Spring vaccines in horses: negative reactions & taking temperatures

07 Apr

horses reacting to vaccinesIt is spring and –sickness– is in the air! At least around here. We have been hit in the house and in the barn. A couple weeks ago two of my kids caught colds that turned nasty and recently (Easter Sunday and Monday) migrated to ear infections. I have charts and rotations of medications that would make any pharmacy proud.

In the barn my horses are also struggling. They had their ‘spring vaccinations’ yesterday and today they are feeling cruddy. They are sore and running fevers. It is clearly the vaccines because three horses were not vaccinated and they are all fine. All the vaccinated horses are running temps between 102.5-103.9.

If you haven’t taught your horse to allow his temperature to be taken easily this is your reminder to go buy a digital thermometer, a jar of Vaseline and get them trained! It is better to do the training before they are grumpy from not feeling well. Did you know that a horses ‘normal’ temperature is actually a range from 99-101? When I was in college we were required to take the horses temperature daily to establish each horses ‘normal’. To do this we would take their temperature daily for several weeks before they left the stall. It is important to take the resting temperature because exercise, stress or excitement can cause an increase.

Have your horses ever had a reaction to spring vaccines? Have you ever taken your horses temperature?


Posted by on April 7, 2015 in Life


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37 responses to “Spring vaccines in horses: negative reactions & taking temperatures

  1. Loretta Fern King

    April 7, 2015 at 7:35 pm

    where are the westfalls now ? You made it sound like you’re at your barn again ! ( Is Whizards Maggie Mae still yours ?

  2. barbkeith

    April 7, 2015 at 7:55 pm

    I’m not sure if mine was a reaction or not but exactly 2 weeks after being vaccinated, my healthy 26 year old horse was found with his back end paralysed. I was too devastated over losing him at the time to really investigate it.

    • Jackie

      April 8, 2015 at 10:18 am


  3. Jen

    April 7, 2015 at 7:59 pm

    Hi Stacy. My two horses receives their spring vaccinations yesterday and I did not notice any reactions at the time. Today when I got to the barn my 4 year old gelding seemed a bit lethargic but brightened up when I gave him an apple. My 20 year old mare seemed like her everyday self. Thank you for posting this article, I didn’t even think to check temperatures but I will now. I did check for heat and swelling at the injection site and for any bumps or hives.

  4. marsha tipton

    April 7, 2015 at 8:03 pm

    I lost a horse to a 5way shot, he foundered and never recovered

    • Julie Olson

      April 7, 2015 at 8:30 pm

      So sorry for your loss. I has had similar experience. It can be a bad deal to vaccinate every year.

    • Jenny Northcott

      April 7, 2015 at 10:25 pm

      I have never heard of that happening! That must make you worry about vaccinating in the future. Do you still vaccinate? What did your vet recommend? Did your vet discuss this as a possible risk prior to vaccinating? Thanks for any info you can share!

      • Stacy

        April 8, 2015 at 9:34 pm

        I still vaccinate, with our travel schedule we are high risk. I did quiz the vet and I wonder if bute or banimine before hand would reduce the reaction. Reactions are usually blamed on which ‘batch’ you receive. Our older horses reacted less than our younger ones. Coincidence?

  5. Kim VanDrisse

    April 7, 2015 at 8:14 pm

    I’ve had issues with a certain brand of vaccine leaving my horses sore and with obvious lumps… I don’t use that brand anymore. I also now give a tab of bute the day of and the day after vaccinations and rub the area around where the vaccine was given with DMSO for a few days.

  6. Linda Lowy

    April 7, 2015 at 8:24 pm

    Two years ago most of the horses receiving spring shots had site swelling, others were stiff. Last year, no problems. Haven’t given the shots yet this year.

  7. Julie Olson

    April 7, 2015 at 8:29 pm

    Vaccinate–NEVER again. My Friesian/Morgan has reacted negatively every year, yet I have been assured it is not the vaccine. He foundered from the rich grass. But I can vaccinate in April, or May, or late June and it is always the same–and it is blamed on the grass. Well no more!! Last year 2 days after his vaccines he was down and I thought I’d never get him up. My other horses had varying reactions to their vaccines-from hives to a large bump at the vaccination sight -to a huge swollen neck. Then there was the horse down. NO I did not call the vet. Vets will never agree it is a vaccine. I called a homeopath. We treated and he is better today, ALMOST year later. But the damage is done and irreversible. I will never vaccinate a well vaccinated horse again. I believe it is un-necessary to heavily vaccinate year after year after year. Initially yes, but there has to be some immunity after years of vaccination. I say check titers and vaccinate accordingly.

  8. Janey

    April 7, 2015 at 8:39 pm

    What is the name of the lab that manufactured the vaccine? I am having mine vaccinated tomorrow.

