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Vaccinating the Allergic Horse

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  • Vaccinating the Allergic Horse

    Last week my 14yr old gelding had a major anaphylactic reaction to a flu/rhino vaccine. It was just dumb luck that I asked for him to receive the booster while he was at a vet school for x-rays. I don’t like to think what could have happened had he not been in a clinic and had gotten vaccinated at home like he usually does.

    The current plan is for him to get West Nile in April. He’ll go back to the vet school and will probably be pre-treated with steroids and closely monitored. If he reacts badly again, my vets are recommending only vaccinating for essentials now. It makes me nervous that he will be traveling to shows not vaccinated for certain things. Hopefully, herd immunity will protect him!

    Has anybody had a horse that could not tolerate vaccinations? How did you handle it?

  • #2
    I have a horse in my barn that cannot tolerate any vaccinations. She started with breaking out in hives after being vaccinated. Vet would pre-treat with steroids before administering any vaccines but she continued to get worse with each shot.
    The final straw was a full blown colic episode after being pre-treated for 3 days before being vaccinated. She has not been vaccinated for anything in the last 3 years; however, she never leaves the property.

    So all our other horses are fully vaccinated and she has had no issues but is not exposed outside of our barn.

    Maybe the nasal spray flu/rhino might be ok for your guy? At least he would have that if he travels.
    "The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated." --Ghandi


    • #3
      Can you tell us which brand of flu/rhino it was?

      I am not a big truster of animal vaccination and wormer products. Legally our horses are simply "livestock" and it is far cheaper for the manufacturers to risk claims than to worry if their products are safe. I worked for an insurance defense law firm, and believe me, that is how some companies make manufacturing decisions.

      Here is my own blacklist of products. In my personal opinion, we are going to have to rely on forums like this to keep track of products that get unusually high reactions.

      Zimectrin Gold
      Fort Dodge flu/rhino
      Intervet Prevenile (West Nile)

      It may be the carrier in your horse's case.
      Last edited by ToTheNines; Feb. 10, 2011, 11:09 AM.
      Rest in peace Claudius, we will miss you.


      • #4
        One thing to consider is to know the brand of the product your horse reacted to;
        Check the excipients in the product - that is what most horses react to - not the actual vaccine ingredient

        BEFORE you give any other vaccines check their ingredint list as well and try to avoid anything with the same ingredients

        See if there are other brands of the same vaccines

        We had a horse who reacted very strongly to Tetanus so we had to avoid the combo vaccines and did not give him tetanus for many years

        also be very aware which vaccines are injected in which sites so you can track any reactions

        and you will probably have to do fewer vaccinations at any one time

        Best of luck


        • Original Poster

          We will definitely be doing vaccines one at a time, most likely for the rest of his life. He got the Pfizer Rhinomune and the Merial Influenza, obviously won't be using these again.

          One of the vets mentioned trying the Calvenza brand vaccines, though I think it would be safer to go with the nasal spray if I'm ever brave enough to attempt a flu/rhino again.

          I need to pull his records to see what exactly was given during his fall vaccines. He had a very minor reaction then, just a few hives on his neck. Both the vet and I didn't think much of it, but we did decide that he shouldn't be given a bunch of vaccines at one time. Everyone was totally shocked at how extreme he reacted this time.

          Thanks for the suggestion about looking at ingredients, it may not be enough to simply change brands.


          • #6
            Lucky break!! Someone was looking over you & your boy that day!

            Originally posted by ohear001 View Post
            If he reacts badly again, my vets are recommending only vaccinating for essentials now. It makes me nervous that he will be traveling to shows not vaccinated for certain things. Hopefully, herd immunity will protect him!

            Has anybody had a horse that could not tolerate vaccinations? How did you handle it?
            Eh I wouldn't worry too much about leaving out the non essentials. I only vaccinate my elders for the ones that will kill (tet, rabies, etc). My oldest had a violent anaphylactic-like response to the live-attenuated rhino vaccine a few years back, so he hasn't gotten it (or the killed version) since and I haven't given it a second thought. My middle child developed purpura hemorrhagica in association with strangles, so we stopped giving him the strangles vaccine. Eventually I just dropped the others one by one. It was actually a blessing because I was looking to do away with what I consider "superfluous" vaccinations in older horses. My thought is if they're middle aged or older and haven't developed immunity by now, they're not going to.


            • #7
              My thought is if they're middle aged or older and haven't developed immunity by now, they're not going to.
              Which is an OK thought, but is not supported by any actual scientific evidence. What does age have to do with mounting an appropriate immune response to a vaccine? Or not? Flu viruses (and lots of others) mutate constantly, and having a brisk immune response to one doesn't help you with the next one, unfortunately.

              Not saying a horse with clear-cut serious reactions to vaccinations should be vaccinated anyway, just wondering at the reasoning behind the snip above.
              Click here before you buy.


              • #8
                I've heard too that after say 10-14 years of vaccinating, that they should have developed an immunity by that time and vaccinating is not necessarily necessary. Do a blood titre to check.

                I stopped giving my coming 16yo Quarab vaccinations after they worsened each year, to the point of serious concern the final year I administered vaccines (to each and all vaccines, it didn't matter it seemed). Since he wasn't in a high-traffic area and did not travel often at that point, I stopped vaccinating. Now, in his new home (indefinite lease), I will recommend his lessees try different brands and spread the vaccinations out more, and/or do a blood titre before coming to a conclusion.

