Bone Density Loss on X-rays

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Post   » Wed Nov 05, 2003 7:20 am

The following are emails and progressive xrays of Pinta's guinea pig, Shiraz, showing bone density loss, the thickening of the bones in the head, and the results of treatment.

Click on the link provided for a much bigger photo of the xray if you need it.


8/10/01 - Nigel and Shiraz are losing weight. Shiraz seems to be eating, good coat but she has an off gait. Like her hip is bothering her. I would really like to try the calcium on her but I guess I'll wait til KM brings the stuff up here. I think we'll Critical Care both of them and take them into the vets next week.

One thing they both have in common is "harassment". Willie has been tossing Nigel out of the cage on a regular basis. And Fanny continues to be a bitch to Shiraz. I wonder if they are too on edge to eat properly.....and they both suffer have Pea Eye. But Shiraz isn't bothered by hers.

8/13/01 - Nigel's sick. Took him off the Lasix. Went to see Debbie. His lungs sound fine, but it may be the low dose Lasix. While there, he sneezed a snotty sneeze. Baytril twice a day since Debbie isn't sure what the problem is. He's lost weight and is quieter than usual but is still eating and drinking. We will Critical Care him. Shiraz we did Critical Care and I think her problem was a calcium deficiency. She seems fine now.

8/24/01 - I'm pretty sure Shiraz was suffering from a calcium deficiency. She is coming out to the living room again and seems much livelier. So now I'm really curious about calcium deficiencies in Satins as a breed. Fanny is about the same age as Shiraz but seems just fine - same diet.

In fact I just walked into the living room and Shiraz dashed to the couch for Critter berries followed by Willie, Fanny, Abigail with Bloom bringing up the rear. Shiraz is a mutt. She has pea eye in both eyes. Her mom was a red or brown abby. She is way bouncier since she got additional calcium in her. Shiraz is the top pig in the first pig page.

2/21/02 - Shiraz has been losing weight. Precipitously in the last week. Active, eating. Legendre checked her teeth and said to go for blood tests before a full dental exam. Getting her T4 checked for hyperthyroidism. She's 18 months old

2/22/02 - her t-4 count was 30. Bloom's was 44, 19 after being on Tapazole. Beachz was 15 and Fanny was 23 so it looks like she's on her way to hyperthyroidism. Goes on Tapazole tomorrow. If the weight loss stops then it probably is hyperthyroidism

4/8/02 - Shiraz has just had her teeth planed by Legendre. She has the jaw of a bull mastiff. Apparently it's calcified saliva glands. Legendre has never seen this before. He thinks it's a disease of the saliva glands only. Seems to be getting worse. He has to research on the net to see if anyone else has heard of it to see if there is a cure. They might have to be surgically removed.

Taken 4/8/02:Larger photo

4/10/02 - It's like her mandibles are swelling but they are rock hard. At first Legendre thought it was lions head - something dogs get that has something to do with the thyroid. Not the same deal as hyperthyroidism. But after filing her teeth he said it was calcified saliva glands. I drew his attention to it at least a couple of months ago and he thought it was just an anomaly, Now he says it isn't. Her jaw has gotten larger. In other words something is still calcifying. So she might need them surgically removed. He's trying to get info off the net from other vets. He's talking to Crossley in Britain i believe.

I have to rejig the sling since it won't position properly over her jaws. It keeps sliding around. Think marbles sticking out the side of her head.

4/13/02 - I think it is interfering with her ability to eat. She's 1 lb. 12 oz. Was 2 lb. 1 oz when diagnosed with hyperthyroidism due to t-4 count. Used to be a steady 2 lb. 6 oz. We're handfeeding to keep her weight on but even so she is chewing funny. Still trying to get the sling to stay on all night. I think I almost have it but if the calcification is thrusting thru on the inside of the mouth the sling won't help. The calcification will keep the molars from meeting I'm thinking. It doesn't feel good.

