Metastatic Mineralization in Four Prehensile-Tailed Porcupines (Coendou prehensilis)
American Association of Zoo Veterinarians Conference 2014
Samantha Sander1, DVM; Jessica Siegal-Willott1, DVM, DACZM; Tim Walsh1, DVM, DACVP; Kenton Kerns2, MA; Erin Kendrick3, MS; Steven J. Sarro2, BAAS
1Wildlife Health Sciences, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, Washington DC, USA; 2Department of Animal Programs, Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park, Washington DC, USA; 3Department of Nutrition Science, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, Washington DC, USA


Over a three-year period, four prehensile-tailed porcupine (Coendou prehensilis) at the National Zoological Park were diagnosed with hypercalcemia, hyperphosphatemia, and associated extensive soft tissue mineralization. Clinical signs ranged from asymptomatic to polydipsia, weight loss, and decreased mobility. Diagnostic testing, including serial radiographs, ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT), complete blood count, serum chemistry and vitamin D levels, as well as endocrine and infectious disease screening, to identify the cause of the aberrant hypercalcemia has been inconclusive to date, though idiopathic, genetic or nutritional hypervitaminosis D is suspected. Dietary hypervitaminosis D has been documented in other species, resulting in similar clinical signs.1-5

Husbandry modifications, including altered exposure to natural and artificial UVB spectrum lighting and nutritional adjustments to lower calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D intake, were pursued concurrent with medical management, including antibiotic, analgesic, diuretic, steroid, gastroprotectant, fatty acid supplement, and phosphate binding therapeutics. Despite these strategies, persistent decreases in serum calcium and phosphorus derangements were not achieved and soft tissue mineralization progressed in all cases. Three of the four individuals have been euthanized to date. On necropsy, these individuals had reduced body fat stores and extensive soft tissue mineralization, especially notable in the skeletal muscle, heart, and kidneys. Two cases had concurrent pulmonary disease, including one case of fungal tracheitis and one case of Mycobacterium avium pneumonia. Continued medical management and husbandry modifications for the remaining affected individual persist, and collaboration with other institutions to identify pathogenesis and possible intervention points for this disease process is being pursued.

Literature Cited

1.  Crawshaw GJ, Oyarzun SE. Vertebral hyperostosis in anteaters (Tamandua tetradactyla and Tamandua mexicana): probable hypervitaminosis A and/or D. J Zoo Wild Med. 1996;27:158–169.

2.  Kenny D, Cambre RC, Lewandowski A, Pelto JA, Irlbeck NA, Wilson H, Mierau GW, Sill FG, Garcia AP. Suspected vitamin D3 toxicity in pacas (Cuniculus paca) and agoutis (Dasyprocta aguti). J Zoo Wild Med. 1993;24:129–139.

3.  Rehmann P, Robert N. Generalized calcinosis in two two-toed sloths (Choloepus didactylus). Proc Euro Assoc Zoo Wild Vet. 2004.

4.  Stevenson RG, Palmer NC, Finley GG. Hypervitaminosis D in rabbits. Can Vet J. 1976;17:54–57.

5.  Zimmerman TE, Giddens WE, DiGiacomo RF, Ladiges WC. Soft tissue mineralization in rabbits fed a diet containing excess vitamin D. Lab Anim Sci. 1990;40:212–215.


Speaker Information
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Samantha Sander, DVM
Wildlife Health Sciences
Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute
Washington D.C., USA

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