Can Dogs Get Strangles from Horses?

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Strangles is a skin disorder that many dog owners associate with puppies, as they are the most common victim. In the equine world, strangles is well-known as a highly contagious and fatal disease among horses. Given their common names and some similar symptoms, it’s only natural that many may assume or wonder about a possible correlation, especially to those who own both dogs and horses.

In other words, can dogs get strangles from horses?

Can Dogs Get Strangles from Horses?

YES!

Although there have only been a few reported cases of dogs contracting equine strangles, they have occurred.

We know that an infected horse can spread strangles to any animal in the equine species, whether another horse, or donkey or mule, but given circumstances, it’s possible that non-equine species could contract the disease as well.

The strangles disease, a Streptococcus bacteria, has thousands of strands all of which affect different species. However, a reported case of a dog with equine strangles showed that viral diseases are as temperamental as they are “opportunistic”.

In other words, if multiple circumstances weigh in favor of the disease (weather, cleanliness, immune systems of the animals, etc.), strangles of specific species can affect those outside of it.


Does My Dog Have Strangles?

The commonly recognized canine form of strangles, also known as juvenile cellulitis, typically affects younger dogs but can affect dogs of any age, especially if contracted from another animal. If you’re worried your dog or puppy has strangles, there are several symptoms to watch out for.

■ Swollen face
■ Redness and/or sores found in ears and face
■ Hair loss
■ Fever
■ Enlarged lymph nodes
■ Disinterest in food caused by difficulty in swallowing
■ Lethargy

Though rare, a case of equine strangles in your dog is likely to manifest with enlarged lymph nodes, nasal discharge, and difficulty breathing or swallowing.

Causes

Puppy strangles in dogs is considered idiopathic, meaning there’s no known source of the disease, though it is likely to have genetic or immune system components. Strangles in horses is caused by a specific bacteria, Streptococcus equi. Horse strangles is highly contagious among horses and is spread both directly (close, physical contact) and indirectly (two animals sharing a feeding or drinking area).

Diagnosis

Since canine strangles manifests itself in the skin, a skin biopsy is typically performed in order to rule out other possible causes and form a diagnosis. A physical exam will also be performed on your dog and the veterinarian is likely to ask you some questions about their general behavior and medical history. If exposure to equine strangles is suspected, your vet may culture mucus or discharge and perform blood tests.

If you own both dogs and horses, it may help to also familiarize yourself with Strangles in Horses.


How do I Treat My Dog’s Strangles?

After a visit to the vet reveals that your dog is suffering from strangles, whether contracted from a horse or another dog, you’ll likely be given a number of instructions to help your dog heal. The good news is that prognosis is positive when practicing any or a combination of these treatment tactics if strangles is caught early. Additionally, relapses after full healing are uncommon.

Treatment

■ Oral administration of antibiotics and anti-inflammatory
■ Frequent and gentle bathing with vet-approved soaps and antiseptic solutions
■ Isolation of infected animal from others

Recovery

Recovery from strangles is not quick. With attentive treatment, you can expect your dog’s symptoms to clear up within two to four weeks, with all signs of strangles gone within four to eight weeks.

To learn more about strangles treatment and recovery, review Puppy Strangles in Dogs.

How is Strangles in Dogs Similar to Strangles in Horses?

Not entirely different from each other, equine strangles and canine strangles share many commonalities.

■ Both are potentially fatal diseases.
■ Just as in canines, younger horses are more susceptible to strangles.
■ Both have symptoms including swollen lymph nodes, facial abscesses, and fever.


How is Strangles in Dogs Different from Strangles in Horses?

One main difference is that each species has a species-specific type of strangles that affects them. However, as we’ve discovered, this shouldn’t be relied on as a rule of thumb, as certain, “ideal” conditions for the equine disease could help it find its way from horse to dog.


Case Study

You own a ranch. It’s a busy lifestyle, especially with a number of animals running around. Despite your love for all of them, there’s only one you allow to sleep in your house at night and that’s your dog.

While you’ll never know if the other farm animals are jealous, they do spend quite a bit of time with your pet dog when she’s out on the land and curiously sniffing around udders and hooves. During her freedom to roam, your dog may take the liberty of drinking from the goat’s water bucket or the horse’s water trough.

Due to the fact that strangles isn’t visually detectable within its first 24 to 48 hours of infection, you may not worry about your dog’s direct or indirect interaction with the farm animals. However, once strangles in one of your horses is discovered, you may want to keep your pet from sharing feeding and watering stations with others.