Pet Health Care Article by Dr. Baum: The Piggy Bank
Persistent vomiting and diarrhea had left the seven month old pit bull puppy in horrible shape. Not only was he thin and dehydrated, but he also was quite anemic. A Parvo virus test was negative, but the x-ray of the abdomen showed what appeared to be a metallic ring in his stomach.
After stabilizing the patient’s condition, surgery was performed to remove the offending foreign body. Much to our surprise, what we found was not a ring, but a penny whose center had been dissolved out by the stomach acids that had been eating away at it. We assumed that the puppy would make an uneventful recovery once the foreign body had been removed, but that didn’t happen. Although the surgery had gone smoothly and the wound healing was progressing, the pup continued being lethargic, wouldn’t eat, and the anemia wasn’t correcting itself.
We then realized that something else was at work here. As a result of the dissolving of the bulk of the penny, copper had been released and consequently absorbed into the puppy’s bloodstream and tissue. What we had here was a case of copper poisoning!! We confirmed our suspicions by having our lab measure the amount of copper in the blood and immediately started treatment to remove the copper from the body.
The removal of the copper was accomplished by a technique called chelation. The principle behind chelation …is the affinity of different elements in the body to combine with other elements. In this case, a substance called Calcium EDTA was used as the chelating agent. Normally used as an anti coagulant of the blood (it is in the lavender topped tubes that we send into the lab), Calcium EDTA is used in cases of heavy metal (copper or lead) poisoning because when given a chance to choose, EDTA would rather be combined with copper or lead than with calcium! Once this changing of partners is accomplished, the combined copper EDTA is harmlessly excreted by the kidneys through the urine.
Within two days of starting this treatment, there was a dramatic improvement in the patient’s condition. The owners continued the administration of the medication at home and a full recovery was accomplished.
The moral of the story: Always watch your pennies!
Dr . B