Safeguarding Foals

Using vaccines at the right time is crucial to safeguard foals from diseases effectively. Mares naturally provide some protection to their foals through maternal antibodies found in their colostrum. However, as the foal grows older, these protective antibodies diminish, leaving them vulnerable to common equine illnesses. To ensure the health of these young animals, it is essential to implement a preventive vaccination program.

Dr. Beth Davis, associate professor and section head of equine medicine and surgery at Kansas State University, emphasizes the importance of preventive health measures. Early collaboration with a veterinarian to establish a comprehensive preventive health program for foals throughout their first year is crucial. This includes a vaccination plan to minimize the risk of future health problems.

Following the guidelines set by the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP), core vaccinations for foals should include eastern and western equine encephalomyelitis, West Nile, tetanus, and rabies. If horses frequently travel to shows, racetracks, or locations where they may come into contact with other horses, considering risk-based vaccines against equine herpesvirus Types 1 and 4, as well as equine influenza virus, is essential. Vaccination administration is typically recommended between 4 to 6 months of age according to AAEP guidelines.

Researchers from Kansas State University and Zoetis are currently conducting a joint study to explore the benefits of vaccinating foals even earlier, possibly at 3 months of age. The goal is to assess whether foals can mount an immune response at an earlier age, offering them protection in high-risk situations.

Dr. Kevin Hankins, area veterinarian, equine technical services at Zoetis, emphasizes that knowing whether early vaccination is effective would be valuable for horse owners, especially those with foals born later in the season. Foals aged 3 to 4 months during mosquito season could be at risk of diseases like West Nile before receiving their vaccinations.

While designing a vaccination schedule with your veterinarian, take into account the early protection against diseases that pose significant threats during a foal’s life. It is vital to avoid vaccinating during times of high stress or just before stressful events, such as weaning or traveling, regardless of the horse’s age. Stressful periods can compromise the immune response and weaken their protection against potential diseases they might encounter.

Dr. Hankins reminds horse owners that vaccines should only be administered to healthy horses, so ensuring stress-free and healthy conditions during vaccination is critical to provide the best possible protection for your horses and foals. By following proper vaccination timing and guidelines, you can help safeguard your foals against preventable diseases and support their overall health and well-being.

By Staff writer