Brian’s owner requested a call-out when the five-year-old Warmblood seemed under the weather.
He had arrived on his new yard 10 days before and seemed fine until yesterday, when he was a bit lethargic.
On examination his head was hanging low and he looked very sad. He had a thick nasal discharge and a high temperature (39.1C) He also had a mild swelling around the throat.
To start with, I prescribed some anti-inflammatory drugs. In this case, no antibiotics were given as it can prolong the formation of abscesses. Strangles was a concern so I recommended a nasopharyngeal swab to determine the cause of the nasal discharge.
A blood sample was taken to check the level of strangles antibodies.
Until the results were back, it was advised that the horse was kept isolated and that it was best that only his owner would care for and handle Brian, using strict biosecurity. This meant following a routine of changing clothes, as well as washing and disinfecting hands and boots.
The lab contacted us 48 hours later and confirmed a strangles infection. Strangles is an infection caused by Streptococcus equi equi and can affect any horse, at any age.
It is highly contagious and in one per cent of cases, proves fatal. It is spread via direct and indirect contact so on equipment, clothing and hands. The yard was asked to refrain from moving horses off the yard as a precaution. The horses were split into groups 1) affected horses 2) in contact horses and 3) horses that have had no contact. Owners were advised to monitor their horses’ temperature and if increased then to isolate them also.
In 10 per cent of cases, horses will become carriers. This means they look well but may still harbour bacteria in the guttural pouches. Horses can incubate the infection for three to 14 days and abscesses can take up to two weeks to form.
We monitored Brian closely and he recovered well. We carried out further swabs and blood samples to determine he was free from infection.