Strangles is an infectious and contagious disease of horses, donkeys and mules which typically causes abscessation of the lymphoid tissue in the upper respiratory tract.

 

It is caused by Streptococcus equi equi, which has a high morbidity rate but a relatively low mortality rate. The incubation period is 3-14 days, with the first symptom being a high fever (39.4-41.1C). 

Strangles is an infectious and contagious disease of horses, donkeys and mules which typically causes abscessation of the lymphoid tissue in the upper respiratory tract. It is caused by Streptococcus equi equi, which has a high morbidity rate but a relatively low mortality rate. The incubation period is 3-14 days, with the first symptom being a high fever (39.4-41.1C). 

Other clinical signs of strangles include:

● Discharge from the nostrils

● Being quiet/depressed

● Swelling under the jaw In few cases the abscesses may be present in multiple areas of the body, which is termed ‘bastard strangles’.

How is it diagnosed? 

● Taking a blood sample

● Culturing bacteria from pus in the abscesses

● Inserting an endoscope into the guttural pouch for examination 

How is it spread?

● Transmission of the bacteria is largely by ingestion of coughed/sneezed material

● Sharing equipment such as forks, brooms, feed bowls and grooming kit will allow spread

● People/pets can also pass the bacteria between individuals 

Treatment

● Treatment is largely supportive; anti-inflammatories can reduce pain and fever 

● Warm compresses can help mature abscesses and encourage them to burst

● Antibiotics are not routinely used

● Endoscopy to flush the guttural pouches can also help treat the condition

Control

Affected animals should be isolated immediately - one person should be nominated for the care of the affected horse, with their own set of equipment.Most horses shed the strangles bacteria for ~1 month after cessation of symptoms; three swabs taken 7 days apart should be obtained before the horse can be given a ‘clear’ status.

Prevention

10% of horses carry the bacteria without showing any clinical signs and will shed bacteria into the environment. Good biosecurity is important:

● Quarantine new arrivals for 2 weeks but preferably 4 and take a blood sample

● Any horse with a snotty nose/cough should be examined by a vet

● Regular screening of horses which regularly leave the yard (eg: for competition)

● Consider the strangles vaccine in high risk yards

If your horse is showing signs of strangles, seek veterinary adviceimmediately. This article has been provided by Swanspool EquineClinic as an informative guide and should not be used alone fordiagnosis.

www.swanspoolequine.com  

This article was first published in 2016. Always seek up to date advice from your veterinarian.