Strangles in Horses: What You Need To Know

Table of Contents

If you’re a horse lover–whether a hostler, breed, and show enthusiast, or just have one as your pet–you know that keeping your beloved animals healthy is of utmost importance. That’s why it’s so important to be aware of the potential for strangles in horses. 

Strangles is an infectious disease caused by bacteria that affects the respiratory tract and lymph nodes, easily spreadable between horses but fortunately treatable with antibiotics. 

In this blog post, we’ll cover what exactly strangles are, how to spot their signs and symptoms, how to prevent them from spreading in your herd or stable, and what treatments are available if need be. 

Keep reading to learn all about strangles in horses!

What are the first signs of strangles in horses?

Recognizing the early symptoms of strangles in horses can be tricky, yet is crucial for timely interventions. Horses affected by this bacterial disease often experience general flu-like symptoms, like fever and swollen lymph nodes, which can also impede their appetite and energy levels. 

A few days into the infection, it’s very likely that they might begin to show a nasal discharge of various colors from clear to yellowish or greenish. Additionally, the horse might become more vocal due to pain related to the infection along with increased sensitivity and redness around the muzzle. 

If you notice any of these signs in your horse, it is advised to contact a veterinarian immediately for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan.

What to do if your horse has strangles?

If your horse has been diagnosed with strangles, the most important thing is to keep your horse quarantined away from other horses. Follow the directions and advice of a veterinarian closely, as he or she can provide more comprehensive care for your horse. 

This may involve administering antibiotics and following a proper dietary regimen for a certain amount of time. 

It’s also essential to take measures to prevent it from spreading to other horses on your property by disinfecting any equipment and anything else that might have come into contact with the affected horse. Keeping careful track of your horse’s symptoms is also useful in managing them properly. 

Following these steps should help you get through this difficult situation quickly and efficiently so that you can get back to focusing on enjoying your time with your four-legged friend!

How long should a horse with strangles be isolated?

Horses suffering from strangles should remain in isolation for at least two weeks and even longer if any of the signs or symptoms associated with the infection are still present. 

The length of time a horse is isolated may be affected by factors such as the severity of symptoms, type of treatment, and access to veterinary care. After two weeks have passed, it is important to limit contact between isolated horses and other horses to avoid passing the infection on before it has completely subsided. 

This can be hard to manage depending on the size and population of your farm, but necessary for protecting your herd’s overall health. It is also important that you thoroughly clean and disinfect all surfaces where an infected horse had been present before re-introducing them into the herd environment.

How does a horse get strangled?

Strangles is an extremely contagious, airborne bacterial infection that affects horses and other equine creatures. It can spread rapidly through a barn or herd, making it one of the most feared illnesses among horse owners. 

The bacteria is most commonly transmitted through direct contact with another animal, but it can also be contracted by touching contaminated objects, such as grooming tools, buckets, and feed containers. 

Horses usually contract strangles when they are in close quarters with other horses who are already infected. 

Symptoms include fever, swollen lymph nodes around the head and throat area, coughing, nasal discharge and lack of appetite, possibly leading to rapid weight loss if not caught early on and treated effectively. 

Taking preventive measures to avoid any possible risk of exposure is important for horse owners; vaccinating the herd against the bacteria can go a long way toward protecting their beloved animals from this devastating disease.

Can horses survive strangles?

Horses are surprisingly resilient creatures and can survive the bacterial infection of ‘strangles’ – with treatment, they can completely recover. Strangles is a highly contagious infection often present in horse stables and camps, and it affects the respiratory system primarily. 

Although symptoms include fever, head-shaking, nasal discharge, difficulty breathing, and dehydration due to poor appetite, all these issues can be resolved with medication, antibiotics, injections, and rest. 

Improved hygiene rules in stables also help prevent transmission of the disease from horse to horse. The best thing you can do if you suspect your horse of being infected by strangles is to seek advice from your vet as soon as possible – this will allow for a full recovery sooner rather than later.

