A survey commissioned by the Redwings Horse Sanctuary found that only 13% of yards test for Strangles on arrival of a new horse, but also that 78% of owners would welcome screening of new arrivals.
Strangles is a highly contagious bacterial respiratory infection that is commonly seen in the equine world. It is spread by direct contact with an infected horse or by sharing equipment e.g. buckets. The signs of infection are a thick nasal discharge, swollen glands and high temperature. The disease can, although rare, be fatal. Affected yards are recommended to cease movement on and off until the infection has cleared which can take several weeks. A small percentage of horses that contract Strangles can become carriers whereby they show no external symptoms but still harbour the bacteria.
A blood test is available to detect antibodies against Strangles which are made when the body encounters the Strangles bacteria. The main use of this blood test is to screen new arrivals to a yard for Strangles before they come onto the yard. The results will either come back as negative, borderline or positive.
A negative result means the horse is sfae to move but should still be kept in isolation for 2 weeks as the blood test does not detect horses who have been exposed to Strangles within the previous 14 days.
A borderline result would want re-testing in approximately 14 days to see if the result becomes either positive or negative.
A positive result means that the horse has been exposed to Strangles within the past 6 months although it may not be showing clinical symptoms. A horse with a borderline or positive result should not be accepted on to a yard without further investigation. If a horse has a positive result, then this horse should ideally receive an endoscopy to perform a gutteral pouch wash. This samples the back of the throat to check for the Strangles bacteria and is usually found in carrier horses. Carrier horses would require further specialised treatment over several weeks.
We would encourage all yard owners to consider instigating a policy to test new arrivals for strangles on the above basis.
More information Strangles Leaflet