Is there a vaccine to protect horses from Strangles?
Yes. A new vaccine, Pinnacle, has become available to horseowners through veterinarians and is produced by the Fort Dodge pharmaceutical company. This new intranasal (given into the nose) vaccine gives greater protection and has less side effects than the previously, and still available, intramuscular vaccine.
Pinnacle was introduced early in 1998 as an alternative to the conventional intramuscular vaccine. The intranasal vaccine works primarily at the introductory site of the bacteria, the upper respiratory tract. Pinnacle is a non-infectious live culture that is administered up into the nasal passages. It sticks to and colonizes the mucous membrane lining of the nasal passages. The body reacts to this culture by developing a surface protective barrier of protein antibodies. This protective layer of antibodies then prevents actual Streptococcus equi bacteria from binding to the mucosal surface of the respiratory tract and causing the disease.
This new intranasal vaccine acts to prevent the disease causing bacteria from entering the body and is therefore 10-15% more effective (up around 97-99%) than the conventional intramuscular vaccine. It does not give the depression and sore muscles that the intramuscular injection would sometimes cause.
Some horses are not thrilled about the intranasal administration and occasionally (20-25%) will have a slight nasal discharge the following day. We have not seen any horses have an adverse reaction or depression from the vaccine.
Pinnacle is a yearly vaccine following an initial series of two intranasal doses, 2-3 weeks apart. It is safe for foals, breeding animals and pregnant mares, as well as healthy horses in training or competition.
What vaccines does my horse need?
The core vaccinations for all horses recommended by the American Association of Equine Practitioners include West Nile Virus, Eastern and Western Encephalomyelitis, Tetanus and Rabies. Each of these diseases poses a serious threat to the life of the horse. All horses of all ages are at risk of these diseases whether they are high end performance horses or a back yard pet. Rabies has not been reported in domestic livestock in the Flathead Valley in over 20 years; therefore we currently do not recommend Rabies vaccination of local horses that do not travel outside of the valley. However, Rabies is considered part of the core vaccines for much of the U.S., so for those horses that do travel, particularly to the east, Rabies should be included. We recommend and use Innovator West Nile + EWT made by Fort Dodge Laboratories, which contains all of the core vaccines (with the exception of Rabies).
The other diseases that we commonly vaccinate against are contagious but generally not life threatening to the horse. Influenza, Equine Herpes Virus (Rhino) and Strep equi (Strangles) fall into this group of diseases. Horses that travel or come in contact with horses that do (show horses or horses boarded in public stables) are at greater risk of exposure to these diseases. The decision to vaccinate for these diseases is based on risk of exposure, the owner’s risk tolerance, cost and potential side effects of the vaccine. We see very few complications from vaccinating for Influenza and Equine Herpes Virus. Local swelling and soreness at the injection site occurs at the rate of 1 in 200 horses, for this reason we recommend the vaccine be administered at least one week before a show. Strep equi or Strangles vaccine on the other hand has a higher rate of adverse reactions. Horses vaccinated with the intramuscular vaccine often exhibit some muscle soreness and although rare may develop an abscess at the injection site. The intranasal vaccine may induce a mild infection and occasionally an abscess in a regional lymph node of the head in 1 in 500 horses. These cases appear to a very mild form of the disease itself. To view an informational chart that takes all factors into account, please click on the "Articles" thumbnail and scroll down to "Are Your Current Vaccinations Enough?". At this point, you can click to download our vaccination recommendations.