Symtoms, Diagnosis and Prognosis…

The Satin guinea pig has a gloss like sheen to its coat- quite different to that seen on other cavies. Points to look for Satinisation are the nose and feet where satinisation seems to be most prominent on some. Some guineas are born with satinisation on their feet only, these are still technically Satins.

Osteodystrophy is a metabolic disease. Put simply, an insufficient amount of Calcium is absorbed by the body leading to decalcification of the bones. Fibrous tissue is then formed leading to instability.

A study in Berlin in 1999 showed a great number of Satins to have OD. A rescue in the Netherlands were curious as to why Satins brought to them were suffering from the same symptoms and began x-raying all Satins that came to the rescue, the majority had OD. A similar study was done in the UK and all but two of the Satins were showing signs by xray of having OD (Osteodystrophy). Reports of OD in Satins have come from France, Germany, Finland, Australia and America.


If the hind legs are affected then guinea will bunny hop, sometimes only one leg is affected at first and the guinea appears lame. This is less noticeable where guineas are kept on deep bedding as the foot is carried just above the ground. When they lay down the hind legs may be raised or in an unnatural position. Vet Bed makes comfortable bedding for guineas with OD as they spend much of their time at rest.

A preference for certain foods may become apparent, guinea may look hungry, but when observed closely has great difficulty picking up and chewing dry food. As decalcification progresses dental problems will most likely occur and softer foods will be preferred. Dental work will need to be done regularly. Anyone seeing a Satin regularly for dental work should bear OD in mind and advise the owner. Syringe feeding may be necessary to make up the deficiencies in the diet.

As with all guinea pigs Satins should also be weighed weekly. At the onset of OD a gradual weight loss is noticed but towards the end becomes more rapid.

An increase in water intake has been noted in some Satins with OD, those with dental problems will have a wet chin.


Diagnosis is by x-ray or DNA sampling. However, DNA research is not readily available and is very costly.


Eventual death. The guinea pig may not suffer from all of the above symptoms and it seems that not all suffer to the same extent.


Treatment is with pain alleviation. Rimadyl at CCT recommended dose has been used successfully. Dental treatment may also be needed (along with syringe feeding etc) but will only be temporary. It is the owner’s responsibility to judge whether the guinea has a good quality of life, and when euthanasia is appropriate bearing in mind that things are not going to get better…

More Information

· It appears that Osteodystrophy cannot be ‘bred out’ of Satins by using carriers or healthy stock. OD is, it seems, carried through the generations maybe not showing for a while. Satins are one of the most out crossed varieties of guinea, nearly every variety has been Satinised.

· Breeding with carriers does not alleviate the problems of OD; it is passed down to the offspring. Using carrier sows is favourable to Satin sows who do not cope well with littering if they have OD.

· Supplementing with Calcium does not help when guinea has OD. It is possible that Ca supplements may help with Osteoporosis (a symptom of OD), but diagnosis by x-ray would be needed. A German vet is of the opinion that Ca supplements would cause bladder stones and should not be given.This would depend on other components in the diet though.

· Large and small guineas suffer from OD. I currently have a Self type sow with OD. She weighed 3lb at the beginning of the summer, when I got her her weight was 2lb 9oz, it now (October) seems to remain stable at around 2lb 13oz. I have also seen small guineas with OD that appear to have started suffering early on in their life (before 12 months of age), these have remained small.

· The disease can be detected by x-ray before physical signs are apparent. A clear x-ray only means that OD is not present now, guinea could go on to develop it.

· Symptoms of OD usually begin around 12-18 months of age, but there are exceptions. Guinea pigs have been found with OD at the age of 4 months (diagnosed by x-ray).

Rough, smooth and longhair Satins have been diagnosed with OD. Pets and purebreds, boars and sows.

Anyone rehoming Satin guinea pigs should undertake to make the new owner aware of OD, it is a very real problem. Some breeders have ceased to keep this breed, nothing has been scientifically proven but the thought of breeding guineas that may suffer from this awful condition has been enough. Some have even said they will not rehome or breed from their carriers. Others claim their Satins do not have OD, which is fine, but proof would be good.

It is vital that information is circulated to vets,rescues, pet shops and pet owners, hopefully people will be able to make an informed choice when deciding to buy ‘Shiny’.

Tammy was bred by a reputable breeder and fed a good diet and looked after well; x-rays showed she still died of Osteodystrophy, the onset of OD could not be blamed on anything such as giving birth or lack of care. At one time a lack of Vitamiin C was blamed for these deaths but guinea pigs fed on fresh food x2 daily are likely to be receiving more than twice the upper amount needed by guinea pigs. It has been noted that sows with Osteodystrophy will have a hard time birthing (perhaps resulting in their death), however breeding with carrier sows simply allows OD to be passed down silently through the genrations .

© 2009

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