Lately I have been seeing a variety of vaccination articles floating around the web, most of them discussing the prominent over vaccination in the horse industry. This discussion feels more important to me now that ever, for a few reasons.
In the fall Estella had a bad reaction to a rabies booster. Because she has been boarded, she has been getting not only rabies annually but semiannually. Although I have never been thrilled with this, it has never concerned me too much until now. After her rabies booster last fall, her neck swelled so large that she wasn’t able to bring that front leg forward. She refused to place it directly under her body, let alone in front of her, which made it impossible for her to walk. Upon first glance, I thought she had broken a bone or had a horrible abscess because she could not move. That was for sure my wake up call that something needs to change and I am so thankful that now I am home and can make that change.
I have been thinking that Bella could be insulin resistant, which is just another reason for me to question vaccination. IR horses should be vaccinated VERY cautiously to reduce the risk of inducing laminitis. Bella also has a needle phobia, which doesn’t help the situation.
Without ever having the ability to determine my own vaccination schedule, the thought of spring vaccines was a little overwhelming. Not to mention I would be in a new area using a new vet and was concerned about the, “Hi, I am Emily, I called you here to do vaccinations but please don’t vaccinate my horses” conversation. I ended up having the vet out last week and figured I would discuss my options with him. He was an incredibly nice guy and took my concerns seriously. Because of the reaction to rabies and the fact that the girls don’t travel, we decided against flu/rhino and rabies for this round. We just did EEE/WEE, tetanus and west nile.
I felt okay with the decision, except Bella has to have a mild sedative which makes me nervous. That, on top of vaccines, could be a recipe for laminitis. So the real question is, where do I go from here? My vet wants to come back in the fall to do rabies, but I think I want to wait another year. And then what about next year? For a private farm, are vaccinations really worth the risk?
Here are some paragraphs of interest from some of the articles I have been reading. For those of you that do have control of your vaccinations, what does your schedule look like?
“For example, many horses are vaccinated annually for rabies, even though this vaccine is known to confer a longer duration of immunity – at least three and likely more years! Perhaps this just reflects the lack of awareness that the vaccine issues pertaining to dogs and cats also apply in principle to other species such as horses
Giving boosters annually or even more frequently as recommended for several equine diseases is likely to be of little benefit to a horse’s existing level of protection against these infectious diseases. It also increases the risk of adverse reactions from the repeated exposure to foreign substances.” Rethinking Equine Vaccinations
“A practice that was started many years ago and that lacks scientific validity
or verification is annual revaccinations. Almost without exception there is no
immunologic requirement for annual revaccination. Immunity to viruses persists
for years or for the life of the animal. Successful vaccination to most bacterial
pathogens produces an immunologic memory that remains for years, allowing an
animal to develop a protective anamnestic (secondary) response when exposed to
virulent organisms. Only the immune response to toxins requires boosters (e.g.,
tetanus toxin booster, in humans is recommended every 7 to 10 years), and no
toxin vaccines are currently used for dogs and cats (they are used in horses-tetanus
and botulism, ed comment). Furthermore, revaccination with most viral vaccines
fails to stimulate an anamnestic (secondary) response as a result of interference
by existing antibody (similar to maternal antibody interference). The practice
of annual vaccination in our opinion should be considered of questionable efficacy
unless it is used as a mechanism to provide an annual physical examination or
is required by law (i.e., certain states require annual vaccination for rabies). Current
Veterinary Therapy XI – Small Animals, p 205.” Vaccinations Rethought
“Although there are undoubted benefits of vaccination, recent statistics have shown that vaccinations on a yearly basis are not necessary to establish and retain immunity to certain diseases.
Dr. Ronald Schultz, immunologist at the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine, explains, “Immunity lasts for years, and often for the life of the animal, especially in the case of some viral diseases. Only certain vaccines require boosters at regular intervals, such as toxins like tetanus. Rabies boosters are required by law for certain species. Studies on some canine vaccines that are routinely given annually have shown duration of protection of as many as nine years. Therefore, vaccinating annually may not be unnecessary but it is a convenient time for a routine veterinary check-up of an animal.” Homeopathy – Natural Horse
“Another serious side effect linked to vaccination involves the onset of acute laminitis. A 2003 study conducted by researchers from Texas A&M University suggests a link between routine vaccination and acute episodes in horses with chronic laminitis. According to the study, chronically laminitic horses have a heightened sensitivity to vaccines compared to healthy horses due to changes in their immune systems. The exact relation behind vaccine-triggered laminitis remains unclear. Horses with Cushing’s Syndrome or insulin resistance, however, appear to be at higher risk.” Vaccination Risks