Day At The Track

Strangles confined only to Saratoga Raceway

09:37 AM 27 Mar 2012 NZDT
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Saratoga Casino and Raceway

New Yorkr egulators say a highly contagious bacterial infection that shut down harness racing at Saratoga Raceway hasn't been found at any of the state's other harness tracks.

The Racing and Wagering Board says Monday (Martch 26) that 14 cases of Strangles had been confirmed at Saratoga, where racing was suspended Friday until April 11.

Strangles is also known as "equine distemper." It's an upper respiratory infection that's only rarely life-threatening.

The board is telling owners and managers not to ship horses to any of the tracks until they check first.

Precautions are in place at other tracks. Monticello won't allow horses to be shipped in and will race with the horses available.

Yonkers is requiring health certificates to be updated weekly.

Batavia, Tioga and Vernon aren't racing and don't have horses onsite.

The Biology Of Strangles:

The disease is spread when the nasal discharge or material from the draining abscess contaminates pastures, barns, feed troughs, etc.

Equines of any age may contract the disease, although younger and elderly equines are more susceptible. Young equines may lack immunity because they have not had prior exposure. Elderly equines may have a weaker immune system.


Clinical signs include fever, heavy nasal discharge, and swollen or enlarged lymph nodes in the neck and throatlatch. Affected animals may also stop eating and have a dull affect.

Strangles has a 1% mortality rate.[1] Mortality is lower in cases without complications than it is in cases of bastard strangles. The disease is very contagious and morbidity is high. Precautions to limit the spread of the illness are necessary and those affected are normally isolated. An isolation period of 6 weeks is usually necessary to ensure that the disease is not still incubating before ending the isolation.


As with many streptococcal infections, penicillin or penicillin-derivative antibiotics are the most effective treatments. However, some authorities are of the opinion that use of antibiotics is contra-indicated once abscesses have begun to form, as they pre-dispose to lymphatic spread of the infection (so-called bastard strangles) which has a much higher mortality rate.

After an abscess has burst, it is very important to keep the wound clean. A diluted povidone-iodine solution has been used with good results to disinfect the open hole, flushing the inside with a syringe tipped with a teat cannula, followed by gentle scrubbing to keep the surrounding area clean.


Possible complications include the horse becoming a chronic carrier of the disease, asphyxia due to enlarged lymph nodes compressing the larynx or windpipe, bastard strangles (spreading to other areas of the body), pneumonia, guttural pouches filled with pus, abscesses, purpura hemorrhagica, and heart disease. The average length for the course of this disease is 23 days.


Both intramuscular and intranasal vaccines are available. Isolation of new horses for 4 to 6 weeks, immediate isolation of infected horses, and disinfection of stalls, water buckets, feed troughs, and other equipment will help prevent the spread of strangles. As with any contagious disease, handwashing is a simple and effective tool.

Courtesy of Wikipedia and

Strangles in horses video:


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