As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.  Learn more here.

Selenium Deficiency or Contracted Tendons?

Legs folded over at birth? Give it selenium! Actually, DON’T. This is one of the most pervasive Internet goat care myths to ever exist and it is my sworn duty to try to educate, so let’s talk about selenium deficiency, contracted tendons and slow unfolding at birth.

Selenium Deficiency AKA White Muscle Disease

First, let’s start with true selenium deficiency, officially known as White Muscle Disease. According to Merck, “Most kids affected by white muscle disease have been in good condition and are 2–3 months old (range, 1 week to 4 months).” As in, if you had a newborn present with selenium deficiency, that would be an exceedingly rare case, because typical presentation is much older and the earliest average presentation is 1 week old.

Here’s a video showing what it really looks like, and it is nothing like the literal hundreds of cases of contracted tendons we see popping up on social media during kidding season.

The treatment for WMD is selenium/vitamin E and while there’s a good chance nothing bad will happen if you give this to your newborn kid because you’re told to treat his contracted tendons with it, you need to know that the potential outcome for selenium toxicity is death, and the well meaning crowd who told you to force dose a potentially fatal substance is not going to be there helping you bury your kid. This is why I frequently say it’s important to not trust what you read on the Internet without verifying it, even this post right here.  Anyone can talk a good game – I see it all the time in confident sounding posts that are rife with bad info.  Study, verify and then, go back to your intuition and see where it leads you.

Contracted Tendons in Newborn Kids

Next, let’s talk about what we do see very often in newborn kids: contracted tendons or slow unfolding. This happens for various reasons, including crowding in the womb, which I suspect is more related to the next cause, genetic tendencies, or who knows. Here’s a description of some of the genetic, more extreme causes, which do not self correct and will require manual intervention.  For the purposes of this discussion and ease of conversation, we’ll refer to all cases as contracted tendons, but what we’re talking about specifically here is the slow unfolding that happens in the vast majority of cases.  (Have a better term for it?  Let’s make it standard!)

Contracted tendons almost always sort themselves out within 2-3 days. You’ll hear OVER AND OVER, “I gave my kid selenium and his symptoms resolved, so selenium works.” The kid would have recovered without selenium and there is no connection between the two: correlation does not equal causation.

Kids born with contracted tendons usually can still get up to eat and move around. In extreme cases, you may need to help the kid nurse. In those cases, I’d recommend gentle flexion and massage on the affected legs to help speed up the process.  Vet wrap may be needed to help stabilize and correct true contracted tendons.  Because of the potential genetic component, this is not something I keep in my herd – we see litters as large as 5 kids and never a case of contracted tendons.

Please, take a moment to watch the short video to familiarize yourself with what selenium deficiency truly looks like. Bookmark and share it if you feel so called. The practice of force supplementing based on faulty data is dangerous and pervasive.

For great content and information about raising goats holistically, join our free goat community with a subscription goat care encyclopedia: