The Crucial Mineral Selenium

Selenium

Selenium is an essential nutrient and it is very important to take a look at the way we feed and supplement this to our animals.

Selenium has several important functions, including the production of antibodies for better immunity, production of thyroid hormone (thyroxine) that can affect growth rates, Vitamin E retention as well as protection against oxidative damage to cell membranes.

Some key benefits of selenium for horses are:Healthy Horse Guard Horse

  • Its function as a natural antioxidant
  • Role in resistance to viral infections
  • Reproduction
  • Growth
  • Protects integrity of muscle tissues
  • Involvement in immune response

 About Selenium deficiencies:

Selenium deficiencies can show as clinical symptoms or sub-clinical. In clinical deficiency you can see physical problems. With sub-clinical deficiencies you don’t see the problems; they are expressed as poor fertility, poor disease resistance, a longer time for muscle recovery, and other problems that you cannot observe.

Some of the more obvious signs of Selenium deficiency include:Healthy Horse Guard Horse

  • Abortions or Retained Placenta
  • Muscular dystrophy (foals)
  • ‘Tying up’
  • Anorexia
  • Muscle weakness
  • Diarrhea

When considering selenium supplementation you should know that the best way is to feed organic selenium at 3 mg per day for a 1000 lb horse.


 What are different ways to Supplement Selenium:

    There are four ways selenium can be supplemented to a horse:

  1. Injection – This is a very poor way to administer any nutrient…especially selenium. With an injection, a horse is given a very high dose all at once which is clearly not optimal. The blood levels drop to below normal selenium and the process is repeated.
  2. Selenium in a salt mix – This is the only practical method for herds horses on pasture or free choice hay. Salt mixes are not ideal as intake varies dependent on the horse, the heat, and the amount of salt in the rest of the ration.
  3. In a Complete Feed – This can be an effective method of supplementation IF the horse owner feeds the daily recommendation. If the directions say feed 2.2 lb per 100 lbs body weight, you must feed 22 lbs per day to a 1000 lb horse to get enough selenium.
  4. As a supplement top dressed on grain – This is the best method of supplementation because the horse owner knows what each horse is getting and how much. By top dressing, the horse is given a consistent daily dose which is optimal for supplementation.

 Organic Selenium vs. Inorganic (Sodium Selenate)

Healthy Horse Guard Horse

Tuffy, 9 year old Quarter Horse

The other critical consideration is what kind of selenium to provide. It is important for horse owners to be aware that there are two types of selenium available. These forms are radically different from each other, even though in a products’ guaranteed analysis both forms are simply listed as “selenium”.

The true identity of the selenium in the product will be in the list of ingredients as either seleno-yeast or sodium selenite (or sodium selenate).

Selenium, in the inorganic form, selenite or selenate, is a common and inexpensive ingredient in complete feeds and supplements. This type of selenium is dangerous at levels above requirements and potentially toxic. It is less available to horses and rapidly excreted from the body. Selenite or selenite are not natural to the body and poorly processed.

The organic form, primarily Seleno-Methionine, comes from selenium yeast and is very available to the animal. It is readily absorbed and stored in muscle tissues. The organic Selenium is the same as the horse would receive if it was able to graze on selenium-rich grasses. The horses’ body recognizes it as an essential nutrient and has the ability to process and store it.

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved selenium yeast (organic selenium) for equine feeds in 2004 even though Sodium Selenite had been approved many years prior. It is disappointing that the FDA was slow to allow organic selenium because it is proven safer and more effective than the inorganic form which are bi-products of copper mining.

In Japan, it is against the law to use inorganic selenium because of toxicity and lower availability. Research demonstrates the organic form, specifically selenium yeast, provides optimum selenium status for all horses.


 Organic Selenium for Peak Performance and Optimum Health

Breeding Horses and Foals
Organic Selenium provides a much higher level of available selenium to the mare and foal. Foals are born with better selenium status, milk has higher antibody levels (more immunity). Mares expel the placenta more rapidly when they receive organic selenium. One of the symptoms of selenium deficiency is retained placenta. The fact that organic selenium speeds placenta expulsion is evidence that organic selenium is superior to inorganic selenium. Both mare and foal have big advantages when they are fed organic selenium.

Performance Horse
Selenium is critical to performance horses. Healthy Horse Guard HorseSupplementing a deficient horse will improve performance, increase stamina, and can be the difference between first and just being entered. The stress of travel and competition requires top nutrition. If you don’t provide for this deficiency you will certainly have lowered performance.

