Center-Sinai Animal Hospital
Serving the Los Angeles Community since 1969
10737 Venice Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90034
range of pet care and emergency veterinary services available
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THE PIGGY BANK
Case of the Quarter
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
The removal of the copper was accomplished by a technique
The principle behind chelation
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
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