Strangles in Horses

What is it?

Strangles is a condition caused by the bacterium Streptococcus equi subspecies equi. The typical presentation is a young horse with swollen lymph nodes. The disease, however, can get complicated when the guttural pouches are involved and the airway can be compromised. There are also a few, less common, but fatal complications associated with strangles including muscle damage, pupura hemorrhagica (immune mediated swelling of the head and limbs), or other organ damage.

How does my horse get strangles?

Strangles is passed along by nose-to-nose contact, aerosolization (ie. Coughing or sneezing in close quarters in a barn or paddocks) or by objects that have been contaminated with the discharge from horses carrying Streptococcus equi subspecies equi.

How can I prevent my horse from getting strangles?

There are two ways to prevent the spread of strangles. There is a vaccine available for horses that have not been exposed to horses with strangles. The vaccine, however, is not safe in horses that are exposed, and should not be used during an outbreak situation. Once the disease is present at a facility, the best way to prevent spread is with strict biosecurity and advice from your veterinarian.