Horse Strangles

Natural equine remedies for upper respiratory system relief for treating strangles in horses.

    equine respiratory system relief for treating strangles in horses

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    1. What is Strangles?
    2. What Causes Strangles?
    3. Diagnosing Strangles
    4. Help for Strangles
    5. More Information on Strangles

    What is Strangles?

    Strangles is a highly contagious disease that affects a horse’s lymph nodes in its upper respiratory tract. While Strangles can affect horses of any age, it most commonly infects those between one and five years of age. Strangles is not usually fatal to horses, but it certainly can be if left untreated.

    Once a horse is exposed to the bacteria, it will begin to show symptoms in two to six days.

    The first signs of strangles are:
    • High fever
    • Poor appetite
    • Depression or low mood and lethargy


    Latter signs (within one to two weeks after the onset of illness)
    of strangles are:
    • Thin, watery discharge from the horse’s nostrils
    • Discharge that quickly turns thick and yellow
    • Upper respiratory lymph nodes become swollen (particularly near the jawbones).


    What Causes Strangles?

    Strangles is caused by a bacterium called streptococcus equi. The name of the disease ‘strangles’ came about due to the strangling breathing sounds made by affected horses (enlarged lymph nodes of the jawbone put strain on the vocal chords). When one horse is infected, it sheds the streptococcus equi bacteria.

    This can happen during or after its own bout with the illness as around twenty percent of horses remain contagious for a month after all symptoms vanish. Direct contact between horses is the most common way the disease is spread, but it may also occur as a result of:

    • Shared contaminated equipment and food or water
    • Improperly cleaned buckets, stalls, bedding and tack

    Diagnosing Strangles

    If you suspect that your horse has strangles, it is very important that you notify your veterinarian immediately. The sooner a positive diagnosis is reached, the quicker a horse can be treated and his health improved. An accurate diagnosis is also esential in order to separate the infected animal from other horses, as well as to thoroughly clean equipment and stables.

    Help for Strangles

    Nasal swabs can usually ascertain whether the horse is shedding the streptococcus equi bacteria; however three nasal swabs (over a period of one week) are required before strangles can be ruled out. Strangles can be controlled by vaccinations; however they are not a complete guarantee against the disease.

    Antibiotics may be prescribed in the early stages of strangles, however a horse must be given the correct amounts and once lymph nodes have enlarged antibiotic treatment is futile. Abscesses will need to be opened (have the veterinarian lance it) so that they may drain. Treatment then consists of flushing the drainage site, keeping the area as clean as possible, and maintaining strict isolation of the ill horse to prevent spreading the infection to other horses.

    Natural Remedies

    There are many herbal and homeopathic remedies that can help your horse to strengthen their respiratory system. Homeopathic ingredients such as Aconitum napellus and Belladonna can address respiratory symptoms such as swelling and inflammation in the throat and jaw.

    Hepar sulph.and Silicea can address health on a cellular level, helping to soothe irritated mucous membranes in the nasal passages and throat. Merc sol can help to regulate temperature, while Sulphur has been known to provide systemic support – particularly to the respiratory system, including the lungs.

    More Information on Strangles

    Tips related to Strangles
    • Keep new horses that have a vague or unknown health history isolated from the rest of the herd until they can be checked for any contagious diseases (up to three weeks).
    • Regularly clean tack equipment, bedding and water troughs and feed baskets.
    • If your horse was stabled near one who had strangles at a show or rodeo, speak to your vet about a possible cautionary treatment for at least six days after exposure.
    • Fence your property, so that your horse does not come into contact with other horses of unknown origin.