It’s Time to Vaccinate Horses Against Mosquito-Borne Diseases

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As we welcome spring, keep in the back of your mind that mosquito season is not far off. It’s time for equine owners across North Carolina to talk to their veterinarians about protecting equine from mosquito-borne diseases.

West Nile Virus (WNV) and Eastern Equine Encephalomyelitis (EEE) are two major equine diseases and can cause illness or death, but they can be prevented by simply getting your equines vaccinated.

North Carolina has an extended mosquito breeding period, so every horse owner should talk to their veterinarian about how to protect their equine year-round. In addition to getting animals vaccinated, everyone needs to be extra vigilant, starting now to reduce the breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Take the time now to rid your yard and pasture of any standing water to reduce the risk.

The EEE and WNV vaccinations initially require two shots, three to four weeks apart, for horses, mules, and donkeys that have no prior vaccination history. Neither vaccination fully protects the animal until several weeks after the second shot, so it is best to vaccinate as early in the mosquito season as possible. Mosquito breeding peaks over the summer so starting the vaccination protocol now gives the vaccines time to take effect.

Symptoms of EEE include impaired vision, aimless wandering, head pressing, circling, inability to swallow, irregular staggering gait, paralysis, convulsions, and death. Symptoms of WNV in horses can include loss of appetite and depression, fever, weakness or paralysis of hind limbs, convulsions, impaired vision or hyperexcitability.

People, horses, and birds can become infected from a bite by a mosquito carrying the diseases, but there is no evidence that horses can transmit the virus to other horses, birds or people through direct contact.

Consult with your veterinarian to develop a vaccination plan and total health program to help protect your horses from these diseases as well as other health issues. Talk with your veterinarian if your horse needs a good spring deworming before the annual flush of pasture grass.

For more information contact your local veterinarian or N.C. Cooperative Extension, Davie County Center at 336-753-6100.