What is Chelation Therapy?
The vast majority of dogs love to be in the outdoors and to be able to explore and investigate at will. Time spent outside exercising will go a long way towards keeping a dog healthy both physically and mentally. However, this can also bring them into contact with a number of hazards, not least of which are the dangers presented by humans - specifically, chemicals. A common byproduct of heavy industry, heavy metals are usually disposed of in an environmentally safe and legal manner. But by design or accident, these substances can find their way into the local environment, posing a serious health risk to any organisms that ingest them. What makes them so dangerous is their similarity to many of the minerals that the body needs to function, making them extremely easy for tissues to absorb. The poisoning can take many forms, but one of the main ways that vets will use to counter it is via the use of a chemical treatment known as 'chelation therapy'.
Chelation Therapy Procedure in Dogs
Before the treatment can begin, the vet will have to determine the particular heavy metal that is poisoning the dog. This is usually done via laboratory analysis of blood, urine, or fecal samples. Once the vet knows what kind of heavy metal they are facing, they will know which specific chelating agent is needed to counteract the dog's symptoms. The administration of the drug is done via an intravenous line that places the chelating agent directly into the dog's bloodstream. Typically, this process will take a few hours to complete. The vet will also provide the dog with plenty of fluids in order to help provoke urination. Before each session of chelation therapy, the vet will assess the dog's condition and overall level of heavy metals in the bloodstream, as this will let them know roughly how much more of the agent is required.
Efficacy of Chelation Therapy in Dogs
Chelation therapy is very good at provoking the excretion of heavy metal elements from the body. Furthermore, by chemically bonding with the poison, the agents neutralize much of their destructive potential, meaning that the dog's felt symptoms will fade quite rapidly after the first session or two. However, some alternative medicine groups are trying to promote the use of chelation therapy in relation to other health conditions, whilst present research only supports the use of these chemicals when dealing with heavy metal poisoning, regarding them as otherwise ineffective or, in some cases, outright dangerous. Additionally, as the treatment may not be suitable for pregnant or extremely sick animals, alternative methods such as dietary mineral supplementation may be used to combat low-level poisonings.
Chelation Therapy Recovery in Dogs
During the early stages of treatment, the animal will need several weeks of rest and confinement to the house to allow the dog's organs to fully recover and to avoid re-exposure. The dog will need an easily digestible and bland diet in order to not put a strain on their stomach, kidneys, or liver (organs which can be especially sensitive to heavy metal poisoning). By the time the treatment has been completed (usually after a month or two), the dog should be well enough to return to their normal routine. The vet will most likely want to arrange several follow-up appointments after the full course of chelation therapy has been completed, as this will provide an opportunity to check on the dog's rate of healing and to make sure that the poisoning did not cause any further health problems.
Cost of Chelation Therapy in Dogs
Due to the specialized nature of the drugs and the amount of time and monitoring required of the vet, the price of chelation therapy can often be in excess of $100 per session. Additionally, it should be borne in mind that the dog may require over a dozen sessions of the therapy in order to fully decontaminate its body, meaning that the price can easily exceed several thousand dollars in the long term. Comparatively, dietary mineral supplements designed to prevent the body from absorbing the majority of the ingested heavy metals cost far less. These will typically sell for roughly $30 per bottle, though their effectiveness is limited to situations where the dog's exposure is quite low.
Dog Chelation Therapy Considerations
Whilst chelation therapy can save a dog's life, some owners may be hesitant to utilize this treatment method due to certain perceived risk factors. The first of these is the chemicals' potential toxicity and the additional stress they can place on the body. This is a well-founded worry, as chelation agents should not be used on animals that are already experiencing organ failure, as the strain placed on the heart and liver can lead to a worsening of their condition and even death. Likewise, the chemicals should never be given to dogs that are pregnant, as further damage to both the mother and the developing pups can occur.
Chelation Therapy Prevention in Dogs
Unlike other environmental hazards such as roads or other animals, it is virtually impossible to train a dog to differentiate between safe and contaminated water sources. Thus, the best strategy is outright avoidance of polluted areas or places that an owner may suspect to be unsafe. Additionally, if owners learn the symptoms of heavy metal and other common poisonings, they will be able to get their animal to a vet whilst the condition is still in its early stages, thereby avoiding the worst of the symptoms.