Evaluating Equine Disease Risk

Customizing equine vaccination programs is the No. 1 way to help prevent disease and safeguard horse health.

AQHA Corporate Partner Zoetis

There are multiple factors to consider when evaluating equine disease risk.

Horses travel across the country and around the globe more than ever before. The ease of travel has opened new opportunities for competition and learning, but it has provided an increased opportunity for disease exposure.

Never has it been so important to help protect your horse’s health. The best way to do this is through a vaccination program tailored to his individual risks.

But how do you determine which vaccinations your horse needs? The easiest way is to consult with your veterinarian.

“Keep in mind, a standard one-size-fits-all equine vaccination program does not exist, as every horse has a unique set of needs,” said Kevin Hankins, DVM, senior equine technical services veterinarian for Zoetis. “The American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) Vaccination Guidelines recommend an evaluation of each individual horse’s situation and vaccinating according to his needs.”1

Learn more about common horse health issues by purchasing and downloading AQHA's Common Horse Health Issues report.

Key questions to consider when designing your horse’s vaccination program include:

  • Is my horse exposed to other horses?
  • Will my horse travel? Or is he housed with horses that travel?
  • Is my horse exposed to wildlife?
  • Is my horse exposed to standing water?
  • Will I exhibit my horse in competitions that have specific health requirements?
  • What is my horse’s age?

“The process of traveling stresses horses in and of itself,” said Dr. Hankins. “As shipped horses are also exposed to many other animals that might carry disease, they need a more aggressive vaccination program to help give them the best protection possible in these increased-risk circumstances.”

Additionally, young horses, like children, tend to pick up diseases very easily, as they are still building up their immunity to many diseases, noted Dr. Hankins.

Environmental risk factors also vary across the United States. Be sure to discuss your local equine disease risk factors with the veterinarian on your team. For example, in Florida, mosquitoes are active year-round, which may place your horse at higher risk for West Nile and other mosquito-borne equine diseases. The weather can also impact your horse’s vaccination needs. For example, certain times of the year may be unusually wet. This could increase the risk for diseases such as equine leptospirosis. 

Help protect your horses against diseases and keep them healthy. For a guide on common horse health issues, check out the Common Horse Health Issues report to help you better understand diseases and illnesses that horses can be faced with.

At minimum, be sure all horses are vaccinated for the five core equine diseases. These diseases require annual vaccination for all horses as they pose a significant risk to your horse’s livelihood.1 Core equine diseases include Eastern and Western equine encephalomyelitis, rabies, tetanus and West Nile.

The broad portfolio of core and risk-based equine vaccines from Zoetis is one you can rely on. WEST NILE-INNOVATOR® and FLUVAC INNOVATOR® are the veterinarian’s and horse owner’s first choice for equine disease protection.2 To learn more, visit


1 American Association of Equine Practitioners. Vaccination Guidelines. Accessed January 27, 2017.
2 Data on file,
MDI sales data for WEST NILE-INNOVATOR and FLUVAC INNOVATOR as of 12/31/15, Zoetis Inc.

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