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David Sparks Ph.d Strangles
by David Sparks Ph.d, click here for bio

Program: Idaho Ag Today
Date: March 16, 2018

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Horses travel more than ever before, and whether traveling down the road or across the country, travel or exposure to horses that do can leave your horse at risk for additional disease threats. One of the most common equine diseases, as well as one of the most contagious, is strangles. Strangles, caused by the bacteria Streptococcus equi (S. equi), is a highly contagious upper respiratory disease most common in young horses. It also has several potentially fatal complications and the capability to cause persistent infections in populations of asymptomatic carrier horses. 2

 Symptoms of strangles can include fever, nasal discharge, difficulty swallowing, abnormal breathing, swelling and/or abscesses of the lymph nodes. Equine veterinarian Dr. Kevin Hankins tells us that “Commonly, a horse with strangles will have profuse nasal discharge and swollen submandibular lymph nodes. With strangles, about 10 percent of horses don’t fully recover from the disease and can then become persistent carriers.  Unfortunately, persistent carrier horses don’t show the outward clinical signs that sick horses do.”

 Due to the lack of outward signs in carrier horses, strangles can spread quickly and easily through a barn or herd because of its ability to be transmitted through direct animal-to-animal contact or by objects such as bridles, buckets or human hands. Protecting Your Horse: Biosecurity protocols such as observation and screening of newly arriving horses help to prevent the spread of disease. However, vaccination is the best way to combat strangles.  Equine veterinarian Dr. Kevin Hankins discusses the importance of vaccinating horses. “We are lucky with horses because the vaccines for horses are extremely effective. They are up in that high 90% range which is unheard of in humans and a lot of other species.

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