    • Stacy

      April 8, 2015 at 9:34 pm

      I didn’t ask as all were already done…

  9. pamela

    April 7, 2015 at 8:46 pm

    Yes, our little arab got a huge hemorrhoid. Vet said he’s never seen that happen. Since then, he also gets a shot of bute with his shots and he’s been fine.

    • Flo

      April 7, 2015 at 10:48 pm

      I read that as the vet mistakenly hit a blood vessel. What’s he gonna say, “oh yeah, I mess up all the time”? Of course he’s “never seen that happen before”. Do you think maybe the reason you’ve never had another problem is because he now gets bute, or because the vet hasn’t messed up again?

  10. Marilee J. Sherman

    April 7, 2015 at 9:15 pm

    Yes, it appears we had a major reaction to Vectra Gold vaccination in May of 2013. I’ve been afraid to vaccine since. Not sure what I will try to do this year. Small pony, 14 years old, had received vaccines annually for at least 11 years with no problems. Vectra Gold was new with supposed fewer side effects. He received vaccine May 1st and also acquired a snotty nose with reduced appetite soon after. By May 18 he was in liver failure with high tryglicerides. Recovery has been very slow, with thousands in vet bills and no real answers. Have given up hope on him ever being normal. Yes his temp was checked as soon as he went off feed and is checked at every change in condition. I take temps on any new horses until I feel I have a norm for them. I take them twice a day and take outside temp into consideration. I’ve never really had a horse have issues with taking their temps. I also get resting heart rate on everyone. It is so helpful to know that if they have a problem. If there is a hint of colic or other pain, the heart and respiratory rate really help in evaluating their level of pain, I feel.

  11. Sharon

    April 7, 2015 at 10:31 pm

    I quit worming regularly a few years ago and am about to stop vaccinating. Every time my horse has been vaccinated he gets sick. Time to give his immune system a rest and let it do its job. The pendulum is swinging the other way with horse (and pet, in general) health care. We went from not enough to too much and are now learning just how much we need.

  12. Flo

    April 7, 2015 at 10:43 pm

    I always establish a base temp and pulse rate on horses that come into my care. Digital and mercury thermometers read different, the digitals are usually lower so you might want to get a base temp on each one. I have had some horses run a fever with vaccinations, some not, it seems to be the rabies vac that causes a reaction. I usually spread my shots out, don’t bombard them with everything at once. I’ve had vets tell me it was ok to give some bute, and some say no. I try not to. My temp for giving bute is 103. That’s for sickness, too. I try to avoid antibiotics and let the fever do it’s job, but if temp gets towards 103, time to intervene. If you give bute, you must give antibiotics.

  13. maraprotich

    April 7, 2015 at 11:06 pm

    Equine vaccines are now reportedly not needed as often as once thought. They contain mercury and there seem to be a large number of horses who are having trouble with them. My mare has bad reactions to vaccines. I will be checking blood for titers prior to any more vaccines that may prove unnecessary. My horses are too precious to risk illness founder or other bad reactions.

  14. K

    April 7, 2015 at 11:19 pm

    My horse had colic and hives with spring vaccinations, it started within a couple of hours. The next year the vet gave him banimine beforehand. No colic, but still got the hives. This year I will spread the vaccinations out, giving the rabies separately and hope for the best.

  15. Anna Scantlan

    April 7, 2015 at 11:49 pm

    We had one of our local Equine Centers quarantine themselves because they had two different horses from two different areas show up with the EHV-1 virus. They said that, “patients vaccinated twice a year with the Rhino/Flu vaccine appear to have better protection from developing typical clinical signs of infection and a significantly reduced incidence of shedding high levels of the EHV-1 Virus.” :-/
    Thanks for the information on taking their temperature. Oh my… learning on the fly…

  16. Linda Teten-Handwerk

    April 7, 2015 at 11:50 pm

    I had a gelding that swelled up like a balloon and couple of mares that were sick and ran temps after vaccines back in the 90’s. After I lost my beloved Rottweiler after routine vaccines I quit vaccines altogether for my animals as well as myself. My horses have all lived long lives well into their 30’s.

  17. cal

    April 7, 2015 at 11:50 pm

    research vaccinosis (in this case equine vaccinosis to be specific.) It will make you rethink how and even why or how often vaccines should really be done. Over vaccination is rampant in humans and our animals and sadly most vets will dismiss this term. If you are a horse owner you at least owe it to your horse to look into this (really research, listen and study) and decide for yourself if you are allowing over vaccination.

  18. Robin Brown Woll

    April 8, 2015 at 12:30 am

    Stacy…have these horses had these same vaccines in the past and not reacted?

