Strangles – a nasty and prolonged illness
Strangles is a contagious infectious disease which is caused by the bacterium Streptococcus equi.
It is an infection of the upper respiratory tract of the horse. Especially younger horses can easily suffer from this disease but in the past horses of any age have been infected.
Horses with regular contact to unfamiliar horses are particularly endangered (e.g. show horses).
How does my horse get infected?
The disease is spread by contaminated barns, pastures and sometimes by your clothing as well as by contact to an already infected horse.
How to prevent an infection?
An infection can be prevented by good hygienic conditions of the stable and the environment of the animal. Any contact to unfamiliar horses should be avoided. Horses that are already infected need to be isolated from the rest of the herd and any contact should be avoided for at least six weeks. There is also a vaccine available.
What are the symptoms for Strangles?
First signs of Strangles are fever, nasal discharge and swollen/enlarged lymph nodes. The lymph nodes are enlarged because of abscesses which are filled with pus. In some cases the abscesses can spread to other organs in the body (e.g. kidney, liver, lung or in some cases even the brain).
What can I do if my horse is infected?
If you think your horse might be infected or if it shows some or one of the symptoms described above you need to contact your vet. Your vet can decide best if your horse needs antibiotics. In some cases the vet helps the horse by opening up the abscesses and draining the pus. Opened abscesses can be treated with iodine solution to accelerate the healing process.
Are there complications?
If the illness is not treated correctly there can be complications. It is possible that the Strangles becomes chronic. In that case the horse will keep the bactrium for ever. Other complications include asphyxia (due to enlarged lymph nodes compressing the larynx or windpipe), bastard strangles (spreading to other areas of the body), pneumonia, guttural pouches filled with pus, abscesses, purpura hemorrhagica and heart disease.
After recovery the horse should be monitored for at least three weeks before it gets into contact with other horses. Additionally the body temperature should be checked regularly to prevent a relapse.