Strangles in equine

Strangles in equine, also known as equine distemper, is a contagious respiratory disease that primarily affects horses, ponies, and other equids. strangles, caused by the bacterium Streptococcus equi subspecies equi. Strangles can spread rapidly within a horse population, leading to serious health issues and economic losses. In this article, we will delve into the intricacies of strangles, exploring their causes, clinical signs, diagnosis, treatment, prevention, and the impact it has on the equine world.

Historical Background

Strangles has been documented throughout history, with accounts dating back several centuries. Its name originates from the swelling and strangulation-like symptoms it causes in affected horses. Over the years, extensive research has been conducted to understand the disease and develop effective control strategies.


Causes and Transmission

Bacterial Agent: Streptococcus equi subspecies equi

Strangles is caused by the bacterium Streptococcus equi subspecies equi. This bacterium is highly contagious and can survive in the environment for extended periods. It can also persist in asymptomatic carriers, making it challenging to completely eradicate the disease from a population.

Modes of Transmission

The primary mode of transmission is through direct contact with infected horses or contaminated objects such as water troughs, feed buckets, or equipment. The bacteria can be shed in nasal secretions, pus from abscesses, and even in the environment. Indirect transmission can occur when healthy horses come into contact with the bacteria on surfaces or through shared facilities.

Clinical Signs and Symptoms

Early Stages

In the early stages of strangles, affected horses may exhibit signs such as fever, depression, loss of appetite, and nasal discharge. Lymph nodes in the head and neck region may begin to swell, leading to difficulty swallowing and increased respiratory effort.

Progression of the Disease

As strangles progress, the affected lymph nodes become enlarged and may eventually rupture, discharging thick, pus-like material. This discharge can contaminate the environment and serve as a source of infection for other horses. In severe cases, complications can arise, including abscesses in other areas of the body, pneumonia, and even death.

Complications and Potential Sequelae

Even after recovering from strangles, some horses may develop long-term complications, such as guttural pouch empyema or persistent carriership. Guttural pouch empyema occurs when bacteria persist in the guttural pouches, leading to recurrent infections and potential complications such as arterial rupture.

    strangles in equine

Diagnosis and Testing

Clinical Examination

Diagnosing strangles involves a thorough clinical examination, including assessing the horse’s clinical signs, palpating lymph nodes, and evaluating the horse’s medical history. Swabs may be taken from the nasal passages or abscesses for laboratory testing.

Laboratory Testing

Laboratory testing plays a crucial role in confirming a strangles diagnosis. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests can detect the presence of the Streptococcus equi bacterium in samples, while bacterial culture and sensitivity testing can help determine appropriate antibiotic therapy.

Treatment and Management

Isolation and Quarantine

Upon diagnosis, affected horses should be immediately isolated and placed under quarantine to prevent further spread. Isolation facilities should have separate air circulation, dedicated equipment, and proper disinfection protocols.

Antibiotic Therapy

Antibiotics, such as penicillin or macrolides, are commonly prescribed to treat strangles. It is crucial to administer antibiotics for the recommended duration and according to the veterinarian’s instructions to minimize the risk of complications and antibiotic resistance.


Supportive Care and Nutritional Management

Supportive care, including adequate rest, good nutrition, and hydration, is essential for horses affected by strangles. Soft or soaked feeds may be recommended to ease swallowing, and close monitoring of body condition, hydration, and overall well-being is necessary.

Prevention and Control


Vaccination against strangles can help reduce the severity of the disease and limit its spread within a population. However, it is important to note that vaccines do not provide complete protection and should be used as part of an overall disease prevention strategy.

Biosecurity Measures

Implementing strict biosecurity measures is crucial in preventing and controlling the spread of strangles. These measures may include proper quarantine protocols for new arrivals, regular disinfection of equipment and shared facilities, and limiting horse-to-horse contact.

