What Are Horse Vaccines, and How Do They Work?
A horse vaccine contains a harmless form of a disease-causing organism.
When the vaccine is given to a horse it tricks the horse's immune system into believing its body is under attack by the real thing.
This causes the horse's immune system to work to identify what is attacking it, and to figure out what type of antibodies will kill it. The horse will produce antibodies until it successfully produces the right type of antibody that kills off the "practice" disease provided by the vaccine.
Thanks to this valuable practice, if the horse should ever be exposed to the real disease it will be able to identify it quickly and begin producing large numbers of antibodies to quickly and efficiently kill it.
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In addition, anything found on CowboyWay.com is not intended to replace veterinary care for your horse or other animals. Always consult a veterinarian or other trained animal health care professional regarding any matter relating to the health and/or health care of your animals.
Do Vaccines Always Work?
No vaccine is ever a 100% guarantee your horse won't get sick. Most of the time vaccines do a good job of providing immunity for our horses, but sometimes a horse can get sick anyway.
If your horse does become ill with a disease they have been vaccinated for, the chances are good that the vaccine will at least reduce the symptoms and duration of the illness.
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How Long Does A Vaccination Last?
Usually, horse vaccines do not provide a lifetime of immunity. You should consult with an equine veterinarian in your area to know what vaccines to give to your horse, and when or how often to repeat them.
Common Terms Associated With Horse Vaccines and Vaccinations
When talking to your veterinarian and/or buying vaccine it can be confusing to hear the proper terms sometimes used with horse vaccines, or to read them on the package label. Below is a short list of very common terms used when talking about vaccines.
- Adjuvant - A vaccine adjuvant is something that is mixed with the vaccine to cause a better immune response by the horse's body. Not all vaccines have or need adjuvants. Common adjuvants that come with some vaccines for horses today are Havlogen and Spur.
- Antigen - An antigen is a substance that stimulates the immune system to produce antibodies.
- Attenuated - Attenuated means weakened, thinned, reduced, or diminished. Many vaccines are made from attenuated strains of disease-causing organisms.
- Efficacy - When talking about vaccines, efficacy means the ability to create or produce the desired amount of protection from disease.
- Intramuscular Injection (IM) - An intramuscular injection is when medications (including vaccines) are delivered into the muscle by a needle. Many equine vaccines are given by intramuscular injection.
- Killed Vaccines (also called inactivated vaccines) - This is a vaccine that contains a disease causing organism that has been killed or inactivated. Killed vaccines are frequently teamed up with an adjuvant (see "adjuvant," above) to help boost the immune response.
- Modified Live Vaccines (also called modified-live vaccines or live-attenuated vaccines) - These are vaccines that contain disease producing organisms that are still alive, but they have been modified (see "attenuated," above) so that they don't cause illness.
- Pathogen - A pathogen is any organism that causes disease.
- Subcutaneous Injection (SQ) - A subcutaneous injection is when medications (including vaccines) are delivered just underneath the skin by a needle. Some equine vaccines are given by subcutaneous injection.
- Virulent - Virulent means full strength, not weakened, capable of causing illness or disease.
Can Vaccines Have Side Effects?
Yes. In rare cases vaccines can cause a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is always very serious and can even lead to death.
Vaccines may also cause reactions at the site of injection ranging from mild stiffness, soreness, and swelling, to abscesses.
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