How to Vaccinate Newborn Foals
After a foal is born you should have it vaccinated so that it does not get any communicable diseases. Common illnesses that vaccinations can prevent include tetanus, sleeping sickness, influenza, rhinopneumonitis, and West Nile Virus.You can administer the shots for these diseases if you learn about the vaccinations that need to be given, including when each vaccination should be given. You also need to know how to do it properly. With a lot of instruction and care, you can vaccinate your own foal, ensuring that you can keep it happy and healthy for years to come. Your veterinarian will be happy to teach you and model the first set for you, showing the proper technique.
Setting Up the Vaccination
Discuss vaccinations with a veterinarian.When a new foal is born, it is a good idea to discuss what vaccinations it should get with a veterinarian. A veterinarian should have a good understanding of what diseases are common in foals in your area, whether the mother's health history and vaccination history should impact the foal's vaccinations, and how much vaccine to give in order to prevent common diseases.
- This discussion can happen during an exam of the foal or over the phone or email if your foal does not need a veterinary exam.
- You can also just ask the veterinarian to come and give your foal its vaccinations. However, this will cost you more money than doing it yourself.
Decide what vaccinations are needed for your foal.Even if a veterinarian suggests a variety of vaccinations, it is up to you to make the final decision. Balance your veterinarian's expertise with your desires and your financial ability to pay for vaccinations.
- When making the final decision about what vaccines your foal should get, you can do your own research on common diseases in your area.
- If there are diseases that are common in your area and they can be prevented with a vaccine, then it is a good idea to administer them.
- Don’t forget about CORE vaccines, either. These vaccines are required by the state to prevent severe disease outbreaks or diseases that can spread to humans, such as rabies.
Figure out when to give vaccinations.The vaccinations a foal needs should be given at very specific ages in order for them to be effective and in order to avoid negative side effects. Follow your veterinarian's suggestions for when to give specific vaccinations or follow a vaccination schedule supplied by an organization that you trust.
- Foals get their first antibodies (protection) from their mother’s milk while nursing. The first set of vaccines should be given starting at 4 months old.
- Different vaccinations will need to be given at different times and some vaccinations need repeated doses. This means that you will likely need to give your foal many shots in the first couple months of its life.
Gather supplies and the vaccine.If you are doing the vaccinations yourself, you will need to get the vaccine from a veterinarian. Your veterinarian should allow it. You will also need supplies like a syringe and cleaning supplies to keep the needle and the injection point clean.
- If you are hiring a veterinarian to do the vaccinations, they will bring all of the supplies with them when they come to the procedure.
- Discuss what size needle should be used with your veterinarian.
- A new needle should be used for every injection. Keep this in mind when ordering needles. Never reuse needles, as this could can an abscess or large infection in the muscle tissue.
Administering the Vaccine
Get training from an experienced person.You should not inject a vaccination into a foal with no training or experience. Find someone who knows how to do it and get them to help you through the process.
- If it is your first time giving a vaccination shot, consider hiring a veterinarian and watching how they do it.
- The health of your foal is important – keep in mind that doing intramuscular injections incorrectly can have be detrimental to its health.
Recruit someone to help you.Even if you know how to inject the vaccinations, you will need another set of hands to help. While you are injecting the vaccination into the horse, you will need someone to help keep it steady.
- Ideally, you will have someone that the foal is comfortable with to help you with the process. This way, the foal is more likely to remain calm.
- Get another person to hold the mare and keep her busy, if possible. That way, the two of you can focus on administering the vaccine to the foal without worrying about getting hurt.
Fill the syringe.You will need to transfer the vaccine from its vial into the syringe. Take the cap off the needle attached to the syringe and place it in the rubber stopper on top of the vaccine vial. Turn the vial upside down and draw the vaccine in with the plunger on the syringe. Then push on the plunger on the syringe a bit back in to get all of the air in the syringe out.
- Lastly, pull the needle out of the bottle, tap on the syringe while it is upside down to loosen any air bubbles stuck inside, and gently compress the plunger on the syringe to get rid of any remaining air inside.
- Pull in a few more cc's than you are planning on injecting. This will allow you to push a few out when getting air out of the syringe.
- It is very important that you make sure that there are no air bubbles present in the syringe after putting the vaccine in it.
- Most vaccines are only 1 mL, so you don’t need very much of it.
Pick and clean the injection site.You can inject the vaccine into the horse's neck or into the muscles around the tail. The neck is most commonly used and is best if only giving a few shots.
- Once you have decided where to give the shot, you will need to clean the injection area. This can be done by removing all dirt and debris and then rubbing the area with a cotton ball covered in rubbing alcohol.
Inject the vaccine properly.In order to give your foal the vaccine, you will need to do an intramuscular injection. This is an injection into the muscle mass of the horse. This is done by slowly and firmly inserting the needle into the muscle, drawing back a little to make sure you get air and not blood, and then slowly compressing the plunger on the syringe. This puts the vaccine into the animal's blood supply.
- Before you do the injection, tap on the area with your finger or pinch the skin firmly with your fingers for a few seconds. This will get the animal used to the feeling of the shot and will lessen its reaction.
- There is no need to harpoon the horse with a sudden insertion of the needle. So long as you’re being smooth and steady, the needle should not hurt the horse at all.
Dispose of the needle and dirty supplies.Once you have injected the vaccine, you will need to pull out the needle and dispose of it properly. A used needle should be put in a biohazard container designed for sharp instruments, so that it doesn't accidentally prick another animal or a person. Any supplies that have blood or body fluids on them should also be disposed of in a biohazard container.
- Biohazard containers and sharps containers are available online or through you local medical supply company.
- A new needle should be used for every vaccination shot. This means that you will need to dispose of it instead of keeping it.
- To find out where you can dispose of your sharps container when it is full contact your local waste disposal agency.
- Often, you can take your biohazard waste to your vet’s office and they will dispose of it with their own supply.
Care for the foal and its injection site.After a vaccination you should care for the injection site and you should take it easy on the horse. A horse that has received an intramuscular injection is likely to be sore, so exercise it gently.
- While the injection site probably does not need to be bandaged, it should be kept relatively clean. For example, don't allow the horse to roll around in a dirty stall right after the injection.
Look for adverse reactions.Once you give your horse a vaccination you should keep an eye on it for a day or two afterwards. Look for swelling or irritation around the injection site. Also pay attention to general signs of illness, including lethargy and lack of appetite.
- If it is the first time you have given your horse a specific vaccine, you should keep a closer eye on the horse.
- Look out for heat, swelling, or discharge at the injection site. If you see ay, call your veterinarian for advice.
Give your horse a treat.Try to make the experience of vaccination as enjoyable for the foal as you can, so it grows into a well-mannered adult. You can get the person holding for you to give the animal treats while you’re doing the injection, for instance. Or, give the foal a treat after you’re done for being good.
Video: When Should I Vaccinate and Worm my Mare Before She Foals
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