apart, followed by a booster vaccination a year later, and there after at 2- 5 yearly intervals.
In addition to vaccination, good hygiene and management will help in minimising the risk of infection. Regular inspection of hooves and the lower limbs for cuts will assist in spotting potential sites where tetanus may enter. Clearing yards, paddocks and stables of likely causes of injury is important, to reduce the risk of injury, together with routine disinfection of the premises.
Tetanus vaccination is often coupled with the Influenza vaccination. Several pharmaceutical companies produce combinations of the influenza and tetanus vaccine. Equine Influenza is a highly contagious, viral disease of the respiratory tract. The first sign is a harsh, dry cough which will last for 2-3 weeks and may well persist much longer. Although you may not detect it, the cough will probably have been preceded by a rise in temperature for 1-3 days. Initially there will be a clear discharge from the nostrils, which later becomes thick.
Equine Influenza debilitates a horse or pony, leaving it susceptible to secondary infections. Influenza can develop into bronchitis or bacterial pneumonia. However, even when there are no complications from any secondary infections, the animal will need to be rested for at least 3 weeks and often considerably longer.