Strangles ~ Streptococcus equi ~ Symptoms, Treatment, Prevention

Strangles is a highly contagious infectious disease caused by the bacteria Streptococcus equi which affects the lymph nodes.

Under 5's, sick horses, horses with compromised immune systems, herd horses, stud farms, racing stables, livery yards and riding school horses are more susceptible because of the way the disease is spread. Strangles is spread via the bacteria Stretococcus equi by direct contact, contaminated food, water, equipment or people's hands/clothing. Horses can also catch the disease by inhalation or parasitic infestation. 

The bacteria can survive for long periods in a carrier horse or in the environment in the right conditions.

Strangles itself is not usually life threatening, however if it is left untreated it can develop into "bastard strangles" which can prove fatal. If Strangles is left untreated the lymph nodes  can abscessate. Abscesses will normally burst and drain but in severe cases they can become so large that they can crush a horses' windpipe and suffocate it.

The bacteria can also overwhelm the lymph nodes and spread throughout the horse causing abscesses in the lungs, intestine and brain, this is "bastard strangles" which can prove fatal.

Symptoms include:
Loss of appetite.
Difficulty in swallowing.
Swelling in the throat area.
Nasal discharge.
High temperature, as high as 40degrees C (104 degrees F).
Lymph nodes may abscessate and discharge pus in throat area and under jaw.

A horse with suspected Strangles should be immediately isolated, away from all other horses before calling your vet.
The vet will perform a physical examination of the horse,take thoat swabs and samples of any discharging pus and discuss treatment.

The horse will need to be kept in isolation in a warm, dry environment and be fed soft, palatable feeds.

The abscesses should be fermented with hot packs to aid draining, in severe cases they may need to be drained surgically.

Your horse should begin to show signs of  improvement within a week but they can remain infectious for up to 8 weeks  after symptoms have disappeared. Some horses will remain carriers for months.

 A horse that has had Strangles should be checked for carrier status before being taken out of isolation. This is done over a 2 week period  via throat / guttural pouch swabs, 3  negative swabs in 2 weeks indicates that the horse is clear and can return to contact with other horses. 

Ideally any new horse entering a yard should be quarantined for 3-4 weeks and closely monitored.

Maintain strict hygiene at all times.