Horse Health

Foal Vaccinations

June 23, 2011

Helping protect the next generation of American Quarter Horses

From AQHA Corporate Partner Pfizer Animal Health

foal

Protect your precious foal from the many infectious diseases it will be exposed to. Journal photo.

With the foaling season in full swing, many new American Quarter Horses are being born at farms, ranches and breeding facilities around the country. Early foals may be several months old now, about the time that owners and breeders should consider initial vaccinations. While most foals are protected from common equine diseases by maternal antibodies in the mare’s colostrum for the first few months of life, they need to start a course of vaccinations as soon as those maternal antibody levels begin to drop.

Only your veterinarian can provide guidance on when to vaccinate. Approximately four to six weeks prior to foaling, mares should be given a pre-foaling series of vaccinations to boost the antibody levels in the colostrum they will produce.

Foals that receive and absorb a mare’s colostrum within 24 hours of birth receive maternal antibodies that help protect them from most infectious diseases and should not be vaccinated until these maternal antibody levels decline. If vaccinated too early, colostral antibodies can block the foal’s immune response.

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“Antibodies in a mare’s colostrum can block the foal’s ability to mount an effective protective immunity, so owners and breeders need to coordinate initial vaccinations based on when those maternal antibodies drop off and when the mare was last vaccinated,” says Dr. Tom Lenz, senior director of Equine Veterinary Services for Pfizer Animal Health. “Foals are most vulnerable at around 3 to 4 months old when maternal antibodies are decreasing and they have not yet been vaccinated.”

Core vaccinations for foals include eastern and western encephalitis viruses, West Nile virus, tetanus and rabies. If they travel to horse shows, racetracks or other locations where they might be exposed to other horses, foals should also receive vaccination against equine herpesvirus types 1 and 4, as well as equine influenza virus. For more information on appropriate foal vaccinations, contact your veterinarian. Vaccination guidelines provided by the American Association of Equine Practitioners are available at www.aaep.org/vaccination_guidelines.htm.

Pfizer Animal Health has a complete line of equine vaccines to help protect against common equine diseases, including WEST NILE-INNOVATOR®, to help protect against West Nile virus and FLUVAC INNOVATOR®, to help protect against equine influenza virus. Other available combinations include protection against EEE and WEE. Contact your veterinarian for more information on available vaccines.

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Discuss your vaccination program with your veterinarian to create a protocol that helps provide the best individualized protection for your horses, based on any specific risks in your area. Core vaccinations – and any other risk-based vaccinations – help foals develop protection from common equine diseases and keep them healthy.

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