10 Tips for Preventing Strangles

10 Tips for Preventing Strangles

10 Tips to Help Prevent Strangles

by Robin Knight DVM, DACVIM and Idaho Equine Hospital

This is the fourth in a series of articles about Strangles. These posts were originally published on the Idaho Equine Hospital’s Facebook.

We here at The Sale Horse wanted to share everything we learned about this common but misunderstood disease, so we’ve re-published them with permission from Dr. Knight.

Read Pt. 1: What Is Strangles? 

Read Pt. 2: What is the Guttural Pouch?

Read Pt. 3: Strangles Carriers

How to prevent strangles

How to prevent strangles
NOT glamorous!

How to Derail a Dinner Party

Biosecurity. It sounds like the name of a mediocre Sci-Fi crime fiction thriller. It is not a glamorous topic. Bringing it up might even stop a pleasant conversation dead in its tracks. 

However, it may be the most important topic of all when it comes to Strangles.

The point of biosecurity is not to eliminate all possible exposure of a horse to Strangles. If you actually want to use and enjoy your horse, that’s going to be pretty much impossible.

Biosecurity is more about recognizing how Strep. equi behaves, how it is transmitted, and how it is killed so that you can utilize common sense strategies to decrease your chance of exposure.

How to prevent Strangles - Make sure to leave a gap between pens so horses can't touch noses

1: No Play Dates

If your horse is showing signs of illness, isolate them from your other horses and work with your vet to get an accurate diagnosis.

Do not haul them or expose them to other horses if you suspect that they are sick–even if you think it’s just a cold. Remember, nearly 80% of horses with Strangles don’t get an abscess under their jaw. More than 25% don’t even get a fever!

2: Less Mingling

When hauling: if you are only at a location for the day, leave your horses at your trailer or keep them with you.

Even if there’s no visible sick horses around and yours are healthy as…well…a horse, do not use common tie rails or put them in an area where they will have nose to nose contact with other horses. At least 1 in 10 horses that gets Strangles will remain a carrier without treatment. These horses usually won’t have any visible signs that they’re contagious.

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If possible, leave your horse at your trailer when hauling instead of tying to shared rails.


Bring your own buckets. If you don’t have your own with you, wash any bucket you use with soap and water at a minimum. You can also soak them in dilute bleach…which brings us to a little known fact:

4: Bleach has a secret weakness

One important thing to remember about bleach: it is very quickly inactivated by any organic material. This means wood, leather, poop, mucous, and more.

If you are using bleach to sterilize, make sure to pre-wash first so you get any residue out of the way. Don’t forget that bleach will only work well on nonporous materials like plastic.

How to prevent Strangles - Water buckets are a common source of bacteria
NOPE: The end of the hose can be contaminated, so don't stick it in the water while filling buckets.

How to prevent Strangles - Water buckets are a common source of bacteria
YES: Hold the hose above the bucket while filling.

5: While we’re talking about water buckets,

The end of the water hose can become contaminated if it is dunked into a bucket while filling. Make sure you hold it above the water while you are filling your buckets. This is a good idea at home, but extra important when travelling or showing.
Strangles Biohazards

6: Sharing isn’t always caring

Bring your own grooming equipment and tack. Do not swap equipment between horses. Contaminated bits are a very effective way to transmit bacteria.

Remember fomites?

How to prevent strangles - avoid petting horses other than your own

7: This is no petting zoo

As tempting as it is to pet other horses, avoid it. If they rub their nose on you, you may carry bacteria back to your own horse.

Try to prevent other people from petting your horse as well.

Turns out what you don’t know could be wasting your money…

Separate horses by use. For example, horses that have been hauled to shows should not be able to touch noses with mares and babies.

8: Divide and conquer

Separating horses that travel and show regularly from the stay-at-home types in your herd can really limit the number of exposed horses should someone accidentally pick up something at an event.

Separation must extend beyond a fence line to prevent nose to nose contact.

9: Take a test

Make sure Typhoid Mary didn’t wind up in your trailer by testing any new horses that will be entering your herd. This is a very effective way to prevent your new horse from infecting the others.

A PCR test from a guttural pouch flush is the most effective way to find out if a horse is carrying Strangles.

In addition to testing for Strangles, new horses should be isolated for at least 2 weeks to limit transmission of other contagious diseases, such as EHV and influenza.

Strangles Carrier - Mary Mallon spread Typhoid to more than 50 people in the early 1900s.
Strangles carrier- Having a new horse tested for Strangles before introducing him to your herd could save you a LOT of trouble long term.
Having a new horse tested for Strangles before introducing him to your herd could save you a LOT of trouble long term.

10: Seriously, take a test

If you have had Strangles in your herd, please test your horses to see if they are carriers. You might be saving your friends and fellow competitors from a similar heartache.

Strangles is a disease which requires that we all be responsible owners.

It could conceivably be eradicated if we all worked together to find and eliminate carrier infections.

Hey, you didn’t mention vaccinations!

Vaccination for Strangles is a big and somewhat controversial topic. Don’t worry–we’ll cover it in a later post! Remember, vaccination does not ever preclude the need for biosecurity.

Idaho Equine Hospital – Nampa, ID

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December 12, 2016 / by / in ,

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