Thursday, May 30, 2019

Practice good biosecurity to protect your horse from strangles

Dr. Amber Itle
Washington Assistant State Veterinarian 

Strangles in horses, or Streptococcus equi infections, is a contagious disease endemic in Washington, but not usually fatal. Still, it is a reportable disease, and several cases have been reported recently to the Washington State Veterinarian’s Office.

Since the end of April, there have been reports of 16 confirmed, laboratory-diagnosed cases of strangles at five locations in King, Snohomish, Chelan, Yakima, and Thurston counties.

All are being managed by private veterinarians who have imposed self-quarantine, implemented biosecurity measures, and executed testing protocols. WSDA has been in contact with those veterinarians to monitor these cases and provide support.

WSDA can write quarantines to stop the movement of horses in cases where barns don’t comply with the instructions of a private veterinarian, but that has not been necessary in any of these recent cases because all are complying with their self-imposed quarantines.

When a quarantine is in effect, no horses are allowed to move on or off the premises, attend horse shows, or travel. It is actually against the law to expose other animals to contagious, infectious, or communicable disease.

Strangles is rarely fatal and the prognosis for recovery is usually very good with proper care. But as the name suggests, strangles can affect a horse’s respiratory system. Symptoms include:
  • Fever.
  • Abscesses in the mandibular lymph nodes.
  • Nasal discharge that can include thick white and yellow mucus.
  • Inflammation of the throat.
  • Difficulty swallowing.
  • Wheezing.
  • Coughing.
  • In rare cases, bleeding from the capillaries.
Good biosecurity practices are the best defense against the disease. The Equine Disease Communication Center’s “What is biosecurity?” offers excellent recommendations. The EDCC also recommends the following:
  • When possible, isolate new horses for up to three weeks when they are being introduced to a new facility. 
  • If you have handled an infected animal during an outbreak, avoid coming in contact with susceptible animals. 
  • Wear protective clothing, avoid using the same equipment on multiple animals, and disinfect both your hands and equipment when moving between animals.
This “Strangles Fact Sheet” from the EDCC has more information on this disease, tips and suggestions.