• Strangles – The word we all dread


    Strangles is one of the most common equine diseases in horses in the UK. It is a highly contagious infection of the upper respiratory tract caused by the bacteria. All horses and ponies at any age can be affected, but in the younger horse they seem to develop more severe signs.

    Signs of strangles

    Signs of strangles vary between mild to severe and are not always typical.

    A horse suffering from strangles will have a temperature, depression with a loss of appetite and thick, yellow mucus coming from both nostrils. Hot, painful abscesses may develop on the sides of the head and throat, which may burst and discharge pus. The horse may find it hard to eat or extend their head due to the discomfort in the throat, this is why the disease is called Strangles.

    Some healthier horses may only show short term temperature and have only a clear discharge from their nose, and maybe a brief loss of appetite. But if you are in doubt call the vet and isolate the horse.

    There are various lab tests available to confirm if a horse is suffering from the disease, which are important, since some animals (usually up to 10%) will be carriers and not show any signs of illness.

    By keeping your eyes open and spotting the signs you can stop the spread of this disease.

    Strangles complications

    Although strangles is rarely fatal, there may be complications in up to 20% of cases. The abscesses in the throat can cause difficulties with eating and breathing if they put pressure on the airway. Rare complications include bastard [metastatic] strangles, where abscesses form elsewhere in the body, and the immune system disorder purpura haemorrhagic.

    How is strangles spread?

    The bacteria is transferred from horse to horse from shared use of things such as water buckets, also they can transmit if someone touches an infected horse and then pets another. An infected horse can contaminate ground where grazing and the infection can be passed on that.

    To reduce the spread, it is important to isolate any horse with the condition and then ask your vet for advice.