As Senior Horse Health Advisor for For Love of the Horse, I get asked a lot of questions about deworming and vaccinations. It’s hard to answer that question sometimes because I choose not to vaccinate my horses. I can’t give any legal recommendations on whether or not a caretaker should vaccinate, so I just tell them that I don’t and give a bit of information as to why.
Most often, a vet puts a horse owner on a “vaccination schedule” of sorts, planning out when they’re needed and what vaccines are necessary. The same applies to deworming. This is typically done with no understanding into how vaccines impact the immune system. This is especially true when it comes to older horses or horses with other health problems. Vaccinating or deworming an unhealthy horse can be detrimental or even deadly, and every vaccine comes with an insert that warns against vaccinating unhealthy horses. This (not to mention potentially fatal side effects and risks associated with vaccinating) is what keeps me from vaccinating my own horses, healthy or not.
So, what do you do? First, moderation is best. If you board your horse and MUST vaccinate per barn requirements, it’s best to spread the vaccines out over a period, not give a 7 way in one day. If your horse is unhealthy, you need to talk to your veterinarian about your concerns as often times he/she can make a recommendation to the barn owner that your horse not be vaccinated until your horse is healthy. Also, knowing what vaccines NEED to be given will help. Age, health, and lifestyle also play a part in what vaccinations are needed. If you do need to vaccinate, I highly recommend a protocol given by For Love of the Horse which will support your horses liver function (as any chemical substance is a “hit” to the liver, the clearing house for your horses body) so that these influences will not further stress the capabilities of the liver.
Furthermore, finding out which vaccinations are core or non-core vaccines will be helpful. There are also some vaccines that are not proven to be helpful. Dr. Mark DePaolo, a veterinarian in Pilot Point, Texas, with a passion for a holistic approach to equine care, has a wealth of information on his website that may help you make any decision regarding vaccines. http://hl.depaoloequineconcepts.com/?q=taxonomy/term/2
In regards to deworming, there are also a lot of options to consider. There are many choices for natural or herbal dewormers. Giving food grade Diatomaceous Earth is also an option that has proven to be effective.
There are options and many things we can do to protect our horses and keep them healthy. Keep in mind that there is no “standard” vaccination and deworming program that will apply to every horse and that the risk for each individual horse must be weighed in order to decrease the risk for potential adverse reactions. Remembering that only healthy horses should be vaccinated will also reduce the risks for side effects. It’s all about keeping our horses healthy, the safest way possible!