Vaccinations - are they necessary?

Horses are the most susceptible animal to this disease, 300 times more susceptible than your dog!

We have lots of information in this newsletter about wounds and one of the potential side effects of wounds is tetanus. Just like humans, horses can develop tetanus. They become infected from soil contamination, where spores of the organism Clostridium tetani enter the body through broken skin. Wounds, abscesses, umbilical cords of foals and mares after foaling are the most common occurrences where we may see tetanus. However, even mud-fever can be a cause.

Among all the animal species horses are considered the most susceptible to tetanus, with them being 10 times more susceptible than humans and 300 times more susceptible than dogs. You would have thought with horses living outside and how prone they are to getting wounds and abscesses they would have developed a better natural immunity to this disease, but evolution is sometimes surprising.

The incubation time is three days to one month after a horse is initially infected. This is good to keep in mind for those times you find a small old scratch on your horse; it is worth getting protection from this disease if they are unvaccinated or vaccination history is unknown. If you have an unvaccinated horse and they get a wound or abscess, we have an antitoxin which acts immediately and lasts for four weeks. This will give you enough time to start the vaccination course, so your horse is covered now and in the future.

Clinical signs of tetanus include:

  • Head spasm and neck spasms
  • Salivation
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Restricted jaw movement (lock jaw)
  • Generalised stiffness (classic ‘saw horse’ stance)
  • Difficulty moving or lowing head/neck
  • Ears erect and immobile
  • Third eyelid protrusion

The treatment for horses with tetanus is intense as they often can’t eat or drink. It is also quite expensive and has a poor prognosis with the documented survival rate ranging from 20-30%. Prevention is much easier, successful and cost effective.

We have a video on our Facebook page that shows a horse that has been infected with tetanus and is showing some of the classical clinical signs listed above.


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