Help Please on West Nile Vaccines

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Jun 22, 2005
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Hi Everyone...I'm fairly new to the mini world, so I'm looking for all the help I can get in regards to this issue. I had my vet come out to the barn on Wednesday for one of my new fillies who had a cough that eventually spread to the others. So the vet check them and bascially thought it was just a little bug probably caused from her being transported 10 days before. We got to talking about vaccines. She has suggested that I give my girls the West Nile vaccine because there is another horse (full size) that she is treating that has West Nile...I have heard a couple of different things about it. So I'm looking to everyone here to give me some opinion, thoughts and ideas on this...I'm very torn between giving them it or not giving it to them. Help Please...

This is a very personal and controversial topic. Many use WNV and if there is a horse nearby you that has it you may be prudent to vaccinate your minis. Many say to use Merial NOT Ft Dodge. I'll let others fill in as I do not do WNV here in Southern NY. WE do not have a mosquito problem here yet.
Welcome to the wonderful world of minis, a word of caution: they are ADDICTIVE! I have been giving all my horses the West Nile vaccine for 4 years. Living in Tennessee, where West Nile has been found in horses, I hope to prevent my horses from becoming sick. I have not had any side effect in any of my horses.
My vet recommends it so I give it. And we give Fort Dodge. Haven't had a problem with it.
It is a tough decision to talk over with your vet. You will hear some say they have never had an issue with it so therefore they sort of push aside anyone who has or say it must not be true since it hasnt been there experience. there are others who have had serious issues and side effects and those that are somewhat in the middle with mild reactions. As with any vaccine you have to weigh the benifits and the risks with your vet.

I have had some reactions to it and opt to not use Ft Dodge anymore however I do continue to vaccinate my horses. I will no longer vaccinate a mare anymore then 3 months in foal they will wait till after they foal.
We lost two to WNV and now vaccinate all horses, all ages, all stages of pregnancy with no ill effects.
I vaccinate for WNV, and have for the past three years, even though we really don't have mosquitoes here where I live, and no cases have (yet) been reported near here. But my horses do travel, and it would only take ONE mosquito, and I personally would be devasted if one of my horses were to contract WNV and die because I didn't vaccinate. I've had a couple of horses have relatively mild reactions in the past (sore injection site mainly) and I do worry about worse reactions, but I worry MORE about the disease itself. It's up to you, you have to decide what you feel is best for you and your horses.
I have opted not to give the vaccine at this time. It's something I've thought long and hard about. My research just doesn't make me comfortable with giving what (I feel) is a relativly high-risk vaccine when my horses are kept in an area where mosquitos and West Nile have yet to become a real issue.
Welcome!! Yes, it's a personal decision, and not an easy one to make! I went back and forth on the issue, and ended up speaking with someone local who described to me his experience in seeing a horse affected with West Nile Virus.

I have now vaccinated all my guys with Ft. Dodge for two years in a row and have not had any problems. PLEASE note: I give the shot in the butt (NOT neck), and I do not mix it with any other vaccines (i.e. 4/way, etc.) Any other vaccines I do on a separate day.

The ONLY horse I am not vaccinating is my senior, who is not in good health. For her, the stress of vaccines outways the risk of disease.

Good luck in your decision.

Liz R.
We dont's vaccinate for WNV. WNV hasn't been confirmed in our area. Last year my riding instructor vaccinated for WNV just in case, and there were some serious side effects. Two foals born premature and one one born with severely contracted tendons, problems we had never had in the past! As soon as we stopped vaccinating we had a perfect foaling season with five healthy QH foals. WNV vaccine can have some serious side effects when it comes to breeding, but some people seem to be plagued with problems with it, and others have no problems with the WNV vaccine at all.

