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How can I protect my horse from Strangles?

Strangles is a contagious bacterial infection that affects the respiratory tract of horse around the world. Luckily there is now a vaccine available which is proven to reduce severity of symptoms, decrease the spread of disease and reduce the risk of contracting strangles when travelling to other yards and events.

Strangles FAQs

How does a horse catch strangles?

Strangles can be spread from direct contact between horses or indirectly through objects or people an infected horse has touched. For example, feed buckets, shared water troughs and horse transport lorries.

What are the symptoms of Strangles?

  • Fever (body temperature more than 38.5c

  • Purulent (pus) nasal discharge

  • Soft, moist cough

  • Depression

  • Inappetence

  • Abscessation of the lymph nodes in the head and neck (and other body sites in rare cases)

  • Respiratory noises due to impeded airflow

  • Up to 100% morbidity and 10% mortality (if high infectious dose) Signs will vary between horses and some may show all of the signs others may only show very mild signs including: loss of appetite, high temperature (above 38.5°C), depression, swollen glands around head and throat, cough, nasal discharge, abscesses. In very severe cases Strangles can affect the internal organs and may lead to death.

Which horses are most at risk of strangles? Young and old horses are at the highest risk of severe disease if they become infected with Strep. equi. Vaccination protects these susceptible horses from potential introductions of Strep. equi. Vaccination is also highly recommended for:

  • Horses before competition, sales or possible exposure events

  • Horses in an area with known outbreaks of strangles

Vaccinating all horses on the yard raises herd immunity, and decreases the risk of the disease spreading.

What is the vaccination protocol?

Primary vaccinations

First vaccination: from 5 months old

Second vaccination: 4 weeks later

Booster Vaccines:

Usually between 3-6 months, however this may be different if your horse is in a high risk area. Please discuss with your veterinarian.

Can I vaccinate my horse if my yard has an outbreak of strangles?

There are some guidelines with respect to vaccination in an outbreak or high-risk situation:

  • Horses with clinical signs and those in contact should not be vaccinated

  • For horses that have been previously vaccinated but not been in contact with active cases, and their last dose of the vaccine was more than two months ago - booster doses will maximise immunity. However if their last dose of the vaccine was within two months - no booster required

  • Unvaccinated horses: start primary course – this will offer partial protection from two weeks after second dose

Will I still need to quarantine my vaccinated horse if I move yards?

This will depend on the biosecurity policy of the yard and whether the horse has also been vaccinated against other equine infectious diseases like equine influenza and equine herpes disease. With respect to strangles, the risk will be significantly reduced. Even if your horse has been vaccinated, we would strongly recommend excellent biosecurity measures at all times.

Will I still be able to ride/compete my horse immediately after vaccination?

As with other vaccinations, it is generally recommended not to exercise horses in the two to three days following vaccination. This also depends on whether the horse shows a rise in body temperature as a reaction to vaccination or not. Temporary fever after vaccination is not uncommon as this is part of the immune system activation.

Blog information kindly provided by Dechra Pharmaceuticals.

Please contact the office if you would like to enquire more about the Strangles vaccine.


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