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British Horse Society issues advice over Strangles outbreak

The British Horse Society has received reports of an outbreak of Strangles in Cumbria. Cases have been unofficially confirmed in the county.

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.

Whilst Strangles is not a notifiable disease, it is strongly advised that owners and carers should be responsible and inform other horse owners of any suspected or confirmed cases as a matter of courtesy to help 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.

BHS acting head of welfare, Helen Owens, added, "Strangles can be very distressing for the animal and owner. The disease is highly contagious, and with several indoor shows taking place over the Christmas break, owners and carers 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".

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 carers 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 carers 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 (tel: 08701 299 992) or email: welfare@bhs.org.uk <mailto:welfare@bhs.org.uk> .


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Updated: October 2005.