Equine Tetanus - the other half of your vaccine!

With all the recent focus on equine flu I thought I should add some information on tetanus.

Equine tetanus is considered much more important to vaccinate against and is a protection we would strongly advise all horses to have. Tetanus is frequently a fatal disease of horses that they do not catch from another horse, but get can get from contaminated wounds - including surgical wounds like castration, nail punctures of the hoof or tooth removal.

Here are some of the facts we know about equine tetanus:

  • it is caused by a bacterium called Clostridium tetani which is found in the intestinal tract of horses and other animals
  • the bacteria can survive for years in the environment in faeces and soil
  • the bacteria multiplies rapidly and produces toxins which damage the horses nervous system (nerves damage)
  • the majority of cases are fatal
  • treatment (penecillin, tetanus antitoxin and supportive care) is expensive, intensive and horses are still often euthanased


  • Protruding third eyelid (membrane at the inner corner of the eye)
  • Extension and stiffness of the limb (a rocking horse stance)
  • Spasm of jaw muscles (lock jaw) getting a common expression called sardonic smile
  • Seizures
  • These symptoms usually progress quickly and are often fatal
  • A video showing a horse with milder symptoms of tetanus is below, more severe cases can be seen by searching youtube for equine tetanus.


Tetanus is a preventable disease and causes fatalities every year.
Prevention is a simple one - vaccination! This has been shown to be safe and effective at preventing tetanus. We strongly recommend, along with welfare organisations including the RSPCA, that tetanus vaccines should be a minimum all horses should receive.

The course involves:

  • For adult horses: a first vaccination followed by a second vaccine 4 to 6 weeks later, the first booster 12 months later, then a booster every 2 years to maintain immunity.
  • For foals: the same but the first vaccine should be given at 4 to 6 months of age.
  • For foals from unvaccinated mares: tetanus antitoxin - a product that can provide some immunity to infection - can be given at birth (there is a risk from infection via the umbilicus) and repeated if any injuries, followed by the same vaccination protocol as above.
  • Remember all horses vaccinated for equine flu will also receive the tetanus vaccination every other year.

Please contact us if you want any more information or need to arrange a vaccination. Adam x