How Long Does Strangles Last? Understanding the Duration of Strangles Infection and Its Treatment

Strangles is a highly contagious respiratory disease that commonly affects horses. It is caused by the bacteria Streptococcus equi, usually affecting the lymph nodes in the face and throat. Many horse owners are concerned about how long the symptoms of strangles can last. If you are one of these people, you have come to the right place for answers.

Strangles can last for a long time, and the duration of the disease will depend on various factors. Recovery can range from one week to several months, depending on the severity of the infection, location of the abscesses, and the horse’s immune system. In rare cases, the disease can even last years or become a chronic condition. If you notice any signs or symptoms of strangles in your horse, it is essential to contact your veterinarian immediately. It’s always best to trust a professional in times like these.

In this article, we will explore everything you need to know about the duration of strangles in horses. We will talk about the symptoms of the disease, how the condition is diagnosed and treated, and how you can prevent your horse from getting sick. It is our goal to provide you with all the necessary information to keep your horse healthy and happy. So, let’s dive into the world of strangles and learn more about how long it lasts.

Definition of Strangles

Strangles, also known as equine distemper, is a highly contagious and infectious disease that primarily affects horses. This respiratory infection is caused by the bacteria Streptococcus equi subspecies equi (S. equi). The infection affects the lymph nodes in the head and neck area, causing them to swell and restrict breathing.

Strangles gets its name from the characteristic swelling and abscesses that develop in the lymph nodes of the horse’s throat. The bacteria that cause strangles are easily spread, and the disease is most commonly transmitted through direct contact with an infected horse, or through contaminated equipment or facilities.

Causes of strangles

Strangles is an infectious disease that affects horses and can sometimes be fatal. It is caused by the bacterium Streptococcus equi, which is highly contagious among horses and can easily spread from horse to horse through direct contact or through contaminated objects such as feed buckets and water troughs.

  • Inhalation of infected droplets: The most common way that horses become infected with strangles is through inhalation of droplets containing the bacterium that are released into the air when an infected horse coughs or sneezes.
  • Direct contact with infected horses: Horses can also become infected with strangles by coming into direct contact with an infected horse. This can happen when horses are housed together in close quarters or when they share equipment such as brushes, blankets, or water buckets.
  • Indirect contact with contaminated objects: Strangles can also be spread indirectly through contact with contaminated objects in the environment such as feed buckets, water troughs, or fences.

The bacteria responsible for strangles can survive for several weeks in the environment, making it crucial for horse owners to practice good biosecurity measures to prevent the spread of the disease. Regular cleaning and disinfection of shared equipment and facilities, as well as isolation and treatment of infected horses, can help prevent the spread of strangles.

In addition, vaccination is available as a preventative measure against strangles, although its use is controversial and has both benefits and drawbacks.

Transmission route Risk factor
Inhalation of infected droplets High
Direct contact with infected horses Moderate
Indirect contact with contaminated objects Low

Understanding the causes and risk factors associated with strangles is crucial for preventing the spread of this highly infectious and potentially deadly disease.

Symptoms of Strangles in Horses

Strangles is an infectious disease that affects horses, caused by the bacteria Streptococcus equi. It is highly contagious and can spread quickly from horse to horse. The symptoms can range from mild to severe, and the duration of the illness can last for several weeks or even months.

  • Nasal Discharge: One of the most common symptoms of strangles is nasal discharge. Horses with strangles may have thick, yellow or green mucus coming out of their nostrils. The discharge may be accompanied by coughing or sneezing.
  • Swollen Lymph Nodes: Strangles gets its name from the enlarged lymph nodes that occur in the throat and neck area of infected horses. These can become so swollen that they restrict the horse’s breathing and swallowing, and may even burst, resulting in pus drainage.
  • Fever: Another common symptom of strangles is a fever. The horse may have an elevated body temperature, be lethargic, and have a loss of appetite.

Horses can also exhibit other symptoms, such as depression, difficulty swallowing, and a loss of muscle tone. In some cases, strangles can lead to complications like pneumonia, guttural pouch infections, and even death.