4/23/02 - No vets including Rosenthal had ever heard of such a thing on the VIN. I talked to Debbie and she wants to do specific blood tests to rule out kidney disease and parathyroid(???). She had a dog in a while ago with extra bone mass on the jaws. Turned out to be kidney disease, Someting about the kidneys shutting down and calcificationn happening. Not sure what happens just that if Shiraz has kidney disease there is no point operating on her jaws. Debbie is pretty sure Shiraz won't make it thru that complicated a surgery.

Bottom line - Shiraz will starve to death if nothing is done. If it's kidney disease that will lead to calcification of everything then at some point she will be put to sleep. Right now my gut feeling is that it is kidney or something else and the calcification is just a symptom.

4/25/02 - Kidney problems aren't indicated. Tomorrow she gets a full body Xray to see if the calcification is happening elsewhere. I'm thinking elephant man at this point.

Taken 4/25/02: Larger photo
Taken 4/25/02:Larger photo

4/26/02 - xray (4/25) showed no other signs of calcification. Debbie is asking Connie Orcutt for suggestions. She doesn't want surgery yet but admits she hasn't any other suggestions.

5/6/02 - One side is bigger than the other side now. Giving her 2cc of Tapazole for her hyperthyroidism instead of 1cc and the weight has stabilized. Hovering at almost 2 lb. Was 1 lb 12oz. Should be 2 lb. 6 oz.

She's eating a bit better now but I suspect it's only because her back teeth have grown in. I think her lumps are keeping her molars apart when they are the proper length. Debbie decided against a biopsy or xrays right now because she doesn't want to set her back.

T4 is down to 23 from 30. We upped her Tapazole to 2.5 ccs daily because she's still hyper and eating without gaining weight. Liver was down on one test but normal on another and her calcium is even lower than it was. We'll decide what to do in 2 weeks

5/10/02 - Her weight is holding steady. The tapazole increase worked. We haven't had to handfeed her for 2 days but will start back again to try and hoist her over the 2 pound mark.

5/15/02 - 2 lb 1/16 oz. We haven't had to handfeed her for a couple of days. The tapazole made the difference.

5/22/02 - She's still holding her own. Debbie doesn't think the calcified glands are related to the hyperthyroidism.

7/2/02 - Shiraz was limping and I thought I felt arthritis in her hock. Took her in for an xray(7/2/02) and her bones are losing calcium - getting shot though with holes. At risk of breaking her leg now. Could be parathyroidism(parahyperthyroidism) Can't remember, just know thyroid and para is in there). She gets a full body xray on Friday. We don't know what's going on. With the para thing the calcium can get redistributed.

Taken 7/2/02:Larger photo

7/5/02 - Debbie says the xrays (7/5/02) are unbelievable. Her bones are changing shape and her ribs are dissolving. She has some metabolic disease going on. Looks like a hole punch has been taken to her bones. Hyperparathyroidism perhaps. This malady sucks the calcium out of bones. Taking a blood test to see if kidneys are involved. the drugs for it are really harsh and can't just be "tried".

For now she's to take Tums, 1/4 pill twice a day. Tums are supposedly metabolized better in the stomach than calcium lactate. Also needs to get sunlight. Not sure how to do that without heat stroke.

Taken 7/5/02:Larger photo
Taken 7/5/02:Larger photo

7/8/02 - So much for 10 minutes a day of sun. Overcast all day. Same tomorrow. Debbie called with prelim lab results/ Low calcium. hyperparathyroid test still pending., Wasn't enough serum for an ionizing (? sounded like that) calcium test even thoiugh she got a good sample from the jugular. She's researching like crazy and talking about writing it up. The Monterey Aquarium vet had a pig patient with ossification. sent her the old emails off a list on it and told her it might be worth jogging his memory. She talked to him once and he hadn't heard of the calcified saliva glands, but it's gone beyond that now.

7/9/02 - Shiraz no longer likes the Tums. I think she doesn't like the foaming. But I don't give her a choice. Shiraz is holding her own. Debbie said giving D without knowing if there was a deficiency was dangerous. We're waiting for the other mineral tests to come back I think. Something with an M was mentioned. She's getting 1/2 Tums a day so I suspect she's getting the calcium she needs for now.

