Rocky Bay Equine Newsletter, February 2016
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Dr Wendy Vaala never disappoints with her energetic and information packed discussions.  We had a terrific turn out at the Inn at Gig Harbor for our seminar last month covering the continually changing landscape of infectious disease and parasite control in horses.  We live in a world where attention to the evolution of bacteria, viruses & parasites is essential for good animal management.  An ounce of prevention is ALWAYS worth more than a pound of cure. In some cases the choice to vaccinate can be a life or death decision.  It's impossible to predict exactly what infectious organisms your horse will be exposed to in the future.  If you have show or traveling animals or are stabled in a public barn it doesn't take a clairvoyant to say your animals will at some point be exposed to a disease causing organism, like West Nile, the flu, or equine herpes.  While we acknowledge that there are some risks involved in vaccination, we are adamant that the benefits far outweigh them.  Read on for more information about what vaccination is, the methods of administration, benefits, safety and reliability and for some great tips for managing your horses for a disease free show season.  Then check out the EDCC for practical guidelines for establishing biosecurity protocols for your horse, farm or stable.

What does singing "happy birthday"
     have to do with infectious disease?

Did you know that most equine vaccines are made from infectious material that has been killed so it can't cause disease but still retains qualities that generate an immune response in the animal?  While killed vaccines are safe to give, they must be given via injection and the immune response generated in the animal is limited.  Currently the trend is to develop more "modified live" (MLV) vaccines which cause a stronger response in the horse and can be delivered by methods other than injection (such as intra-nasal or oral routes).  For instance, Merck's new intra-nasal flu vaccine provides broader protection than the killed virus injectable form.   Did you know that each animal has it's own unique response to vaccination?  Immune response depends on such things as; individual variability, health status and age.  First TIP of the evening.... get your horses used to their noses being messed with since intra-nasal administration of vaccines will become more common!

You can, but should you?  That is an important question to ask yourself if you decide to vaccinate your own animals.  It's not rocket science, you can learn to properly administer an intramuscular injection, just know what you're giving up and the risks you are taking on if you chose to DIY.  Here's a few things to think about: Your veterinarian may notice something you miss about how your animal is doing and you can use this appointment time to ask questions about issues that come up over the year.  Proper handling, storage and administration of the vaccine is imperative for efficacy.  Even a properly administered injection can cause an abscess. Manufacturers like Merck guarantee their products against failure or adverse reaction, but only when administered by a veterinarian.  If a breakthrough infection does occur (rare, but can happen) they may provide financial reimbursement of veterinary bills, again, only if a vet gives the original vaccination.

Of the 15 different vaccines available for the horse, there are 5 that are considered core;  tetanus, West Nile Virus, Eastern and Western encephalitis and rabies.  Some factors that influence which vaccines are recommended for your particular horse include, geographic location, age and occupation of your horse.  We also routinely vaccinate against EHV (equine herpes I and IV) and influenza.  Strangles (strep equi) vaccination is recommended on a case by case basis.  Although equine flu strains do not change as rapidly as human strains (antigenic drift), the virus is a global threat, especially to show horses who may contract the virus away and then bring it home with them.  The flu virus is easily spread by coughing or even by human vectors and has a short incubation period (days).  EHV (equine herpes virus) aka rhinopneumonitis has a bit longer incubation (week).  80% of tested horses have herpes virus exposure at some point in their lives, vaccination is directed at preventing reactivation of the virus that lies dormant in the animal.  TIPS; use hand sanitizers, especially when handling snotty nosed foals or sick animals.  Don't share gear.  Take rectal temperatures, twice a day, esp. horses that are showing or traveling.  Quarantine new animals or those that return from traveling.  Yes, it can be difficult depending on your physical circumstances, so take temps. use hand sanitizer, don't share buckets etc.  Develop a Bio Security plan that works for your barn!  (more info at EDCC )

There was so much more information in this talk, but I'll end with a quick review of the new USEF vaccination rule for accredited shows.  In an effort to standardize vaccine requirements, horses will be required to provide documentation of vaccination within 6 months of the event they are participating in.

Almost forgot!  The answer to the question above is that singing "happy birthday to you" twice is the appropriate length of time for hand washing to be effective!  Keep that in mind and then use hand sanitizer at the barn!
Equine Disease Communication Center

The Equine Disease Communication Center (EDCC) is a newly organized consortium of equine health care groups that works to protect horses and the horse industry from the threat of infectious diseases in North America. The communication system is designed to seek and report real time information about disease outbreaks similar to how the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) alerts the human population about diseases in people.  The goal of the EDCC is to alert the horse industry about disease outbreak information to help mitigate and prevent the spread of disease.  Check them out at
It's not too soon to prepare for summer travels....
Travel documents can be a hassle and it always takes longer than you think it will to get everything in the rules seem to change every year!  As you set those show dates make a note to schedule your appointment for health certificates, coggins tests and other travel documents well before you need to leave town.  Karol is your go to person for more information, give us a call.
Rocky Bay Equine Veterinary Services     (253) 858-4529    (360) 876-1544
Gig Harbor, WA 98394           find us on Facebook