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Farm supply stores, online retailers, and online pharmacies frequently sell vaccines for a similar or even cheaper price than your local veterinarian, but there are benefits to having your veterinarian administer vaccinations.
Obtaining your vaccines from the local feed store and giving them yourself can be very tempting, especially if you have a barn full of horses. The cost for vaccination can really add up! However, consider these points before you pick up that 4-way – or is it 5-way – or is it 7-way?!
One, your vet can come up with a customized plan for each horse based on use, risks, age, etc. This saves you from giving unnecessary vaccines to your horse. Does your horse need to be vaccinated for botulism? Potomac Horse Fever? Should you give the tetanus toxoid or antitoxin? Your vet will be able to ask you a few, simple questions to determine which of the non-core (core vaccines are those that EVERY horse should get, regardless of age, gender, use, etc) vaccines are appropriate. This can help to avoid adverse reactions (see point #3).
Two, your vet knows how to properly store and handle vaccines to ensure that they work as intended. That vaccine purchased from a farm supply store or ordered online may have gotten warm prior to purchase, and then it may not work properly! Some companies do testing and know exactly how long and at what temperature a vaccine can be stored at outside of its optimal range, but not every company has, and not every vaccine can survive improper handling. If that 4-way vaccine you’re giving got warm and then was placed back in the cooler before you purchased it, your horse may not be protected like you thought. Also, if a vaccine froze, this can inactivate some preservatives, putting your horse at risk for an adverse reaction, or even an infection!
Three, vaccines can sometimes cause adverse reactions, which can be as simple as localized swelling or a fever, or as serious as anaphylaxis. If you give a vaccine yourself and your horse has a serious adverse reaction, you won’t have the proper medications or knowledge to save your horse’s life. You can always give your veterinarian a call to schedule an appointment for vaccines and rest assured you’re getting the best care possible!
Four, most vaccine companies back their product if, and only if, it’s administered by a licensed veterinarian. That means, if your horse was properly vaccinated by the vet, but still contracts a disease it was vaccinated for (no vaccine is 100% effective), the vaccine company will frequently cover a certain amount of diagnostic and treatment costs. That’s like free insurance!