Hair analysis is a holistic procedure in which a sample of your hair is tested for levels of harmful and nutritional minerals in your body.
Hair analysis for humans has been around for some 40 years, used by alternative practitioners to detect potential health problems long before symptoms even begin to manifest. Considering how easy and noninvasive this valuable diagnostic tool is, wouldn’t be wonderful if our animal companions could also benefit from it? Well, now they can. Like so many other forms of holistic health care, hair analysis has entered the companion animal field, thanks to Bob Smith, whose many years of experience in nutrition and human hair analysis led him to the development of the PetTest Health Screen, a hair analysis test especially for dogs, cats, horses and other critters.
How does hair analysis work?
Formerly, the only way you could determine mineral levels in your animal’s body was to order specialized blood or urine tests. “These are not a desirable way to find minerals,” says Bob. “For example, when the body is deficient in calcium, the blood borrows from the bone to keep the levels up.” This means the blood test will reveal normal calcium levels even though there is a deficiency. As well, blood and urine elemental analyses are expensive, and can run $700 to over $1,100, along with several office visits. “It just isn’t practical to spend that much money,” says Bob. “For hair analysis, though, you’re talking about $95 for 32 minerals, as opposed to 18 minerals with blood and 20 with urine.”
But why would hair tell us so much about what’s going on in the body? It’s because it doesn’t have the ability to keep minerals in homeostasis by attempting to correct imbalances, so elevated or deficient levels show up sooner and more dramatically in hair than in other body tissue. “Hair is very sensitive to mineral levels,” says Bob. “In studies for humans, the hair showed patterns of health risk two years before the person went to the doctor with symptoms. A calcium deficiency will show up in hair years before it shows up in blood or urine.”
Why is this important?
We know that toxic minerals such as mercury, cadmium, aluminum and lead can contribute to illnesses such as cancer, kidney failure, liver disease and neurological conditions, but the problem is that these substances can build up in the body for months or years before they manifest in clinical signs of disease. “The level of a toxin in an animal is dependent on exposure, and their ability to detoxify,” explains Bob. “So even if you have an animal exposed to very low levels of a toxin, if he can’t get rid of it, it just accumulates in the body.” And no matter how careful we are, both our animals and ourselves are exposed to many toxins every day. In fact, our dogs and cats are worse off than we are because they’re closer to the ground or floor, and therefore more likely to come into direct contact with these substances, which they may then ingest by licking their feet or coats. By revealing elevations of toxic minerals in your animal’s body, hair analysis gives you and your vet the opportunity to correct the imbalances before illness develops.
Hair analysis also provides information on levels of nutritional minerals such as calcium, magnesium, zinc and selenium, and can show when your animal is either lacking or getting too much of a particular mineral. A change in diet or the addition of certain supplements can help fix the problem.
Available through holistic vets, the PetTest Health Screen simply requires you to submit a small sample of your pet’s hair. After the analysis is complete, the company provides you with an individualized report on your animal’s mineral levels, including a chart, a written commentary that explains the test results, and some suggested supplements to help detoxify his body and correct any nutritional imbalances.
Isn’t it amazing how much we can learn from a little piece of Rover’s hair?