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Equine Strangles is back in the Lakeview Area. Equine Strangles also known as distemper is caused by a bacteria, Streptococcus equi. The disease is highly contagious and can spread rapidly from horse to horse by direct contact. Other equines such as ponies, mules, and donkeys are also susceptible. It can also be spread by indirect contact such as with equipment, tack, or humans. It gets the name from the loud respiration caused by the large amount of nasal discharge and the swelling of the lymph nodes in the head and/or neck close to the head. These lymph nodes get large and will occasionally if not treated strangulate a horse before they rupture on their own. Horses with difficulty breathing need immediate veterinary care, swelling in the throat latch area is the most concerning. Other signs include fever and depression. Most horses recover fully but it will take 3 to 6 weeks and they may be infectious for another 2 or 3 weeks after recovery. Complications such as internal abscesses (Bastard Strangles) and Purpura Hemorrhagica (a bleeding disorder caused from an auto-immune reaction associated with the bacteria) can be life threatening. Most horses will recover with supportive care such as hot packs to help bring abscesses to a head, then lancing and flushing abscesses. Antibiotics are somewhat controversial, if given prior to the forming of the abscesses they can slow this formation and thus prolong the course of the disease. In mild cases they are likely not necessary but in severe cases they can be helpful to prevent complications. Also, by limiting the disease the horse may have a lesser immune response. Anti-inflammatory products may also be beneficial to help ease breathing in severe cases. With that said I give no intra-muscular injections due to the risk of Purpura. I have seen horses slough chunks of muscle larger than the ham off a 300-pound hog due to IM injections with antibiotics or anti-inflammatories. Prevention is by biosecurity principals such as isolating new horses or horses returning from shows. Not using common water troughs, equipment, etc. Vaccines are also available and should be used on all at risk horses. At risk horses are usually horses that are traveling to shows or breeding farms. Anywhere there are a lot of horses in and out. Vaccines do not prevent infection in many horses but they lessen the signs and duration of disease. When it gets going in this area it tends to spread due to our large numbers of horses and our using them to help our friends and neighbors. This is likely a good year to vaccinate for strangles for most of our horses. Contact one of the doctors at Lakeview Animal Hospital if you have addition questions.