Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Total Protein Count on a Body Fluid

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“Total protein” is primarily made up of two proteins that have vital functions in the blood, albumin and globulin. In healthy horses, total protein is normally very low in their body cavity fluids like the abdomen and joints. However, if there is damage or inflammation somewhere within a cavity, vessels become “leaky” and allow protein to escape from blood and enter the fluid, causing the total protein in a fluid to increase.

Low protein levels are generally “good,” while high protein levels are generally “bad.” Thus, this diagnostic is useful in determining the severity or progression of a disease process.

A sample of fluid is collected and the total protein is measured. This test may be performed in a lab or, in some cases, in the field. It is usually performed with a refractometer. There are ranges of normal values for protein within each different body fluid. The result for a given sample is compared to that normal range.

Reasons to UseRelated Observations

Benefits

This is a simple yet extremely helpful test that provides valuable information about systemic health, the progression of the disease process, and/or the efficacy of treatment.

Limitations

Time delay due to offsite processing. Total protein is only one indication of disease and must be considered in light of numerous other findings.

QUESTIONS TO ASK MY VET

  • Will this diagnostic change the treatment plan?
  • Will this diagnostic tell us anything about prognosis?
  • How will this diagnostic add to my horse's health?
  • Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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