Speaking out about Strangles is the focus of a new national week of action launched by some of the UK’s largest equine welfare organisations.

According to the Animal Health Trust (AHT), an average of 600 cases of Strangles – a highly contagious respiratory disease – occur across the UK every year, making it the country’s most prevalent equine disease.

Strangles can cause misery for a horse, with possible symptoms ranging from laboured breathing, difficulty eating and depression, to a high fever, thick nasal discharge and painful abscesses. In severe cases can even pose a risk to the horse’s life.

An outbreak can also be financially and emotionally devastating for owners and equestrian businesses. Horses often remain infectious for several weeks, resulting in costly and lengthy quarantine procedures and the potential temporary closure of livery yards and the cancellation of events.

While Strangles can happen to any horse, sadly the stigma around the disease can prevent those affected from being open about an outbreak, which is an essential part of preventing its spread.

That’s why, for the first time, the AHT, the British Horse Society, Keeping Britain’s Horses Healthy, Redwings Horse Sanctuary, Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) and World Horse Welfare have come together to create the first Strangles Awareness Week.

The aim of the week, which will run from 4 to 10 May, is to provide an opportunity for horse owners, livery yard managers, vets and professionals (including farriers and equine dentists), to share their stories of Strangles to tackle stigma and prompt others to take proactive action to protect their horses from infectious disease.

Details of how everyone can get involved with Strangles Awareness Week will be shared soon.

“Strangles is an upsetting and stressful disease for all involved,” commented Dr Andrew Waller, who leads the Strangles research project at the AHT. “Through multiple organisations coming together to create SAW 2020, it highlights just how important open communication and support is for this disease. I’m excited to be a part of this collaboration and that my work can help contribute towards SAW 2020.”

I’m hoping to help provide information that the equine industry finds useful as they become more Strangles aware, which will help them to reduce the spread of this disease.

Dr Andrew Waller
Dr Andrew Waller, Head of Bacteriology Research

Since November 2018, Redwings has been urging horse owners and yard managers to sign-up to its Stamp Out Strangles Pledge; a voluntary commitment to take proactive steps towards protecting their horses from infectious disease. To coincide with the announcement of Strangles Awareness Week, a new online pledge has also been launched for vets and professionals. This pledge asks them to commit to checking their own biosecurity practices and make good hygiene and Strangles prevention normal topics of conversation with their clients, as well as signpost them to further helpful advice and guidance.

Abbi McGlennon, PhD student at the AHT, who led the development of the Surveillance of Equine Strangles scheme added, “SAW 2020 is for everyone across the equine industry! Horse owners, vets, yard owners, farriers, physiotherapists and many more can all get involved and help spread the word – not the disease. Throughout the week, information and support will be provided from all organisations involved helping to deliver our message.”

Vets, professionals, horse owners and yard owners can all pledge to help stamp out Strangles and take action against this disease. As a horse owner, I have pledged and encourage others to do so!

Abbi McGlennon, PhD Student at the Animal Health Trust

To find out more about Strangles Awareness Week and take the new Vets and Professionals Pledge, as well as the existing Horse Owner and Yard Manager Pledges, visit: www.redwings.org.uk/strangles/make-a-pledge.