Officials have reported six cases of strangles across two Michigan counties since the middle of February, according to the Equine Disease Communication Center (EDCC).
Five of the cases are at a facility in Oakland County, where a total of 11 horses were potentially exposed. The affected horses range in age from 2 to 16. The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development reports the horses are all under voluntary quarantine and recovering.
An additional case of strangles has been reported in Livingston County, according to the EDCC. At that location a 7-year-old mare, recently acquired by a new owner and with an unknown history, has tested positive and is recovering.
Also called equine distemper, the infection known as strangles typically begins 10 to 12 days after exposure to S. equi bacteria. First the horse experiences a high fever, depression, appetite loss and enlargement of the lymph nodes between the jawbones. Copious amounts of thick, yellow pus begin draining from the nostrils, and before three weeks are up, the abscessed nodes at the throat may burst open to drain.
Click here to read an in-depth article on the many myths about strangles.
The disease’s descriptive name comes from the “strangling” noise produced as severely affected horses struggle to draw breaths into their obstructed airways. Aside from observing the obvious physical signs in diagnosis, veterinarians can run cultures of the nasal drainage to see if it contains the streptococcal organism.
Exposure often occurs when a new horse, who’s shedding the S. equi bacterium without visible signs of sickness, is introduced into a herd. The organisms spread from horse to horse through direct contact, such as touching muzzles, environmental contamination and shared equipment, such as feed buckets and bridles. Strangles spreads rapidly, producing large outbreaks in herds not previously exposed or vaccinated. The infection is especially aggressive in populations of foals and young horses
Most horses recover, but fatalities do occur, primarily from secondary pneumonia that takes hold in debilitated or immune-compromised animals. And every now and again, S. equi infect lymph nodes deeper within the body, producing a more dangerous condition called bastard strangles.
Don’t miss out! With the free weekly EQUUS newsletter, you’ll get the latest horse health information delivered right to your in basket! If you’re not already receiving the EQUUS newsletter, click here to sign up. It’s *free*!