Strangles, Just How Bad Is It? Long post warning - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 69 Old 05-12-2016, 03:48 PM Thread Starter
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Strangles, Just How Bad Is It? Long post warning

Sorry this is long but gotta show all the steps.

Strangles is probably one of THE most hated of all the things your horse can catch. It's incredibly easy to catch, it's messy, and it seems like it lasts forever. Vet describes it as, "High Morbidity and Low Mortality", meaning a lot of horses can catch it but it kills very few. In my experience that's true, but it doesn't help when you're on the "mortality" end of the thing. You quarantine and do everything right and it still spreads through the barn like wildfire.

I've been around horses my whole life and worked in several barns, so experienced Strangles but never have had it on my property nor on my parents property when I was growing up. This year that all changed.

I bought a mare, Dolly, at a sale on 3/19/16. This isn't a low end auction, it's a pretty nice one, full of pretty good horses and prospects. Of course, what you can't rule out is what is in the facility before you bring in all the sales horses. Dolly had a current Coggins and 30 day Health Cert, came from a neighboring state, was in good flesh, excellent coat, feet were done, everything looked well cared for so I don't think she brought Strangles to the sale. I had a horse in the sale (Thank God he was stabled all the way on the other side of the stalls from Dolly and his new owner hasn't contacted me with anything but praise for him.) and he sold right after Dolly, LATE, almost midnight or I'd have gone home.

So when everything was done, we settled up and then loaded Dolly into the trailer and hauled her home, about 1-1.5 hours ride in the trailer. We got home probably 2 am and unloaded. Blame a tired, foggy brain, I never thought of disinfecting the trailer right then.

The next day, I loaded up 3 mares to take out to the breeding ranch, we had a 9 am appt. Still never thought about it.

About a week later my DH says, "What's up with Dolly? I thought she was too old to be getting teeth.". I tuned in real quick. "What do you mean?" "She's got lumps all under her chin.". This mare had been quarantined from the beginning, again Thank God. BUT, the other 3, who had ridden in the trailer had not been QT'd, they were out on pasture with Cloney and one of them had a stall right next to Skippy the stallion.

I went out to look at her and there they were. The tell tale lumps of abscesses under her chin along the lymph nodes and she was starting to have a lot of clear mucus come out of her nose. "CRAP". That's really all there was to say.

About a week after that the 3 mares, Goldie, Dunny and Pepi, were all streaming snot. No abscesses though. It took longer, maybe because the 2 boys had been vaccinated in the past for showing, but 2 weeks or so after that, Cloney had abcesses. Skippy still clear. All of them had a cough for a day or 2, they all went off feed for a day or 2, but all of them bounced back fairly quickly. Either the mucus dried up and quit streaming or the abscesses opened and were draining, but all came through pretty easily. Cloney is still draining as I type this on 5/12/16. Skippy got a cough for a couple of days, got a little..."MEH, I don't feel good." and of course, streamed snot like nobody's business.

While all this was going on, I had 2 mares, Patti & Boo, in the foaling barn getting ready to foal. So, the barn helper was pretty much responsible for taking care of the "dirty" barn and irrigating the abscesses and letting me know what was going on with the other horses.

Skippy went off feed completely this last weekend, stopped eating, drinking and got very depressed acting. My DH pulled him out on Saturday to pick his stall and he was very reluctant to come out. When he did, DH about lost it. He told me to come look quick. That poor horse had stopped peeing and pooping, not really sure for how long because the barn helper didn't communicate that anything was really 'off'. And before anyone thinks I blame her for Skippy's decline, I don't. She's 18, not a vet or even a vet student, and had never even heard of Strangles until she came to work here. She just didn't know what she didn't know.

We took Skippy to OSU and he's been there for a week. Not only did he have Strangles but he is one of the small percentage that got pneumonia as well. He's had a tracheostomy, an NG (naso gastric) feeding tube and until yesterday the prognosis was very uncertain. It now appears he's going to be ok.

What did we miss? LOTS of things.

I think the main thing that should have been a clue but wasn't, is that Strangles doesn't stink. We didn't know that, so when the discharge from his nose got really nasty smelling, as in smell it in the aisle in front of his stall, we didn't clue that something else was going on.

#2 was that he had a bright pink line on his gums, a toxic line. I would have thought it was an indication of gum disease but, in fact, it was a sign that he had something systemic going on. His eyes also got very red along the bottoms, under the iris.

#3 He still had a cough after about 1 week to 10 days. I wish the barn helper had thought to mention this, but the others all had a cough for a while, so she probably didn't think anything of it.

#4 His breathing was very labored and he had obvious rhonchi (Rhonchi are rattling, continuous and low-pitched breath sounds that are often hear to be like snoring. Rhonchi are also called low-pitched wheezes. They are often caused by secretions in larger airways or obstructions.) Another one that you could hear from the aisle. Barn helper never mentioned this either, again didn't know what she was hearing.

Anyone of these things, had we caught them, could have led us in to the vet hospital sooner than later. As it is, he's one sick horse and my vet bill? Wellllll, let's just say that the deposit for his care was $2500. That's only going to be the tip of the iceberg, I'm afraid.

