Senior Horse, Special Vaccination Needs?

Dr. Hankins explains why senior horses are in a category of their own for vaccinations and care.

From AQHA Corporate Partner Zoetis

Support your senior horse by customizing a vaccine program to fits his needs to keep him healthy well into retirement. AQHA Daily photo.

Horses age, just like humans do. And with age, their bodies change (again, just like humans, but who wants to face that brazen thought?).

One significant change in senior horses, or those horses over 15 years of age, is their immune system, explains Dr. Kevin Hankins, DVM, MBA, senior technical services veterinarian for Zoetis. Senior horses can be more susceptible to disease because of their immune system’s inability to work as well as it did earlier in life. This makes vaccinations an even higher priority to help prevent disease and keep them healthy.

Do you have a new baby bouncing around the pasture? As your foal matures, momma's milk might not be enough to help him achieve his optimal growth. Purchase AQHA's Weaning Foals: Nutrition and Best Practices ebook so you are fully informed on your weanling's nutritional needs and the best weaning practices.

It’s a common misconception that senior horses, having received vaccinations for years, are already protected and haven’t the need for annual vaccinations. However, horse owners need to help ensure all their horses are well protected under a customized vaccination program, including the ones enjoying retirement in the pasture, but especially for those being transported, which is one of the largest stressors and immune suppressors.

All horses should receive annual vaccinations for core equine diseases, which include Eastern and Western equine encephalomyelitis, rabies, tetanus and West Nile. Based on your senior horse’s lifestyle, discuss with your veterinarian whether he needs additional risk-based vaccinations, such as equine influenza, equine herpesvirus or strangles.

You spent 11 months waiting, and now your foal is here. Just as you made all those early decisions - which stallion to breed your mare to, whether to let your mare free roam or foal in a stall - weaning decisions are of the utmost importance. Purchase AQHA's Weaning Foals: Nutrition and Best Practices ebook so you are prepared to make informed decisions to meet your foal's nutritional needs.

As your horse ages, special needs outside of vaccinations may be essential, such as:

  • Pain-relieving medication or supplementation for the arthritic senior horse
  • A quality senior diet developed based on the needs of their immune and digestive systems
  • Routine dental care to help properly process feed and prevent colic

Horse owners need to work with their veterinarian to have an excellent plan in place to help ensure the health of their aging horse, both nutritionally and physically. Senior horses are in a special category of their own.

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 West Nile and equine influenza disease protection.To learn more, visit


1 Data on file, MDI sales data for WEST NILE-INNOVATOR and FLUVAC INNOVATOR as of 12/31/15, Zoetis Inc.

All trademarks are the property of Zoetis Services LLC or a related company or a licensor unless otherwise noted.

© 2017 Zoetis Services LLC. All rights reserved. WNI-00047