Can a horse recover from strangles?

Strangles, the bacterial infection of horses’ respiratory tracts, can be worrisome for any horse owner. It’s a highly contagious condition so it’s important to take proper precautions and isolate the infected horse as soon as possible. 

Fortunately, many horses do make a full recovery from strangles through antimicrobial treatment and supportive care. This includes medication, administration of fluids to keep the horse hydrated, climate-controlled facilities to help slow down the spreading of the pathogen, and proper cleaning protocols in place. 

After treatment is completed and depending on the severity of their case, many horses should see steady improvement in their respiratory health over a few weeks. 

While there are occasional complications or relapses reported with strangles – especially those animals not treated promptly – contacting an experienced veterinarian for diagnostic testing and treatment means that your horse has a good chance of making a full recovery with good management practices in place.

What do you feed a horse with strangles?

Taking care of a horse with strangles can be a tricky process and feeding is a very important part of that. While the diet should still include hay, most veterinarians will advise substituting grain for forages such as grass or alfalfa, which could cause further respiratory problems. 

Water should also be checked regularly for contagions and cleanliness because contaminated water could introduce the disease to other animals in the herd. 

A few other dietary tips to help manage to strangle infection in horses include avoiding sugar and starch, supplementing their diet with probiotics, and feeding smaller meals more often instead of large ones less frequently. 

Keeping a close eye on what they’re eating and discussing any changes with your vet can help ensure your horse is getting all the necessary nutrients while also managing their illness.

Can you exercise a horse with strangles?

Exercising horses with strangles can be difficult but it is not impossible. If a horse has been diagnosed with strangles, the first step would be to get them involved in a treatment plan designed by your veterinarian. 

Depending on the severity of the infection, your vet might allow you to lightly exercise your horse as long as you don’t cause too much stress on their respiratory system. 


But during this time, it is important to frequently check your horse’s temperature and listen to their breathing—any sudden changes should be discussed with a veterinarian right away. Also, remember that moderate canter work and jumping aren’t good for any horse with strangles since these activities can put additional strain on the heart and lungs.

 It is best to take it slow until full recovery is achieved, then give plenty of rest days for your horse afterward before resuming regular exercise again.

Is strangles painful for horses?

Strangles is one of the most common and infectious diseases among horses and can be a huge inconvenience for horse owners. What’s worse is that it causes extreme pain for the horse due to inflammation in the lymph nodes that act as barriers between its airways, throat, and other organs. 

This inflammation interferes with normal airflow, leading to difficulty with drinking, eating, and even breathing. While antibiotics reduce symptoms such as swelling or infection, there is often no relief to the painful sensation most horses feel when inflicted with strangles. 

So unfortunately if your horse contracts this disease don’t expect any kind of long-term relief without proper treatment -strangles carries both risks and great discomfort for your beloved animal companion.


All in all, strangles is a serious infectious disease that can cause severe complications if not treated promptly. 

Though it can be quite horrible and even life-threatening if the right steps aren’t taken, horse owners should also take comfort in the fact that strangles can usually be successfully managed with proper treatment and preventive measures. 

The key is to stay informed and work with your veterinarian to ensure that you’re doing everything necessary to protect your animal from strangles. Also, make sure to implement regular screening tests such as nasal swabs, throat cultures, lymph node inspections, and rectal temperatures so that any signs of infection can be spotted early. 

It’s also important to practice appropriate biosecurity protocols such as limiting contact between horses and preventing them from sharing water or feed sources. Thanks for reading this post and I hope it has helped you gain some valuable insight into all things strangles!


Matthew Flor

Matthew Flor

Hi, y’all! My name is Matthew Flor, and I’m from Ocala, Florida.
I’m a horse enthusiast, and one of my favorite breeds is the Shire horse.
In this blog, I’ll be sharing information about these amazing animals – everything from their history to their unique characteristics.

About Me

Recent Posts

About the Shire | Horse Breeds