Speak out on strangles

We have confirmed two cases of strangles in residents at one of our Norfolk sites.

On Thursday night (19th February) one of the horses at our Piggots site in South Norfolk was confirmed to have strangles after a routine check found it had nasal discharge. The horse, a six-year-old bay gelding, was immediately put into isolation at our 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.

Strangles-scoping-webAll sites and areas where the contact may have happened are now locked down to prevent any further spread and our veterinary team are running tests on any horses who may have had contact with the infected equines to ensure they are isolated and treated if required and using their extensive records to find possible routes of entry.

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. As a result our Reception Centre staff deal with it routinely in the rescue and neglect cases we take in but this is the first time in 23 years there has been a case within Redwings’ resident herd.

Head of Welfare and Senior Vet Nic de Brauwere said: “We have extremely stringent quarantine procedures in place and 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: “With a resident herd of 1,500 horses and so many new arrivals and unavoidable movements between our sites, a strangles outbreak is one of the biggest risks for our organisation, and 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.”

Both horses are now under treatment and are making good progress. We are actively monitoring and testing other horses in our resident herd who may have been in contact with the infected equines, and we will provide weekly updates via our website. All of our visitor centres are open as normal and while any rehoming has been temporarily suspended it is hoped this will be reinstated very soon.

To order your free copy of the Redwings Strangles pack, which includes information on how to manage an outbreak and how to help minimise the risk, please email info@redwings.co.uk, telephone the Redwings Welfare Helpline on 01508 481008 or download a PDF here.