However, if WNV was more common in our area, we would not hesitate to vaccinate again.
Where I live all my horse troughs have "cheapy goldfish" in them. I don't have any mosquitoes. When I have to fill up a rubber tub with no goldfish, the mosquitoe larve show up. I have used Fort Dodge on all my horses with no problem. This year I used Recombitek by Merial on the ones I have vac before. The new ones still got Fort Dodge. I have not had any problems at all. I vac all of them in April. I do agree with Lisa about the mares in foal. I skip there vac until after they foal.
West nile just resently came through Colorado a few years back. before that we never vaccinated for it. But whenit started showing up here, we did. i've had a few mild side affects (stiff necks, swelling at injeciton site) but no serious problems. My neighbor didn't vaccinate last year and ended up losing a horse to WNV. I was so glad that all of my horses had been vaccinated. I'm not sure I could live with myself if I lost a horse to something that I could have preventing from happening.

Just my two cents on the topic

We use the Ft Dodge in the big horses and minis, open mares, pregnant mares, stallions, foals (at least 6 months old) and geldings. We haven't had a problem. Even if my horses were sore, I would still vaccinate. I had a big horse with WNV when it first started in this area. The same week my mare got it, MANY horses in this area were being treated for it. My mare did recover, although not fully. She isn't as sure-footed as she used to be. She stumbles easily now, over "nothing."

I'm sorry, but I wouldn't wait until horses in "your" area start getting WNV, because SOMEONE'S horse has to be the first to get it--who says it won't be "yours?"
I do vaccinate for WNV. I use Ft Dodge. I have had little to no reaction; matter of fact this year was the first for a reaction in the three years we've been giving WNV vaccine; one mare had a marble size swelling for 24 hours, then fine. The last two years, we've given the WNV combo shot; Eastern and Western sleeping sickness, WNV and tetanus in one.
Hosscrazy said:
I have now vaccinated all my guys with Ft. Dodge for two years in a row and have not had any problems. PLEASE note: I give the shot in the butt (NOT neck), and I do not mix it with any other vaccines (i.e. 4/way, etc.) Any other vaccines I do on a separate day.
I do exactly like Liz does. I suspect that we are overdosing our horses with too much at once, so seperating the vaccines is what I prefer. I have never had an issue with the WNV, but I did have issues with other vaccines that same year.

Just as a thought... Any horse should not be vaccinated in the first trimester of pregnancy as this is when the fetus is very sensitive to things and tends to be the point at with the vaccines can cause abnormalities.

Another thought... No vaccine is ever 100% safe, nor are they 100% effective. So one has to way the benifits vs the potential issues. For me, I could not live with myself if one of my horses die because I didn't give the vaccine. Likewise, if one of my horses die because I give it, then I can live with myself as I know that was a chance I choose to take right up front. It is a catch 22 situation and only one that you can choose.

There is another vaccine by another manufacturer (Meril) that you may want to check into if you are not a Ft. Dodge fan....
I also did vaccinate for WN on both mini horses and mini donkeys Never had any problems.,. I also give the shots in the butt area not in the neck,, and I also use only Fort Dodge Products for the many years of having Equines around.
I'm not a big advocate of the West Nile Vaccine. And so far we are in an area where it hasn't hit. HOWEVER, because you already know that the virus has hit your area, I would probably go ahead and vaccinate to be safe.

And as was posted above, if it were me, I would give any other shots a few weeks apart from the WNV so there would be less of a likelihood of a reaction.

This is the fourth year that I have given all my miniatures the WNV vaccine - I have twelve minis and one full size horse - no reactions or problems here. My vet recommends it, so I follow his advice.

I am vaccinating for WNV here in OK. I have been doing so for the last 4(?) years I think. I started using the Ft Dodge vaccine initially and switched to the Merial vaccine last year. I've been satisfied with both. The first season of vaccinating, I had two mares turn up open in the fall who were in foal earlier in the season. I now no longer vaccinate 1st trimester mares or late term mares. I will vaccinate after they foal and before they are bred back.

The risk of reaction far outweighs the risk of loss from the disease itself in my opinion.

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