What is Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis (HTMA)?

What is an HTMA Test?

HTMA stands for Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis. HTMA is a test that analyzes the mineral content and heavy metals in hair. After you cut the hair from yourself or pet, then it's "prepared in a licensed clinical laboratory through a series of chemical and high-temperature digestive procedures. Testing is then performed using highly sophisticated detection equipment and methods to achieve the most accurate and precise results." - Trace Elements Inc.

Trace Elements utilizes state-of-the-art ICP-Mass Spectrometry (NexION® models) for all trace element determinations.

Image from of Trace Elements, Inc

Hair testing is a simple, non-invasive way to test minerals and heavy metals in the body. It's a powerful and easy tool for pet parents to monitor their dog's mineral levels without a visit to the vet or other invasive procedures. Hair provides a blueprint of biochemistry occurring during the period of hair growth and development. 

Why not use blood instead?

  • Hair testing is non-invasive and easy
  • Cutting your pet's hair is painless
  • No special handling of the sample so it can be mailed in an standard mail envelope 
  • Cost-effective
  • Blood is a snapshot

Blood shows a snapshot of what is happening in the dog right now. While this is important information, it doesn't supply an accurate analysis of the mineral levels over a period of time. The blood will "borrow" nutrients from cells and tissues to create homeostasis in the blood. Blood is like the first kid in line at the ice cream store. He gets what he wants before anyone else.

"Blood is homeostatic. That is, blood has the capacity to balance itself in essential minerals at the expense of cell and tissue reserves of these same minerals. Dr. Rick Malter, PhD, The Strands of Health, 2003.

For example, a dog's cells and tissues might be losing essential minerals such as sodium and potassium while the blood reveals what appears to be normal levels of these two minerals. However, a dog might show signs and symptoms of low potassium and sodium deficiency, but the blood results are normal. Blood results can be a late indicator of a problem. 

"The balances between these essential nutrient minerals are more easily disrupted in the cells and tissues than they are in the blood. Deficiencies and excesses of minerals are more readily observed in an HTMA than in a blood analysis or urinalysis. Therefore, an HTMA is often an earlier indicator of a trend towards health problems (physical and psychological) than is a blood analysis or urinalysis. This fact is very important, especially when considering disease prevention or health maintenance nutritional supplement program." - Dr. Rick Malter, Ph.D. The Strands of Health, 2003.

How Does Hair Collect Mineral Information?

Over 40 years ago, Dr. Eck and Watts discovered a nutrient pattern generated from their analysis of hair. They discovered that essential nutrient minerals do not deposit randomly in the hair follicle. The nutrient mineral deposits are in clearly identifiable patterns.

Minerals are the "sparkplugs" of life. 

Even our government uses hair testing...

"Hair is used as one of the tissues of choice by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)  in determining toxic metal exposure. A 1980 report from the E.P.A. stated that human hair can be effectively used for biological monitoring of the highest priority toxic metals. This report confirmed the findings of other studies in the U.S. and abroad, which concluded that human hair may be a more appropriate tissue than blood or urine for studying community exposure to some trace elements." - Trace Elements Inc.

Another reason to test hair is that it's one of the many places the body unloads excess minerals and heavy metals for storage away from vital organs. The amounts of minerals deposited in the hair uncover several things about your dog's health. 

  • Early indicator of health concerns
  • Overall raw diet performance
  • Heavy metal toxicities
  • Mineral toxicities
  • Mineral deficiencies

Sample report from Trace Elements Inc.

Is Hair Testing Accurate?

Like any medical test, no test is 100% accurate. If a client doesn't follow instructions and uses hair that has been shed or hair that was recently washed with a medicated shampoo, then the results will not be accurate. The test is accurate enough for the purposes of reviewing the minerals and heavy metals in a dog's body and giving suggestions for environmental changes and diet adjustment with the analysis of a veterinarian. We utilize a veterinarian that reviews each test and makes suggestions based on her professional opinion with years of nutrition and medical practice.

It matters where you send your hair test. Some labs wash the hair before analysis. This can skew results. We use Trace Elements Inc. They do not wash the hair. When you wash the hair first with harsh solvents then it washes away the water-soluble minerals like sodium and potassium that are critical for reviewing thyroid and adrenal function.

Is Hair Testing Based on Science? 

Yes! Here are some of the studies that utilize hair mineral analysis. Here are a few articles supplied by our lab Trace Elements Inc. If you are looking for more research studies then see their Research Library

Highlights from Scientific Studies

These studies show the many strengths and the value of hair testing in the health industry:

Several research programs for studying and establishing hair trace mineral concentrations have been implemented since 1965 by the International Atomic Energy Agency. These research programs have been coordinated under "Nuclear-based Methods for the Analysis of Pollutants in Human Hair." Hair was chosen by the I.A.E.A. due to the concentration of minerals in the hair and its reflection of both external and internal contamination. The bulk of data on trace element concentrations has been reported from hair samples obtained from the scalp.

Ryabukhin, T.S.: International Coordinated Program on Activation Analysis of Trace Element Pollutants in Human Hair. Hair, Trace Elements, and Human Illness. Brown, A. C.; Crounse, R. G., ed. Praeger Publications, 1980.


"Bioassay of hair is attractive as it is an effective bio-concentrator, samples can be easily stored, the concentration reflects an integrated value, and, finally, the measurement of the (234)U/(238)U isotopic ratio in digested hair samples by MC-ICPMS is feasible and highly informative."

Karpas Z, Lorber A, Sela H, Paz-Tal O, Hagag Y, Kurttio P, Salonen L., Measurement of the 234U/238U ratio by MC-ICPMS in drinking water, hair, nails, and urine as an indicator of uranium exposure source. Health Phys. 2005 Oct;89(4):315-21.


Coronary calcification scores were strongly associated with a higher calcium­to­magnesium ratio in the hair than lower calcium to magnesium ratios found.

Park, B, et.al. High Calcium­Magnesium Ratio in Hair is Associated with Coronary Artery Calcification in Middle Aged and Elderly Individuals. Biol.Trace Elem.Res. 179,1, 2017


Hair samples were sent to Trace Elements, Inc, (TEI), via TEI­Korea. Zinc deficiency was found in the hair of eighty­eight percent of the study group. Serum zinc was found low in fifty­five percent of the affected group. Zinc therapy resulted in improvement in clinical signs and symptoms in most of the children including increase in body weight, appetite and growth.

TH Ha, J Lee, YJ Kim. Hair Zinc Level Analysis and Correlative Micronutrients in Children Presenting with Malnutrition and Poor Growth. Pediatr. Gastroenterol. Hepatol, Nutr. 19, 4, 2016.


“The value of exposure (kinetics and dose) of orthodontic patients to metal ions released from orthodontic appliances can be assessed by hair mineral analysis.”

Metal ions released from fixed orthodontic appliance affect hair mineral content. Mikulewicz M, Wołowiec P, Loster B, Chojnacka K. Biol Trace Elem Res. 2015 Feb;163(1-2):


"Human head hair is a recording filament that can reflect metabolic changes of many elements over long periods of time and thus furnish a print-out of post nutritional events."

Strain, W. H.; Pories, W. J.; Flynn, A.; Hill, O. A.: Trace Element Nutriture and Metabolism Through Head Hair Analysis. Trace Substances in Environmental Health. Hemphill, D. D., ed. University of Missouri Press, Columbia, 1972.

Conclusion

To conclude, most dogs have mineral deficiencies, excesses, or heavy metals in their systems. A hair test is a simple, easy, and cost-effective way to take care of your pet's health before a major illness occurs or worse. Learn more about our Nutritional Blueprint Testing Kit.