                Definitely consider brands and how far apart you administer the vaccines. Do blood titres to determine immunity. After that point, if no other brand/management method worked, I'd probably not vaccinate and not worry. Consult your vet.
                ....horses should be trained in such a way that they not only love their riders, but look forward to the time they are with them.
                ~ Xenophon, 350 B.C.


                • #9
                  You CANNOT develop lasting immunity to a virus (like flu, and possibly rhino) that is constantly mutating! This is why there are new flu shots for humans EVERY YEAR and we have to receive a new one EVERY YEAR.

                  As to titers, well, they sure sound good but are not validated for most diseases that we vaccinate against, and when it comes to something that could kill my horse--I'm not gambling.
                  Click here before you buy.


                  • #10
                    Just because he is allergic to one brand of flu or rhino vaccine doesn't mean he will have problems with other vaccines. You should try to find out as much as you can about the ingredients in the flu and rhino vaccines that you used. Talk with the vet school about whether or not they can skin test with essential/core vaccines (e.g., rabies, EWT,) immediately before administering them. Humans often get skin tested, as well as pretreated with Benadryl antihistamine and steroids.

                    I personally am allergic to one brand of flu vaccine. My eye swelled shut for 2 days right after I held the syringe of vaccine in my hand. I don't get flu vaccine any more, but have been subsequently fine with tetanus/diptheria, rabies, hepatitis A, and other vaccines.


                    • #11
                      Flu and Rhino only lasts 2-3 months, and most people only vaccinate once or twice a year, so they are all left unprotected for up to 10 months each year.

                      Definitely check the brand and others to see is the base is the same. Pull blood titers for anything deadly EE, Tet, Rabies, WN, and leave the rest alone.


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Fairview Horse Center View Post
                        Flu and Rhino only lasts 2-3 months, and most people only vaccinate once or twice a year, so they are all left unprotected for up to 10 months each year.

                        Definitely check the brand and others to see is the base is the same. Pull blood titers for anything deadly EE, Tet, Rabies, WN, and leave the rest alone.
                        Agreed, the flu/rhino vac is kind of a joke. I have not used it in 8 years. I only vac for things that are deadly.


                        • #13
                          I have a horse that does not tolerate vaccines.
                          He started having them (reactions) as a yearling.
                          As a two year old, he blew with purpura. Nice hospital stay with that.
                          His 3rd year, we limited to core vaccs, seperated & premedicated with dex. Had 2 immergent vet visits anyway.
                          As a 4 year old he was boosted with a rhino. He had abdominal pain, fever, hives, then promptly quit sweating.

                          My vet has sworn to not vaccinate him again, although I'm sure we'll give it try at some point.


                          • #14
                            The type of reaction you describe is rare, unless you have a horse that does so regularly, in which case you can count on it every time.

                            I have one. I'm not in the camp that blames the vaccines--we've tried all brands...he reacts to all of them.

                            Hives, and worse follow nearly every vaccine he gets.

                            I keep a vial of dex on hand, and never have him vaccinated unless the vet is going to remain in the area afterwards. We use silicon-free needles, and at one point got NO reaction when we used glass syringes, and stainless needles, obtained from our human allergist, who had them in an antique cabinet in his office that his father had used before him.

                            This worked only ONE time, and the next time he reacted anyway--we noted that we can't draw the vaccines without passing the needle through the little rubber lid on the vials, and the vaccine has been in contact with the rubber during transport anyway, so not much point in prying off the lid to avoid the rubber/silicon. It could be that he's reacting to that. We've tried over the years to isolate what it is about the vaccines he reacts to, to no avail.

                            I stick to vets who have seen him react--breaking in a new vet to the reactions is always a 'process.' New vet: "Oh, that type of reaction is really rare...in fact, I've never seen it in xxxx years of practicing...." Me: "Well, you are in for a real treat today...."

                            I don't bother taking him to a vet clinic, but I do have the vet out for his vaccines every time. We always vaccinate him first, then move on to the rest...even so his reactions have often begun about 1 minute after the vet leaves.

                            I don't pre-treat him with dex, but give it to him at the first sign of reaction, and it works very quickly to minimize his discomfort.

                            We have also had very good luck and gotten smaller reactions by halving the dose of vaccine he gets.

                            He gets vaccinated for: Rabies, tetanus, EW encephalitis, and West Nile. Separately, about a month apart. If there is flu/rhino about, he also is vaccinated for those, but his reactions to that are not as severe as his reaction to the others.

                            He also reacts to any shot, and has a reaction at the site of his Coggins draw--to prevent this, it's blood out/dex in immediately after, through the same needle.
                            Inner Bay Equestrian


                            • #15
                              My horse had a reaction to his flu/rhino shot last fall. Not as serious as yours, but he had a pretty high fever and I had to have the vet back out the day after the shot!

                              We are going to do the intranasal version for his spring vaccination.


                              • #16
                                My boy always has a hive reaction so he gets dex and it helps the hives go away within 6 hrs. He never ever gets the strangles vaccination because he was given that and almost died according to previous owner. So I take no chances. He's usually fine the following day.
                                Proud Owner of Acertifiable Sonny 1996 AQHA Sorrel Gelding
                                -- I loff my QH Clique