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Medical Index
First Posted: Nov 20, 2011
Nov 20, 2011

Vaccinosis in Horses

by Debora Johnson

Recently I received an e-mail about vaccinations and horses in which the sender described a myriad of problems with her horses and stated that the problems were caused by vaccinating her horses. I have no idea of knowing the cause of her horse's problems, however, I felt research into this idea deemed merit. Consequently, the following may be of interest to you. I make no judgments--just provide some alternative thoughts on the subject of vaccines.

My husband and I will work with our vets to continue a plan to best protect our two horses from harm from disease as well as reactions to vaccines and/or their carriers or adjuvants*. My horse is definitely sensitive to certain shots and regretfully, we have had to stop those specific shots. However, we feel that certain vaccines are necessary and will continue to provide those shots. There have been no visual reactions to the 3-way or rabies. In our area those are a must. I am a believer in being pro-active. If there is a way to protect against disease I would prefer to give the shot all things being equal. Sometimes choices have to be made when all things are not equal.

*In immunology, an adjuvant is an agent that may stimulate the immune system and increase the response to a vaccine, without having any specific antigenic effect in itself. The word "adjuvant" comes from the Latin word adjuvare, meaning to help or aid. "An immunologic adjuvant is defined as any substance that acts to accelerate, prolong, or enhance antigen-specific immune responses when used in combination with specific vaccine antigens."

Adjuvants have been whimsically called the dirty little secret of vaccines in the scientific community. This dates from the early days of commercial vaccine manufacture, when significant variations in the effectiveness of different batches of the same vaccine were observed, correctly assumed to be due to contamination of the reaction vessels. However, it was soon found that more scrupulous attention to cleanliness actually seemed to reduce the effectiveness of the vaccines, and that the contaminants - "dirt" - actually enhanced the immune response. There are many known adjuvants in widespread use, including oils, aluminum salts, and virosomes, although precisely how they work is still not entirely understood. Vaccination, Shot Side Effects, Reactions in Horses

What is vaccinosis? In an article written by Nancy Camp, Vaccinosis, an Issue Worth Pondering, appearing in the "Natural Horse Magazine", March/April 2007, Vol 9, Issue 2, vaccinosis is described as: "Vaccinosis is the term used to describe the multitude of manifestations of a disease that appear in a vaccinated animal. Since these symptoms are rarely acknowledged as related to a vaccine, as they exist in a chronic form rather than the recognizable acute form of the disease, they are dealt with, and often not very effectively, as isolated occurrences. Just one example to get your wheels turning: Dr. Pitcairn suggests that an appetite disorder in a dog or cat that has been vaccinated for rabies could be the chronic manifestation of 'loss of appetite,' the acute symptom that occurs naturally in a rabid animal. This is a very difficult correlation for most people, including veterinarians, to make. ..."

We have open communication with our vets and discuss freely what is on our minds. They are forthcoming with all the latest research and provide us with the best possible information available. We also are fortunate enough to have wonderful resources in our area such as Virginia Tech's Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center.

For More Information:

What About Vaccines? by Betty Lewis
Vaccination Side Effects
Vaccine Reaction: Calculated Risk?
Vaccine Reactions in Horses
"Vaccination Induced Immune Reactions"- The Equine Manual by Andrew HIggins, A.I. Wright

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