Anthrax in Texas

Anthrax had killed a cow, a kudu (a type of antelope), and a whitetail deer in Texas as of Aug. 10. Laboratory results confirmed the disease in the animals, which lived on three premises in Uvalde and Val Verde Counties in Southwest Texas.

Anthrax naturally occurs in Texas and other Great Plains states, and horses occasionally get the disease. The anthrax agent is a resilient spore-forming bacterium called Bacillus anthracis, which lives in the ground. Livestock ingest B. anthracis when they forage close to the ground during drought, or when they eat feed grown on infected soil. Horses seem to be more resistant to anthrax than other livestock species, such as sheep or cattle. Naturally occurring anthrax appears in Texas from late June through September and October, and outbreaks end with the start of cooler weather.

According to Bob Hillman, DVM, executive director of the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC), "Ranchers in the Uvalde and Val Verde County area are no strangers to naturally occurring anthrax, and this notice should not raise undue concern.

"Wherever an infected animal dies (of anthrax), the ground becomes contaminated with the spores unless the carcass and soil are burned with a very hot fire," adds Hillman. "The spores do not spread underground, so it's common to see death losses in one pasture, but not across the fence," he says.

He explained that TAHC regulations require the affected animal’s bedding, carcass, and nearby manure be burned with wood or gasoline (tires and oil create too much pollution) to cleanse the ground. The livestock on the premises must then be vaccinated and held under quarantine for at least 10 days to ensure that anthrax-exposed animals are not moved.

Most equine owners vaccinate their horses in areas where the disease is detected. The anthrax livestock vaccine can be purchased through private veterinary practitioners, feed stores, or animal health product distributors, and it can be administered by veterinarians or livestock producers. Consult your veterinarian for vaccine recommendations.

The disease is reportable in Texas. While laboratory tests, conducted by the Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory in College Station, are needed to confirm infection, suspect cases must be called in to the TAHC at 800/550-8242.

Horse owners who would like to learn more about anthrax in livestock can visit article #2859 on this web site. Also available are PDFs from the TAHC and USDA: or

About the Author

Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief

Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief, received a B.A. in Journalism and Equestrian Studies from Averett College in Danville, Virginia. A Pony Club and 4-H graduate, her background is in eventing, and she is schooling her recently retired Thoroughbred racehorse, Happy, toward a career in that discipline. She also enjoys traveling, photography, cycling, and cooking in her free time.

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