7 Things You Need To Know About Strangles in Horses

Strangles in HorsesStrangles in horses is not usually fatal, but it can be. Here are seven things about the bacterial respiratory infection in horses of Streptococcus equi (commonly known as horse distemper or strangles) that every horse owner should know.

1. Symptoms — In the early stages of strangles in horses, an infected horse will show a lack of appetite, depression, and light coughs. Then a yellowish, thin discharge will drip from its nose, which will thicken.

2. Spreads Indirectly — As soon as a horse shows sign of equine strangles it should be isolated from other horses immediately. This condition is severely contagious, and can be spread not only directly from infected horses. Any equipment, water, food, or clothing shared from one stall to another can spread the disease.

3. Disease Progression — The disease travels to the lymph nodes, swelling them and causing pain and straining breathing. These abscesses will rupture within one to two weeks, and heavily contaminated pus will drain out.

4. Delayed Infection — Strangles in horses does not show itself immediately, sometimes showing itself only weeks later. Some horses can also be chronic carriers of the disease, even if not displaying symptoms.

5. Complications — While not fatal often, strangles in horses can cause serious complications. Abscesses may form in places other than lymph nodes, which are known as Bastard Strangles; and Purpura haemorrhagica may occur.

6. Treatment — Many equine veterinarians recommend only treating strangles in horses with antibiotics in its early stages. In later stages, they often recommend draining the abscesses as they form and allow the horse to build immunity to the disease.

7. Prevention — Always isolate a new horse from others until the horse tests negative for strangles. There is also a strangles vaccine available, though it’s mostly recommended mostly for horses that travel.

Always keep equipment clean, and act quickly at the first sign of infection. This will ensure that any outbreak of strangles is minor.