8 Ways To Prevent Strangles In Horses

Preventing Strangles In Horses

strangles in horses

Strangles is a bacteria attack; it is a highly infectious disease that is commonly linked to water. While it can be treated, bacteria can stay in a horse’s body for a long time.

When a horse is sick, the owner is sad; you must have experience and this is why you should be keen on prevention measures to make sure you are enjoying every bit of your adventure. Whether you have a barn manager or not, you have to be actively involved in horse management. It will not entertain you on trips if you do not take good care of it.

You need to research extensively on possible infections, the specific causes and strive to develop preventive measures. Suitability of a prevention technique is dependent on your location, type of horse, feeding program, deworming pattern among other activities. How you treat your horse will determine its health.

Strangles is one of the most common bacterial infections on horses that can claim its life. It can be embarrassing for such a disease to rob you a horse because you were not keen on its maintenance. Keen examination of a horse on regular basis and support care is a universal preventive technique that can keep away such infections. Bacteria is easy to deal with if you are committed to cleanliness and proper feeding programs.

While you should keep your horse safe throughout the year, you should be more keen during Spring. Strangles is more prevalent during this season because of the humid environment that creates a good breeding ground and transfer of the bacteria.

It is crucial to familiarize with specific sources of the bacteria, carriers, and risk factors. Information is the first step of keeping your horse safe from Strangles; you can protect it if you don’t know the risk factors.


Experts describe it as an infection caused by Streptococcus equi subsp, equi. The bacteria’s characteristic is just as complex as its name. The main effect of this infection is on the throat; it causes swelling of lymph nodes on the throat, which interferes with breathing. The name Strangles is derived from the difficulty in breathing effect.

Typically, the infection begins with a high fever. At this point, a horse will likely be showing signs of depression. The high temperatures are usually followed by nasal discharge. Enlargement of lymph nodes can also be noticed both below the jaw and below neck. If you are keen, you will notice the noisy breathing and struggle with swallowing. None of these signs should be ignored because advanced Strangles can be fatal.

In some cases, horses straighten out their necks while striving to find relief. If you closely monitor your horse, you will notice the strain and subtle effects at onset. Horses below five years will have more pronounced effects when attacked by the bacteria.

Sometimes Strangles is mistaken for colic because of the signs. Without a professional to assess the condition, you can easily treat for colic even after months of observing the signs. The bacteria is complex in structure, which makes it almost impossible to identify it by symptoms.

Repeated exposure to the bacteria can permanently weaken the immune system. This is common risk to mature horses.

How it occurs

The bacteria causing Strangles is easily passed from one horse to another when close in distance. While contact is the primary transmission medium, it can also flow through air when the two horses are close. Also, sharing equipment such as water buckets and clothing can also pass the bacteria from one horse to another. The bacteria is most active in moist environments; however, it can still survive for several days in dry conditions waiting for a host. Once the bacteria enters the horse, it goes directly to the nostrils where illness develops in few days. The symptoms can lay low up to14 days.

The most dangerous thing about the bacteria is it doesn’t affect the outward appearance of a horse in the first stages. In fact, a horse can host the bacteria for months with no signs at all. In such cases, the horse will seem healthy on the outward but it is a carrier. This means that if it gets close to another horse it will transmit the bacteria.

After fever, which is the first stage, an infected horse will begin shedding off the disease. This does not mean that it will be free from the infection but it will not suffer the breathing difficulties like in the first six weeks. Typically, veterinaries advise immunization as early as possible after birth; while it is not a guarantee of protection, it reduces risk of contracting the bacteria by at least 75%. Also, immunization last for a maximum of five years.

Prevention techniques

1. Avoid horses of unknown origin

You need to keep away from horses, which have unspecified origins. They pose the highest risk to spread of strangles. Although you need to release your hose to meet other members of her family for quality social life and companionship, it is important to first, find out if they are compatible—medically speaking.

Since horses are herd animals, they naturally depend on membership to a group for security, social status, emotional support and amusement. Regardless of how much they may seem attached to their owner, there is no way for a busy human to provide enough companionship the horse needs. No human is capable of giving the horse the social interaction they need. It is therefore, important for the owner of a single horse to turn him loose out with cows for company or keep another animal. A goat or donkey, in the barn can also be great company for the horse besides the owner. Although introduction of other animals can help fill the void, the pose the danger of spreading disease and a high risk of strangles.

Consider that most horses do best around members of their own species. It is important to purchase another similar species or find a neighbor who owns the same to help your horse get some natural company from the peers without the risk of strangles.

 2. Avoid Overcrowding

Do not overcrowd the yard. It is not hygienic to crowd your horse’s pen with other horses as you risk the spread of strangles. A Round Pen is an indispensable training place for a horse and the owner. It is the safe place, which offers confinement and an area to work or ride your horse. This wooden round be completed in one weekend but serve you for many years. The standard size of a round pen should range between 50 feet in diameter. 5 feet of height are enough for the pen but can be modified according to your preferences later.

