Don’t Let Equine Influenza Ruin Your Congress or World Show Experience

A fall vaccination with FLUVAC INNOVATOR can help protect against upper respiratory disease.

From AQHA Corporate Partner Pfizer

It’s that time of year again when the seasons shift, days are shorter and colder, and your American Quarter Horse’s coat gets longer.

While some horse owners are settling down for the season, others are gearing up for their biggest competitions of the year – the All American Quarter Horse Congress and the AQHA World Championship Show.

Unfortunately, this can be the time of year when upper respiratory disease such as equine influenza virus rears its ugly head. Equine influenza virus is one of the most common infectious diseases affecting the respiratory tract in horses.

Equine influenza is a virus of the H3N8 subtype. Two different equine H3N8 subtypes appear to be circulating internationally1. It is important to note that these equine flu strains are different than the flu strains affecting humans.

Equine influenza is contagious and can be spread primarily by a couple of different means. The first is through respiratory tract secretions. Coughing horses can release the virus into the air, where it can spread up to 30 to 50 meters1. It can also be spread by direct contact between horses and indirectly via a person’s hands or clothing or on inanimate objects such as buckets, tack or lead ropes1. Flu symptoms in horses may include elevated body temperatures, loss of appetite, harsh dry cough, depression and nasal discharge.

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The best method for helping protect horses against equine influenza is to have them vaccinated by a veterinarian. Pfizer Animal Health’s FLUVAC INNOVATOR helps provide protection against equine influenza virus. In addition, FLUVAC INNOVATOR vaccines also contain equine herpes virus, types 1 and 4, to help protect against rhinopheumonitis. The FLUVAC INNOVATOR vaccines, along with other Pfizer Animal Health equine vaccine combinations, are included in the Equine Immunization Support Guarantee.

The Pfizer Animal Health Equine Immunization Support Guarantee provides up to $5,000 for reasonable diagnostic and treatment costs if a horse properly vaccinated by a veterinarian contracts the corresponding equine disease. Disease protection backed by the Equine Immunization Support Guarantee includes infection from West Nile virus, equine influenza virus, tetanus, eastern equine encephalomyelitis virus, western equine encephalomyelitis virus and Venezuelan equine encephalomyelitis virus. Vaccinations must be performed by a licensed veterinarian with an established client-patient relationship to be eligible.

According to the American Association of Equine Practitioners vaccination guidelines, adult horses, previously vaccinated against equine influenza, should be revaccinated at six-month intervals. This includes performance, show or pleasure horses constantly at risk of exposure2. In other words, even if your horse was vaccinated against equine influenza virus in the spring, he may require a booster in the fall. For further vaccination guidelines, horse owners should consult their local veterinarian, as guidelines may vary between parts of the country, age and use of the horse.

Another option to help bolster immunity is the use of immunomodulators, which can help a horse’s immune system function more efficiently against certain diseases. An example of an immunomodulator is ZYLEXIS, an inactivated (killed) Parapox Ovis Virus that stimulates the horse’s immune system to aid in the reduction of equine upper respiratory disease associated with equine herpesvirus Type 1 and Type 4 infections. When administered prior to exposure to stressful situations, ZYLEXIS can help stimulate a horse’s immune system to function more efficiently against EHV types 1 and 4 infections.

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A healthy immune system helps horses combat travel stress and being in an unfamiliar environment where they may encounter horses shedding upper respiratory viruses. Supplementing feed with electrolytes can aid in electrolyte rehydration if horses become finicky about drinking water away from home. Work with your veterinarian to prepare a wellness plan for your horses based on travel plans and other factors — the best protection is to maintain your horses’ health and limit the risk of exposure to disease.

Keep in mind when competing at the All American Quarter Horse Congress or the AQHA World Show that hundreds of horses are coming and going from these facilities over the course of the event. Practice good barn hygiene when you arrive at the destination facility. Disinfect stalls prior to moving your horses in and do not use common water buckets or feed areas on event grounds. Other items that should not be shared include twitches, lip chains, halters, bits or other items that may touch a horse’s eyes, nose or mouth. Keep daily body temperature logs for your horses, particularly if they seem lethargic or go off feed. Isolate sick animals immediately when signs of disease are recognized. Follow proper sanitation and disinfection techniques for stalls and any shared items and avoid direct contact with unfamiliar horses when possible.

All brands are the property of Pfizer Inc., its affiliates and/or its licensors. ©2011 Pfizer Inc. All rights reserved.

    1. Bug of the Month: Equine Influenza Virus. Equid Blog University of Guelph.Posted December 11, 2010. Available at: Accessed on March 24, 2011.
    1. Equine Influenza. American Association of Equine Practitioners. 2008. Available at: Accessed on March 24, 2011.