Nov 30 2012

Chemistry Values Explained (Fifteen minutes of blood Part II)

So I thought I would briefly break down some of the chemistry values that Dr. Freihaut and I look at on a daily basis.  I won’t discuss much of their clinical application here, but I want to show how important each of the values can contribute to the whole picutre.

Liver Status

The liver has two enzymes it produces for liver processes. 

  • ALT (Alanine Aminotransferase) is produced in liver cells and is very specific to the liver.  Cells in the liver get damaged, this enzyme leaks out and we see a spike on our values.
  • ALP (Alkaline Phosphatase) is produced in cells along the biliary tract (think gallbladder).  However, it is also produced in other locations not specific to the liver, so increases in this enzyme are not specific.
  • Total Bilirubin, unlike the enzymes above, more directly measures liver function.  Bilirubin is metabolized by the liver, so increases in this mean the liver just can’t do its job like it should.

Kidney Status

The kidney has more functions than you can shake a stick at, but the elimination of toxins produced is its most famous trait.

  • Creatanine is a product of muscle breakdown.  It doesn’t do much in the body but it shows a lot about the kidneys.  We can use it to measure how they filter the blood since creatanine just goes with the flow and is easily removed by the kidey.
  • Blood Urea Nitrogen is made by the liver and filtered by the kidneys. (See how it starts to get complicated?).  As far as the kidneys are concerned, this is another molecule that is easily filtered.  It goes up when the kidneys’ ability to filter the blood goes down.  As a side note, this value increasing usually makes pets feel pretty icky and can cause a lot of no good side effects.

Blood Sugar

The pancreas and liver control glucose – or blood sugar – regulation.  Too low and cells are not getting nutrition (especially important in the brain).  Too high and it indicates that the cells again are not getting enough nutrition (?).  This may sound contradictory, but this time insulin is not bringing the sugar into the cells for them to use ( = diabetes).

Total Protein Evaluation

 Two protein groups add up to make the protein in the body. 

  • Albumin can be influenced by many factors, but we look at its levels to make sure that there are no production issues (liver) and no elimination issues (kidneys, intestines).  So if we see that the albumin is too low, then the liver isn’t making it, or the intestines/kidneys are losing too much protein than they should.  Once albumin gets too low, fluid in the body can’t stay balanced and the blood vessels start to get very leaky.
  • Globulin is all of the immune and inflammatory proteins.  These go up with chronic inflammation.  If the albumin wasn’t involved enough, when the globulins increase the albumin frequently decreases to balance things out.

Electrolyte Evaluation

Calcium, Phosphorus, Sodium, Potassium, Chloride, Magnesium are all very tiny, but they have very important jobs in the body.  They are so important that when these tiny compounds get too high or low, the body has mechanisms in order to balance their levels.  The kidneys, liver, bones, and digestive system all play a role in balancing these electrolytes and minerals.


To conclude, South Atlanta has its share of veterinary clinics, many of whom can run in-house chemistries.  It is not hard to run the chemistry, but we can get a lot of valuable information from a lot of little compounds.  I hope I haven’t bored or confused anyone.  The interactions and values I went over above just scratch the surface of what our dogs’ and cats’ bodies are balancing every day.  They are a wonderfully complex creation.  My final post in this series will be a little less technical and will talk about why we recommend wellness bloodwork – before anyone gets sick.

– Doc Cleland

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