7/10/02 - I'm giving her the calcium lactate now. Her weight was up a bit which gave me hope but today she is seriously limping on her left front foot.

Debbie said she'd been told Tums is the way to go for calcium replacement. Told her according to research. lactate was better. figured out her info was based on cats - higher gastric acid. Told her I'd found out pigs had lower acid and carbonate needs acid to work. She figured it wouldn't make a big diff in the long run as long as she gets calcium.

Okayed the lactate at 75mg twice a day. She's concerned the limping is due to a hairline fracture. She's still waiting to consult with the lab pathologist.

7/11/02 - The pathologist wants Shiraz back on Tums. I suspect they are saying Tums because it has worked well with animals in the past and they don't want to screw around. They keep mentioning cats. Most likely hyperparathyroidism. parathyroid count in cats should be 20 - in Shiraz it's 73. All they have to go on is cats.

Debbie found a similar instance on the VIN that was tracked down to food. I doubt it in our case. I say the satin gene is involved here. She's still researching.

7/14/02 - Email; to Dr. legendre "Do you know anything about whether calcium lactate is better absorbed by pigs than calcium carbonate?"

I believe lactate is better absorbed than carbonate but I shall to find a reference. -- Loïc Legendre, DVM, FAVD

Shiraz is gaining weight so I'm sticking to the lactate. She's up 1 1/2 ounces.

7/16/02 - Diagnosis - Osteo Petrosis. Probably related to her being a satin. Most likely takes 2 recessive genes. An enzyme isn't working that takes calcium from the stomach and uses it to replace dying bone cells. The cells are going in the wrong places.

No cure. Can only keep giving her calcium. D won't help. Her parathyroid count is high because it's working overtime trying to compensate (something like that). Apparently the vets on VIN are very excited and interested.

9/3/02 - Xray(9/3/02) results. Shiraz's bones have filled in - no longer motheaten. Debbie described the xrays as "astonishing". Debbie thinks she might be able to go on once a day calcium. Ran into another satin with motheaten bones on an email list. Died before they could diagnose. 3 1/2 years old. Looks a lot like Shiraz except she was black, not chocolate.

Taken 9/3/02:Larger photo
Taken 9/3/02:Larger photo

9/9/02 - T-4 results and the calcium results from blood drawn on the 3rd: T-4 was 30. High but not off the scale. Calcium was up from 1.95 - to 3.00 (something .,like that - can't remember if there are decimal points.

Since the calcium was on the high side - we went to 75MG once a day. Within 5 days she lost 2 oz. Back to 150MG daily. It was a guess at a dose and it turned out to be right. Ignoring hyperthyroid drugs for now since she isn't exhibiting hyperthyroid behavior. Should be interesting to see how long it takes to get the weight back up.

9/11/02 - xray (9/11/02) Today she had a health crisis - we're assuming pneumonia, she was gulping to breathe - Heart sounds fine - lateral xray too stressful for her - had her on oxygen at the vets and they sent me home with cannisters. She got some lasix and is no longer heaving or breathing with her mouth open - have her on doxy too. Vet doesn't think it's heart but she was definitely in need of intervention.

I have no idea if her condition makes URIs much worse. She certainly didn't look like she had a normal URI - I thought heart and that was the vet's first guess. So far she's holding steady. All in all I don't know if the weight loss was from a brewing URI or the reduction in calcium dose.

Taken 9/11/02:Larger photo
Taken 9/11/02:Larger photo

9/12/02 - Hanging in. Just got back from the vets. 4 injections and a subcue. Calcium, lasix, metacam, reglan. Debbie is reminding me she wants the body if she doesn't make it. She did say she would be really pissed after we'd come so far, to lose her now.

Spirit is there but she has gas(not bloat, just discomfort) from sucking air. Could be her osteopetrosis makes her feel pain easily. She finally produced some poops so I feel safe in handfeeding her again. We'll add in baytril if there are no significant improvements by tomorrow. Heart seems fine - lungs are still full of fluid.

