Selenium for Dogs

Picture of dogs in a hammock

Although it might not be as well-known as other minerals, selenium is a nutrient that dogs need in order to be healthy. It’s capable of performing several different functions, but one of the most important ones is that it allows your pet’s thyroid gland to work properly.

In today’s article, we’re looking at why selenium matters for dogs’ diets, whether dogs can suffer from selenium deficiency or selenium poisoning, and if you should give your pet selenium supplements.

Why Is Selenium Important for Dogs?

Besides making sure that Fido’s thyroid hormones are at a healthy level, selenium is also capable of ensuring that the fats in your dog’s food are properly digested and absorbed.

It’s involved in a variety of other processes, such as making sure that your pet’s pancreas functions well. Also, dogs that do not get enough selenium almost always have a poor coat health, so it is a nutrient that’s commonly recommended (in low amounts) for improving skin health.

Animals that get enough selenium from food have a lower risk of experiencing health issues with their joints. It’s also assumed that this mineral is generally important for the health of your dog’s immune system, meaning that they might be less predisposed to developing an infection if they have the optimum level of vitamins and minerals in their bodies, including selenium.

What Food Sources Can Selenium Be Found In?

Selenium is a nutrient present in some of the following foods:

  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Organ meats (especially liver)
  • Wheat germs
  • Turnips
  • Nuts

It can also be found in garlic, but you should never give your dog garlic as it is toxic to this species. Selenium can also be found in barley, bran, as well as wholewheat bread, but these foods are also inappropriate for this species.

Most pet diets these days contain selenium, which is why you probably do not have to specifically add it to your dog’s diet. However, if you feel that you must, it’s safer to use one of the food sources that we have mentioned rather than opting for a supplement, especially one that your vet has not advised you to use.

If you want to feed your dog a homemade diet, you should always seek out a veterinary nutritionist or just ask your veterinarian about what else you should add to your recipes. Feeding your dog exclusively organ meat or chicken breast or table scraps is not an option as they will not get the right nutrients from these sources.

Selenium Deficiency in Dogs

Although this health problem has become less and less common over the past decades, when dogs have started to get most (if not all) of the nutrients they need from commercial pet diets, it can still occur every now and then.

The biggest issue with selenium deficiency is that some of its effects are belated and long-lasting, so you might not notice any immediate symptoms. Some studies suggest that an incorrect amount of selenium in your dog’s diet might be linked with cancer or the development of calcium oxalate calculi.

In general, both dogs and humans tend to have the same clinical signs of selenium deficiency:

  • Reproduction issues
  • Lethargy and fatigue
  • Poor coat health
  • Muscle weakness
  • A poor immune system

Can Dogs Have Too Much Selenium?

Most of the signs of selenium toxicity that can be seen in dogs are similar to those that are experienced by humans when they also have too little selenium in their systems.

For example, dogs can develop digestive distress, nervousness, hair loss and coat brittleness, but they can also be more or less unresponsive to some stimuli, which is how you can tell that their nervous system might also have been affected. So-called ‘garlic’ breath can also be seen in these pets.

Selenosis can be acute or chronic, and the worst form is the first. In this case, the dog’s internal organs would be affected, too, leading to poor cardiovascular, renal, or hepatic health. Chronic selenosis doesn’t have milder symptoms either, since it has been linked with ascites and even the dilation of blood vessels in animals’ abdominal cavities, but luckily this form has become more uncommon over the past few decades.

Your dog’s selenium (and other mineral) blood levels can be easily tested at the animal hospital, so we urge you to take your pooch to the vet clinic at least once a year for regular tests.

Should You Give Your Dog a Selenium Supplement?

Selenium is a mineral that can be utilized for a number of health problems, such as inflammatory bowel disease or nervous system health issues (including epilepsy), so it is important that supplementation is always performed under the guidance of a veterinarian.

While it is true that selenium can to some extent prevent cancer, that doesn’t mean that giving your dog supplements, along with them getting this nutrient from their diet, is truly necessary — especially if they are perfectly healthy.

It is also worth noting that some medications can lead to selenium deficiency, such as corticosteroids. If your dog is undergoing treatment with such drugs, your vet might recommend some supplements to counterbalance their effects.

In any case, the best dose of selenium for dry dog food is .11 mg/kg of kibble, so all you have to do is look at the label of the diet you are feeding your pet to try and tell whether they’re getting all the nutrients they need.

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