Equine Wellness

What Is It? | Why Does My Horse Need Wellness Care? | What Is Equine Wellness Care? |
What Should Wellness Care Include?

What Is It?

  • The goal of equine wellness care is to help prevent health problems or detect them 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 specific recommendations for your horse.

Why Does My Horse Need Wellness Care?

Wellness care is an investment in your horse's health. Ensuring that your horse receives proper wellness care can enhance your horse's longevity, productivity and physical condition. Wellness care can also be good for your financial health. Staying current with vaccinations, following your veterinarian's recommendations for parasite control, and screening your horse for signs of illness or lameness can help prevent small problems from becoming major ones and reduce the need for emergency care.

What Is Equine Wellness Care?

The role of equine wellness care is to help prevent health problems or detect them early, when they are most treatable. A typical equine wellness care program will include seasonal routine visits (typically in the spring and fall) when your veterinarian will examine your horse, work with you to determine your horse's disease risk factors and to build a vaccination program, perform routine diagnostic tests, and discuss any health concerns you might have about your horse.

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?

Each year, a blood test called a Coggins test is performed to detect Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA), 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.

Additional diagnostic tests, including laboratory tests, blood tests, and radiographs (x-rays), may be recommended by your veterinarian during a routine examination based on exam findings or intended use of the horse (i.e., special diagnostic procedures for broodmare or stallion breeding soundness, special disease screening tests to satisfy horse show entry requirements, etc).

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. A Fecal Egg Count (FEC) is the cornerstone of building a parasite control program and is required to determine the parasite status of your horse. Based on the results of the FEC, specific de-worming strategies can be formulated to match the specific needs of your horse.. In addition to medicinal deworming strategies, which include scheduled paste dewormers and/or daily, in-feed dewormer medications administered seasonally to target specific internal parasites that are prevalent at particular times of the year in your area, your veterinarian can help you recognize parasite infection risk factors that you can mitigate through management to reduce your horse's exposure to infective parasites.


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 are commonly recommended:

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

*These vaccines are considered core vaccines—those that 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. Risk-based vaccines are recommended based on regional infectious disease concerns and individual lifestyle.

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 twenties or even early thirties. Wellness care is a well-spent investment in that future.