Stressed about Strangles in horses?

November 3, 2021

The stigma associated with Strangles in horses can make the diagnosis of this disease stressful & confusing for horse and yard owners alike. To help provide essential facts, the equine vets at Towcester and Onley have created this quick overview article and a much more detailed factsheet for your information. Please take a look at the article and if you need more info, download the factsheet for more detail on clinical signs and symptoms of Strangles and how best to treat the disease.

Download the full factsheet

What is Strangles in horses?

Strangles is a highly contagious disease caused by the bacterium Streptococcus equi equi and can affect any horse, pony or donkey. The disease can be debilitating but is rarely life threatening, however 1 in 10 horses remain persistently infected as ‘carriers’.

Why is it called Strangles?

Swelling and the formation of abscesses in the lymph nodes around the throat is a common clinical sign of Strangles. These symptoms can sometimes cause horses to have difficulty swallowing and breathing, hence the name ‘strangles’.

Other symptoms of Strangles:

  • Fever (38.5C or above)
  • Depression
  • Reduced appetite
  • Cough
  • Yellow/white nasal discharge

Our equine vets’ advice on what to do if you suspect Strangles

If you suspect you have a case of Strangles then a quick read of our detailed factsheet taking the following swift actions will help minimise the consequences of an outbreak.

  1. Immediately stop any movement of horses on or off your yard.
  2. Isolate any horses that are showing signs of strangles. These will be the red group of the traffic light system you now need to use.
  3. Call our equine vets for advice on management, diagnostic testing and treatment.
  4. Isolate any horses that may have had any direct or indirect contact with the red group of horses in the past 3 weeks. These become the amber group. Monitor the temperatures of this group twice daily and if any develop clinical signs, they should be moved into the red group immediately.
  5. Horses that have had no known contact with suspected cases can be classed as the green group. This group should be isolated and monitored closely for at least 3 weeks.
  6. Contact any relevant owners, farriers, trainers, neighbouring yards and any other people of interest to inform them of the situation and help prevent the spread of the disease.

For more detailed information please check out our informative factsheet. It has everything you need to know along including pictures of Strangles. Reading this will help you understand & minimise the effects of a Strangles outbreak and it could even help you prevent the disease appearing at all.

Read our Strangles factsheet

About the author

Gwen Davies BVMedSci BVM BVS MRCVS has been at Towcester Equine Vets since July 2019 and has graduated from the University of Nottingham. Gwen has a particular interest in lameness and competes on her own horse, Campeon, up to BE standard.

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