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Strangles is a common disease for horses worldwide. The disease will affect any sex, age, or breed of horse. Strangles is one of the most feared diseases for horse owners, due to its debilitating effects.

What is strangles in horses?

Strangles is a contagious infectious disease in horses, caused by Streptococcus equi bacteria. Strangles can be characterized by an abscess in the lymph tissue of the respiratory tract. Although strangles is highly contagious, it typically has a low death rate in healthy horses.

Contraction of strangles will occur through infectious secretions, along with infected objects. A horse may be a carrier of strangles and may not have any noticeable symptoms, further spreading the disease. Horses will be considered contaminated for 2 months after an outbreak has been determined.

Symptoms of strangles in horses

The first sign of a strangles infection will likely be a fever. Within 48 hours of the spike of the fever, the horse will then start to show signs of strangles, including depression, excessive nasal discharge, and swollen glands. Due to swollen glands in the throat, the horse could find it hard to swallow along with noisy inhalation. Animals that are older that have previously had the infection may develop less noticeable signs of having a fever, coughing, or nasal discharge. Other symptoms can include an infected chest and abdomen, which is caused by “Metastatic” strangles.

Confirmation of strangles can be done by swabbing secretions from abscesses and nasal swab samples. In more complex cases, an endoscopic examination may be needed to identify the extent of abscesses.

Strangles in horses treatment

Treating the horse with antibodies can help, as strangles is a bacterial infection. However, a vet will be needed to properly access whether the pros would outweigh the cons. Using antibiotic therapy will give a temporary improvement with a fever and depression. It is important to note that using antibiotics may extend the infection’s natural course. Using antibiotics may also make it more susceptible to another strangles infection later on. Antibiotics are often necessary if the horse is struggling to breathe, extended high fever, loss of appetite, or difficulty swallowing.

A vet could also suggest the use of warm material to help relieve inflammation to some parts of the body, while also helping an abscess to drain more quickly. Anti-inflammatory drugs can also be prescribed for the reduction in pain and fever.

A horse showing signs of strangles should be kept in a warm and dust-free environment. The horse should also be secluded from other horses as soon as possible, along with keeping the further spread of the disease to a minimum.
Fly control around a horse with the strangles disease is very important, as flies can easily spread the disease to other horses.

Your vet will need to judge whether it is safe to introduce the horse with other horses. A horse may still shed the bacteria from the infection for around a month after recovery from strangles.

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