Core and Risk-Based Vaccinations for Optimal Horse Health

Help evaluate and understand your horse’s risk for disease.

From AQHA Corporate Partner Zoetis

Horse owners know how important it is to help protect our American Quarter Horses against disease with annual vaccinations. However, it’s also important to understand what specific diseases you need to protect your horses against and when.

To learn more about those diseases, the American Association of Equine Practitioners has published guidelines that serve as discussion points with your veterinarian. They break these vaccinations into two categories: core and risk-based. Core vaccinations are those that every horse should receive at least annually, while risk-based vaccines are recommended for horses with particular risk profiles, depending on age, geography, housing or function.1

Core vaccines are needed against:*

    • Eastern and western equine encephalomyelitis: Both are sometimes-fatal, mosquito-borne diseases that affect your horse's nervous system. Since the risk of exposure and geographic distribution of eastern and western equine encephalomyelitis vary from year to year, all horses are at risk.2
    • West Nile virus: Mosquitoes spread this disease after feeding on infected birds. It is the leading cause of arbovirus encephalitis in horses. The virus has been identified in all of the continental United States, most of Canada and Mexico, and it is fatal in up to 33 percent of horses exhibiting clinical signs of infection.1
    • Tetanus: No matter the location, this life-threatening disease is caused by a soil-borne bacterium and is often contracted through a wound.
    • Rabies: This is an infrequently encountered neurologic disease in horses, and although occurrences are rare, the disease is invariably fatal and poses public health significance.3

Risk-based vaccines are needed against:**

    • Equine herpesvirus (rhinopneumonitis): This common virus occurs in horse populations worldwide but most commonly in weaned foals and yearlings, often in the autumn or winter. The two most common types are equine herpesvirus Type 1 (EHV-1), which causes abortion, respiratory disease and neurologic disease, and equine herpesvirus Type 4 (EHV-4), which usually causes only respiratory disease but can occasionally cause abortion.4

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    • Equine influenza: One of the most common infectious diseases of the respiratory tract, it can spread quickly among groups of horses from coughing. The most commonly affected horses are ages 1 to 5. Older horses that may have weakened immune systems from frequent exposure at shows or similar events are susceptible, as well.5
    • Strangles: Caused by the bacterium Streptococcus equi, this highly contagious disease (also known as distemper) commonly affects young horses but can affect horses of any age.

Different vaccine combinations are available to help you develop the best protocol to fit your needs based on your horse’s risk for disease and such factors as breed, age and location. Based on those risk factors, it’s important to consider not only the core vaccinations that every horse needs but also vaccinations for some common risk-based diseases. Vaccines often are offered in combination to target multiple diseases, so work with a veterinarian to develop the right vaccination program for your horses.

Help protect your horses with core and risk-based vaccine solutions such as FLUVAC INNOVATOR®, WEST NILE-INNOVATOR®, PINNACLE® I.N. and PNEUMABORT-K® + 1b.

• FLUVAC INNOVATOR line of vaccines: These help deliver demonstrated protection against circulating contemporary equine influenza viruses and aid in the prevention of equine influenza due to Type A2 viruses; equine rhinopneumonitis due to EHV-1 and EHV-4; equine encephalomyelitis due to eastern, western and Venezuelan viruses; and tetanus.
• WEST NILE-INNOVATOR line of vaccines: These help deliver demonstrated protection against West Nile virus and aid in the prevention of viremia caused by West Nile virus; equine encephalomyelitis due to eastern, western and Venezuelan viruses; and tetanus.
• PINNACLE I.N.: Aids in the prevention of strangles caused by Streptococcus equi.
• PNEUMABORT-K + 1b: Labeled to help prevent respiratory disease caused by EHV-1p and EHV-1b, as well as for use in pregnant mares as an aid in the prevention of abortion due to EHV-1 infections.

Vaccinations are an important part of your horse's maintenance. But there are other factors that contribute to your horse's overall health. That's why AQHA offers the "Your Horse's Health" DVDs. Get this DVD series today to ensure that you're doing everything you can to maintain a healthy equine.

Understanding these diseases and different vaccine combinations can help you make educated decisions about the health of your horses. Providing the essential vaccinations for your horse, when administered at the right frequency and time, can help provide optimal immunity against disease.

For more information on core and risk-based vaccination guidelines for adult horses and foals, visit the American Association of Equine Practitioners website to learn more about core vaccinations or risk-based vaccinations.

* All suggestions and full descriptions of core vaccines are available at
** All suggestions and full descriptions of risk-based vaccines are available at

1American Association of Equine Practitioners. Core Vaccination Guidelines. 2012. Available at: Accessed January 17, 2014.
2 EEE, WEE, and VEE (Eastern, Western, and Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis). Available at Accessed January 21, 2014.
3 Striegel N. Rabies in Horses: Should Horses Be Vaccinated in Colorado? Colorado State University Extension. Available at Accessed January 21, 2014. Keep Equine Herpesvirus (EHV) In Mind. Available at Accessed on January 21, 2014.
5 American Association of Equine Practitioners. Vaccine Guidelines. 2001. Available at: Accessed January 17, 2014.

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