The duration of strangles can vary depending on the severity of the infection and the horse’s immune response. Mild cases may resolve within a few weeks, while severe cases can last for several months. In general, a horse with strangles can be contagious for up to three weeks after the onset of symptoms, and it is important to quarantine infected horses to prevent the spread of the disease.

Nasal Discharge 2-4 weeks
Enlarged Lymph Nodes 2-4 weeks
Fever 1-2 weeks

If you suspect your horse has strangles, contact your veterinarian immediately. Early detection and prompt treatment can help reduce the severity and duration of the illness, as well as prevent the spread to other horses in the barn.

Diagnosis of Strangles

Diagnosing strangles can be tricky since the symptoms are similar to other respiratory infections, such as the flu. However, there are a few telltale signs that can help veterinarians diagnose strangles with accuracy. These signs include:

  • Fever (over 101-103 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Depression and lethargy
  • Decreased appetite
  • Nasal discharge
  • Coughing and difficulty swallowing
  • Sudden enlargement of lymph nodes (usually under the jaw)

Veterinarians also use a number of diagnostic tools to confirm strangles, including:

  • Blood tests: These tests can determine whether the horse has developed antibodies to the Streptococcus equi bacteria. Blood tests can also help determine the severity of the infection.
  • Swabs: Your vet may take a sample of the discharge from your horse’s nostrils and send it to a lab for testing.
  • Endoscopy: This involves using a small camera to look inside the horse’s nose and throat to identify signs of the infection.

Preventing Strangles

Preventing strangles is much easier than treating it. There are a few measures that you can take to reduce the risk of your horse contracting the infection, including:

  • Quarantine: If you bring a new horse to your stable, keep them isolated from the other horses for two weeks. Make sure to disinfect anything that may have come into contact with the new horse, such as equipment or trailers.
  • Hygiene: Keep your stable clean and always disinfect surfaces that come into contact with multiple horses, such as water troughs.
  • Vaccination: Vaccinating your horse against strangles can reduce the severity of the infection if they are exposed to the bacteria.

Treatment for Strangles

If your horse does contract strangles, it is important to isolate them immediately to prevent the infection from spreading to other horses. Your vet will likely prescribe antibiotics to help treat the infection. In some cases, horses may need hospitalization to receive intravenous fluids or other supportive care.

Stage of strangles Treatment
Early stage Antibiotics (oral or injectable), warm compresses to lymph nodes
Middle stage Lancing and draining of abscesses, antibiotics (oral or injectable), supportive care (IV fluids, electrolytes, etc.)
Late stage/complications Hospitalization, aggressive supportive care, surgical intervention (if necessary)

It is important to follow your vet’s instructions closely and complete the entire course of antibiotics, even if your horse appears to be feeling better. Failure to do so may result in the recurrence of the infection or the development of more serious complications, such as pneumonia.

Treatment Options for Strangles

Strangles, caused by the bacterium Streptococcus equi, is a highly contagious respiratory disease that affects horses. The disease can last anywhere from a few weeks to several months, depending on the severity of the infection. Luckily, there are various treatment options available to owners and caretakers to help manage the disease and reduce its duration and severity.

  • Antibiotics: Antibiotics can be prescribed by a veterinarian to treat the bacterial infection. Common choices include penicillin, gentamicin, and enrofloxacin. The duration of treatment depends on the severity of the infection and can range from a few days to weeks.
  • Isolation: Isolating the infected horse to prevent the spread of the disease is essential. Horses with strangles should be kept away from healthy horses and their equipment, such as water buckets and feeders, should be separated.
  • Supportive care: Providing supportive care such as hydration, proper nutrition, and rest can help the horse recover from the infection. Horses with severe infections may require hospitalization for intravenous fluids and electrolytes.
  • Vaccination: Vaccines are available that provide immunity against the bacteria that causes strangles. They are not 100% protective, but can greatly reduce the severity of the disease if a vaccinated horse becomes infected.
  • Complementary therapies: Complementary therapies such as herbal supplements, acupuncture, and chiropractic care may help boost the horse’s immune system and support its overall health. It’s important to consult with a veterinarian before trying any complementary therapies.

