Foal Vaccinations and Health Care

Health and management tips to ensure a healthy future for your foal.

From AQHA Corporate Partner Pfizer

With spring in full bloom, many American Quarter Horse owners are welcoming new foals into their equine family. Foals require careful monitoring to ensure that they are healthy and developing properly. To help owners as they raise their future champions and performers, we spoke with AQHA life member Dr. Jerry Black, director of the equine science program at Colorado State University and owner of Oak Valley Ranch, an equine reproduction facility in Oakdale, California, on his recommendations for caring for mares and young foals.

Dr. Black emphasizes that the health of the foal is clearly dependent on the health of the mare, particularly in the last trimester. Mares should receive booster vaccinations approximately four to six weeks prior to foaling and be on a sound nutrition and parasite control program, without being overweight.

“Administering booster vaccinations prior to foaling helps to ensure that the mare will have maternal antibodies to pass along to the foal in colostrum,” says Dr. Black. “If a good vaccination regimen has been applied prior to foaling, we don’t need to vaccinate foals until their immune system is ready to develop after maternal antibody levels start to decrease.”

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As for the foaling environment, a clean, safe barn with good biosecurity practices is critical for the first 30 days of life. Dr. Black also recommends placing healthy foals on pasture as early as possible to help them develop normally.

“If the foal is healthy and weather allows, we may have them out in a small grass pen as early as 3 days old. We may also put a group of two or three mares that get along well together out with their foals,” says Dr. Black. “In my experience, the ability to exercise at a young age is paramount to the developing foal’s musculoskeletal system. A pasture environment is simply more natural for how foals were intended to be raised. “

Foals may require a specialized parasite and vaccination program, so horse owners should consult with a veterinarian to create a health-care program tailored to each foal’s environment and location. Dr, Black stresses that the geographic area where horses are located strongly influences vaccination decisions.

“Risk assessment is key – where you are and the population of horses,” explains Dr. Black. “In my practice, we will often have foals vaccinated for equine influenza and rhinopneumonitis in addition to the core vaccinations. Depending on the overall environment, vaccinations for rotavirus or strangles may be recommended as well.”

Pfizer Animal Health offers a full line of equine vaccines, including leading brands such as FLUVAC INNOVATOR® and WEST NILE INNOVATOR®. Backed by safety and efficacy data, veterinarians have used and trusted these vaccines for years. Talk to your veterinarian about vaccine choices to help provide the best possible disease protection for your horses.

“Veterinarians have many choices when considering vaccines, but in my practice I use Pfizer Animal Health vaccines to help protect our horses and foals because of the company’s commitment to excellence and willingness to stand behind its products with a strong support system,” explains Dr. Black. “I want to use vaccines and other products that I know I can trust to help protect my clients’ horses.”

If you’re confused about vaccinations, equine nutrition, first aid or anything else relating to horse health, then you need the “Your Horse’s Health” DVD collection.

From advice on parasite control and vaccinations to developing a nutritional plan that meets the growing foal’s needs, veterinarians can provide a wealth of knowledge on managing a foal as it matures. Developing a plan for routine wellness care with your veterinarian can help to put your growing foal on the road to future performance success.