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J Vet Diagn Invest. 2006 Jan;18(1):61-70.

Comparative toxicosis of sodium selenite and selenomethionine in lambs.

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California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory System, University of California, Davis, USA.


Excess consumption of selenium (Se) accumulator plants can result in selenium intoxication. The objective of the study reported here was to compare the acute toxicosis caused by organic selenium (selenomethionine) found in plants with that caused by the supplemental, inorganic form of selenium (sodium selenite). Lambs were orally administered a single dose of selenium as either sodium selenite or selenomethionine and were monitored for 7 days, after which they were euthanized and necropsied. Twelve randomly assigned treatment groups consisted of animals given 0, 1, 2, 3, or 4 mg of Se/kg of body weight as sodium selenite, or 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, or 8 mg of Se/kg as selenomethionine. Sodium selenite at dosages of 2, 3, and 4 mg/kg, as well as selenomethionine at dosages of 4, 6, and 8 mg/kg resulted in tachypnea and/or respiratory distress following minimal exercise. Severity and time to recovery varied, and were dose dependent. Major histopathologic findings in animals of the high-dose groups included multifocal myocardial necrosis and pulmonary alveolar vasculitis with pulmonary edema and hemorrhage. Analysis of liver, kidney cortex, heart, blood, and serum revealed linear, dose-dependent increases in selenium concentration. However, tissue selenium concentration in selenomethionine-treated lambs were significantly greater than that in lambs treated with equivalent doses of sodium selenite. To estimate the oxidative effects of these selenium compounds in vivo, liver vitamin E concentration also was measured. Sodium selenite, but not selenomethionine administration resulted in decreased liver vitamin E concentration. Results of this study indicate that the chemical form of the ingested Se must be known to adequately interpret tissue, blood, and serum Se concentrations.

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