What you need to know
Strangles is one of the most common equine contagious diseases diagnosed worldwide. It is endemic in the UK due to the number of horses that are silent “carriers” of the disease. These horses appear normal but shed bacteria, spreading infection. Unfortunately, there is a stigma about admitting presence of Strangles on a yard which often slows diagnosis.
The disease can take 2-10 days to manifest itself from the time of infection.
These can vary in each case but include the following:
Strangles is exceptionally contagious, but the bacteria causing the disease, Streptococcus Equi equi, is relatively easy to kill.
The disease is spread by contact only; it is not an airborne disease.
Contact can be either:
In an infected horse, a nasopharyngeal swab may be taken for culture and PCR (bacterial DNA) testing.
A guttural pouch wash may be advised either in addition to, or instead of swabs.
When away from home: take your own buckets, water, feed and grooming kit and avoid sharing these where possible. If you do share, then disinfect the item between each use. Minimise direct contact spread by preventing nose to nose contact between horses during the day. Reduce indirect contact spread from people by ensuring you wash your hands between handling different horses and minimise the number of people touching your horse. After the event, make sure all equipment, tack footwear and clothing is washed and disinfected.
At home: make it a policy to keep any new horse to the yard separated from the main herd for at least a two-week period. Blood samples are available to screen for exposure to the Strangles bacteria and can be helpful to assess risk. Record the movement of horses coming and going from the yard. It is good practice to use individual equipment for each horse. All equipment should be routinely disinfected on a regular basis. Have a standard protocol in place to use in the event of an outbreak and stick to it!
An example of such a protocol is given below:
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