In addition to these treatment options, it’s crucial to maintain good biosecurity measures, such as disinfecting equipment and practicing good hygiene, to prevent the spread of the disease. Consistent monitoring and communication with a veterinarian will also help manage the disease and minimize its duration and severity.

Recovery time for horses with strangles

Strangles is a highly contagious disease that affects horses’ respiratory system, causing symptoms such as fever, nasal discharge, and swollen lymph nodes. The recovery time for horses with strangles varies depending on several factors, including the severity of the infection, age of the horse, and overall health.

While some horses may recover within a few weeks, others may take longer, and it’s not uncommon for some horses to experience recurrent infections. Generally, the recovery time for horses with strangles can range from two weeks to several months.

  • The acute phase – During the acute phase of strangles, which lasts about two weeks, the horse will display symptoms such as fever, nasal discharge, and swollen lymph nodes. If the horse receives proper treatment, the symptoms will begin to subside within 7-10 days.
  • The subacute phase – The subacute phase, which lasts for about four weeks, is characterized by less severe symptoms, such as lingering nasal discharge or fever. Horses in this phase of recovery may require further treatment, but they are less contagious than in the acute phase.
  • The convalescent phase – The convalescent phase is the final stage of recovery, which can last several weeks or even months, depending on the horse’s overall health. During this phase, the horse may still show mild symptoms, but they are no longer contagious.

It’s important to note that even after the horse has fully recovered from strangles, there is still a risk of recurrence. In some cases, horses may remain asymptomatic carriers of the bacteria for an extended period, and become reinfected or spread the disease to other horses. Horse owners should work with their veterinarian to ensure that they have a proper strangles prevention and management protocol in place to avoid future outbreaks.

Factors that influence recovery time Explanation
Age of the horse Younger horses may take longer to recover than adult horses due to their weaker immune system.
Severity of the infection The more severe the infection, the longer the recovery time.
Overall health Horses with underlying health issues may take longer to recover from strangles.
Treatment Horses that receive prompt and appropriate treatment will have a shorter recovery time.

Overall, the recovery time for a horse with strangles varies depending on several factors. Horse owners should work closely with their veterinarian to monitor the horse’s progress and ensure that they have a proper management and prevention plan in place to avoid future outbreaks.

Prevention of Strangles

Strangles is a highly contagious bacterial infection that can spread rapidly among horses. Prevention is key when it comes to avoiding an outbreak. Here are some tips on how to prevent strangles:

  • Isolate New Horses: Any new horse coming onto the premises should be quarantined for 2-3 weeks before introducing them to the rest of the herd. This allows time for any contagious diseases to become apparent.
  • Limit Exposure: Limit the amount of contact between horses, particularly those that are traveling or competing together.
  • Clean and Disinfect: Clean and disinfect all equipment, trailers, and stalls before and after transporting or housing a horse. Also, make sure to change the water in buckets and troughs regularly.
  • Practice Good Hygiene: Wash your hands before and after handling horses and their equipment, change your clothes between different horses, and use separate grooming supplies for each horse.
  • Vaccinate: Vaccination is an effective way to prevent strangles. Consult with your veterinarian to determine the best vaccination protocol for your horse.
  • Monitor Your Horses: Keep an eye on your horses for any signs of illness, particularly a high fever, nasal discharge, and difficulty swallowing.
  • Educate Yourself: Educate yourself and others about strangles and how it spreads. Being knowledgeable can help prevent the spread of this highly contagious disease.

Strangles Prevention Checklist

Action When?
Quarantine new horses 2-3 weeks
Limit contact between horses Traveling or competing together
Clean and disinfect equipment and facilities Before and after transporting or housing a horse
Practice good hygiene Wash hands and change clothes between horses, use separate grooming supplies
Vaccinate Consult with veterinarian for best protocol
Monitor horses for signs of illness High fever, nasal discharge, difficulty swallowing
Educate yourself and others Learn and spread information about strangles and its prevention

By following this prevention checklist and taking the necessary precautions, you can significantly reduce the likelihood of a strangles outbreak on your premises.

