The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies

Insectivores recover from high vitamin D intake

Zoo animals suffer ill-effects linked to high dietary levels of essential nutrient.

An anteater and an armadillo have both recovered well after treatment for high levels of vitamin D in their diet.

The zoo animals – a giant anteater and a large hairy armadillo – had each become unwell, showing reduced appetite, weight loss and vomiting, as well as signs of discomfort.

Both animals were being fed a commercial diet of insects, which was found to be high in vitamin D.

Changes to their diet resolved the issue for both animals.

Expert examinations

The giant anteater showed signs of illness including weight loss, vomiting and lethargy.

On examination, it showed several abnormalities, including heightened levels of blood calcium and vitamin D.

The armadillo was experiencing weight loss, lethargy and suspected discomfort, evidenced by extensive abdominal stretching. It was found to have high vitamin D levels in its blood.

Dietary adjustments were able to resolve the clinical signs of illness in both animals.

Both cases benefited from blood testing at the Dick Vet’s Vitamin D Animal Laboratory, which is accredited by the international Vitamin D External Quality Assessment Quality Scheme.

Laboratory analysis of the commercial feed found its vitamin D content was higher than indicated by the manufacturer.

The cases, carried out in collaboration with the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, were published in the Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine.

While vitamin D deficiency is well known to cause major skeletal problems, feeding too much vitamin D can also cause significant health problems, and this seems likely to have been the cause of both these cases.

Professor Richard MellanbyRoyal Dick School of Veterinary Studies

Related links

Scientific publication

How vitamin D affects the immune system

Image credit: Katerina Vulcova via Pixabay

About the Royal Dick School of Veterinary Studies

The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies is a one-of-a-kind centre of excellence in clinical activity, teaching and research. Our purpose-built campus, set against the backdrop of the beautiful Pentland Hills Regional Park, is home to more than eight hundred staff and almost fourteen hundred students, all of whom contribute to our exceptional community ethos.

The School comprises:

The Roslin Institute

The Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Security

The Roslin Innovation Centre

The Hospital for Small Animals

Equine Veterinary Services

Farm Animal Services

Easter Bush Pathology

The Jeanne Marchig International Centre for Animal Welfare Education

We represent the largest concentration of animal science related expertise in Europe, impacting local, regional, national and international communities in terms of economic growth, the provision of clinical services and the advancement of scientific knowledge.