Key Facts

Animal Treated


Animal Condition

Bastard strangles

Specialist(s) Required

Equine internal medicine
Emergency and critical care


Lego, a 12-year old Irish Sports Horse gelding, was suddenly very ill and thin… read what happens next.

Before visiting the Specialist
Irish Sports Horse Lego was initially found to become lethargic when being ridden and then started to intermittently develop a swollen head and other unusual swellings in the head and neck region. Lego then started to lose weight and he presented to Professor Gayle Hallowell, a medicine and emergency and critical care specialist at the University of Nottingham.

Lego’s Care

An abdominal ultrasound scan revealed abnormalities in the thickness of Lego’s intestinal wall and also a lot of free fluid in the abdomen. This fluid was collected using a technique called peritoneocentesis. There was a swelling halfway down the neck that was lanced and shown to be an abscess. Samples were rushed to the clinical pathology specialists at Rossdales Equine Laboratories for evaluation and to aid diagnosis.

Lego’s Progress
The clinical pathology team at Rossdales provided information that confirmed Lego had peritonitis and that this was caused by a very infectious bacteria that causes Strangles called Streptococcus equi var equi. As the infection had spread to the lymph nodes through his body and into his abdomen, his condition was called ‘Bastard Strangles’, which is associated with a poor survival rate. To protect Lego and the other horses in the hospital he was placed into specialist isolated care where he could receive the care he needed, but was barrier-nursed to protect the other horses in the hospital. Lego was very sick and stayed in the hospital for just over four weeks for intensive specialised care. He was required to have the bacteria flushed from his abdomen with sterile fluids daily and receive antibiotics and pain relief. He stopped eating, which is life threatening for a horse, so required nutrition to initially be provided through a tube into his stomach and then via a cannula in his vein.

Lego steadily improved and he began to eat and gain weight. Further samples were taken and sent to Rossdales Laboratory and revealed that the organism causing the strangles was no longer present, Lego was able to leave isolation so that he could be hand grazed and be turned out in a small paddock. He had several months off to recover from this severe infection and he is now back at the level of work that he was doing previously.

Article provided by Gayle Hallowell RCVS and American Specialist in Large Animal and Equine Internal Medicine and Emergency and Critical Care
University of Nottingham