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