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Countdown to Competition Series: Vaccines and Teeth

Vaccines and Teeth – Basic Health and Safety for the Competitive Horse

Vaccines not only provide a safe way to prevent debilitating and sometimes deadly diseases in your horse, they are often required for competition or even just crossing state lines.  Further, dental and mouth care should be a regular part of equine health exams, with floating performed at intervals recommended by your veterinarian.  Not only is the health of the mouth imperative to proper chewing and ultimately digestion, behavioral problems can be related to mouth or teeth pain (Pehkonena et al., 2019).  Speak with your veterinarian about what dental care your horse needs and be proactive about preventing dental problems.

But what Vaccines Does Your Horse Need? Kevin Hankins, Senior Veterinarian of Equine Technical Services with Zoetis recommends all horses should at minimum receive annual vaccination against the five core diseases, but there may be additional vaccines applicable to your horse, based on age, risk, and environment. 


Excerpt from American Association of Equine Practitioners Press Release on Vaccine Recommendations – 5/2020

Spring has arrived and we know you’re eager to spend more time with your four-legged best friend. It’s important to make sure your horse is healthy and feeling his best all year. Annual vaccinations are key to ensuring your horse’s health and well-being against potentially fatal equine diseases. But what vaccines does your horse absolutely need?

Every horse is unique, and every environment is unique. To determine what vaccinations your horse needs, talk with your veterinarian first. Your veterinarian can advise you on the potential disease risks in your area, the best time for core disease vaccination and what risk-based vaccines are right for your horse.


Core Vs. Risk-based Diseases

There are two categories of diseases that pose the most serious threats to horses:

Core Diseases: The five core diseases include rabies, West Nile virus, Eastern and Western equine encephalomyelitis, and tetanus. All horses are exposed to these potentially fatal diseases and need to be vaccinated annually according to the American Association of Equine Practitioners.

Risk-based Diseases: Equine influenza virus and herpesvirus are the most common risk-based diseases that your horse may need to be vaccinated against. Vaccination will vary depending on your horse’s unique lifestyle and environment. 


The Danger of Core Diseases Is Real

Vaccine Recommendations

1 American Association of Equine Practitioners, 2020 

2 MacKay R., 2007


Additional annual risk-based vaccinations may be needed based on your horse’s unique lifestyle and environment. Protect your horse from diseases like equine influenza, equine herpesvirus, strangles, and leptospirosis through annual vaccination.  In addition to advising on critical core and risk-based vaccinations, your veterinarian can develop the best possible preventive health care plan for your horse that includes proper diet and regular dental exams.

Use this vaccination guide as a starting point to identify your horse’s core and risk-based needs and work with your veterinarian to develop an annual vaccination plan together.


About Zoetis

Zoetis is the leading animal health company, dedicated to supporting its customers and their businesses. Building on more than 65 years of experience in animal health, Zoetis discovers, develops, manufactures and commercializes medicines, vaccines and diagnostic products, which are complemented by biodevices, genetic tests and precision livestock farming. Zoetis serves veterinarians, livestock producers and people who raise and care for farm and companion animals with sales of its products in more than 100 countries. In 2019, the company generated annual revenue of $6.3 billion with approximately 10,600 employees. For more information, visit


American Association of Equine Practitioners. Core Vaccination Guidelines. 2012. Accessed May 1, 2020.

MacKay R. Tetanus. In: Sellon DC, Long M, eds. Equine Infectious Diseases. 2nd ed. St. Louis, MO: Saunders Elsevier 2007:368-372.

Pehkonena J, Karmab L, Raekallioa M. Behavioral Signs Associated With Equine Periapical Infection in Cheek Teeth. Journal of Equine Veterinary Science. 2019;77:144-150

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