Qualified feeding adviser

Internationally available products

For the health of your horse

Pleun Broeren
7 december 2023 Reading time 3 minutes

Strangles in horses

A large number of horses get strangles at a young age. Foals and yearlings especially are extra susceptible to this disease. Young animals are also more likely to develop complications, such as defeated strangles (where lymph nodes in other parts of the body, such as the abdominal cavity, can become inflamed). After a strangulation infection, about three quarters of the horses build up immunity for a longer period of time. It is, therefore, not the case that older horses cannot get strangles, but they often show a less severe clinical picture with symptoms such as fever and a runny nose. Sometimes, however, the infection can continue for much longer such as at a riding school or boarding stable with adult horses: it is less likely to be recognized as strangles.

Is strangles contagious to humans?

Fortunately, strangles is not a disease that is transmitted to humans and we do not get sick from it. However, we can transfer the infection from one horse to another if the bacteria remains on our hands or clothing. It is, therefore, not wise to take care of both healthy horses and horses with strangles at the same time.

This is how you can limit strangles in horses

  • Isolation: when strangles are detected in a stabled horse, it is wise to isolate this horse to prevent the contamination of other horses.
  • Circumstances: a poorly ventilated barn, stress, lack of certain nutrients and other diseases can also make it easier for the STD bacteria to cause problems.
  • Stay away: don't let people who have taken care of horses with strangles come near healthy horses.
  • Disposable clothing : on a horse with strangles, use clothing that you immediately put in the washing machine, or use disposable clothing and gloves.
  • Temperatures: it is also smart to take the temperature of the rest of the horses twice a day to prevent a new infection at the earliest possible stage, and to keep the horse(s) in question separately.

Horse grafting for strangles

Vaccination for strangles can reduce the number of infections in a group of horses and the severity of symptoms in infected horses. However, the vaccine's protection is not 100 percent, so some horses may still show milder symptoms. To build up the best possible protection, a horse must be vaccinated twice, with 4 weeks in between. The vaccination should then be repeated every six months.

Treatment of strangles

When the strangles are still in an early stage and no abscesses have formed in the lymph nodes yet, antibiotics can possibly counteract the infection. However, the horse then also builds up less or no defences and can still get strangles at a later date. Once abscesses have formed, it is not wise to continue treatment with antibiotics. This only suppresses the maturation of the abscesses and, when the treatment is stopped, the course of the disease continues as usual. The treatment of a horse with strangles is mainly aimed at relieving the pain and fever. In addition, it is important that the purulent abscesses in the lymph nodes break open, so that the pus can flow out. When the abscesses do not open on their own, the vet sometimes has to help. The abscesses can then be rinsed daily with a disinfectant solution. Note that the pus that comes out is very contagious!

During treatment it is useful to regularly measure the temperature of the sick horse. This is the best way to determine if the horse is recovering or when it is wise to contact the vet (again).

Feeding advice for strangles

Horses with inflamed anterior airways and/or swollen glands usually have difficulty swallowing. That is why you often see, horses with strangles eating badly. Always make sure to offer roughage, although it may be painful for the horse to eat. To ensure that your horse continues to eat, you can offer food in soaked form. This is easier for your horse to chew.

  • Pavo SpeediBeet: this is fast-soaking, desugared beet pulp and a source of super fibres, with which to support your horse's gastrointestinal flora. 
  • Pavo FibreBeet: you can also feed this roughage product soaked and it is a combination of Pavo SpeediBeet (desugared beet pulp) and alfalfa (proteins). This 'healthy fattener' offers optimal support for condition recovery.  
  • Pavo FibreNuggets: these structured grass chunks are made from alpine meadow grass and can be used as a high-quality roughage replacement. It is best to feed them soaked, which makes it very suitable for (old) horses with dental problems. 
  • Pavo SlobberMash: our slobber is a complete concentrate and rich in vitamins and minerals. It supports good intestinal function and healthy digestion and is easy and quick to prepare with warm water. 
  • Grass is also fairly easy for the horse to chew, so you could put it on pasture. Please note: this must be a quarantine meadow to prevent contamination. 

To ensure that your horse does not weaken further and the immune system is additionally supported, you can temporarily give your sick horse a 'booster' such as:

  • Pavo HealthBoost: supports the immune system and intestinal health and gives the horse a powerful boost during or after a less well period.
  • Pavo MultiVit15: is a complete vitamin supplement with the fifteen most important vitamins for the horse. It also supports the immune system and ensures a shiny coat.

Read more about:

Vitamins & minerals +