Tip of the Week – To Vaccinate or Not to Vaccinate

Why is there so much controversy regarding vaccines and possible reactions in the news these days?  That is because in some cases the cons outweigh the pros; because medicine is not an exact science; and because not all pathogens and not all immune systems are the same.

It is true that vaccinations have helped eliminate, or at least minimize, some fatal diseases in people and animals.  However, it is also true that vaccination reactions can cause harm, both short term and long term, and even result in the death of the patient.

Fortunately, most vaccine reactions are transitory and not life threatening; such as fever, swelling, and pain at the injection site.  Unfortunately, some vaccine reactions can worsen an existing condition, trigger a pre-existing condition, create a permanent problem, or result in the death of the horse.

If your horse has a history of vaccine reactions or other medical conditions (laminitis, allergies, auto-immune conditions, Cushing’s/IR, kidney or liver dysfunction), you may consider doing a titer test before vaccinating.  A titer test requires taking a blood sample and sending it to a laboratory to measure the level of anti-bodies for a specific disease in that patient’s blood.

The titer indicates the level of anti-bodies either from exposure to that disease or as the result of a previous vaccination.  If the titer is high enough, one would assume the horse has protection against that disease and doesn’t need to be vaccinated at that time.  If the titer is low, a “booster” vaccination may be indicated.   The only disadvantage to tittering is the cost and the time to have the test done.  The advantage of not over vaccinating may be preventing your horse’s death.

This tip was brought to you by KAM Animal Services, home of KAM’s “Equine Learning Circle” FREE webinars, which take place monthly.  These webinars are an expansion of KAM’s weekly tips.  Go to www.kamanimalservices.com to sign up for the next webinar and the weekly tips.

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