Incubation Period Of Strangles In Horses – And Symptoms

Last Updated on October 2, 2022

Understanding the incubation period of strangles in horses and main symptoms is vital when it comes to stopping this highly infectious disease in its tracks! An outbreak of strangles in your area can cause serious problems, resulting in many infected horses and restrictions on the movement of equines.

Let’s find out everything you need to know about the incubation period of strangles in horses and its symptoms!

What Is Strangles In Horses?

Strangles is an upper respiratory disease of horses. It is highly contagious, and many people fear a strangles outbreak because of the disruption it causes. This disease in itself does not pose a high risk of death to the horse, but the fact that it spread so easily means that many horses can be infected in a short space of time.

The reason that this disease got the name strangles is because it affects the lymph nodes in the throat. The bacteria that causes strangles creates large volumes of pus inside these lymph nodes, resulting in them becoming swollen and painful. This makes swallowing difficult for the horse, hence the name strangles.

What Is Strangles In Horses

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How Do Horses Get Strangles?

The bacteria that causes strangles is shed by infected horses through their respiratory secretions, including aerosol droplets and purulent discharge from infected lymph nodes. Every time the horse coughs, snorts, or even breathes, it will shed these bacteria. Any horse that either ingests or inhales contaminated material is then susceptible to strangles infection.

This means that strangles is most easily passed on directly by nose-to-nose contact between horses. However, it can also be transmitted if a horse comes into contact with an object contaminated with the bacteria that causes strangles. This means that a common route of transmission of strangles is through inanimate objects such as buckets, and also on the clothes of people looking after the horses.

Incubation Period Of Strangles In Horses

When a horse becomes infected with strangles, it will not show symptoms straight away. The period of time between a horse becoming infected and displaying symptoms is called the incubation period. The incubation period of strangles in horses is normally between three and eight days.

This means that a horse can become infected with strangles but may not display any symptoms for over a week. This makes controlling a strangles outbreak very difficult in the initial stages, as many horses can become infected before an outbreak is identified.

When is strangles outbreak is suspected, early identification of infected horses is vital to slow the spread of the disease. Any suspected cases can then be quarantined away from the herd.

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Incubation Period Of Strangles In Horses

Symptoms Of Strangles In Horses

In the initial stages of strangles the horse may appear lethargic and have a reduced appetite. This is normally due to an increased temperature, with infected horses normally developing a fever of 103 degrees Fahrenheit or above within two to three days after infection.

Over the following week or so, the horse will develop swollen, painful lymph nodes and a purulent nasal discharge. They will often have difficulty swallowing and a reduced appetite. The abscesses in the lymph nodes will eventually burst, either externally or via the respiratory tract.

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How Is Strangles In Horses Treated?

When a horse is diagnosed with strangles, it is considered preferable to let the disease run its course. Antibiotics tend to suppress rather than destroy the bacteria, and the disease will often recur when the course of antibiotics is finished. This prolongs the recovery period and leads to potentially severe complications, so antibiotics are not normally administered.

The aim of treating a horse with strangles is to encourage the abscesses to burst and drain freely. Your veterinarian may advise using hot compresses around the throat to achieve this. Any discharge from the abscesses or nostrils should be cleaned away and a barrier clean cream applied to prevent skin scalding.

To make the horse feel more comfortable, supportive treatments such as painkillers may be administered. It is vital that the horse is also quarantined to prevent the spread of infection to other horses. Remember that inanimate objects such as buckets and clothing can also spread strangles from horse to horse.

Summary – Incubation Period Of Strangles In Horses

So, as we have learned, the incubation period of strangles in horses can be anything from three to eight days. This means that a horse that is infected with strangles may not display symptoms for a week or so. When is strangles outbreak is suspected, early identification of infected horses is vital to slow the spread of the disease.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the incubation period of strangles in horses and symptoms. Have you ever been unfortunate enough to suffer from a strangles outbreak in your local area? Or perhaps you’ve got some questions about the best way to keep your horse safe from strangles? Leave a comment below and we will get back to you!


What are the first signs of strangles in horses?

The very first sign of strangles in horses is an increased temperature. If a strangles outbreak occurs in your area, twice daily temperature testing can help identify cases early and slow the spread of the disease.

How long do you quarantine a horse with strangles?

Horses with strangles can remain contagious for up to three weeks after symptoms have resolved. It is advisable to keep the horse quarantined for this period to prevent the spread of strangles to other horses in the herd. A strict isolation protocol should be adhered to, including barrier nursing and the use of separate equipment for infected horses.

What if my horse is a strangles carrier?

Around 10% of horses with strangles will become a strangles carrier. This means they no longer show signs of active strangles infection, but are still shedding the bacteria and can spread it to other horses. The infection is carried within the guttural pouches, and the horse may require endoscopy and topical antibiotic treatment.

Can horses get strangles twice?

Around three quarters of horses that get strangles normally develop immunity towards the disease, with a low rate of reinfection. Horses that are reinfected will normally exhibit less severe clinical signs than the initial infection.