Prevent Disease by Planning Ahead

Strategically planning the timing of vaccinations may help to optimize our horse’s protection against infectious diseases.

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DULUTH, Ga. (April 17, 2023) — Boarding your horse in a barn with other horses can sometimes be like sending them to day care – think snotty noses and germs flying everywhere. Many airborne respiratory pathogens can be present, whether horse owners realize it or not. Equine influenza and equine herpesvirus are respiratory diseases that can affect a horse’s health and performance. While the good news is that these diseases are preventable with the help of vaccinations and good barn biosecurity practices, it’s important to develop a vaccination schedule tailored to each individual horse’s work, travel and show schedule for maximum efficacy. 

As horse owners, we are aware of the value and necessity of vaccinations. However, strategically planning the timing of vaccinations may help to optimize our horse’s protection against infectious diseases. Knowing the science behind vaccination strategies and timing your horse’s vaccinations accordingly can help your horse stay in top form year-round. This strategy of preparing your horse’s immune system for potential disease exposures ahead of time can be referred to as pre-conditioning.

While every horse is different, it will typically take up to two to three weeks for the horse’s immune system to mount a healthy immune response following vaccination. This time may vary depending on the previous vaccination status of the horse, type of vaccine, as well as the horse’s overall health condition. Using this information, horse owners should try to strategically time their vaccinations to ensure the horse is appropriately protected against disease by their first event, horse show or off-property travel. For example, say you were leaving for a horse show on a Sunday but waited to vaccinate your horse until the Friday before. On paper your horse may appear up to date on their vaccinations, but they have yet to develop an optimal immune response, leaving them potentially susceptible to disease.

“Day 0 is when you give that vaccine, but usually around day 14 is when you’d expect your horse to have a resulting healthy immune response,” says Scott Hancock, DVM, Professional Services Veterinarian at Boehringer Ingelheim. “Depending on the time of year, you would either vaccinate three weeks before the event takes place or administer a booster, based on the amount of time since the initial vaccination and where the horse is going.”

Even if your horse isn’t leaving the property, it’s still important to develop a vaccination plan. “Just because the horse isn’t going anywhere doesn’t mean he can’t get encephalitis or West Nile,” says Hancock. “Mosquitoes have backpacks, and they will travel.” In addition to mosquito-borne diseases, there is always a chance that a new horse gets added to the herd that may be ill, or horses that travel may introduce a disease such as flu or herpes when they return home.

Ahead of vaccination season, look at your horse’s schedule and any upcoming events to develop the most effective plan. Communicate with your veterinarian about where your horses are going and when. Your veterinarian will also look at the data and duration of the immunity provided by the vaccine, keeping in mind that each horse is an individual with a different immune response.

“If we thought ahead and the horses were immunized and maybe even boosted a couple weeks before they head out to their events, the chance of them breaking with these diseases should be significantly less,” concludes Hancock.

About Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health USA

Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health is working on first-in-class innovation for the prediction, prevention, and treatment of diseases in animals. For veterinarians, pet owners, producers, and governments in more than 150 countries, we offer a large and innovative portfolio of products and services to improve the health and well-being of companion animals and livestock.

As a global leader in the animal health industry and as part of the family-owned Boehringer Ingelheim, we take a long-term perspective. The lives of animals and humans are interconnected in deep and complex ways. We know that when animals are healthy, humans are healthier too. By using the synergies between our Animal Health and Human Pharma businesses and by delivering value through innovation, we enhance the health and well-being of both.

Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health has deep roots in the U.S. From a start in St. Joseph, Missouri, more than 100 years ago, it has grown to encompass seven sites. Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health’s portfolio contains widely used and well-respected vaccines, parasite-control products and therapeutics for pets, horses and livestock.

Learn more about Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health USA at

©2023 Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health USA Inc., Duluth, GA. All Rights Reserved.


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