Holistic Horsekeeping Newsletter April 2020

April 2020

Holistic Horsekeeping
How to have a healthy happy horse.
Volume 25, Number 4


In This Issue:

1. How to help your horse handle vaccinations
2. Holistic Horsekeeping Resources


1. How to help your horse handle vaccinations

Attitudes about vaccination have changed in the last 20 years. Vaccines were once seen as the best preventative for many diseases and few disadvantages were considered. Now, we are looking harder at vaccines and realizing the potential for over vaccination exists. Vaccination protocols should ideally be tailored to the individual horse. Vaccines given can then be based on likely exposure and ability to mount an adequate response. Titers may be used to access response to previous vaccines or natural exposure. Sometimes the decision to vaccinate is forced as many boarding facilities and horse shows require horses to be vaccinated.

If you are facing the need to vaccinate your horse there are things you can do to make the process most likely to be successful with the minimum of negative effects. Vaccines are designed to be given only to healthy horses and many of the negative effects occur in horses that are not in full health. The goal of a vaccine is to stimulate your horse’s immune system to mount an immune response to the injected disease antigen so the horse will quickly respond in the case of a natural infection. If the horse does not have a strong immune system the vaccine will not be protective. Ultimately, the protection from disease must come from your horse’s response to the vaccine, not the vaccine itself.

Chronic conditions, such as laminitis, uveitis, allergies, tendency to colic, cancerous tumors and old age are all signs that a horse is not healthy enough to have vaccines. Cushing’s and insulin resistant horses may also react poorly to vaccination. These conditions should be resolved before vaccines are given.

Inadequate nutrition can also weaken your horse’s immune system. Diets that are low in trace minerals, such as zinc, can result in a weak immune system. Horses that are thin and undernourished should be allowed to gain condition before being vaccinated. If possible, hay should be tested to make sure it provides adequate levels of protein and minerals to support a healthy immune system in your horse. If your hay is low in minerals then a whole food, such as blue green algae, may provide the missing trace elements.

Stress is probably one of the biggest enemies of your horse’s immune system. Weaning, movement from one barn to another, hard training, showing, inclement weather and poor herd dynamics can all cause enough stress to lower a horse’s ability to respond well to vaccines. It is best to vaccinate your horse at a time when he can be in his normal surroundings, have a week or so off from training and when weather conditions are not extreme.

Even when you have determined your horse is healthy enough for vaccines there are still some steps you can take to help him have the best response with the fewest negative reactions.

Step 1. Give your horse 5 grams of a natural vitamin C product for 10 days following his shots.

Step 2. Give your horse prebiotics to support his good gut bacteria as he goes through the feverish period following vaccines.

Step 3. Watch for pain and swelling near the vaccine site and apply warm or cold packs to decrease the inflammation. Homeopathic remedies such as apis or ledum may help with immediate post vaccine discomfort. Fever or pain at vaccine sites is part of a healthy immune response and does not disqualify a horse from futures vaccines unless the reaction is extreme. Non steroidal anti inflammatory drugs, such as Banamine, can be given to horses at the time of vaccines if your horse has become sore in the past. These drugs will not interfere with the vaccine response but have other side effects so they should not be used unless needed.

Step 4. Keep a close watch on your horse for several months following vaccines to watch for deeper, negative reactions that indicate damage to his immune or detoxification systems. Changes in quality of the hair and hooves, behavior changes, exercise intolerance, or weight loss are signs you need to address the condition of vaccinosis. The homeopathic remedy, thuja, will often bring your horse back to a condition of health but future vaccines should be avoided unless the threat of exposure to a fatal disease is imminent.

Vaccines can help prevent disease in healthy horses but they are not without possible negative effects. Unhealthy horses should not be vaccinated. Healthy horses can be helped to respond well to vaccines and treatments can be given to counter bad reactions. Use titers to avoid additional vaccines when possible. Kansas State University will do rabies titers and the USDA lab will test for Eastern, Western, Venezuelan and West Nile encephalitis. Your vet should be able to do these tests.

2. Holistic Horsekeeping Resources

To learn more about caring holistically for your horse, get the Holistic Horsekeeping book from Madalyn Ward, DVM. It is available on her website in paperback, or on Kindle in digital or paperback formats. You’ll also find online courses, ebooks, audios, DVD’s , books and Kindle books at https://holistichorsekeeping.com/education.html; or the horse temperament typing online class at https://horsetemperament.com/class.html. We also offer a library of articles, a blog full of information, a mentoring program, consults with Dr. Ward, a short term boarding option, and a variety of equine products Dr. Ward recommends and uses herself. From education to natural supplements, we have it all at www.holistichorsekeeping.com.

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