    • Stacy

      April 8, 2015 at 9:30 pm

      Yes. Although they did react last year too. This year I asked if any reactions had been reported because I wanted to go whichever route had less reaction (multiple shots, etc). I was told no others had reacted. Different batch? Who knows. Banimine yesterday and time, horses are much better today.

  19. Diane Walker

    April 8, 2015 at 2:02 am

    I have a 25 year old Quarter Horse that for years reacted just like you described yours did after he was vaccinated. My vet started spreading his shots out and this worked much better for him. If the weather is already very warm outside I do give him bute but I try to do shots before it warms up too much.

  20. Hannah

    April 8, 2015 at 6:08 am

    I have seen reactions fairly often but they usually only last a day or two. The illnesses themselves are much much worse so no way would it put me off vaccinating again! Dealing with a high temp and a stiff grumpy horse for a couple of days is definitely preferable to weeks of illness or even loosing your horse altogether!

  21. RosieB

    April 8, 2015 at 6:19 am

    In northern Australia we vaccinate for Hendra (a potentially lethal bat virus transferrable via horses to humans), the last one he had a big reaction and his neck was swollen for a couple of weeks. It is still under trial but there is some doubt now as to the necessity to vaccinate them every 6 months and there are reports of the vaccine
    lowering their immune systems.

  22. Chantal Arsenault

    April 8, 2015 at 7:24 am

    Last week, my ” always hungry and eating” 5 years old QH, Cooper, was no longer able to to lower his neck to eat or drink the day after his shots, also, he would not let me touch the side of his neck where he had the shots, when he tried to lower his neck you could see some of his muscles moving, almost like he was having some spasms. I had to hang up his feed, hay and water. I called the vet and was told to give him some bute. It lasted 2 days before he was back to normal…

  23. Brenda Casteel

    April 8, 2015 at 7:39 am

    I have Arabians and they always have a reaction from vaccines. I use bute the night before, the day of and the day after if they are still sore, The Rabies is the worst. I though my old horse was going to die the last time he had Rabies. This year I will give the 4-way but not the rabies. I give the vaccine early in the morning so they can move around all day. I use a little DMSO on vaccine site
    Good Luck

  24. Laurie

    April 8, 2015 at 12:03 pm

    When I picked up my horses’ 4 way shots, the vet gave me smaller gauge needles. She said this had been found to help reduce vaccine reactions. Haven’t given the shots yet, but found the information interesting.

  25. Marsha

    April 8, 2015 at 1:31 pm

    Two of our horses, when young, had an odd thing happen a couple years in a row which we could only relate to their 5 way vaccines. It almost looked like some swelling/inflammation on the trunk (?)of their bodies, just under their coat as the hairs would part and go different directions than normal. Was hoping for an explanation when I saw this post or maybe someone else whose horse has had a similar reaction. Did not take their temps at that time but will this year. Both are fine with the thermometer. Had a friends horse at our barn for a while and he was very nervous about what we where doing back there with that thermometer. 😉

  26. Alice Weir

    April 8, 2015 at 3:58 pm

    Yes,only once. Injection site became swollen and his neck was stiff. My vet marks on the report which shot she gives where, just in case there is a problem.

  27. Kelsey

    April 8, 2015 at 8:25 pm

    Both my donkey and pony had reactions this year. They got rabies and the 4way. Low grade fever, lethargy, stiff and soar neck, hind end muscle quivering.
    Banamine seemed to do the truck.
    I live in northeast Pa.

  28. Beth

    April 8, 2015 at 10:42 pm

    I always write the name of my horses on each shot they get. In case of a bad reaction I have the batch number of the shot. All three of mine did fine this year. I buy and give my shots, a friend had her vet out to give hers and two of the four had fevers and lethargic, so it doesn’t matter if you do it or you have a vet do it, the same issues are going on with human vaccines, to get them or not? I truly believe the problems with vaccines ate the fillers, and I wonder what in the world is the reason for mercury in vaccines.Mercury is not good!!!

  29. Jorja Potter

    April 9, 2015 at 9:46 am

    Every year my mare gets really lethargic and her neck gets stiff and swollen, I feel so bad for her is there anything I can do to help her after she has had them. Shes usually like this for about two weeks after.

  30. Laurie

    April 9, 2015 at 2:31 pm

    To vaccinate or not to vaccinate, that is the question that is pondering me this year…. No more rabies vaccine as both times my older Morgan did not do well. swelling at injection site and very lethargy with fever. Last year did the five way and both my morgans (5yr old and my 16 yr old ) Both very lethargy and some swelling. Thought maybe I would not vaccinate this year, but vet is highly recommending the four way because of where we live (western & eastern niles). It is sometimes hard to determine what is best for our equines, love them and want to protect them, but is vacines the best way to go????


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