Complications of Strangles

Strangles is a highly contagious respiratory disease that affects horses. Although it is a common ailment, it can have severe complications if left untreated. Here are some of the complications of strangles:

  • Bastard Strangles: This is a severe form of strangles that occurs when the infection spreads to other parts of the horse’s body, such as the lungs, liver, spleen, and kidneys. Bastard strangles can be fatal if not treated promptly.
  • Purpura Hemorrhagica: This is a rare, but serious complication of strangles. It is an autoimmune response that causes the horse’s blood vessels to become inflamed and leaky. Horses with purpura hemorrhagica develop swollen legs and bruising. In severe cases, they may also experience internal bleeding and organ failure.
  • Abscesses: The most common complication of strangles is the formation of abscesses in the lymph nodes. These abscesses can rupture, leading to more serious infections. It is important to keep a watchful eye on the abscesses and clean and disinfect the wounds to prevent further complications.
  • Chronic Nasal Discharge: In some cases, horses with strangles may develop a chronic nasal discharge that persists even after the infection has cleared. This can be due to damage to the nasal passages caused by the infection.
  • Strep Meningitis: In rare cases, the bacteria that cause strangles can enter the bloodstream and travel to the horse’s brain, causing meningitis. This is a severe and potentially fatal complication of strangles.
  • Infection in Pregnant Mares: Pregnant mares that contract strangles can experience abortion, stillbirth, or premature delivery. It is essential to isolate infected horses from pregnant mares to prevent this complication.
  • Secondary Infections: Horses with strangles that are not treated promptly are at risk of developing secondary infections, such as pneumonia, bronchitis, and sinusitis. These secondary infections can be severe and life-threatening.
  • Economic Losses: Strangles can lead to significant economic losses in the horse industry due to quarantine measures and the cost of treatment.

Preventing Complications of Strangles

The best way to prevent complications of strangles is to identify and treat the infection early. Horses with strangles should be isolated from other horses and handled by designated personnel to prevent the spread of the disease. Infected horses should receive prompt medical treatment, including antibiotics and supportive care. Proper wound care, disinfection, and quarantine measures can help prevent the formation of abscesses and secondary infections.


Although strangles is a common disease in horses, it can have severe complications if left untreated. Complications of strangles include bastard strangles, purpura hemorrhagica, abscesses, chronic nasal discharge, strep meningitis, infection in pregnant mares, secondary infections, and economic losses. Preventing complications of strangles requires early identification and treatment, isolation of infected horses, proper wound care, disinfection, and quarantine measures.

Spreading of Strangles

Strangles is a highly contagious and infectious disease that can be easily spread from horse to horse through direct or indirect contact with infected animals or contaminated objects. The bacteria responsible for causing strangles, known as Streptococcus equi subspecies equi, can survive outside the horse’s body for extended periods, making it easy for the disease to spread quickly within a herd.

  • Direct Contact – Direct contact with an infected horse is the most common way strangles is spread. Horses that are in close proximity to each other, such as those kept in the same barn or pasture, can easily come into contact with nasal and throat secretions that contain the bacteria. This can occur through nose-to-nose contact, grooming, and sharing water or feed buckets.
  • Indirect Contact – Indirect contact can also spread strangles. The bacteria can survive on objects like halters, brushes, and even clothing and footwear that have come into contact with an infected horse. When these objects are shared among horses, the bacteria can be transferred to a healthy horse, resulting in infection.
  • Aerosol Transmission – Strangles can also spread through the air. When infected horses cough or sneeze, droplets of bacteria can be released into the air, where they can be inhaled by nearby horses. This method of transmission is less common but can still occur, especially in environments where horses are kept in close quarters, like at a horse show or in a boarding stable.

It’s essential to take precautions to prevent the spread of strangles within a herd. Quarantining any horses that show signs of the disease and implementing strict biosecurity measures are crucial to containing the spread. Horse owners should also practice good hygiene and disinfect any shared equipment between uses.

Preventing the Spread of Strangles When to Call a Vet
Isolate infected horses If you suspect strangles in your horse, call a vet immediately.
Disinfect shared equipment and facilities If a horse in your barn has strangles, it’s recommended to quarantine all horses on the property for at least three weeks.
Practice good hygiene Strangles can be a severe disease with possible complications like purpura hemorrhagica, so it’s essential to seek medical attention promptly.
Limit exposure to other horses If your horse shows signs of strangles, such as high fever and a swollen throat, call a vet immediately.

