Veterinarians Investigate Toxicity Deaths

Twenty-seven horses have died in what appears to be an accidental poisoning at a Brazos County, Texas boarding barn, reports The Bryan-College Station Eagle, a local newspaper.

Preliminary reports suggest that the horses' feed might have been contaminated with a highly toxic substance. Necropsies are being performed on the dead, while 18 others exhibiting similar clinical signs were under observation and treatment as of Wednesday night (July 19).

The Eagle reports that early testing by Texas A&M University (TAMU) in College Station has revealed phosphine gas in the stomachs of three of the dead horses. Phosphine gas is a byproduct of a weevil treatment farm owner Bradley Raphel used on the horses' grain. The question that remains is why the gas, which normally dissipates after treatment, would remain in the feed. Raphel reported to the paper that he has used the same weevil treatment in the facility's grain silo on numerous prior occasions with no problems.

Raphel's wife, Beverly told the Eagle that two-thirds of the afflicted horses belonged to the family while the others were boarded animals.

The first horse fell sick Sunday (July 16). Believing the horse was stressed by the summer heat, the Raphels and their veterinarians realized the ailment was far more serious as the others fell ill. 

Raphel's main breeding stallion succumbed to the illness, as well as several foals and top mares.

Two horses remain under observation at TAMU's College of Veterinary Medicine. College officials told the newspaper that it will be several days before complete testing results from the horse's feed and bedding will be available. Representatives from Purina Mills collected feed samples for testing as well.

To read The Bryan-College Station Eagle's coverage visit

Vets investigate horse deaths (July 18)

Initial tests show toxins in horses' stomachs (July 20)

About the Author

Erin Ryder

Erin Ryder is a former news editor of The Horse: Your Guide To Equine Health Care. She owns a portly gray gelding named Duncan and dabbles in several equestrian disciplines, with an emphasis on dressage.

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