In performing a Chemistry Profile, a group of results relates to the proteins in the bloodstream.
First is “total protein.” This result has significance because the total amount of protein of all kinds in the bloodstream is important in the regulatory processes of a number of functions. One is controlling the balance of fluid movement into and out of circulation. Too much protein and fluid tends to move out of the bloodstream. The opposite is true when too little protein is present. As with many parameters in the body, normal function occurs only within narrow limits.
TP can also be performed as an inexpensive individual screening test for overall health.
Total protein consists primarily of albumin and globulin.
Albumin is produced by the liver and is an important indicator of liver function. A small, cirrhotic liver, for example, is unable to produce much albumin, and could be a cause of low albumin levels. Albumin loss can also lead to low serum results. The two most common causes are intestinal loss and renal (kidney) loss.
The term globulin refers to a collection of proteins produced by the immune system. Most people have heard of gamma globulin, and these proteins are commonly used to enhance immune system function. There are dozens of globulins and each one has a specific job in the body.
One of the important diagnostic aspects of globulin occurs when they are elevated. Normal levels of globulin in dogs ranges from about 1.6 to 3.6. Significant elevation, hyperglobulinemia, often implies immune system overactivity and is frequently associated with cancer, but not always.
Laboratory test results often include a calculated albumin/globulin ratio. This ratio is reported primarily to catch the clinician’s eye. As the albumin level is typically higher than the globulin ratio, it is usually slightly over “1.” However, if globulin levels are significantly elevated and albumin level is normal, the ratio will plummet to well below 1. Conversely, if the albumin level drops in liver, intestinal or other disease, the ratio will rise. While it is unlikely that a practitioner would miss an abnormality on either factor, reporting the ratio on the lab report helps highlight a possible oversight.
See you Monday, Dr. Randolph.