Strangles Management

Disinfection and cleanliness cannot be over-emphasized in the face of a strangles outbreak. In addition to direct contact with positive horses, Streptococcus equi can be introduced by contaminated hands, clothing, and equipment. Ask your veterinarian which disinfectant will work best in your situation and visit article #387 for an archived article on disinfecting stables.

"It's important to isolate an affected horse to reduce the burden of contagion for other horses in the group," said John Timoney, MVB, PhD, DSc, MRCVS, of the University of Kentucky's Gluck Equine Research Center. "During an outbreak, it helps in minimizing the severity of the disease, the number of abscesses, and recurrences." Your veterinarian will establish an appropriate quarantine. If cases are handled carefully and disinfection procedures followed, they will slowly recover.

In rare cases of "bastard strangles," an aftermath of a typical strangles infection, management is more difficult. With that, a horse has abscesses in unusual sites, such as in the abdomen or the thorax. Veterinarians aren't clear as to why these rare cases occur. Some have associated them with antibiotic injection use, but a connection has not been scientifically confirmed. "The thought is that when a (systemic antibiotic) shot is given, the antibiotic doesn't penetrate to the center of an abscess, and therefore the organism is allowed to survive and escape into a blood vessel (and travel to another area of the body)," said Timoney. "Bastard strangles can occur in the absence of antibiotic usage."

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