Learning Center > Animal Health > Equine Vaccination Recommendations

Equine Vaccination Recommendations

  • Basic immunizations
    > Stay at home horses 
    > Traveling horses with minimal exposure to other horses 
    > Traveling horses with a lot of exposure to other horses 
    > Foals 
    > Weanlings/yearlings 
    > Unbred mares, adults 
    > Bred Mares
    > Stallions
  • Another way to view vaccine and diseases
    > Risk at home 
    > Risk away from home 
  • Protect your horse against contagious diseases
    > Tetanus
    > Encephalomyelitis
    > Influenza
    > West Nile virus
    > Rhinopneumonitis
    > Other disease threats
    > Strangles
    > Rabies
    > Potomac horse fever 

Basic immunizations

  • All vaccines recommend two doses the first year, except Rabies.
  • EPM no longer available.
  • Potomac is in area now, therefore we recommend vaccination.

Stay at home horses

  • West Nile-SS-Tet
  • Rabies
  • Optional: Potomac (our clinic now recommends this routinely because of recent cases)

Traveling horses with minimal exposure to other horses

  • West Nile-SS-Tet
  • Flu- Rhino
  • Rabies
  • Strangles
  • Optional: Potomac (our clinic now recommends this routinely because of recent cases)

Traveling horses with a lot of exposure to other horses

  • West Nile-SS-Tet
  • Flu-Rhino: with Calvenza, first dose should be intranasal, second dose IM
  • Rabies
  • Strangles
  • Optional: Potomac


  • Tetanus Antitoxin at birth
  • Tetanus Toxid & Sleeping Sickness at 2–3 months
  • Flu at 3–6 months
  • West Nile 2–3 doses beginning at 3 months
  • Optional: Rhino at 3–6 months
  • Rabies at 2–4 months


  • Booster of SS & Tetanus
  • West Nile
  • Optional: Flu, Rhino, Rabies

Unbred mares, adults

  • Booster of SS & Tetanus yearly
  • West Nile
  • Optional: Flu, Rhino, Rabies

Bred Mares

  • Booster of SS & Tetanus prior to breeding, having no vaccinations in the last 3 weeks
  • Booster of Tetanus 30 days pre-partum (or 1500 units of Tetanus Antitoxin after delivery)
  • Flu, Rhino, & West Nile vaccinations 30 days prior to breeding
  • Rhino vaccinations continue during pregnancy (in the 5th, 7th, and 9th months) for a total of 4 vaccinations
  • Optional—Rabies


  • SS, Tetanus, Flu, & Rhino prior to servicing mares
  • West Nile
  • Optional—Rabies

After 4–5 years of West Nile vaccination on an individual horse, it may be discontinued. All young stock in the herd though must get their regimen.

Another way to view vaccine and diseases

Risk at home (exposure to pests, soil, etc.)

  • Tetanus
  • Rabies
  • SS
  • West Nile Virus
  • Potomac

Risk away from home (requires exposure to other horses and can be brought home to others)

  • Rhino
  • Flu
  • Strangles

A booster vaccine is needed at regular intervals. Protection against some diseases such as Tetanus and Rabies can be accomplished by boostering once a year. Others require more frequent intervals to provide adequate protection.

Protect your horse against contagious diseases


Sometimes called “lockjaw,” tetanus is caused by toxin-producing bacteria present in the intestinal tract of many animals and found in abundance in the soil where horses live. Its spores can exist for years. The spores enter the body through wounds, lacerations, or the umbilicus of newborn foals. Therefore, although not contagious from horse to horse, tetanus poses a constant threat to horses and humans alike.

All horses should be immunized annually against tetanus. Additional boosters for mares and foals may be recommended.


More commonly known as “sleeping sickness,” this disease is caused by the Western Equine Encephalomyelitis (WEE) virus or the Eastern version (EEE). Sleeping sickness is most often transmitted by mosquitoes, after the insects have acquired the virus from birds and rodents. Humans also are susceptible when bitten by an infected mosquito, but direct horse-to-horse or horse-to-human transmission is very rare.

All horses need an EEE and WEE vaccine at least annually. Pregnant mares and foals may require additional vaccinations. The best time to vaccinate is spring, before the mosquitoes become active.


This is one of the most common respiratory diseases in the horse. Highly contagious, the virus can be transmitted by aerosol (breaths) from horse to horse over distances as far as 30 yards, for example, by snorting or coughing.

Signs to watch for are similar to those in a human with a cold, i.e., dry cough, nasal discharge, fever, depression, and loss of appetite.

Not all horses need influenza vaccination. However, animals that travel or are exposed to other horses should be regularly immunized against influenza. There are injectable and intranasal forms of vaccine.

West Nile virus

New to Iowa in the year 2002. A neurological disease similar to sleeping sickness—spread by mosquitoes. It is recommended to give 2 doses in the first year, 3–6 weeks apart, with yearly boosters.


Two distinct viruses, equine herpesvirus type 1 (EHV-1) and equine herpesvirus type 4 (EHV-4), cause two different diseases, both of which are known as Rhinopneumonitis. Both cause respiratory tract problems, and EHV-1 may also cause abortion, foal death, and paralysis. Infected horses may be feverish and lethargic and may lose appetite and experience nasal discharge and a cough. Young horses suffer most from respiratory tract infections and may develop pneumonia secondary to EHV-1.

Rhinopneumonitis is spread by aerosol and by direct contact with secretions, utensils, or drinking water. The virus may be present but unapparent in carrier animals.

All pregnant mares must be immunized. Foals, weanlings, yearlings, and young horses under stress also should be vaccinated. Immune protection is short. Therefore, pregnant mares are vaccinated at least during the 5th, 7th, and 9th months of gestation, and youngsters at high risk need a booster at least every three months.

Other disease threats

The following diseases are common, although the need for vaccination against them is highly an individual one.


A highly contagious and dangerous disease. There may be some side effects associated with vaccination; therefore, it is important to discuss the risks versus benefits of vaccination. Both injectable and intranasal forms of vaccines—often used only when an outbreak occurs.


A frightening disease that is more common in some areas than others. Horses are infected infrequently, but death always occurs. Rabies can be transmitted from horses to humans.

Potomac horse fever

A seasonal problem with geographic factors. One third of affected horses die. Signs are fever and diarrhea. This vaccination is given twice yearly.

© 2002 Diane Noll, D.V.M. [Updated 3/12]

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