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Strangles

Strangles is one of the most common worldwide equine diseases and it's a highly contagious and debilitating disease that affects all ages and breeds of horse.

Strangles is caused by a bacterial infection (bacterium Streptococcus equi - S.equi) and can easily be spread through direct contact between horses. It can also be spread indirectly through humans and equipment, although strangles does not affect people.

IF YOU HAVE ANY CONCERNS FOR YOUR HORSE’S HEALTH CONTACT YOUR VET

 

Clinical signs

  • Depression and dullness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nasal discharge
  • Development of a cough
  • Fever
  • Swelling of the lymph nodes (glands) under the jaw or on the neck approximately a week after the onset of clinical signs.

The abscesses which cause the lymph nodes to swell often burst, discharging highly infectious, thick, creamy-yellow pus. In some cases the glands swell so much they restrict the airway, hence the term strangles.

If you suspect strangles, take the following steps immediately:

  • Isolate the horse and any other horses that have had direct. Also isolate those which have/may have had indirect contact with the suspect case.
  • Call your veterinary surgeon and discuss with the appropriate management, sampling and laboratory strategies.
  • All horses should remain on the premises to protect neighbouring yards and other equine communities.
  • Contact owners of the affected horse and owners of all other horses in the yard and explain the position to them.
  • Keep a very close eye on all other horses in the yard.
  • Notify any neighbouring premises with horses that you have a suspected case of strangles and suggest they monitor their horses and seek veterinary advice

Download our leaflet for further information about the strategy to eradicate and prevent Strangles.

Treatment

Each case of strangles should be individually discussed with the attending veterinary surgeon to decide the most appropriate treatment for the infected horses. 

Prevention

  • Disinfecting all food and water containers, clothing, stabling and equipment used by an infected horse is imperative.
  • If transporting horses it is good practice to disinfect the horseboxes used before and after collecting any new horses.
  • Quarantining new arrivals to a yard is the most effective way to prevent a strangles outbreak.
  • Quarantine means no direct or indirect contact between a new horse and other animals, or equipment used by other horses.
  • A quarantine period should be a minimum of two weeks. Horses assessed as high risk are advised to be kept isolated for three weeks.
  • Horses that appear to be disease-free after this quarantine period only pose a risk if they are a carrier. The blood test will help to detect a carrier status of a horse.
  • A vaccine for strangles is available. Contact your veterinary surgeon for further information.

For more information on strangles, email welfare@bhs.org.uk or call 02476 840575 or 02476 840571.

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