The annual week, co-organised by equine welfare charities, veterinary colleges, vets and researchers, aims to provide education on strangles in the hope of preventing future outbreaks. Strangles is the most commonly diagnosed equine infectious disease worldwide with around 600 cases reported in the UK every year. Signs include high fever, thick nasal discharge, depression, cough, painful abscesses, laboured breathing and difficulty eating. In severe cases, it can pose a risk to the horse’s life.
A feature in this year’s campaign is the “temperature check challenge”, which asks owners to take their horse’s resting temperature every day and input the reading into a free online checker. The aim is to help owners get to know their horses’ normal temperature range, something that fluctuates through the day owing to a range of factors.
“A high temperature is an early warning sign that your horse may have been infected with strangles – and will become infectious to other horses – so getting to know what your horse’s ‘normal’ temperature and variation is, could prevent an outbreak,” said a spokesman for the campaign.
Piggy March and Cooley Lancer, known as “Swiss Roll” have starred in a video providing tips for those taking a horse’s temperature for the first time.
“It does take a bit of pre-planning the first time you take your horse’s temperature and owners might be nervous, but it is such an easy, and effective, way to monitor your horse’s health once you’ve done it a few times with attention to making it a positive experience for the horse,” said Piggy.
“A lot of owners only take a horse’s temperature when the horse is unwell but it’s such an important indicator as to your horse’s health and, while fever can indicate ill health for a range of reasons, it is an early warning sign that a horse has a contagious disease like strangles.”
Piggy added an outbreak can be debilitating for yards and said it’s essential the equestrian community takes every opportunity to limit its transmission while responding promptly and responsibly to ill horses.
“That’s why I wanted to lend my support,” she said. “I have some great people who usually do this for me in my yard, so it was the first time I’d taken one of my horse’s temperatures myself for a long time and never with Swiss Roll.
“I hope it gives others confidence to do the same and use the challenge to hone a new habit.”
People who take part in the challenge will be entered into a free prize draw, to win prizes including a British Horse Society gold membership, and the temperatures submitted will contribute to a database to help owners understand what a normal healthy range is.
Andie McPherson, Strangles Awareness Week coordinator and Redwings campaigns manager, said the organisers are thrilled to have Piggy’s support and hope the video will help those who haven’t taken a horse’s temperatures before learn how to stay safe and gain confidence.
“The temperature checker, collaboratively developed by the organisations behind Strangles Awareness Week, gives owners a place to record their temperatures daily and calculate an average. It aims to educate owners about what is normal resting temperature for their horse so they are better placed to spot a spike,” she said.
“If a horse rests at around 37.2 degrees for example, an increase of a degree within a 24-hour period, especially with behavioural signs of being off-colour, could indicate fever. Horse owners may not consider 38.3 degrees as a warm horse and overlook fever so knowing your horse’s normal resting temperature is so helpful.”
Andie added that an outbreak can be “financially and emotionally devastating” for owners and businesses.
“The cost of a thermometer and building in a regular routine of checking for fever is comparatively inexpensive and, as it could indicate other infections, inflammation and give insight into health issues that explain poor performance, has benefits far beyond the identification of strangles,” she said.
“We’ve produced a Strangles Awareness Week thermometer people can purchase for £5 and lots of guidance on how to take your horse’s temperature safely and comfortably for the first time at www.reddwings.org.uk/stangles/strangles-awareness-week.”
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