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Ask the Expert: Administering Your Horse's Vaccinations

What's your opinion on whether horse owners should administer their own vaccines?

By Nancy S. Loving, DVM | April 2008

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Q: What’s your opinion on whether horse owners should administer their own vaccines?

A: It is important for vaccines to be stored properly to maintain their efficacy. Buying vaccines from a reputable source implies that they are kept properly refrigerated and have not lost their potency. Warehouse or wholesale outlet companies, feed stores or veterinary bulk supply outlets won’t necessarily guarantee proper handling of these products, so you can’t always be assured that your horse will receive adequate immune coverage if you vaccinate with a product from one of these sources.

Having your vet vaccinate your horse assures the vaccine is from a reputable source, that it has been handled properly and kept at proper temperatures during distribution and shipping, and that it is not outdated.

Your vet uses safe techniques for administering vaccines that incur the least risk to you and your horse. Even with a vet’s excellent injection technique, transient side effects such as muscle soreness, fever or malaise can occur, as might an occasional post-injection abscess. Adverse reactions are usually related to an immune response, or to the adjuvant (carrier agent) in individual vaccines, with some vaccine products more reactive than others.

These signs usually pass within 72 hours, and if the best vaccine products available are used, less than one horse in 100 even notices he has received a shot. Based on the sheer numbers of horses your vet immunizes each year, he or she has knowledge of which vaccines have the least likelihood of producing adverse reactions. 

Also, keep in mind that if your horse is insured and you administer any medication—including a vaccine—that induces a life-threatening or fatal anaphylactic reaction due to an incorrect injection technique, the insurance company may not honor your insurance claim.

Nancy S. Loving, DVM, is a performance horse veterinarian based in Boulder, Colo. She is also the author of All Horse Systems Go.

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Reader Comments

Galadriel    Lothlorien, ME

10/14/2014 11:53:03 PM

I absolutely give my horses shots. It's so expensive to have a vet come out and it's not hard to do!

Gee and Haw    Northern Part, CA

10/13/2014 5:45:52 AM

I agree, regular/basic shots, can be given by someone, who is not a vet. I have my order for shots, in on a Monday, and make sure that I ask for extra ice packs, if needed. I usually order, from a place that will have it delivered the next day. a person must do their homework, and it is so much cheaper. If horses/and their care are used as a tax deduction, then most of those people can deduct the high cost of vets/shots/care from their taxes. If you are just a horse lover, with alot of 4 legged friends, that need care, then you must do what is best for them.

PKL    Northern Part, WY

10/12/2014 3:17:01 PM

Our vet charges 65 dollars per shot, times 12 horses, when I can buy them for less than 22 dollars a shot. Plus then add a farm call of 80 dollars....who has that kind of money.

Dorothy    Havre de Grace, MD

2/23/2012 3:18:53 PM

I have had horses for close to 50 years. I have given my own shot many times and have had no problems. I prefer to use a vet for my shots because it establishes a history with the Dr. and insures that I have back up in emergencies,

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