Understanding Equine Strangles: A Comprehensive Guide for Horse Owners

Equine strangles, caused by the bacterium Streptococcus equi, is one of the most frequently diagnosed and widely feared contagious diseases among horses. While the disease can trigger alarm among horse owners, a basic understanding of its symptoms, transmission, and prevention can equip you to protect your equine friend.

What Exactly Is Equine Strangles?

Equine strangles is an infectious, highly contagious disease that primarily affects a horse's lymph nodes and upper respiratory tract. The name "strangles" originates from one of its hallmark symptoms – swelling of the lymph nodes around the throat, which can "strangle" a horse's airway.

How Is It Transmitted?

Close contact with an infected horse or shared objects, like feed buckets and grooming tools, can easily spread the disease. Moreover, strangles-causing bacteria survive for weeks on hard surfaces, making indirect transmission a significant risk. Even individual horses that seem asymptomatic can still be carriers of the disease, contributing to its spread.

The Signs to Look Out For

Knowing the common symptoms of equine strangles can enable you to take swift action, potentially reducing your horse's suffering and reducing the spread of the disease.

Common symptoms include:

  • Fever: A horse's normal temperature ranges between 99°F and 101°F. Above this range may suggest infection.
  • Swollen/abscessed lymph nodes: One of the main symptoms of equine strangles is the swelling of glands often around the throat area, making it difficult for the horse to swallow and breathe.
  • Nasal discharge: A nasal discharge that is thick and yellow or white tends to indicate infection.
  • Coughing or wheezing: Respiratory difficulty, manifested in symptoms like coughing and wheezing, is one of the hallmarks of strangles.

Prompt Diagnosis Is Essential

Early detection can help manage equine strangles effectively and reduce the risk of complications. Veterinarians diagnose horses using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing with either a nasal swab, wash, or an abscess sample.

Prevention and Treatment

The most reliable prevention mechanism is adhering to stringent biosecurity measures. These may include quarantining new horses at your facility, and maintaining high standards of hygiene and disinfecting surfaces.

A vaccine is also available but is not always 100% effective. In terms of treatment, antibiotics are used in severe cases. However, an overuse of antibiotics can prevent an infected horse from developing immunity. On average, horses recover completely in three to four weeks.

Stay Vigilant, Stay Informed

In conclusion, being informed about equine strangles can significantly help you protect your horse and contain the disease's spread. By remaining vigilant about signs and ensuring stringent biosecurity measures, you can keep your horse healthy and reduce the fear associated with this disease.