By understanding how strangles is spread and taking preventative measures, horse owners can help stop the spread of this highly contagious disease within their herd. Early detection and treatment of strangles are vital to prevent complications and ensure a full recovery for infected horses.

Strangles in Different Horse Breeds

Strangles is a highly contagious bacterial infection that affects horses worldwide. While it can affect horses of any breed, age, or gender, some breeds are more susceptible to the disease compared to others. Here are 10 breeds and their susceptibility to strangles:

  • Thoroughbred – Thoroughbreds are highly susceptible to strangles, given their high demand for travel and competition.
  • Arabian – Arabians are also at high risk for strangles, especially those that compete.
  • Warmblood – Warmbloods are frequently imported and can be at risk for contracting the disease during travel or in new environments.
  • Miniature Horse – Even miniature horses can contract strangles, and outbreaks in these smaller equines can be especially difficult to control.
  • Quarter Horse – Quarter Horses have a moderate risk for strangles, with outbreaks more common in crowded or stressful environments.
  • Pony Breeds – Ponies, particularly those that frequent shows and events, are at an increased risk for strangles.
  • Appaloosa – Appaloosas have a moderate risk, and, like other breeds, are more susceptible in crowded environments.
  • Morgan – Morgans are at moderate risk for strangles, and owners should be vigilant when transporting their horses.
  • Paint – Paint horses have a moderate risk and, like Appaloosas, are more susceptible in crowded environments.
  • Standardbred – Standardbreds have a moderate risk for strangles, with outbreaks often occurring in training facilities or racetracks.

While some breeds may be more susceptible to strangles than others, it’s important to remember that any horse can contract the disease. Proper biosecurity measures, such as quarantining new horses and maintaining clean and disinfected facilities, can significantly reduce the risk of an outbreak.

It’s also important to note that not all horses will show clinical signs of strangles, and carriers can still infect other horses. As such, regular veterinary care and testing should be a priority for all horse owners.

To help understand the varying levels of susceptibility to strangles among different breeds, here is a table that summarizes the information above:

Breed Susceptibility to Strangles
Thoroughbred High
Arabian High
Warmblood Moderate
Miniature Horse High
Quarter Horse Moderate
Pony Breeds High
Appaloosa Moderate
Morgan Moderate
Paint Moderate
Standardbred Moderate

Knowledge of the susceptibility of different horse breeds to strangles can help owners take the necessary precautions in preventing and managing an outbreak. Remember, it’s up to all of us to do our part in protecting our equine companions.

FAQs: How Long Does Strangles Last?

1. What is strangles?

Strangles is a bacterial infection caused by Streptococcus equi subspecies equi (S. equi). It usually affects horses, causing respiratory and lymph node problems.

2. How long does it take for strangles to show symptoms?

It can take up to 7-14 days for strangles to show symptoms after exposure to the bacteria.

3. How long does strangles last in horses?

Strangles can last for 2-4 weeks in horses if treated properly. However, sometimes it may take up to 6 weeks to fully recover.

4. How is strangles treated in horses?

Strangles is usually treated with antibiotics, supportive care, and isolation from other horses. In severe cases, surgery or drainage of abscesses may also be necessary.

5. Can horses get strangles more than once?

Yes, horses can get strangles more than once. However, once a horse recovers from the infection, it develops immunity to the bacteria that causes strangles.

6. Can humans get strangles from horses?

While humans can contract streptococcus, the bacteria that causes strangles, it is extremely rare for them to get the disease from horses.

7. How can I prevent my horse from getting strangles?

Practicing good hygiene and quarantine measures can help prevent the spread of strangles. Vaccines can also be administered to horses to reduce the risk of infection.

Closing Thoughts: Thanks for Reading!

Now that you know how long strangles can last in horses and how to prevent it, you can take better care of your equine friend. Remember to always consult with a veterinarian if you suspect your horse has strangles or any other health issues. We hope you found this article informative and useful. Keep checking back for more helpful articles on equine health and care!