Strangles cases at major UK equine charity

A horse at Redwings being checked for strangles symptoms.
A horse at Redwings being checked for strangles symptoms.

Two horses at British equine charity Redwings are in quarantine after being found to be suffering from strangles.

The first case was discovered at Redwings’ Piggots property in South Norfolk on Thursday after a routine check found the horse had a nasal discharge. The horse, a six-year-old bay gelding, was immediately put into isolation at Redwings’ quarantine centre and all movements between sites were suspended as a precaution. Another horse was found showing symptoms the following day and is now also in quarantine.

Both horses are now under treatment and are making good progress.

It is the first time in 23 years that there has been a case within Redwings’ resident herd, although staff deal with strangles routinely in the rescue and neglect cases the charity takes in.

All sites and areas where the contact may have happened have been locked down to prevent any further spread and the charity’s veterinary team is testing horses who may have had contact with the infected equines.

The effects of Strangles
The effects of Strangles.

Strangles is a highly contagious infection of the upper respiratory tract (nose and throat) that spreads very rapidly through contact with infected mucus, either directly between horses or indirectly with contaminated items such as feed and water containers. It can be infectious even when symptoms are not showing which is why is it very challenging to contain.

Although strangles is usually not fatal it can cause real distress and can result in large abscesses that prevent swallowing and restrict breathing. It is endemic in the UK horse population and is particularly common in immunocompromised animals.

Head of Welfare and Senior Vet Nic de Brauwere said there were extremely stringent quarantine procedures in place.

“Every horse that comes in to the Sanctuary is screened and cleared before they join a farm like Piggots. It just shows that no system or test is 100% effective. We are very proud of, and invest a lot of time, care and resources into our quarantine systems and so if we can get an unexpected case amongst our residents at Redwings, I believe that it shows that anyone can.

“It’s not a notifiable disease but it’s so prevalent and contagious that we believe anyone finding themselves suffering an outbreak should, for the sake of the wider horse population, do the responsible thing and be up front and open about the situation so the proper steps get taken to bring cases and the spread to a halt.”

Redwings Chief Executive Lynn Cutress said a strangles outbreak is one of the biggest risks for the organisation, with a resident herd of 1500 horses and so many new arrivals and unavoidable movements between sites.

“Unfortunately even taking into account all the robust controls and systems we have in place to prevent it we can never fully eliminate that risk. However, this also means that no one is better placed to deal with this than us. Our knowledgeable teams of vets and care staff were fully prepared, they manage and deal with cases of strangles all the time and they have dealt with this situation in an equally calm and professional manner.”

All of Redwings’ visitor centres are open as normal, although rehoming has been temporarily suspended.

Download the Redwings Strangles information pack, a 14-page PDF with all you need to know about Strangles.

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