Utah Department of Agriculture and Food

West Nile Virus Detected in Salt Lake County; Protect your Horses


Mosquito Season May Mean Equine Vaccination Time


It’s that time of year again. West Nile Virus has been detected in mosquitoes in Salt Lake County. Now is the time to call your veterinarian for appropriate vaccinations for your work, pleasure and companion equine partners. There are a multitude of vaccinations available for equine animals but that doesn’t mean you need most or all of them.

It is best to develop a program or plan with your local veterinarian that reflects what your animals’ specific needs are based on risk of disease even if you vaccinate them yourself. Some basic parameters to consider are the animal’s use, location, age, and lifestyle, such as traveling to shows, venues or remaining on the ranch or farm.

Common vaccinations for equine many consider as “core” protocols are tetanus toxoid, rabies, Eastern and Western equine encephalomyelitis, and West Nile virus. Other vaccinations such as equine influenza, equine herpes virus, strangles, Potomac horse fever, equine viral arteritis, rotaviral diarrhea, botulism and anthrax are based on risk of exposure from high risk respiratory exposure to low less-common risks.

If your animal has never had a particular vaccination, it may require more than one shot to build the proper immune response and then receive periodic boosters after the initial series. The vaccinations should be given at least two weeks before exposed to an anticipated risk. It is important to remember vaccines are designed to reduce disease but not necessarily eliminate them. They should be used as “one tool in the toolbox” to accompany good management strategies and biosecurity practices.

Most equine animals require an investment in feed, shelter, equipment, transportation and proper medical care, all which can add up in expenses. Protecting your investment with a well-designed vaccination program or plan is wise and worth the added expense.

The most common sign of West Nile virus in horses is weakness, usually in the hindquarters.

Weakness may be indicated by a widened stance, stumbling, leaning to one side and toe dragging. In extreme cases, paralysis may follow with the horse unable to stand, leading to humane euthanasia.  Fever is sometimes evident, as are depression and fearfulness. WNV causes encephalitis and affects the central nervous system.

Statistically, 1-in-3 horses that show signs of the illness will die, and horse owners who suspect should contact their veterinarian immediately. Prevention is more effective, economical and humane.

Contact your veterinarian if you have additional questions or concerns.




Contact: Larry Lewis (801) 538-7104
Cell (801) 514-2152
Dr. Barry Pittman (801) 538-7162








Posted: July 20, 2017