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White Muscle Disease – Everything You Need To Know!




Nutritional myopathy of calves is also known as white muscle disease. It is usually seen in young calves and is associated with selenium or vitamin E deficiency, or both.

There are two types of disease of the white muscle; a congenital form that affects the heart muscle and a delayed form that is associated with the muscle of the heart or the skeleton.

The calves which suffer from these diseases are expected to die within a week. They cannot withstand the external pressure and suffer from a cardiac arrest.

What Causes White Muscle Disease?

White Muscle Disease

There are a lot of factors that determine and can be a case of the disease. One of the major ones is that soil quality lacks nutrition.

This disease is a common one in Michigan as the quality of soil is poor in the country. The prime cause of White Muscle Disease (WMD) is a deficiency of selenium and/or Vitamin E.

It is degenerative in all large animals, including sheep and goats. It generally doesn’t understand when. Selenium deficiency stands for inadequate uptake by drilled soils of selenium.

  • Certain regions in the US are known to be low in selenium levels, like Michigan. Deficiency in vitamin E is independent of the form of soil and represents more directly the consistency of the forage.
  • Fresh vegetables and pasta are good vitamin E sources, and stored feeds tend to be bad vitamin E sources. Up to 50% of your Vitamin E, each month, can be wasted by stored feed.
  • The most prevalent in newborn and quickly developing animals, both sheep and goats, are prone to WMD.
  • Kids(baby sheep) are more likely to get affected by it than lambs because they have a higher selenium requirement.
  • The heart will show white, chalky sub-endochondral plaques that are most visible in the left ventricle upon inspection after death.
  • Damage to cardiac muscle cells and Purkinje fibers is the result of this disease.
White Muscle Disease

The delayed-type is often triggered by intense exercise, but if permanently affected, cattle may show splayed toes and shoulder girdle relaxation.

If a calf is badly affected, it can die of starvation due to weakness because of an inability to nurse properly.

Skeletal muscle lesions associated with white muscle disease delay are typically bilateral symmetric and can affect one or more muscle growth.

What is the treatment of this disease?

White Muscle Disease

White muscle disease-affected cattle obtained a vaccine for sterile emulsion with sodium selenite and vitamin E. SC or IM, 1 mg selenium and 50 mg (68 IU) of vitamin E per 18 kg (40 lbs) of body weight can be administered.

Two weeks after treatment, if necessary, should replicate, but not exceed a total of four doses. It can be used tocopherol or vitamin E rich compounds.

Calves were initially treated with 600-mg alpha-tocopherol, supplemented by a 200-mg normal dosage. Both polyunsaturated fats should be taken off the diet since this can lead to the deficiency of vitamin E.

Cows are given 15 mg of selenium, usually sodium selenite, four weeks before calving to avoid white muscle disease within four weeks after their birth.

Calves are given 5 mg of selenium at age two to four and twice more at monthly intervals in order to reduce the delayed form. In certain places, a combination of selenium and vitamin E is recommended.

In areas of documented deficiency, it is beneficial to apply selenium to food for animals, or they’re young. The additional dose recommended is 0.3 ppm selenium measured on the basis of the cumulative consumption of dry matter.

It is added in the form of sodium selenite containing 45.65% selenium. Due to the minute volumes and the toxicity of excess intake, it is important to pre-measure and blends thoroughly.

Selenium is lawfully regulated, and relevant authority should be consulted in some nations, including the United States; caution is given in all respects regarding the application of selenium.

A bit more about the disease and its effects

White Muscle Disease

The condition can affect the skeletal as well as the heart muscles. Symptoms in skeletal muscles range from moderate rigidity to visible discomfort when walking or failure to stand.

When kept upright, the lambs/kids will tremble with pain. Stiff gaited hunched animals are common.

Affected lambs/children can stay bright and normal until they are too frail to take care of them. In neonates, they are born frail and sometimes can not get to their feet when the problem arises.

  • Sudden practice in older lambs and children will cause the disorder.
  • Adult animals with bad construction, childbirth, death, and defective childbirth, placental holding, or frail children or lambs may have poor animals.
  • Pneumonia may be close to cardiac effects.
  • These involve heavy coughing, dazzling nasal flushing, and fever. Heart and breathing speeds are high and erratic. Both WMD forms also exist concurrently.
  • If WMD affects the skeletal muscles, extra selenium and Vitamin E should be treated, and animals can respond within 24 hours. Heart muscle injury is frequently permanent.

In areas where the soils are deficient, WMD can be avoided by supplementing selenium and Vitamin. The supplementation of selenium is legally regulated.

Absolute daily selenium intake shall not be greater than 0.7 mg/head/day. The overall diet should preferably be between 0.10 and 0.30 ppm of selenium for sheep and goats.

Injectable types of selenium are available but are a weak alternative to food supplements, and Michigan State University Extension advises not to use an injectable type of sheep and goat supplement.


There are a lot of factors that can lead to white muscle disease in the calves. Their body is growing, and the muscles need proper nutrition.

If the same is not provided, then the calves can suffer from the disease called white muscle disease. A well-trained and the experienced vet can help in diagnosing the disease and giving the right cure on time to the calf.

If the right vaccine is given, then only you can save the calf. Else it will not survive for more than two days.

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