The largest outbreak outbreak of strangles (aka horse distemper) in more than 10 years has horse owners on edge in Windsor, Ontario, Canada after 11 animals on two farms have been diagnosed. Highly contagious, the Streptococcus bacterial infection is generally spread from horse to horse through nasal discharges, but can also be contracted via exposure to people who’s clothing and hands have come in contact with the bacteria, as well as through contaminated feed troughs, barns, stables and even pastures. Symptoms include fever, heavy nasal discharge, and swollen or enlarged lymph nodes in the neck and throatlatch. Infected equines may also stop eating and “have a dull aspect.”
While horses of all ages are susceptible, those most seriously affected are generally younger animals and elderly horses with weakened immune systems, who run the risk of asphyxia due to the enlarged lymph nodes pressing against their windpipes, while “bastard cases of strangles may involve the disease spreading to other parts of the body resulting in heart disease, as well as pus filled guttural pouches and even pneumonia, etc.
Veterinarians generally recommend that animals who have been exposed to strangles be isolated from other animals for about 6 weeks to make sure that it is not incubating in their system. Meanwhile, the disease, itself usually runs its course within 23 days. In addition, equine health experts are recommending that owners have their horses vaccinated to prevent further spread of the disease.