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Lapsed vaccinations risk horses’ lives warns charity

Posted on Wednesday, June 26, 2013 by Heather Dodd

New figures from leading pet charity Blue Cross have revealed that lapsed vaccinations in horses and ponies have become worryingly commonplace. Concerned that this is leaving animals vulnerable to debilitating and, in some cases, fatal diseases, the charity called on horse owners to take part in its National Equine Health Survey (NEHS) which took place from 5-11 May 2013, to help build an accurate picture of the trend.

In 2012 65 per cent of the horses and ponies taken in by Blue Cross were either unvaccinated for influenza and tetanus or had lapsed vaccinations, which is an 11per cent increase from 2011. While the problem is common (82 per cent) in welfare cases, over half (54 per cent) of horses and ponies being signed over by their owners were also at risk.

The situation has such implications on the welfare of the nation’s horses that it prompted Blue Cross to add a question about vaccinations to NEHS, results of which help build a picture of the health and disease in the UK and define priorities for future research, training and education.

Gemma Taylor, Blue Cross Education Officer, said: “Feedback suggests that some people genuinely don’t understand that vaccinations need to be done every year and if their vet doesn’t send them a reminder they completely forget.

The Blue Cross runs NEHS in partnership with the British Equine Veterinary Association and survey data is interpreted the Royal Veterinary College. Emily Pearson, an Equine Practice Vet at the Royal Veterinary College, explains: “Tetanus is a horrendous, often fatal, disease that can be contracted through even the smallest nick in the skin. It is preventable with a simple vaccination programme, which I therefore feel is a must for all horses, ponies and donkeys.”

Gemma continues: “Our aim with NEHS is to reach a level of endemic disease surveillance not currently achieved in any European country. Supporters of the survey include the British Horse Society, British Riding Clubs, the Pony Club and the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment.

Results of the 2013 survey will be published on Blue Cross website on 22 July 2013.

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