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Today’s article is on Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD) in bearded dragons. We’re going to go over the causes, signs, treatment, and prevention! Keep reading to learn more.
Metabolic Bone Disease, also known as MBD, is one of the most common health problems in captive bearded dragons.
Bearded dragons with MBD exhibit a wide range of symptoms and often experience a lot of discomfort in their skeletal structure.
If you are a keen bearded dragon keeper, you can spot these symptoms just by observing your lizard’s behavior.
Plus, MBD is so common that most lizard keepers can give a diagnosis without relying on any medical equipment.
Still, you should consider taking your bearded dragon to the vet even if you are sure about the cause of the problem.
That way, the veterinary doctor will run additional tests that will, in turn, improve the overall health of your bearded dragon.
MBD mostly affects juvenile bearded dragons, and its effects may vary depending on the severity of the condition.
The good thing about MBD is that you can reverse it, especially when an early diagnosis is given.
With the right treatment, proper husbandry, and a healthy diet, most bearded dragons can recover fully from MBD.
Let’s dive further into what MBD is, what causes it, the most obvious signs, and treatment!
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What Is Metabolic Bone Disease in Bearded Dragons?
The above description is just but a summary and is meant to give you a rough idea of what MBD is. To get a better understanding of this disease, let us start by defining it in medical terms.
Metabolic Bone Disease is any disorder that affects bone strength and structure in bearded dragons and is often caused by certain nutritional deficiencies.
In fact, the most common form of MBD in bearded dragons and other captive reptiles is nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism (NSHP).
It is, therefore, right to say that MBD is a relative term used to describe a wide range of bone diseases in bearded dragons and other reptiles. Besides, amphibians can also get MBD.
Bearded dragons that feed on an improper diet are more likely to get MBD compared to those that eat a healthy and varied diet.
In the wild, bearded dragons have the freedom to choose what they eat. As such, they can source foods that contain all the essential nutrients that they need.
This can greatly lower their chances of getting nutritional diseases such as MBD. When in captivity, however, your beardie will only eat what you give it.
Unlike in the wild where they are spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing food, captive bearded dragons only have two options—eat or starve.
With that being said, it is up to you to ensure that your bearded friend gets nutrient-rich foods that can help prevent MBD and other diseases.
What Causes MBD in Bearded Dragons?
As stated earlier, MBD occurs when certain nutritional requirements are deficient in bearded dragons.
Understanding what these requirements are and what they offer to beardies is important because it can help you come up with a preventive strategy.
So what causes MBD in bearded dragons?
Calcium is essential for bearded dragons since it aids in the formation and growth of strong bones. As such, it plays a crucial role during growth, and that is exactly why young bearded dragons need to eat a lot of calcium.
The other benefit of calcium in bearded dragons is that it improves muscle function, thus keeping the skeletal structure strong. But, that is not all; calcium can improve metabolism in beardies and other reptiles through a process called thermogenesis.
As a result, your bearded dragon will stay active for long hours, thereby allowing them to move around freely. Beardies with low calcium levels are likely to suffer from hypocalcemia. This condition can trigger the production of parathyroid hormone, which is secreted from the parathyroid gland in bearded dragons.
If this hormone is in excess, the tissue inside the lizard’s body will be prompted to absorb calcium from the bones. With time, the bones will become soft and weak, resulting in MBD. Too much calcium in the lizard’s blood can cause hypercalcemia, which may result in other health complications. So you should give your bearded dragon just the right amount of calcium.
Improper UVB Exposure
Giving your bearded dragon calcium-rich foods is just but the first step. You need to provide the lizard with the correct UVB lighting.
UVB radiation is important to bearded dragons because it aids in the synthesis of Vitamin D3.
Plus, beardies cannot convert the vitamin D in their bodies to D3, so they need proper UVB lighting.
Moreover, beardies can readily absorb UVB radiation through their skin. All you have to do is to install a reliable UVB light source inside or around the lizard’s enclosure.
In addition to aiding in Vitamin D3 synthesis, UVB radiation helps beardies in digestion and the absorption of nutrients.
This means that your bearded dragon will pull in all the calcium supplements that you feed it. UVB light also improves metabolism in bearded dragons, making it even more essential.
Excessive Intake of Phosphorus and Oxalates
Bearded dragons can also get MBD when they consume too much phosphorus and oxalates. Phosphorus plays a special role in bearded dragons in that it is essential for bone and teeth formation. Also, it helps in the production of certain proteins in the beardie’s body.
Nonetheless, when the body has more phosphorus than calcium, the lizard may experience health problems.
Too much phosphorus can disrupt the body’s ability to take in and use calcium. Consequently, the lizard will suffer from calcium deficiency, thus causing MBD.
You need to keep in mind that this can occur even when the lizard is on a calcium-rich diet. The ratio of calcium to phosphorus in the lizard’s body should always be balanced to avoid this problem.
This can only be achieved if you feed your bearded dragon the right foods in the correct amounts.
Plant-based oxalates also have the same effect as phosphorus when it comes to the absorption of calcium in bearded dragons.
Certain vegetables contain high levels of oxalates, so you should avoid them. Spinach and kale are good examples of such.
