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Care Guide

About Care Guides[x] These care guides are written to help your clients understand common conditions, tests, and procedures, as well as to provide basic information about pet care. They are based on the most up-to-date, documented information, recommendations, and guidelines available in the United States at the time of writing. Pharmaceutical product licensing, availability, and usage recommendations are based on US product information. Use the Download Handout button to generate a PDF for printing or e-mailing to your clients.

Equine Wellness Care

    • The goal of equine wellness care is to detect health problems early, when they are most treatable.
    • Wellness care typically involves a complete annual physical examination of your horse.
    • Parasite control and management is an important part of any equine wellness care program, as is regular dental care.
    • Vaccinations against equine infectious diseases are typically administered in the spring and fall, but your veterinarian can make a specific recommendation for your horse.

    What Is Equine Wellness Care?

    Equine wellness care is preventive care. Its goal is to detect health problems early, when they are most treatable. A typical equine wellness care program generally includes seasonal routine visits (typically in the spring and fall). Your veterinarian can examine your horse in the spring, when your horse receives spring vaccinations. During the examination, your veterinarian will screen your horse for the presence of several potentially serious health concerns. A second routine appointment is typically scheduled for the fall so that your veterinarian can administer necessary vaccination boosters.

    Why Does My Horse Need Wellness Care?

    Ensuring that your horse receives proper wellness care can enhance your horse’s longevity, health, and productivity. Wellness care can also be good for your financial health. Horses can be expensive to own and maintain. Whether your horse is used for pleasure riding, work, or competition, illness and lameness can reduce the time you spend in the saddle enjoying your horse. Thanks to better care and veterinary advancements, today’s horses can be kept happy, active, and useful well into their late teens and twenties. Wellness care is an investment in that future.

    Wellness visits can also reduce the need for emergency care. Staying current with vaccinations, following your veterinarian’s recommendations for parasite control, and screening your horse for signs of illness or lameness can prevent small problems from becoming major ones.

    What Should Wellness Care Include?

    Good, basic wellness care typically involves an annual physical examination that is usually timed to coincide with spring vaccinations. During this examination, your veterinarian will evaluate the following:

    • Body condition: Is your horse at the proper weight? Your veterinarian will discuss proper nutrition with you.
    • Skin and haircoat: Does your horse look healthy? Are there any dermatologic (skin) problems that need to be investigated?
    • Eyes: Your veterinarian will perform an ophthalmic (eye) exam.
    • Teeth and mouth: Your veterinarian will perform a dental exam. Does your horse have teeth that need to be floated (filed down)? Horses typically need to have the sharp edges on their teeth floated every 6 to 12 months.
    • Lungs and heart: Your veterinarian will evaluate your horse’s circulatory and respiratory systems. Do your horse’s lungs sound clear? Does your veterinarian hear evidence of a heart murmur?
    • Digestive system and manure output: Do these appear to be normal?
    • Musculoskeletal system: Is there soreness or swelling that indicates an impending problem. Is a more comprehensive lameness exam needed?

    In the spring, a blood test called a Coggins test is typically performed to detect equine infectious anemia, a serious viral disease. Horses often require a negative Coggins test result to cross state lines, and most boarding, training, and show facilities will not allow a horse on the premises without a current, negative test result.

    Parasite Control

    Parasites can be a significant cause of serious illness in horses. At best, parasites cause a loss of body weight and condition in horses. At worst, parasites are a leading cause of colic—a serious and potentially fatal digestive disorder that can require expensive treatment and even surgery.

    Therefore, during a wellness care exam, your veterinarian will discuss recommended parasite control measures with you. Specific de-worming strategies may be advised, and a fecal exam may be recommended. De-worming strategies include providing a daily, in-feed de-wormer or administering medications seasonally and in rotation to target specific internal parasites that are prevalent at particular times of the year in your area.


    Your veterinarian will recommend vaccinations that should be administered to your horse according to (1) his or her lifestyle and travel and competition plans and (2) the infectious diseases that are prevalent in your area. Horses are typically vaccinated twice a year—in the spring and fall.

    The following vaccines may be recommended:

    • Rabies*
    • Tetanus*
    • Eastern and Western equine encephalomyelitis*
    • West Nile virus*
    • Rhinopneumonitis
    • Equine influenza
    • Botulism
    • Potomac horse fever

    *These vaccines are considered core vaccines—those that organized equine veterinary medicine (the American Association of Equine Practitioners [AAEP]) considers essential to maintaining the health and well-being of the average horse or necessary to safeguard human health. Noncore vaccines are recommended based on regional infectious disease concerns and individual lifestyle.

    Additional diagnostic tests, including laboratory tests, blood tests, and radiographs (x-rays), may be recommended by your veterinarian during a routine examination. Additionally, if you are planning on breeding your horse or if your horse is a current broodmare or senior citizen, additional screening tests may be recommended according to your horse’s needs.

    Reviewed January 2012