For prefabricated metal gates, you should be keen on the design. For example, you should avoid gates with rounded corners because they can become safety hazards when your horse gets stuck between a post and the rounded corner

3. Food Supplements

Food supplements help to boost immunity of your horse. This will help her to withstand infections and the possibility of contracting chronic diseases. Some of the supplements include;

  • Musculo-Skeletal is an all-natural formula. It is useful in muscular injury, lameness, and sprains. Other uses include; tendon injuries, bruised sole and bruising, stiffness, pain on movement, arthritic conditions, splints, spavins, laminitis, navicular, and windgall.
  • Joint Combo Hoof & Coat supplement is designed as a 3-in-1 product for complete joint, Hoof & Coat care. The supplement comes with Glucosamine, Chondroitin Sulfate, Vitamin C, Manganese and MSM within.
  • Conquer Powder orally administered hyaluronic acid (HA): This supplement is developed and clinically tested by veterinarians. Luckily, it is all natural, non-toxic and safe.
  • Bute Less (B-L) Solution is a popular and reliable supplement too. It is nature’s alternative for bute. B-L Solution contains devil’s claw Harpagophytum, and Vitamin B-12 Supplement. It helps with improving conditions such as Yucca and Devil’s Claw extract

4. Vaccination

According to experts, an intranasal vaccine is necessary to protect horses against strangles. For example, two initial boosters are given three weeks apart, followed by annual boosters. Beware that this intranasal vaccine is not recommendable for use concurrently with other routine vaccines or invasive procedures. This should help to eliminate the risk of contamination of the intramuscular injection or surgical site. The choice of vaccination during an outbreak may not be safe.

5. High standards of hygiene

Ensure that the equipment and tools used to feed the horses are clean. The water buckets should be disinfected daily to avoid the risk of contamination. Ensure that you eliminate all excess material from stalls where infected horses have been housed and clean with detergent.

Horses, which feed from the same hay on a regular basis are in danger of developing strangles than a horse with a variety. The simple reason is on quality; irrespective of your hay source, the pasture might be deficient of important minerals. It is therefore important to plan on rotating bales to keep your horse healthy.

Pasture turnout helps in making the hay uniform. By the time you get to a specific part of your hay storage, it should have been turned out several times. You should not feed your horse with hay collected months ago and been in the same position

6. Clean water

You should not keep your horse dehydrated for more than an hour. It is one of the possible causes of strangles. Besides presence of water at all ties, you should change the water after every hour if possible. Find a barn manager to keep the water refreshed if you are committed elsewhere. It might seem like a simple task but it has significant effect on health of your horse. If you love your horse and would want to hang out with it for a more years, you must sacrifice the time and resources.

Typically, horses prefer to drink out of buckets. If you are thinking of automatic water systems as a solution to the fresh source, you are wrong. There is no option; someone has to be constantly there to change the water. Fresh water is not only about securing your horse from strangles but boosting their overall health of your horse. This should not be compromised at any circumstance.

During winter or depending on your location, consider adding few buckets of warm water. Horses tend to drink more water during cold seasons; you can enhance their water intake by warming up the water. Still, keep the refreshing exercise every time.

Consult a veterinary before a long trip. Mineral oil can help in hydrating your horse in between your stops.

7. Close monitoring

You should be close enough to your horse to identify the mild changes in its behavior and facial structure. While it is not easy to notice difference in lymph nodes size, if you pay close attention to your horse every day, you will notice. Strangles is a dreaded disease because of how fast it can be transmitted from one horse to another. Close monitoring is more important if you have more than one horse in the same pen because they are likely sharing feeding equipment. Advanced levels of Strangles is difficult to manage.

8. Regular check up

Considering the bacteria can lay low for years in a horse, the only way to tell is by examination. You should schedule regular appointments with a veterinary for this specific test. If your horse is a carrier, there will be no signs or symptoms. You should know of each horse’s status.

How to identity the disease:

The best way to establish existence of the disease is through examination. A veterinary should run a comprehensive endoscopy on the throat and below the jaw. These two places are the main parts affected by Strangles. PCR testing can help in determining existence of the bacteria by checking pouch fluid in both parts.

Also, serum examination can shed light on contents of the body fluids. The bacteria dwells in the pouch fluids in the throat and nowhere else. Therefore, this is the focus of examination processes. The need for vaccination in horses below 5 years is also determined by checking the fluid.


I have owned over 50 horses and currently own a small horse farm with 8 horses. I have competed on and off for over 25 years while doing mostly trail riding and cow sorting these days. I write these articles to help anyone out there if you love this article pin it to your Pinterest or Share on other social media platform. Thanks for visiting.

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