Quarantine Protocols

When introducing new horses to a population, implementing quarantine protocols is essential to minimize the risk of introducing strangles. Quarantine should involve separate facilities, careful monitoring of new arrivals, and appropriate testing before integrating them into the main herd.

Strangles in Different Horse Populations

Strangles in Stables and Boarding Facilities

Stables and boarding facilities are particularly susceptible to strangles outbreaks due to the close proximity and frequent movement of horses. Strict biosecurity measures, regular monitoring, and early detection are crucial in managing and preventing outbreaks in these environments.

Strangles in Equestrian Events and Competitions

Equestrian events and competitions gather horses from different locations, increasing the risk of disease transmission. Event organizers should implement comprehensive biosecurity protocols, including health checks, vaccination requirements, and isolation areas for sick horses.

Strangles in Wild Horse Population

Strangles can also affect wild horse populations. Outbreaks in these populations can have severe consequences due to limited veterinary resources. Monitoring and management programs, including vaccination and targeted interventions, may be implemented to control the disease’s impact.

Economic Impact of Strangles

Losses in the Horse Industry

Strangles outbreaks can have a significant economic impact on the horse industry. The costs associated with veterinary care, treatment, quarantine, and reduced productivity can add up quickly, affecting businesses, breeders, and horse owners.

Cost of Treatment and Management

Treating and managing strangles can be costly, particularly in severe cases or when complications arise. The expenses include veterinary fees, medications, quarantine facilities, and additional care requirements for affected horses.

Advances in Diagnostic Techniques

Ongoing research aims to develop more efficient and accurate diagnostic techniques for strangles. New approaches, such as serological tests and improved PCR methods, show promise in enhancing early detection and reducing false-negative results.

Novel Approaches to Treatment and Prevention

Scientists and veterinarians are continually exploring novel approaches to treating and preventing strangles. Research on new antibiotics, vaccines, and immune-based therapies offers hope for more effective control and management strategies in the future.

Case Studies

Outbreak Investigations

Studying previous strangles outbreaks can provide valuable insights into disease transmission patterns, management strategies, and the effectiveness of control measures. Case studies offer practical examples of successful outbreak investigations and the lessons learned.

Successful Management Strategies

Various management strategies have been employed to control and prevent strangles outbreaks. Case studies highlighting successful approaches, such as effective isolation and quarantine protocols, vaccination campaigns, and targeted surveillance, can guide horse owners and industry professionals in their disease management efforts.

Incubation period for strangles

The incubation period for strangles is typically between 3 to 14 days, although it can vary depending on the individual horse and the circumstances of exposure.

Human’s contact strangles from infected horses

While extremely rare, humans can contact strangles from infected horses. It usually occurs through direct contact with the horse’s nasal secretions or pus from abscesses. Proper hygiene and handling precautions are essential when dealing with infected horses.


Cure for strangles

Strangles is treatable, and most affected horses recover with appropriate veterinary care, antibiotics, and supportive treatment. However, some horses may develop complications or become long-term carriers.

Horses get strangles more than once

Horses can contract strangles more than once, especially if they were not properly vaccinated or had incomplete immunity from previous infections. Reinfections may occur due to exposure to the bacterium from carriers or new outbreaks.

Long-term complications of strangles

Long-term complications of strangles can include guttural pouch empyema, persistent carriership, and secondary respiratory issues. These complications may require additional veterinary care and management.

Protection of Horse from strangles

To protect your horse from strangles, follow good biosecurity practices, including quarantine protocols for new arrivals, regular vaccination, and minimizing horse-to-horse contact. Proper hygiene and disinfection of equipment and shared facilities are also essential. visit our website for more details click here


Strangles is a highly contagious equine disease that can cause significant health issues and economic losses. Understanding the causes, clinical signs, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention strategies is crucial for horse owners, trainers, and industry professionals. By implementing effective biosecurity measures, practicing responsible horse management, and staying informed about the latest research and developments, we can work towards minimizing the impact of strangles on horse populations worldwide.


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