Equine Strangles: An in-depth look at this infectious disease

As a horse owner, trainer, or even a lover of these majestic animals, equine health should be your top priority. One disease that has unfortunately affected numerous horses and continues to do so is Strangles. This highly infectious respiratory disease, known scientifically as Streptococcus equi subspecies equi, is known for its downright unpleasant symptoms and potential for quick spread among horses.

Understanding the Disease

Strangles primarily affects the upper respiratory tract of horses and donkeys. It's named after one of its most distinct symptoms - the swelling of lymph nodes around the jaw and throat, which can often cause difficulty in breathing, hence, "strangles". But aside from this, horses with Strangles can also exhibit other symptoms such as fever, nasal discharge, coughing or wheezing, and muscle swelling.

It is important to note that the disease can also spread from afflicted horses to others even if they are not displaying overt symptoms. In fact, even recovered horses can remain contagious for at least six weeks after recovery, undermining efforts to control outbreaks. Vet practitioners usually diagnose horses via polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing with either a nasal swab, wash, or an abscess sample.

Treatment and Prevention

Strangles may sound like a dire disease, but the good news is that it's treatable. Most cases are treated based on clinical signs, and antibiotics are used for severe cases. However, what’s crucial to remember is that the overuse of antibiotics can prevent an infected horse from developing immunity.

Most horses recover fully within three to four weeks under appropriate medical care. But as the saying goes, prevention is better than cure. Therefore, implementing biosecurity measures such as quarantining new horses at a facility and maintaining high levels of cleanliness can help prevent the spread.

The Strangles Vaccine

There is a vaccine available for Strangles that can help protect horses from this disease. However, like most vaccines, it's not 100% effective. Therefore, proper and timely vaccination, along with good sanitation practices, becomes crucial in avoiding this unpleasant and potentially distressing disease among horses.

Recent Strangles Outbreak

On March 11, 2024, a weanling colt in Lapeer County, Michigan, was confirmed positive for Strangles. The colt began showing clinical signs such as nasal discharge, fever, and an enlarged lymph node on March 3, and has since been put under voluntary quarantine. This case underscores the importance of vigilance and biosecurity in preventing the spread of Strangles among equine populations.

In conclusion, while Strangles is a serious concern for horse owners and caretakers, understanding its symptoms, treatment, and prevention methods can go a long way towards maintaining the health and welfare of your equine friends. Taking proper precautionary measures and seeking prompt veterinary intervention are critical for effectively managing and eventually eradicating this disease.

Reference: "Michigan Colt Positive for Strangles." TheHorse.com. March 13, 2024.