Breeding Horses and Foals
Organic Selenium provides a much higher level of available selenium to the mare and foal. Foals are born with better selenium status, milk has higher antibody levels (more immunity). Mares expel the placenta more rapidly when they receive organic selenium. One of the symptoms of selenium deficiency is retained placenta. The fact that organic selenium speeds placenta expulsion is evidence that organic selenium is superior to inorganic selenium. Both mare and foal have big advantages when they are fed organic selenium.

Older Horses
Because organic selenium is better absorbed and retained it is important for geriatric horses. The ability to metabolize nutrients declines with age. It will help to improve immunity and therefore resistance to disease.

The form of selenium supplemented to horses is directly related to its availability and use in the body. Research demonstrates the organic form; specifically selenium yeast provides optimum selenium status for all horses.


 Comparing Selenium to Oil in a Gas Engine

Compare selenium nutrition to a gas engine. The gas comes in the form of fiber, sugars, and fats. The horse modifies these nutrients to use or store them. When he needs energy he burns the fuel.

Selenium and other minerals can be compared to the oil. The oil is there to lubricate the machine and keep it healthy. Vitamins and minerals are stored in the system and used to make the burning of energy possible in the same way oil is used in the motor.

The car doesn’t use much oil, just enough to support body functions. We top off the vitamins and minerals daily because some it is naturally lost. The motor can run when it is a little low on oil. When stressed the engine that is a little low on oil breaks down. The engine will also break down if you provide too much oil. It reaches a toxic level that bogs down the machine and creates problems.
Compare oil to levels of selenium.

    If you are feeding a 1000 lb horse;

  • 1 mg per day – is a low level – not enough for stress
  • 3 mg per day – correct level to handle stress
  • 20 mg per day – approaches the danger of toxicity.

 Why 3 MG Per Day?

Healthy Horse Guard Horse

Nutritionist recognized selenium as a dietary essential in 1957. In 1979 it was approved as a supplement for cattle. The FDA estimates that the delays in approval of selenium cost the livestock industry over 600 million dollars in losses due to disease, reduced fertility and growth. The FDA restricted supplementation to .1ppm or 1 mg for a 1000 lb horse. This is too little for horses under stress. Research indicated that animals needed 3 times that much to stand the stress of weaning and other life events.

In 1978 Horse Guard Inc produced the first product to be sold in stores that contained selenium. It provided 3 mg per day to a 1000 lb horse. Since that time 100,000’s of horses have had the benefit of this level of selenium.

In 2004 the Food and Drug Administration approved 3 mg of organic selenium per day for a 1000 lb horse. This is the level that equine nutritionists knowledgeable about selenium recommend.

The basic truth is that a 1000 lb horse under no stress is sufficient receiving 1 mg of selenium per day. Horses that are under the stress of transportation, performance, breeding, foaling, or disease need 3 mg of organic selenium per day. I recommend 3 mg per day for all horses because they all will face stress at some point in life.


 

Selenium Toxicity

Acute toxicity – A one time dose of at least 2000 mg on 1000 lb horse.

Chronic toxicity – 20 to 50 mg per day on 1000 lb horse.
Symptoms of selenium toxicity include abnormal movement, dark watery diarrhea, high temperature, weak and rapid pulse, labored respiration, bloating and abdominal pain, pale and blue mucous membranes, and dilated pupils. Most animals with acute selenium toxicity are found dead, and there is no antidote for those found alive.

Livestock that feed on plants with high levels of selenium develop alkali disease so-called because plants more easily take up selenium when grown in alkali soils. Selenium toxicity is characterized by lameness, hoof malformation, hair loss, emaciation and liver damage. The mechanism behind selenium toxicity is not well understood.


 

Results Speak for Themselves

“Back in September of 2015 I had my horse’s selenium level checked because he was having an issue with balance.  It was low.  I had been using a product with 1/3 the amount of selenium than Horse Guard (I was trying to save money).  Dr. Chris Camp wanted the level to be higher.  I immediately changed back to Horse Guard.  I attended the seminar you hosted at Del Oeste Equine Hospital here in Eugene, Or in January of 2016.  I had my horse retested.  His level was now perfect!!!  And his balance issue was gone.  I am so impressed with how much his level grew in such a short amount of time.

I really just wanted to say thank you for creating this wonderful product that keeps our horses healthy.  I have always stressed vitamin use with all my horse friends and pushed the selenium, but now I have my own story to share with them as to why they need to use Horse Guard.

Sincerely,

Celia”


For more information visit our other nutrition pages:

The Critical Mineral Selenium

How much to Selenium in other Feeds and Supplements

Horse Guard Funds Selenium Research

Frequently Asked Questions

Nutritionist’s Blog