Meet the Patient: Mateo

Name: Mateo

Sex: Male

Species: Prehensile-tailed porcupine

Age: 2 yrs 11 mo old (born 12/5/14)

Weight: 6 kg (13.2 lb)

Reason for Visit: Episodes of inappetence, test for Gastrolithiasis

Just like humans, animals can get sick for no apparent reason. In some cases, certain species of animals will have a history with different conditions specific to their species. Prehensile-tailed porcupines are a good example of this, as it is common for these animals to experience called Gastrolithiasis. Gastrolithiasis occurs when stones form in the digestive tract, specifically the stomach. This condition has been reported in several Prehensile-tailed porcupines in various zoos across the country. The cause is currently unknown and more research is needed on symptomatic animals.

Mateo, one of the Virginia Zoo’s Prehensile-tailed porcupines and animal ambassadors, has recently experienced a couple of episodes of inappetence, or lack of eating. Our vet staff decided to perform a procedure to check on Mateo’s overall health and to check for the possible presence of stones in his gut.

A full physical exam was performed on Mateo, which included palpating, or touching, his abdomen to look for evidence of a stone in his stomach. The Zoo’s Veterinarian, Dr. Colleen Clabbers, and staff also performed a full exam of his teeth to look for evidence they may be bothering him. Radiographs were completed and the results found no presence of a stone. An abdominal ultrasound was then conducted, which also did not reveal any abnormal findings.


Blood samples were also taken to run a complete blood count and chemistry panel, which checks for sugar (glucose) levels, electrolyte and fluid balance, and kidney function. These values were normal aside from some mild dehydration, which is likely caused by his recent stint of inappetence.

Mateo appears to be in good health and has been eating well and willingly participating in training sessions. He even celebrated his third birthday this week! Since his exam in mid-November, the staff has not seen any other episodes of inappetence, but his Keepers will continue to keep a close eye on him. If his appetite is affected again, Vet staff will repeat a physical examination to reassess for any changes to his health.