Strangles (Horse Diseases)

Strangles horse disease Health & Nutrition

What is Strangles?

Strangles is a horse disease which is also known as also known as equine distemper.

Strangles is a horse disease

It is a very contagious infection of the upper respiratory tract of horses. It is caused by a bacteria.
Strangles is very contagious and is transmitted from horse to horse through nasal discharge or the discharge from the abscess it causes on the horse. These contaminants get into the water supply, pastures, feed buckets etc and are quickly transmitted. This bacteria can survive for 4 to 8 weeks!

Therefore early detection and isolation of the horse is key in combating the spread of it throughout the barn.

Most animals recover, but horses that contract even a mild case must be isolated and removed from training or heavy work for up to 3 months. In some cases the infection can cause chronic illness or even death.

Signs of Strangles

  • Fever
  • Nasal discharge
  • Enlarged lymph nodes in the neck and throat latch.
  • Cough

Diagnosing this horse disease

Some but not all of these signs may occur at the same time. If any of these do occur it is wise to have a culture done by a vet to determine if the strangles bacteria is present.


Although the treatment in mature horses is usually quite effective, this bacteria can be very dangerous to young horses and yearlings.

Non steroidal anti-inflammatories are used to combat the fever.
Antibiotics can be used but only at certain phases of the disease.

The preferred antibiotic is penicillin.
Keeping the wound caused by the rupturing of the abscess clean is also important.


Isolating horses with any of the above signs is key in controlling this disease. A 3 month isolation is usually recommended.

Disinfecting stalls, buckets and surfaces that a contaminated horse has had contact with is essential to keep the bacteria from spreading.

A strangles vaccine is available but the use of this vaccine should be discussed extensively with a vet first as it can be lethal if administered incorrectly.

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