Horses can be beautiful, strong and majestic however, just like any animal, they can suffer from occasional illness. Strangles is a common infection in the equine world, mainly due to its highly infective and long-term nature. It can also have rather shocking-looking symptoms and take that magic spark away from your steed’s personality whilst they are suffering. At The Insurance Emporium, we don’t want anything to stop you and your horse from enjoying your adventures and we take your horse’s health very seriously! Check out our guide to help you spot the signs of strangles.
As with many illnesses in animals and humans, one of the first signs of a case of strangles can be a rise in body temperature. This could be hard to spot if you’re not checking your horse’s temperature on a daily basis but there are signs in their general behaviour that could alert you. For instance, a horse may become depressed and suffer a loss of appetite when in these early stages. If you’re finding your animal is acting a little out-of-sorts or ‘not themselves’ then it might be worth checking their temperature. The onset of this symptom can be rapid and reach levels close to 40°C! A relatively frequent check of your horse’s temperature could be vital in the early identification of strangles, as well as many other ailments. A horse thermometer might not be the most expensive bit of equipment that you buy this year but it could be vital!
Strangles is an infection of the upper respiratory tract so you could spot warning signs from the horse’s nose to alert you. It’s highly likely that you’ll notice large volumes of nasal discharge coming from your animal if they’re suffering from infection. This may start out relatively clear but can become thick with copious amounts of pus. Even a slight clear nasal discharge from a horse could be an indicator of an infection, if you notice this it might be best to isolate them straight away until you’ve investigated further. These symptoms can come in varying degrees of severity and are sometimes subtle, so playing it safe might be the best option. The horse could also develop a ‘wet’ sounding cough due to the infection. As strangles is so contagious, spotting these early signs could make a huge difference in stopping the spread.
The term strangles might conjure up some awful thoughts but it’s not as extreme as the name suggests! Whilst infected, a horse can make strange breathing sounds, sounding somewhat like they’re being strangled. Don’t worry however, these sounds are a normal symptom of the infection and are caused by the horse’s enlarged lymph nodes making it difficult for them to breathe. The inflammation of these lymph nodes often leads to abscesses forming on the outside of the head and throat. Sometimes these abscesses will burst and emit a discharge of pus, once these wounds are open it is important to keep them flushed and clean in order to prevent further infection. Due to this sensitivity in the throat area it could be helpful to feed the horse wet food from the floor which can help to make swallowing easier.
Strangles is an illness which can spread quickly between horses in a whole manner of different ways, however it is most likely to be transmitted through direct contact or shared environments. The infection can be passed through nasal discharge and pus from abscesses, as well as through shared tack and the hands and clothing of humans. The discharge from draining abscesses is highly infective which makes it vital to keep an infected horse away from others. One thing to be mindful of is the fact that a horse can remain a carrier of the virus for weeks, months or even years after the visual signs have cleared up! It might be best to ensure that you don’t rush a horse back into socialising too soon after the symptoms have disappeared. As always, we’d recommend that you ask your vet for advice if you’re unsure.
Stop the spread!
There are a whole manner of things that you can do to help prevent the spread of this disease. Good hygiene can be essential, so if you think your horse may have strangles then washing your hands and clothes, as well as using an antibacterial shoe wash could help to limit spreading. It might also be important to think about potential contact points for contaminated horses. For example, the S. equi bacteria can survive in a water trough for up to four weeks, so it might be necessary to limit any shared water sources! Sharing tack between horses might be a bad idea too. It might also be helpful to warn any visitors to your stables such as farriers, vets or other horse-owning friends before they arrive, they’ll most likely want to make you the last stop of the day or not at all until the infection is cleared. With an infection as contagious as strangles there really is no such thing as being too careful!
Nobody wants to see their horse contract an infection but sometimes it just can’t be avoided. If you catch the symptoms early and contact your vet then the risk of spread can be minimised. You may want to have equine insurance in place to help cover the costs for treatment. At The Insurance Emporium our Horse Insurance offers 20% Introductory Discount for new policies and covers for Vets Fees up to £5,000 per incident*. Check out The Insurance Emporium and see if we can help you continue your happy hacking!
*Lunar Monthly Horse Insurance policy.
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