We all want what’s best for our horses. To keep them healthy and happy, we do what industry professionals tell us to. But is it time for vaccine protocols to be reevaluated? In my experience, chronic disease occurs more frequently in heavily vaccinated horses, and I believe I know why this happens.
In order to understand vaccine protocols, you must first understand how vaccinations work. The actual vaccine does not in and of itself provide protection from disease. It’s the immune system’s response to the vaccine that determines whether or not the horse will be protected.
Antigens and adjuvants
The vaccine is an antigen designed to trigger a specific antibody reaction, so the next time the immune system “sees” this antigen it will react quickly to combat it. It sounds like a great plan, and with a good quality vaccine and a strong immune system, it has the potential to work.
The problem is, many diseases don’t produce good antigens, so toxic substances called adjuvants must be added to the vaccine to trigger a reaction by the immune system. These adjuvants can take several forms, including toxic heavy metals like mercury, and can cause their own problems, sometimes quite serious. Also, the immunity following many vaccinations is very short-lived, requiring injections to be given as frequently as every two months. Would you allow yourself to be vaccinated that often
A military metaphor
Here is a metaphor of the havoc multiple vaccines can cause. Consider the body as a country, and the immune system as the army and local police in charge of protecting it. The nervous system acts as the communication network and the circulatory system makes up the highways. The army regularly protects the borders, and the police keep internal peace.
Everything goes well until, without warning, there is a huge invasion of enemy paratroopers (e.g. you inject your horse with VEW-T, Flu, Rhino, Rabies, Strangles, and Potomac Horse Fever vaccines on the same day). These invaders use the established, heretofore safe, highway system to infiltrate all areas of the country and come in several shapes and sizes, requiring specialty forces to combat them.
If we have a very strong army and police force, with lots of highly trained specialists, the invasion will be thwarted. However, border patrol and local peace keeping efforts may suffer temporarily. This is why it is important to give your horse several days off after any vaccine and try not to give too many vaccinations at the same time.
If your horse has a marginal or weak immune system, a whole different scenario may occur. Because there are no reserve soldiers, all forces are withdrawn from their regular duties to fight the invasion. Communications may break down as chaos develops (such as chronic herpes). In the confusion, orders may be given to attack friendly forces (auto-immune disease such as periodic ophthalmia). Stressed soldiers may become trigger-happy and shoot at anything they see (allergy symptoms). Even if the war is won, it is often at great expense, as criminals have taken over many cities while the police force was preoccupied (a good example is cancer). Remember, even though this is just a vaccine, it is designed to trick the immune system into thinking it is the real disease. With natural infection, there would rarely be more than one real disease at a time.
Every horse is an individual
At a 2004 American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association conference in Kansas City, Missouri, Dr. Jean Dodds, a well-known research veterinarian, spoke about her extensive work on the potential long term adverse reactions to vaccination. Dr. Dodds has extensive case studies to support the connection between auto-immune thyroiditis and behavior changes in dogs. Her research indicates that problems from vaccines may not manifest at the time of vaccination, but may increase the animal’s susceptibility to chronic disease later in life. Her accumulated evidence shows that vaccine protocols should no longer be considered a one-size-fits-all program.
There should no longer be any question that we need to look at each individual horse when developing a vaccine protocol. It is also very important to consider your horse’s immune system, and do all you can to bolster it before vaccination, and support him afterwards. While you may not be able to avoid certain vaccinations due to boarding or show requirements, you can help minimize the negative effects on your equine pal.