Equine Strangles – Part 3

In the last of our strangles series, equine vet Dulcie discusses what to do in a strangles outbreak

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Preparing for an outbreak of equine strangles

Preparation is key; you don’t want to wait until you have an equine strangles outbreak to think about how to deal with it. Ensure you have a clear plan in place beforehand so that in the event of an outbreak everyone is clear on how to manage it. Make sure you have all the equipment you need to hand. It is much better to spend a small amount of money on a proper isolation area than ending up with the costs associated with a widespread outbreak on the yard.

Here is an equipment checklist of what you will need to set up an isolation area. This should be a completely separate stable or field ideally >10m away from other horses.

  • Physical barriers and signs – at least 10 feet between the horse and the boundary
  • Disinfectant effective against strangles e.g Virkon, Anigene
  • Foot dip
  • Containers for soaking overalls (if reusable ones)
  • Overalls – need to cover sleeves and trouser bottoms
  • Disposable gloves and caps
  • Stable tools to be used for isolation only e.g mucking out equipment, thermometer, brushes
  • Area to store muck and bin to dispose of used items e.g gloves

Here is a short video for reference on setting up your isolation area from Redwings.

If you suspect strangles

  • Isolate affected horses and also any horses which have had direct or indirect contact with horses showing signs
  • Stop all horses moving on or off the yard
  • Call your vet to arrange testing of all affected horses

If equine strangles is confirmed

A traffic light system is often used to manage an outbreak on the yard

Red zone

  • Strict isolation of horses who show signs of strangles or have tested positive
  • These horses will need to have a guttural pouch endoscopy at least 3 weeks after the last horse on the yard has shown symptoms to ensure they are completely clear of strangles

Amber zone

  • Strict isolation for horses who may have had direct or indirect contact with the sick horse at any point during the last three weeks and may be incubating the disease
  • Take temperatures of these horses ideally twice daily and monitor for clinical signs
  • Any horses showing signs or a high temperature to be moved to the red zone
  • Remember this is the group that is most likely to contain a carrier if that has triggered your outbreak

Green zone

  • Close monitoring but normal management for horses that are not thought to have been in contact with any sick or at risk horses for at least three weeks
  • Ideally the person caring for these horses should not have contact with any horses in the red or amber zone
  • If this is not possible, start with green zones first, then amber, and finally red

After an outbreak

It is really important to ensure you take the following steps after you have been given the all clear from equine strangles, to make sure it has well and truly gone. Depending on the environment, strangles bacteria can survive longer than you would expect.

  • Stables – disinfect all areas thoroughly, paying attention to doorframes and walls. Rubber mats should be lifted and scrubbed on both sides. Any dried on nasal discharge may need to be scraped off before disinfecting.
  • Paddocks – should be rested for 2 weeks minimum, 6 weeks if there is a natural water source.
  • Water – strangles bacteria can live for up to 6 weeks in water so ensure any troughs and buckets have been emptied and thoroughly disinfected.
  • Equipment – headcollars, rugs, haynets etc should be soaked in disinfectant for at least 3 hrs, and then thoroughly rinsed and dried. Ensure disinfectant is thoroughly rinsed for items such as feed and water buckets.
  • Vehicles – any horsebox/trailer that has been used by an infected horse (and for the 3 weeks before this) needs to be disinfected thoroughly. It is good practice to routinely disinfect transport after each trip.
  • Muck – this is an important source of infection so it must be disposed of with care;
    Either in a field away from water courses, other horses and public rights of way for at least 2 months (spreading the muck exposes the bacteria) Or store muck in a composting heap away from other horses for at least 6 months (heat generated kills the bacteria) then dispose of normally

Please note: if you suspect your horse has strangles, promptly isolate the horse and any in-contacts and contact us as soon as you can.

Don’t forget strangles awareness week 3-9th May 2021. For more information on what this involves click here

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