Guarded prognosis. I wouldn't have been surprised to have lost her this AM but since she is still showing spirit - she might make it. I have no idea why this hit her so hard and so fast. Thyroid? Osteopetrosis? Do these affect the immune system like AIDS does humans? One minor cold = pneumonia?

9/15/02 - She's gone

9/16/02 - She's gone to the lab for a full autopsy.


The necropsy report above was strictly on the bones and took months to get results from the cultures. The short autopsy report had heart disease as the main cause of death.

The diagnosis of osteopetrosis came from the ultrasound technician who is tops in his field.

Looking back, my vet said she could see the beginning of bone density loss in the first xrays but you had to be looking for it to notice it because it was so subtle. We used the same curve in photoshop to lighten all xrays (so they showed up) which means they can be compared to each other for density of bones. I'm not sure if they were scanned perfectly but I hope they are informative.

Nigel eventually died of heart disease also.

The autopsy report is transcribed below.
Last edited by Lynx on Fri Nov 07, 2003 8:01 am, edited 6 times in total.

Little Jo Wheek

Post   » Wed Nov 05, 2003 11:55 pm

I know you're doing layman's terms, but can you change the title to "bone density loss." It sounds like the cavy is losing bones... at least in my state it sounds that way. Wouldn't it still pull up on a search with the partial "bone" or "loss" even if you corrected it to make it more specific?

(Cool pics by the way).

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Post   » Thu Nov 06, 2003 10:40 am

Transcription of Shiraz' necropsy report:



The multiple sections of long bone that were evaluated reveal in all cases less of the osteoid formation than that which is associated with the head. The lesions within the cranium reveal areas of mature osteoid formation that is unassociated with any osteoclastic activity. There is a fibrous interwoven matrix that is calcifying and there is replacement of the medullary cavity by this fibrosing reaction. The lesions within the long bones tend to be more subtle and involve not the metaphysis of the bone but the diaphyseal shaft. In these areas again the formation of osteoid tissue is striking. Osteoclastic activity can still be found within the long bones. At the metaphysis there is adequate bone marrow production and along these regions focal osteoclasts are noted to be present. Of interest within the cranial bones the sinusoids are still intact however the bone surrounding them is dense and almost lacks a total woven pattern that one would expect to see within the bones of the head. This disease process could well be a variant of Paget's disease however there are lesions that are not consistent with this. This does appear however to be related to osteoclastic viability in that there are no osteoclasts noted within the sclerotic sections of the skull but these are still present within the long bones. In man Paget's disease does involve both an osteolytic and an osteosclerotic disease pattern however I am unaware of this particular process being diagnosed in animals such as the guinea pig. I would however think that we have some sort of calcium metabolism problem as well as osteoclastic reabsorptive processes. In some forms of Paget's disease there is a very high phosphorus level which can be a reflection of increased bone turn over or of actual bone remodelling. In these individuals it may be that osteoprotegerin is deficient.

This compound is a member of the tumor necrosis factor receptor group and is a decoy for osteoclastic differentiating factor which is necessary for normal osteoclastic development. When there is a defect in this particular molecule there is an increase in osteoclastic differentiating factor which then in turn can lead to increased numbers of ostoclast bone turn over which we saw in the long bones but not in the lesions within the skull. The lesions within the skull could then represent the osteosclerotic form of Paget's disease which occurs as a final sequelae to the alteration in the various receptors. These are all speculations as unfortunately there is no work that I am aware of that has been done in guinea pigs.

Original Autopsy Report (photo)


Post   » Fri May 13, 2011 4:32 pm

Threads dealing with bone density loss in satins for more reference. Note that teddies, rexes or other breeds with abnormal hairshafts may also be at risk for bone density loss. ... lvis+satin ... lvis+satin


Post   » Fri Oct 06, 2017 9:10 pm ... =8&t=74962

Essay on breeding satins. Especially interesting is that Finland and Sweden have banned breeding satins due to the incidence/links to osteodystrophy or related conditions!

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