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Strangles and Biosecurity Ask The Vet

by daniel h. grove, dvm W

e had a question come in regarding strangles. This year, the American College of Veterinary Internal

Medicine (ACVIM) came out with a consen- sus statement on this disease. I will go over the key items discussed and the bio-security measures they recommend. These recom- mendations apply to any outbreak of con- tagious disease, although each disease may have some minor changes. Strangles is a term used to describe a

bacterial infection caused by the organism Streptococcus equi ssp equi. The common presentation is a respiratory disease with lymph node enlargement. Horses typically have a fever and severe nasal discharge. The bacteria starts to be shed in nasal secretions 2-3 days aſter the onset of fever and typically persists for 2-3 weeks. It is recommend- ed that all recovered horses be treated as potentially infectious for six weeks aſter the resolution of purulent (pus) discharge. From 20-25 percent of horses recovering from the disease can become susceptible to a second atack of the disease. An average of 10 per- cent of horses will have a persistent infec- tion in their gutural pouches, which are located in the throat area and can test posi- tive from that area for months to years with- out showing outward clinical signs. These types of animals, healthy without showing signs, are thought to be more important in the spread of the disease as they are not rec- ognized as sick. That seems like some scary information to take in. Luckily, most animals recover from


A monthly column by Daniel H. Grove, DVM

Got a question for Dr. Grove? Send your inquiries to, and it could be answered by Dr. Grove in a future column. Dr. Grove is based at West Coast Equine Medicine, headquartered in Fallbrook, Calif., where he lives with his wife Kristen.

the disease and are fine. The one thing you can do for your horse to prepare it for this disease is to vaccinate it. There are currently two different vaccines on the market in the USA for Strangles. One is a modified live vac- cine that is squirted up the nose. The other is a killed vaccine that is given in the muscle like most others. They both have their plus- es and minuses, but you can discuss with your veterinarian which one you want to use. Well, we have learned some about the dis-

ease and the measure we can use in advance to protect our horses. Let’s now discuss what to do if you have an outbreak. 1) Quarantine! Separate those sick ani-

mals from the healthy ones. As new cases develop fevers, move them to the quarantine. 2) If possible, have a separate person care

for the sick animals. If not, make those the last ones cared for and have the caretaker shower and change clothing before returning to the healthy animals. 3) Any areas

exposed to the sick animals should be cleaned of any manure or other organic material with a foaming soap agent and not pow- er-washed. 4) You can obtain

a surface disinfec- tant like Roccal or Vetoquinol to disin- fect surfaces, tools

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and tack 5) Pastures that have been exposed to sick horses should be leſt vacant for several weeks. The bacteria remains viable in water for 4-6 weeks but in feces or soil dies in 1-3 days.

Lastly, make sure to involve your veter- inarian. They can identify and test for the disease. Some horses may require antibiot- ics to help them although most will resolve the infection on their own. In some states, the disease is reportable and the state veteri- narian will need to be notified. Hopefully, this answers some questions

on Strangles and also on things you can do not only with this disease, but many oth- ers to minimize the transmission to your horse(s).


916985-1812A OSU photo by Santiago Uceda




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