Strangles outbreak one year on

One year on from our first confirmed case of strangles among our resident herd, we reflect on one of the most challenging times in our 30-year history and introduce our strangles survey.

Although we are highly experienced in managing and treating strangles in rescue cases, February 2015 marked the first time in 23 years that we’d experienced an outbreak in one of our resident horses – and there ensued an eight-month battle to combat the disease.

At the height of the outbreak 24 horses showed varying degrees of clinical infection and tested positive for strangles, many more required testing and nine quarantine zones were in operation across the our Norfolk farms resulting in an expenditure of over £4,000 a week to contain, manage and treat the disease.

Commenting at the time of the outbreak, our Head of Welfare 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 our farms. It just shows that no system or test is 100% effective. If we can get an unexpected case amongst our residents at Redwings, I believe that it shows that anyone can.”

It is this message of “if it can happen in a Sanctuary with rigorous quarantine procedures, it can happen to anyone” that has inspired Redwings to ramp up their efforts in encouraging others to #SpeakOutOnStrangles. Indeed, it was the charity’s prerogative to themselves speak out, by issuing a statement on the outbreak as soon as the first strangles case was confirmed.

“It’s time to ditch the strangles stigma,” commented Chief Executive Lynn Cutress. “Although we are now free of the disease, our battle rages on to remove the shroud of shame and secrecy, or sometimes just pure ambivalence, associated with strangles – which sadly allows the disease to continue to exist under the radar.”

One year on, we have launched a strangles survey, which aims to understand horse owners’ perceptions of the disease and their current approach to infectious disease prevention and control. Together with our in-house team of veterinary surgeons, the survey has been developed in collaboration with experts at the Animal Health Trust and the University of Liverpool.

Spearheading the survey, Redwings Education and Campaigns Manager Andie Vilela said “Let’s have an open conversation about strangles. Tell us your experiences and your thoughts on improving how strangles is dealt with by completing our survey and help us make combatting the disease a reality”.

“We are interested in hearing from horse owners regardless of their experience of strangles. Every respondent is incredibly important to us, so everyone who completes the survey will receive a free healthy treat from Dr D’s Tasty Treats for their horse or pony. They will also receive a 15% discount on purchases of Safe4 disinfectant, which is proven to be effective against the strangles bacteria.”

The survey is open from 08 April to 08 June and you can simply complete the strangles survey by clicking here.

The survey is completed anonymously and all information supplied will be kept on password protected computer databases and not used for any other purpose beyond this study.