Paragon Veterinary Group

Equine News

20 Dec 2011 - Equine Strangles - Confirmed Cases

Equine Strangles

There have been confirmed cases of strangles in West Cumbria this month so we feel it is appropriate to highlight some of the signs, treatment and prevention strategies. 

The disease is caused by a bacterium called Streptococcus Equi. It is highly contagious and spread by direct contact with infected horses and indirectly on contaminated clothing, equipment, water troughs, environment etc. It can affect any age of horse, with younger and older debilitated horses more likely to be severely affected. Clinical signs develop from between 3-14days after infection.

NasalDischarge.gifstrangles_abcess_s.jpgClinical signs

  • Depression, dullness

  • Loss of appetite
  • Nasal discharge
  • Cough and fever
  • Swelling of the lymph nodes under the jaw (usually about 1 week after onset of clinical signs).  The abscesses that cause the lymph nodes to swell often burst discharging infectious creamy yellow pus. In some cases the glands swell so much that they restrict the airway, hence the name STRANGLES. Most horses recover after 3-4 weeks. But more severe cases can take longer.  In a small number of cases the infection can spread causing abscesses to form in other body organs and this can be fatal. This condition is known as ‘Bastard Strangles

Important points to remember:-

A horse may be infected but not showing clinical signs
Horses recovering from disease can be infectious for many weeks.
Horses can become CARRIERS (where infection remains in the guttural pouches (air sacs in the back of the throat) and can be intermittently infections for months/ years.
All infected or suspect horses should be isolated immediately including all horses they have been in contact with. The ‘Strategy to Eradicate and Prevent Strangle’s (STEPS) provides detailed information on isolation procedures, please see or
Carriers can be detected by:-
  1. A blood test looking for an antibody response to infection
  2. A guttural pouch endoscopy and sampling of washes
  3. or A series of three clear (negative) nasopharyngeal swabs taken at weekly intervals testing for the presence of bacteria.


Each case of strangles should be discussed individually with a vet with regards to the most appropriate treatment. Antibiotics can be indicated in some but not all cases.


Yard owners should implement a strict isolation procedure for new arrivals to the yard. A blood test could be carried out to determine whether the horse has been in contact with strangles before being accepted onto a new premise.
Strict hygiene and biosecurity plays an important role in prevention and control of this disease. See websites above.
A vaccine is available for strangles. Two injections given 4 weeks apart are required as a primary course with full immunity developing 2 weeks after the 2nd injection. The injection is given into the underside of the upper lip and gives between 3-6 months protection against disease. Please contact the vet practice for further information.
If you suspect a horse maybe suffering from strangles, or you are worried about another horse please consult the veterinary practice immediately.

Paragonvet Ltd.
Registered in England No 4464469
Registered office:

Carlisle House, Townhead Road, Dalston, Carlisle, CA5 7JF