Equine Vaccine Reactions

I finally read your May 2008 issue on vaccines. It contained very good advice. But the reason I have not read it sooner is because, for the past two months, I have been busy dealing with a very bad reaction my 17-year-old mare had to her annual vaccines.

My mare had a reaction a few years ago (106?° temperature and off feed), so my vet always gives the shots, split a month apart, and always gives her Banamine before the injections, plus I give her Banamine the next day. This year that was not enough. She developed a high temperature, lameness and then an awful abscess, and she was sick for awhile. She had to be tubed and even on IV fluids twice. Once my vet cut drainage holes in her hip she quickly felt better. But I had six weeks of cleaning pus and infection, weekly vet visits and having my trainer flush her drainage sites and give her IV antibiotic drugs.

We won’t be doing shots again, and we will never know for sure why she reacted this way, this time. But it is an awful experience. Also, it is so important to have your vet out to look at your horse right away if they have a reaction. This could have been much worse had I not done that.

I’m enclosing photos. Although they seem graphic, they are nothing compared to the real experience. The stench and amount of infection is unbelievable. Gladly, she is back to work and seems fine now. Thanks for the great article.

Nancy Buffinton-Kelm,

Horse Journal Response

Vaccines are considered ”harmless” by far too many horse owners, although we don’t agree with the extreme belief that they’re harmful either. This type of reaction is one reason we tend to think it’s wiser to have your veterinarian administer the injections than for the horse owner to do so. It’s easy to see in this case why not vaccinating is the wiser course of action.


I’ve read the article about Spirulina in the July 2008 issue of Horse Journal. I talked to my vet and a couple of manufacturers. So far everyone agrees that spirulina has a high refusal factor. Since my daughter’s oldest horse is the one with respiratory problems and he’s already a picky eater, I’m thinking this may be a hard sell. Do you have any suggestions’

Drue Pearce,

Horse Journal Response

Spirulina has about a 50% refusal rate. Jiaogulan is highly palatable. Many people syringe the combination to start. If this is done just before feeding, the taste is in the horse’s mouth, and you can start to gradually add part of the dose to the meal, eventually weaning the horse off the syringing entirely. Spirulina is a very fine powder. Mix it in thoroughly if feeding a sweet feed, to be sure it is adhering well, or mix with oil or coat the meal with a layer of cooking spray (like PAM). Many horses object to the powder more than the taste or odor.

Chloride Concern

The article on ”Chloride Deserves Dietary Attention” in the July 2008 issue was fascinating and caused a discussion around the barn. We all know the value of hay, which the article stressed for maintaining adequate chloride levels, but it left some questions unanswered. What is the chloride content of pasture and do horses on ample pasture still need hay’ We have 24-hour turnout with decent pasture that maintains their weight in addition to daily supplement of two cups complete grain, five cups beet pulp and flax. In the summer is it still important to feed hay’

Lori Heim,
North Carolina

Horse Journal Response

Hay, and the fresh grass it was made from, have the same amount of chloride. It’s much more diluted in fresh grass because of the higher moisture but otherwise they are the same. It’s a good idea to allow access to hay when on spring pastures, both as a fiber source and also because chloride is higher in mature stands of grass. Otherwise, supplemental salt will take care of any additional chloride needs. See our August 2008 article on electrolytes for additional suggestions.

Send your Ask Horse Journal question to us at: [email protected] or fax it to 315-468-0627. By mail, send to editorial office in Warners, N.Y. (see p. 2).

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