AAEP updates equine vaccination guidelines

AAEP updates equine vaccination guidelines

Owner-DVM collaboration is encouraged
Mar 01, 2008

Lexington, Ky. — Revised equine vaccination guidelines — updated by an American Association of Equine Practitioners' (AAEP) committee — reflect new attitudes on infectious diseases, core vaccinations and recent technology.

The Web-based guidelines identify core vaccines, new technology and include risk assessment, vaccine storage and handling recommendations. The guidelines have been under revision and evaluation since January 2007 by AAEP's Infectious Disease Committee, led by Mary Scollay, DVM and track veterinarian at Calder Race Course and Gulfstream Park, both in Florida.

As an Internet resource, the guidelines, which hadn't been revised since 2001, can be updated regularly as advances, research and technology evolve.

"It was a good time to make sure the information we are presenting is current, useful and presented in a manner that is applicable to most ownership situations," Scollay says. "Hopefully, it will allow horse owners, in conjunction with veterinarians, to make considered, educated decisions about how, when and with what to vaccinate their horses."

Killed-vaccine and modified-live vaccine technologies, outlined in the guidelines' introduction, mark one of the most interesting topics reviewed, Scollay says. "The guidelines are written to be read by horse owners, but they also are a good refresher for veterinarians who have been out of school for a while and maybe aren't that clear on the new technology."

Tetanus, Eastern and Western equine encephalomyelitis, West Nile virus and rabies are identified as "core" vaccines — a specification that comes as a new element to the guidelines.

"There is a good section on vaccine storage and handling, and on risk assessment. It is essential for horse owners to understand that a vaccine is not a magic bullet, and can't fix bad management," Scollay says. "It is part of a program to keep horses healthy."

The committee deliberated the inclusion of rabies as a core vaccination recommendation, Scollay says. "But I think most of the comments look supportive. It was a good decision because ultimately, when it is contracted, rabies can be fatal. And there are human-health considerations involved."

The overall aim of the guidelines is to enhance risk-assessment and management behaviors to boost owners' success in achieving immunization, rather than just vaccination, Scollay says.

"To immunize, you need knowledge of a horse's own health, the risk of exposure to disease, the disease process itself, how it is transmitted, whether there are seasonal incidents, age-related issues or management issues that impact whether the animal could contract the disease," she says. "You can vaccinate, but to immunize is much more complicated. Hopefully, this will give people food for thought when planning a vaccination program, and they will see the need to consult a veterinarian for guidance."