Strangles in Horses

Hi Readers,

So after a recent outbreak of Strangles very close to home, I thought I would research this disease in greater detail. Having been aware of the disease for many years now, the necessity of knowing its whereabouts is crucial when caring for my horse.

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My biggest fear when hearing about a recent Strangles case is always how contagious it is. As a young child I was always told not to go on public bridle paths when the yard nearby has a case of strangles. However, Strangles is not actually airborne unlike equine flu so I am not sure how effective this piece of advice actually was.

It is a respiratory infection caused by Strep. Equi, which causes depression, loss of appetite/difficulty eating, raised temperature, cough, nasal discharge, swollen glands in throat and rupture of glands with pus visible as symptoms. The disease can be diagnosed by a blood test; some issues with detecting Strangles include its tendency to be mistaken by the common cold or allergies. In severe cases, Strangles can be fatal in 1% of cases when abscesses develop in other body organs which grow and rupture, a form known as ‘bastard strangles’. Another life threatening complication is “Purpura hemorrhagica”. This is widespread small bleeding along with fluid accumulation of the limbs, eyelids and gums. The outer accumulation of fluid can be so extreme that circulatory failure and death can occur.

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From seminars I have attended in farm animal health, the concepts are near enough always the same. If you go out of your way, speaking to the yard owner and educating people on the yard, to prevent the disease entering and infecting your animals in the first place, the hard decisions that come when the disease gets very severe will not have to be made. Prevention is always better that a cure! To try to prevent the disease from infecting an animal a number of precautions can be taken:

  • Avoid contact/sharing tack or equipment with horses whose health status you do not know (e.g at shows)
  • Don’t overcrowd a yard – diseases spread more easily
  • Quarantine horses that come on the yard, care should be taken with who comes into contact with the new arrival and what other animals they have to attend to  
  • If people have arrived from an affected yard, their movement should be restricted
  • Horses should be up to date with their vaccinations

There is also a vaccine to prevent Strangles. The Equilis StrepE is a vaccine that contains the active substance live deletion mutant Streptococcus equi bacteria. This is the first vaccine to be licensed for horses in the EU against strangles. All members should follow a vaccination schedule on a yard to be sure this vaccine is effective and to prevent the closure of a yard.

I would be really interested in any experience you have had with the disease. Feel free to comment below!

Sol

References

http://www.equine-strangles.co.uk/disease-control.aspx

http://www.theodora.com/drugs/eu/equilis_strepe_veterinary.html

http://www.equine-strangles.co.uk/about-strangles.aspx

 

 

 

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