Pigeon health


Is selenium deficiency a rare problem?
Yes, the selenium deficiency is (relatively) common in pigeon-breeding. In many countries the earth is not usually rich in selenium, and so plants grown in it only contain this element in minimal quantities. The utilization of the low selenium content of the soil is further worsened by artificial fertilizers, and so in such regions a shortage of selenium in animal bodies can easily appear. All the more so because drinking water in these areas tends to have little or no selenium in it.
An inadequate quantity of selenium causes disorders in the operation of the immune system, and in worse cases can lead to hepatic dystrophy. In racing pigeons even a small shortage can have very serious consequences, as an insufficient level of selenium can lead to skeletal and heart muscle dystrophy, which on the one hand seriously weakens flying performance, and on the other hand the damage to the heart can mean that a single heavier load placed on the body can quickly lead to death.
A bird’s selenium requirement is high when young, and an inadequate intake causes developmental disorders and slow growth. The role selenium plays in reproduction is also very important – if we do not ensure its regular intake, especially in the winter and the spring, reproductive disorders can develop.
The presence of selenium is also required for the connective tissues of the motor organs, the tendons, ligaments, and particularly the cartilages, to be suitably flexible and resistant.
Selenium is easily and quickly absorbed from the gut, and so administering it orally is an entirely suitable method. (We normally give selenium together with vitamin E.) Its regular intake is necessary, but this does not mean that it should be administered on a continuous basis, as selenium is easy to overdose! A heavy overdose can cause poisoning, liver damage, and in severe cases even death. So supplements of selenium should only continuously be administered for a week at most, after which we should have a one or two week break. This is the treatment to be used if the lack of selenium is already established. One supplement of selenium per week is adequate as a preventive measure, but it is advisable to continue this regularly, throughout the year.
Generally we administer selenium with vitamin E.
Vitamin E
A fat-soluble vitamin. Found in large quantities in vegetable oils and seeds, but mouldy or rancid feed can lose its vitamin E content, or the intake of such feed can multiply the body’s vitamin E requirements.
If the vitamin is insufficient or absent (especially if the specimen also suffers from selenium deficiency), dystrophy of the heart muscle and skeletal muscle occurs, which is particularly damaging for racing pigeons. It also has a very important role in reproduction, and stock birds – males and females – cannot be without it for healthy spermatogenesis. In its absence the number of infertile eggs increases, which can be aggravated by a decline in propensity for pairing.
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