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Information on Strangles in Horses

22 May 2013 2:32 PM -
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Picture Sourced from: Department of Agriculture Victoria
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Strangles, a highly contagious disease that has the potential to kill horses has broken out in the ACT and parts of southern New South Wales in May 2013. Strangles is a bacterial disease that causes nasal discharge and swelling of the lymph nodes around the animal’s neck and head, which in extreme cases restricts breathing.

It is spread in the discharges (pus) from the nose and burst abscesses. Objects such as water troughs, feed buckets, brushes, reins and other equipment, if contaminated with infected pus, can also spread the disease. Recovered horses can spread the disease for up to eight months, even though they can appear clinically healthy and normal.

Classic signs (within 3 to 8 days of becoming infected) of strangles include:

  • rapid on-set of high temperature (39.5 to 40.5°C),
  • loss of appetite,
  • discharge of yellow pus from the nose,
  • symmetrically enlarged glands of the head and neck that often form abscesses,
  • coughing, and
  • difficulty swallowing.

A veterinarian will be able to confirm a Strangles diagnosis by taking a swab from the back of the nasal cavity.

The affected horse/s should be kept isolated for 6 to 8 weeks in order to prevent spread to other horses.

It is strongly recommended that all horses be included in a regular program of vaccination. It is particularly important that booster doses be given prior to periods of greater risk of infection, such as the breeding or performance season. Pregnant mares may be vaccinated up to two weeks before foaling.

Under the Livestock Disease Control Act 1994, a person must report Strangles if they know or have reason to suspect that strangles is present in horses or horse products. Contact your local Veterinarian or Department of Primary Industries for more information.


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