Wednesday, November 12, 2008


For the past week Tonka has been rubbing at his jaw line on the trees, the fence posts and me. He has had a slightly runny nose, and when he nickers he sounds congested. The lymph glands around his throat are swollen, but he is eating with gusto and his temperature is normal. I was cautiously unconcerned about these symptoms until this afternoon when I heard that there has been an outbreak of strangles in the Maple Ridge area, about 40 km west of us.

Strangles is the bacterial equivalent of strep throat for horses, but its clinical manifestation is much more alarming. A severe infection can cause large abscesses around the lymph nodes and in the Eustachian tubes. So large, in fact, that they can crush the windpipe -- hence the name. A very severe infection (or bastard strangles) can cause abscesses around other organs, putting the horse's life at risk when they rupture and drain. Both Tonka and Raven have been vaccinated again strangles, but immunity is short-lived in all cases and simply isn't developed in 25% of the treated animals. Their overall risk of contracting the bacterium is low because they live in a closed herd, but a couple of weeks ago I cared for a neighbor's competition horses all week (none of whom are symptomatic). I put a call into our vet as soon as I heard about the outbreak, and we'll get them both swabbed and tested.


Funder said...

Oh noooooo, here's hoping it's just some viral infection that Tonka will beat in the next few days. :(

Out of curiosity, which vaccines do you give?

Black Jack's Carol said...

Oh my goodness. I'm hoping for the best for Tonka!

LatigoLiz said...

Yuk! Hope Tonka heals up soon!

Daun said...

DP, The strangles vaccination is the worst, sometimes causing strangles on otherwise clean horses. I read the report and it said that it was only 20% effective in preventing infection on horses that were intentionally infected with a contaminated swab. In fact, at my trainer's barn, the two horses who were symptomatic with strangles were the two horses that were vaccinated for it every 6 months.

I don't give the vaccination, but I am very careful about traveling with the horses and cleaning my gear. They only drink from my buckets, for example.

Sorry about poor Tonka, but with strangles, you are damned if you do, damned if you don't.

allhorsestuff said...

Oh...I am gasping!
I am so sorry that Raven and maybe Tonka could be endangered! My mare's half sister got it from my pony when she was 1 yr old..she did survive.

I too have heard of the shot or intranasel injection being able to give the animal the actual thing.

Wow- please know that I'm praying for your horses..all my animals have tones of prayers sent up for them.
Be looking for your news...again, so sorry

dp said...

Thanks for your kind thoughts everyone. To be clear, I don't think that Tonka has strangles -- I only started to worry about it as a possibility when I heard there was an outbreak in our area. I think that Tonka has some little infection that is making his glands swell and his nose run a little. Our vet feels the same and managed to convince me that I don't need to have them swabbed. On that note, Tonka's glands are totally down so far today.

I committed to one year of full-spectrum vaccinations for Tonka and Raven because I had so little history on them and both were in poor condition upon arrival. My intention has always been to stop vaccinating for everything other than tetanus and rabies in the spring. They have both been vaccinated against strangles already without ill-effect, and the booster they are going to get on Saturday will be their last. In general I am with Daun on this, but I think that the booster is prudent given the circumstance.