Druse in Horses - Necessary Information for the Emergency

We all wish us healthy horses.But unfortunately we hear again and again about news from riding stables where diseases such as druse have broken out. 

This is a great shock for the owners of the animals and the stable operators. The affected stock is quarantined, the infected animals are immediately treated by a veterinarian and in the end only the best can be hoped for. What is druse actually? How do you recognise the horse disease and how can you help your horse? Justified questions. We would like to try to explain the most important facts about druse in horses.

Druse - briefly explained 

Druse is a disease of the respiratory system. The trigger for the infection is streptococci in horses. These nasty things are highly contagious! So it is not out of the question that if one horse has this disease, other animals will also fall ill. In the worst case, it can infect the entire stable. However, druse in horses does not have to be reported.

This equine disease has actually been around since time immemorial. It would not be appropriate to blame anyone here. Because: If it really breaks out, you have to stick together and get through it together. Immediate veterinary care included, of course!

Old or young horses with a weak immune system are particularly at risk for this disease. But healthy animals that are exposed to a lot of stress (e.g. tournaments, transports...) can also fall ill. The bacterium can even bypass in the stable and not break out. A strong immune system can therefore block the druse disease. Humans cannot contract the disease.

Course of the equine disease druse 

As already explained, Streptococcus equi is the culprit. This bacterial strain is very survivable and can survive for days in the stable, on the meadow or in the paddock. It can even live on in water. 


- From horse to horse (when coughing, sick animals puff the bacteria up to 40 - 50 metres away from themselves). 

- from free-roaming dogs and cats 

- Bacteria adhere everywhere (clothing, shoes, fur...) 

Druse has an incubation period of three days to two weeks after contact with the bacterial matter. The streptococci then attack the lymph nodes in the horse and form abscesses with purulent secretions there. This results in severe swelling (sometimes to the point of respiratory distress = tracheotomy necessary). If this bursts open, all the snot is discharged through the air sac and nose. Usually this is cleaned out again in the course of the animal's recovery. 

Unfortunately, the abscess can also burst outwards through the skin in the parotid gland area. Not nice. In any case, going to the equine clinic is the best option. The excreted secretions are enormously pathogenic and highly contagious! If not acted upon early enough or if the animal has a fundamentally poor constitution, the equine disease can be fatal.

Druse symptoms:

- Your horse seems weak and listless

- The animal has a lot of nasal discharge (green to yellowish).

- Fever in the horse (often very high temperature)

- Cough

- Severely swollen lymph nodes are a warning sign (you will find them at the level of the gaiters in the lower jaw area).

- difficulty swallowing

- Your horse has little or no appetite

Diagnosis of druse in a horse 

The first thing to do if you suspect this disease is to contact your vet (or equine clinic) quickly. 

The first thing they will do is a basic examination of your treasure. This means that he will observe the respiration (normal value at rest: 8 -12 breaths/minute) and measure the body temperature with a thermometer (normal value at rest: 37.5 - 38.2 degrees Celsius) to see if the horse has a fever. He also listens to the lungs with his stethoscope. Often, tapping the organ helps him to detect the formation of mucus. Palpation of the lymph nodes is also part of the process.

But the most important thing to detect druse is a secretion sample. This bacteriological examination is essential!

These samples are possible in Germany via LABOKLIN. Your vet knows this and will certainly act quickly. The laboratory test shows which germs are plaguing your horse.

Don't worry - it doesn't have to be that the horse has contracted druse. Maybe your partner just has a simple cold, which the veterinarian can treat well.

In the case of a druse outbreak, your doctor will probably use a strong penicillin, order an absolute quarantine and inform you in detail about the further course of the disease. He will also order extensive disinfection of your stable. This must be adhered to for weeks/months!

Unfortunately, druse treatment in horses can take a long time. Some relief is provided by a potato poultice (warm) on the affected areas of the neck. This is a recipe from grandma's times - but it is said to really help with this equine disease. 80-90% of the animals get well again. The rest? You don't want to think about it. Please think positive thoughts!

Vaccines against the disease are possible prophylactically (e.g. for new hires), but it is questionable whether the vaccination covers "the" strain of bacteria. The best precaution is and remains: Meeting all your horse's needs (high-quality food throughout the day, lots of unrestricted exercise in the fresh air, regular training, clean bedding, contact with other horses and loving care).