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Welcome to our series from the Wonderful Dr. Barry Baum, Chief of Staff at Center-Sinai Animal Hospital in Los Angeles.  If you have a question for our Virtuoso Vet, he'd love to see it.  And he will answer all that he can.  Just use the form that follows below, beneath the column. Please note: If you feel the condition of your pet is critical, Dr. Baum suggests you contact your local vet ASAP!

For previous questions and answers, see the buttons under this week's article.



Dear Dr. Baum --

I have heard that chelation has had positive effects on animals. Can you tell me a little about it?

Henry W., Long Island, N.Y.

Dear Henry --

Last weekend I was fortunate enough to spend time at the beach in Dana Point.  One of the pleasures I experienced was watching the beautiful pelicans that now appear in increasing numbers on our coastal areas.  When I moved here from New York in 1973, these birds were on the verge of extinction, but their resurgence is one of the major success stories of our efforts to clean our environment of toxic chemicals.  In this case, the culprit was the infamous DDT, an insecticide that was used extensively by the agricultural interests in our state to prevent damage to the crops.  The DDT permeated its way through the food chain where it eventually was washed out into the ocean and wound up contaminating the fish that provided the diet for the pelicans.  As the DDT levels in the birds rose it effected them in a very unique way.  They didn't die from damage to their internal organs.  What happened was a failure to be able to reproduce due to the ability of the DDT to selectively combine with the calcium in their bodies thus making this critical element unavailable to be incorporated into the shells of their eggs. 

The net result of the calcium deprivation was that the shells lacked the strength to literally support the weight of the nesting mothers, thus causing the eggs to crack open, which resulted in the death of the embryonic birds.  DDT was banned from use in the early 1970s and within a few years, biologists were starting to note that more and more eggs were being hatched to completion and that the egg shells were more durable.  It was then that the relationship between the chelating effects of DDT binding the calcium and making it unavailable for use in egg shell formation was realized.  Today these birds are off the endangered species lists and are thriving.

The principle of chelation also has its positive sides.  A common anti-coagulant, EDTA, is used in the little purple-topped tubes that blood is collected in prior to its analysis at the laboratory.  Calcium is an element that facilitates the clotting process but the EDTA binds to it and makes it unavailable for this purpose and allows the blood to remain in a liquid state.  What is even more amazing, is the fact that the same EDTA is used as the primary treatment for lead poisoning.  As much as the EDTA likes to combine with calcium, it has an even greater affinity for combining with lead.  When a patient is diagnosed with lead poisoning, calcium EDTA is administered, whereupon the calcium is jettisoned by the EDTA in favor of its more attractive partner, the offending lead.  The lead EDTA combination is than harmlessly excreted via the urinary tract.

Chelation!  Who knew?    


To find out what others have asked, click our Critter Query archives button:

Do you have a question for our Virtuoso Vet? Just use the form below.
Dr. Baum will answer as many of your questions as possible. 
For Your Pet's Health:
Please contact your local vet if you feel your pet is having an emergency to insure getting attention in time to meet his/her needs.

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If you are lucky enough to live in Los Angeles when you need a really good vet, you can call
to set up an appointment with Dr. Baum or another of the highly skilled staff at
Center-Sinai Veterinary Hospital.  The number is 310-559-3770.

Check out the new site! Your questions and answers appear there, with your permission, with a link on our site, too, and you'll find more pet care information and special features! Just close the window after visiting, or hit your browser's back button to return to InasPawprints.


Animated Graphics Website and photo 2003 Ina Hillebrandt.
Last updated April 2012. All rights reserved.

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