Here's a link to an article on Strangles for anyone who'd like to read it. Strangles in Horses

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post #2 of 69 Old 05-12-2016, 04:02 PM
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Thanks for posting
I don't think that many people realize you how contagious it is and that the disease doesn't just start out in 'low end horses/low end places'
A show jumper turned brood mare that we used to own caught it when I had her at on 'stud' yard that also had competition horses/ breeding horses, sale horses and horses boarded there. The horse that brought it on to the yard was one of several top end youngsters they'd bought from Ireland, all healthy and vetted prior to purchase. The horses were put in a 'quarantine' field that was well away from all the others and yet the disease still spread.
Similarly the first ones to get it (and the majority of those that did get it) presented as if they just had a mild respiratory infection and out of all the horses on the property only a handful, including our mare, got full blown Strangles. One horse died from secondary infection (pneumonia) but they'd struggled to get her to eat or drink anything throughout the illness so she was weak anyway
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post #3 of 69 Old 05-12-2016, 04:10 PM Thread Starter
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I'd always been told that the mortality normally came from the very young (foals) and the elderly horses. Skippy doesn't fit either category, he's 6 this year and always been very healthy. This was a really tough scare, the thought of losing him really tore me up. Not just because he's my stallion but because he's always been my baby. To see him having dropped all that weight, sucked up and struggling to breathe really knocked it out of me. Financially? It's been and will continue to be very rough for a while because of all of the testing and treatment that needs to be on going until everyone tests clear.

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post #4 of 69 Old 05-12-2016, 04:39 PM
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The mare that died on that yard wasn't young or old, I think about 9 or 10 and in good condition too. There were some quite elderly horses boarded there and they just got the snotty nose thing and were recovered from that in a few days
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post #5 of 69 Old 05-12-2016, 04:40 PM
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That really sucks DA, sorry to hear about this
Thanks for the education though. I have realized the past several months that I just don't know enough about these illnesses they can catch, so have been endeavoring to educate myself.
I know your not laying blame on barn helper and I'm not either, I just think it a bit odd if she heard something like snoring or wheezing and didn't tell you guys? Well, at least she will know for future reference.

"You can do something wrong for thirty years and call yourself experienced, you can do something right for a week and experience more than someone who spent thirty years doing the wrong thing." ~WhattaTroublemaker
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post #6 of 69 Old 05-12-2016, 04:55 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by horseluvr2524 View Post
I just think it a bit odd if she heard something like snoring or wheezing and didn't tell you guys? Well, at least she will know for future reference.
At first I kind of thought it odd too but then had to think about where she's coming from. She has 1 horse, kept in a hunter training facility and everyone is vaccinated for Strangles yearly.

She worked for a lady while she was recovering from knee surgery, and the lady was right there saying, "Do this, do that" but she didn't explain much about WHY or what she was having her do.

I found out about this lack of instruction when the farrier came. I told her to be here at 8:30, the farrier was due at 9. He showed up at 9, I came out and there she sat in her car, waiting for instruction. She had no idea that she was supposed to be here at 8:30, get the horses in to the barn and ready for him, and to have the first one haltered and cross tied by 9 am. I had assumed that because she worked for this lady, she'd have been told to do these things and would just do them. NOPE, the lady had her farrier go out and fetch the horses and he picked out their feet. She was shocked that we did all that for the farrier. I was stunned by the lady's bad manners with her farrier, so ....... Now I assume she hasn't been told anything.

The other horses all had the snots, had noisy breathing for a couple of days, so when Skippy's lasted a little longer, she put it down to him having a bit worse case and just kind of went about her business. I've now instituted a daily check that she's to do for all the horses (not the ladies in the foaling barn, no cross contamination), and on that check list I've put indications that she needs to come talk to me and make sure I'm advised of certain things. It's a learning process for both of us.

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post #7 of 69 Old 05-12-2016, 05:00 PM
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Wow. How terribly scary. Thank you for sharing the story and the reminder to be vigilant. I am very sorry you had to go through all of that. I am glad Skippy seems to be pulling through but am knocking on wood for you just in case.
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post #8 of 69 Old 05-12-2016, 05:12 PM
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Because my horse is out on the trails with various groups now I had her vaccinated for strangles this month. I was told it wouldn't be a bad idea to carry water for her as well, as group water troughs in parks are a source of infection.

Is my horse protected?
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post #9 of 69 Old 05-12-2016, 05:21 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Avna View Post
Because my horse is out on the trails with various groups now I had her vaccinated for strangles this month. I was told it wouldn't be a bad idea to carry water for her as well, as group water troughs in parks are a source of infection.

Is my horse protected?
Did you give her the IN or IM vaccine? The IN is MUCH more effective than the IM.

I never carried water out on the trail but we did not use the group water troughs. I did carry a bucket in the trailer and when we got back to base, then I'd fill the bucket and let my horse drink their fill. Most of the time I had water in a 30 gal water tank in the tack room of my trailer and never even used the hoses or hydrants provided. I also tend to either ride lead or drag on trail and stay out of the "pack".
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post #10 of 69 Old 05-12-2016, 05:57 PM
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strangles is very contagious. Hope everyone heals up soon. I had any Appy that got ill right after his last shot as a yearling, Cost me a fortune, that was in the 70's,
antibiotic shots twice a day, he had a flavored syrup for his water that had like mucous thinner and cough relief meds,and he would drink after this was mixed into his water. I fixed mashes for him to slurp up as he did not want to chew hay. he had such a high fever so long, he was brain damaged after he got well. It took Months. At one point I almost had him put down. He became mean after he was well. Good luck with your horses and hope they are well soon
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