From the Foaling Barn


Broodmare Vaccinations

Colin and Viktor were both hospitalized five days for treatment of the symptoms of rotavirus.


Every year when I pick up my recipient mares, Royal Vista gives me a list of the reminders and dates for the mares, including when to start a vaccination schedule. With one exception, I have always included these vaccinations in my regular mare care. I give all my mares the recommended three-shot series (at 5, 7, and 9 months) of Rhino vaccination to prevent what could become a potentially devastating loss of foals. I also give an Encephalitis-Tetanus-Flu-Rhino shot four weeks before foaling so that the mother will pass on antibodies of these diseases to her newborn.

However, Royal Vista always includes one other suggested three-shot series of rotavirus vaccine.  When I have asked Dr. Brian about this, he did not feel it was necessary as here in our cold climate we hardly ever see rotavirus in foals. He felt that this instruction was probably meant for breeders in hotter parts of the country. So until this year, I have never given this vaccine.

But, if you have been reading, my blogs you may remember that I had three foals come down with rotavirus last June. Two of the foals were extremely ill, suffering from anorexia, extreme watery diarrhea, lethargy, and dehydration. They each one spent five days in the vet clinic, where they were tubed with milk substitute and rehydrated with intravenous fluids, until they finally were eating and drinking on their own and passing solid manure. As you can imagine this was a fairly costly treatment. With the other foal, we acted immediately when she showed symptoms and we were able to avoid a lengthy hospital stay.  Without treatment for rotavirus, the mortality in foals is fifty percent.

When I asked Dr. Brian this year about the wisdom of giving rotavirus vaccine, he was of a different opinion. He now thinks that because we have had an outbreak it would be wise to give the vaccine series to all our mares for at least two years. He's also of the opinion that rotavirus may be more common in our state than commonly thought. Diarrhea is one of the leading causes of serious illness and death in foals, but few breeders bother to have the lab work done to determine the specific cause of the diarrhea, because all diarrheas are treated the same.  When our foals were in the clinic last June, there was a thoroughbred foal in the next stall with the exact symptoms. When I asked if he also had rotavirus, the vets couldn't tell me because the owner had declined to have the lab work done.

I suppose if I only had one mare, I might feel the same way. Maybe. But having been through this with three foals at significant expense, I would rather be safe than sorry this year. I may spend several hundred dollars on vaccine, but I may also save myself thousands of dollars in vet bills.


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