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Strangles

By: Dr. Philip Johnson

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Although vaccines against strangles have been available for many years, vaccination has never been shown to be effective for the prevention of this disease. Some vaccines are administered by intramuscular injection and others are administered via intranasal spray. Intramuscular strangles vaccines often cause swelling at the site of injection.

All new horses should be regarded as potential strangles carriers. If it is intended to introduce a new horse onto a premises on which strangles has never been reported in the horses, the new horse should be examined carefully for evidence of strangles and kept separate from the herd until risk of strangles has been nullified. Quarantine is especially important if the new horse is being introduced from a sale barn or from a barn of unknown or uncertain strangles history. Your veterinarian will either examine the new horse's guttural pouches (using an endoscope) or culture the throat using a long bacteriological culture swab.

If a horse is to be taken to a new barn where the risk of strangles is unknown, that horse might be vaccinated ahead of time. It is important to note that all vaccination protocols require several weeks before any immunity will be evident. However, as a rule, vaccination against strangles is notoriously ineffective.

It might not be possible to provide freedom from risk under this circumstance. The horse owner should recognize that strangles rarely causes permanent injury or death. Although the disease is inconvenient because it necessitates rest and special attention, severe complications are uncommon.

There is nothing known to prevent strangles when a non-immune horse is challenged by a contaminated environment. Similarly, there is nothing (not even antibiotics) known to prevent severe complications or the development of atypical strangles under the same conditions. The new horse in a potentially contaminated environment should be monitored carefully and, if any symptoms arise, veterinary attention should be sought immediately.

When contaminated by an infected horse, the environment must be scrupulously cleaned. The most effective disinfectants for this purpose include: phenol (1:200), povidone iodine, chlorhexidine, gluconate and gluteraldehyde. Contrary to popular belief, survival of Streptococcus equi equi in the environment is not long-lived. The organism may survive better if allowed to persist in pus and discharges, but generally it dies when it dries out.

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