British Horse Society Scotland Urges Precautions Against Strangles

Scotland has experienced an alarming increase in the number of strangles outbreaks this year and the British Horse Society (BHS) is urging horse owners and yard managers to take strict biosecurity measures to prevent the spread of this distressing and highly contagious disease.

The BHS is also actively lobbying for the status of strangles in Scotland--which attacks horses, ponies, and donkeys--to be adjusted so that outbreaks must be made public.

BHS Scotland Development Officer Helene Mauchlen said 10% of yards in Scotland have been affected by strangles this summer.

She said: "Where yard managers take all the precautions and advice recommended by vets, and by the Horserace Betting Levy Board, they can quickly be clear of the disease. Strangles can be very distressing for the animal and owner. The disease is highly contagious, so those responsible for equines should be extra-vigilant and carry out good hygiene practices to help prevent this disease from spreading. If owners are concerned about their horses, they should contact their vet immediately."

BHS Scotland is lobbying the Scottish Parliament to have a strangles biosecurity code created under the new Animal Health and Welfare Act 2006, which becomes law next month (October). Strangles will be the main subject of discussion at the next meeting of the Cross Party Group on Animal Welfare.

The BHS is working closely with the Animal Health Trust on a program to find a fully effective vaccine for strangles.

Strangles is an infection of the equine lymph glands. The swollen glands can restrict the airways, hence the name strangles. It is caused by the bacterium Streptococcus Equi and is highly infectious and contagious. The disease is more prevalent and more serious than many horse owners appreciate.

While strangles is not currently a notifiable disease, it is strongly advised that owners and caretakers should act responsibly and inform other horse owners of any suspected or confirmed cases to help to prevent further spread of this disease. The incubation period is usually about a week but may take as long as two weeks before any clinical signs are shown.

In very mild cases, there may only be slight nasal discharge but--in more severe cases--this can extend to swollen glands, coughing, excessive nasal discharge, raised temperatures, breathing and swallowing difficulties, and abscessed lymph nodes.

At the first sign of any of the above symptoms, horse owners or caretakers should isolate the horse and contact their vet immediately. Any horse, pony or donkey which the infected animal has been in contact with should also be isolated and strictly monitored.

Strict hygiene is essential as direct contact with infected horses is the simplest means of transmitting the disease. Grooming kits, buckets, water troughs, and tack should be cleaned thoroughly and disinfected daily. These items should not be shared with other animals.

Handlers and caretakers of infected animals should also change clothes, footwear, and ideally shower before handling any uninfected animals to help reduce the risk of spreading the disease. Guidelines and advice on strangles are available from The British Horse Society Welfare Department on 08701 299992, or by e-mailing:

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