Horse Vaccines - A Quick Rundown
Is Your Equine Protected?

Horse vaccines protect horses against deadly respiratory and neural diseases, like Strangles and equine West Nile virus. Learn which ones you can give yourself to save time and money. 

I double-dog DARE ya to give ME a shot!

Luckily most of the vaccines your horse needs come in combination style shots. That is to say, a single syringe can contain several vaccines in a one shot dose, making your equine health care routine that much easier.

Let's focus on the most common vaccines that are given to adult horses. Some horses require additional and more frequent vaccines. Talk to your veterinarian about horse vaccines needed for foals, pregnant mares and horses that do a lot of cross country travel for horse shows, rodeo and competitive type eventing.

Here's the Lowdown on Horse Vaccines

Strangles (equine distemper):

  • Highly contagious, bacterial, upper respiratory tract infection
  • Spread through contact with infected horses
  • Spread through contact with contaminated stalls, buckets, water troughs, pastures…
  • Highly recommended to vaccinate for equine strangles
  • Boosters given annually for adult horses

Consult with your veterinarian about vaccinating for equine strangles during an outbreak in your area. A horse that has already been exposed can have adverse reactions to the vaccine!


  • Highly contagious respiratory disease
  • Spreads through air born droplets from infected coughing horses
  • All horses should be vaccinated for equine influenza
  • Boosters given annually for adult horses


  • Always fatal in horses
  • Spread from saliva to a break in the skin, most often a bite
  • Highly recommended to vaccinate your horse for rabies
  • Highly contagious to humans
  • Boosters given annually for adult horses

Many states require Rabies vaccine be given only by a licensed veterinarian

Tetanus (lockjaw):

  • Caused by bacteria that lives in the soil, enters the body via open cuts
  • Neurological disease with an 80% mortality rate
  • All horses should be vaccinated for tetanus
  • Boosters given annually for adult horses
  • Smart to give another repeat vaccination after a traumatic injury (horse gets cut on a barbed wire fence)

Eastern Equine Encephalitis - Western Equine Encephalitis - Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis:

  • EEE , WEE and VEE
  • All 3 are closely related to one another
  • Also called sleeping sickness
  • Attacks the nervous system
  • Spread through mosquito bites
  • Can spread to humans
  • Highly recommended that your horse be vaccinated for equine encephalitis, especially in mosquito prone areas
  • Boosters given annually for adult horses

Note: West Nile and EEE - WEE - VEE can be given in a 4-Way combo equine vaccine

West Nile Virus:

  • Causes inflammation of the nervous system
  • Spread through mosquito bites
  • Boosters given annually for adult horses, or sooner if experiencing an outbreak in your area

Equine Herpes Virus (Rhinopneumonitis) EHV:

  • Called Rhino and equine herpes
  • Two types EHV-1 and EHV-4
  • Young horses, less than 5, are highly susceptible to the herpes virus
  • Both can cause respiratory disease
  • Both can cause abortion in pregnant mares
  • EHV-1 (abortion) Given in 3 doses during equine pregnancy
  • EHV-4  (respiratory)  Boosters given annually for adult horses

Potomac Horse Fever:

  • Started around the Potomac River in the Eastern United States
  • Currently found in most regions of the United States
  • Causes severe inflammation of the intestines, fever, depression and diarrhea
  • Check with your veterinarian about your horse’s need for this vaccine
  • Boosters given annually for adult horses

Ask your vet about horse vaccines for your horse’s unique situation. There are vaccines available for things like botulism and anthrax and even ones designed just for newborn foals who have missed out on mother’s first milk (colostrum).

Many of the horse vaccines that your animals need can be purchased and administered yourself, saving time and money. For example: you can give a 6-way shot protecting your horse from Eastern, Western and Venezuelan encephalomyelitis, influenza, tetanus, rhino EHV-1 and EHV-4; all in a single dose. Then pay your vet give the Rabies vaccine.

How to Give a Horse a Shot

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