Strangles disease

Strangles is one of the most infectious diseases of horses in the world and we experience regular disease outbreaks in the UK. Strangles can be responsible for shutting down yards for many months, impacting on income through massive vet bills and causing disruption to equine shows and events.

Signs of the disease

Horse head

Horses of any age can contract Strangles, although the young and elderly are more susceptible.

Signs include a fever, poor appetite, and depression. The horse will produce a discharge from the nostrils, which turns thick and yellow. The horse’s upper respiratory lymph nodes become enlarged and they can develop into abscesses.

The disease is extremely unpleasant for the horse and expensive for the owner. Strangles is not usually fatal, but a small number of horses have complications, including spread of infection to multiple organs, which can prove life-threatening. Veterinary care is essential in combating this disease and preventing its spread.


Strangles is spread when nasal discharge or material from the draining abscess contaminates pastures, stables and equipment. Horses in riding schools, livery yards, racing stables or stud farms are most at risk due to close contact with other horses.

An animal can become infected after exposure to another horse that is shedding the Streptococcus equi bacteria, either during or after its own bout of the illness. This often happens when new horses are introduced to a yard. Although the infectious horse may no longer show signs of Strangles and appear perfectly healthy, it can continue to shed the bacteria as a 'carrier animal'.

Other methods of disease spread include contaminated water or equipment, such as grooming kits and feed buckets, as well as human hands or clothing.

The main defence against Strangles:

  • identify and treat any carrier animals
  • maintain or introduce practical biosecurity measures to protect against infectious disease

For more information and updates visit our SRUC Equine Health hub.

PASS overview

The Premium Assured Strangles Scheme is an initiative launched by SRUC Veterinary Services and supported by The British Horse Society (BHS) in the battle for Strangles prevention. Membership is open to any UK yard wanting to prevent Strangles and benefit from enhanced health status.

Pass Logo

PASS aims to:

  • protect healthy horses and yards from infection
  • eliminate Strangles from infected yards by detecting/treating carriers
  • prevent the spread of disease locally by actively eliminating infection
  • offer a national control programme to reduce the risk of Strangles for all horses

Benefits of the scheme:

  • enhanced nationally recognised health status for your yard
  • reduced risk of Strangles outbreak by proactively protecting your yard and your clients' horses
  • increased biosecurity helps protect against other equine diseases. A proactive approach with your vet brings benefits for overall horse health
  • member yards receive updates about Strangles, testing and equine health

Benefits of PASS membership

Membership levels

There are three levels of scheme membership designed to suit your yard. Please download the application form to apply for membership.

Bronze monitored status

Bronze monitored status does not require initial testing of all horses on the yard. This membership is suitable for yards considered by their veterinary surgeon to be free of Strangles based on history and lack of clinical cases. A declaration to this effect is signed by the vet and yard owner to gain Bronze status and is repeated annually.

Silver monitored status and Gold accredited status

The two higher levels of scheme membership, ‘Gold’ and ‘Silver’ begin with testing all horses on the yard, to confirm freedom from Strangles infection.

Any horses showing evidence of exposure to Strangles are tested to check if they are carriers. Carrier horses are isolated and treated to eliminate infection. Certificates are awarded to the yard when all horses test negative. Member yards follow the BHS ‘STEPS’ guidelines, including testing of new admissions to the yard. Your veterinary surgeon is involved at every stage of sampling, advice, and treatment.

Annual retesting is not required to maintain Silver monitored status. Status is awarded following a signed declaration by the yard manager and their veterinary surgeon stating that PASS guidelines are being followed.

To maintain Gold accredited status, all horses are retested at the end of each year.

Apply for membership

The annual yard membership subscription costs £50.00 (excl VAT). This is invoiced directly to the livery yard – please do not send payment until you receive an invoice from us.

Strangles ELISA (blood test) costs £28.90 (excl VAT). This is invoiced through your vet practice, who will also include their charge for sampling/interpretation.

Become a member

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