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Dr Rick Last Specialist Veterinary Pathologist - page 17 / 24

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Vitamin E selenium deficiency Aborted bovine fetus

Vitamin E selenium deficiency is known to affect all phases of the reproductive cycle including

Failure to conceive Embryonic death Abortion (fetal tissues with low

selenium)

Stillbith and birth of weak calves Retained placenta

The primary pathology in fetuses aborted due to vitamin E selenium deficiency is myocardial with accompanying acute congestive heart failure. Most abortions are late stage with gross abnormalities characterized by visible abdominal distension due to ascites (image top right), cardiac dilation with degeneration and/necrosis and hydropericardium, pulmonary oedema (prominent interlobular septae), skeletal muscle degeneration and/necrosis and cardiogenic hepatic congestion (image bottom right).

Selenium has the ability to cross the placenta in both cattle and sheep to be sequestered in the fetal liver, even with low availability in the dam. Therefore, normal selenium reference ranges are significantly higher in the fetus compared to the adult (up to double the adult range). The fetal kidney has been found to be the most reliable organ for selenium analysis in an abortion investigation.

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