Early Signs of MBD in Bearded Dragons
The signs of metabolic bone disease in bearded dragons may vary depending on the severity of the problem. As a beardie keeper, it is important to know the early signs of MBD as this can help the lizard.
If a diagnosis, is given at the early stages, there is a high chance that your bearded dragon will overcome MBD.
Plus, most of the early signs of MBD are easily observable, so you only need to be keen. Here are some of the signs of metabolic bone disease that you should look out for:
#1. Loss of Appetite
Metabolic bone disease can cause your bearded dragon to lose interest in food. If you notice that the beardie often leaves its food, it could be that they are sick.
This is a common symptom in bearded dragons, so its presence does not necessarily mean that your lizard has MBD.
To be sure, you can schedule an appointment with your veterinary doctor to get the right prognosis.
This is yet another general symptom that lizard keepers should be aware of. In bearded dragons, constipation can occur if the lizard experiences difficulties emptying its bowels.
Constipation can result when fecal matter hardens in the intestinal tract. This condition can come about due to several reasons including, but not limited to, MBD, parasite infestation, and dehydration.
If not given the proper care, a beardie that is suffering from constipation may experience abdominal discomfort and other gastrointestinal complications.
#3. General Weakness
Bearded dragons with MBD are likely to get weak over time. This is mainly because they don’t eat enough food due to a lack of appetite.
Therefore, the body will not get the nutrients that it needs to function properly. As result, the result will have a hard time lifting its body from the ground.
And that is one of the reasons why beardies with metabolic bone disease spend most of their time lying on their back or bellies.
If you notice that your bearded dragon is overly stressed most of the time, it could mean something is wrong.
Beardies can experience stress when they are suffering from various illnesses, including MBD. A visit to the vet can help you identify what could be causing stress in your beardie.
If it is MBD, the veterinary doctor will provide the lizard with an appropriate treatment plan.
Bearded dragons can become lethargic due to several reasons. It could be that they are experiencing some kind of discomfort when walking.
Also, lethargy can result from weakness. Like all the signs that we have covered, lethargy is a general symptom in beardies.
As such, a vet should run additional tests on the bearded dragon to ascertain the root cause of the problem.
Note: The signs above are associated with several health complications in bearded dragons. The best way to know if your beardie has metabolic bone disease is by getting a diagnosis from a vet.
Bearded Dragon Calcium Deficiency Symptoms—Severe Signs of Metabolic Bone Disease
The symptoms of metabolic bone diseases are somewhat different in severe cases. To get maximum results, the lizard should start treatment during the early stages.
If you miss the early signs and the condition advances, your bearded dragon may exhibit the below symptoms.
These symptoms are an indication that your bearded dragon has been suffering from MBD for a long period.
The vet can still offer treatment, but the beardie may take a long time to recover. Unfortunately, most of the complications may cause permanent physiological deformities.
Nonetheless, you can avoid these complications by taking your bearded dragon for regular medical checkups. This will allow the vet to recognize the early signs before the problem escalates further.
Aside from that, the veterinary doctor will offer advice on how best you can take care of your beardie. This can help in the prevention of most bearded dragon health problems such as MBD.
How to Diagnose Metabolic Bone Disease in Bearded Dragons
Veterinary doctors can easily diagnose severe cases of MBD by simply observing the visible symptoms.
However, this method may not be as reliable in the early stages. As such, the vet may run blood tests to check the amount of calcium in the lizard’s body.
In most cases, vets check whether there is an imbalance between calcium and phosphorus. If the bearded dragon has less calcium and an abundance of phosphorus, it means there is a problem
The veterinarian may also collect data about husbandry and the type of diet that the bearded dragon is on. This can help the vet to come up with the right prognosis.
In addition to this, the vet will examine the bearded dragon’s bone structure and joints using X-rays.
An X-ray will not only reveal bone deformities but can also show if there is a problem with certain body tissues.
MBD Treatment in Bearded Dragons
You will be happy to know that bearded dragons respond well to MBD treatment procedures. This will only apply if you detect the disease early enough.
The treatment strategies for metabolic bone disease in bearded dragons may vary depending on the level of severity.
As such, the disease is easier to manage when it is still in the early stages. Once it becomes severe, the vet may need to apply multiple procedures for effective treatment.
Also, the veterinarian will choose treatment based on the lizard’s current condition. For starters, the vet will ensure that your bearded dragon is well hydrated.
Hydration is essential during MBD treatment because water transports essential nutrients such as calcium throughout the beardie’s body.
Besides that, hydration can help in the lubrication of joints, thus alleviating pain in bearded dragons.
The vet will also administer both Vitamin D3 and calcium injections. When calcium is injected directly into the bearded dragon’s bloodstream, it can help with seizures and tremors.
Aside from the injections, the veterinary doctor will provide you with calcium supplements that you can give the beardie from time to time.
Ensure that you give the lizard all the supplements as this will determine everything at the end of the day.
You may have to take the bearded dragon for rechecks throughout the treatment period. Through this, the vet will be able to know if the beardie is making progress or not.
Bearded Dragon MBD Recovery Time
The recovery time for metabolic bone disease in bearded dragons may vary from lizard to lizard. Plus, several factors will determine how long a bearded dragon takes to overcome MBD.
Severe metabolic bone disease requires a lot of effort to treat. Additionally, it will take a longer time to cure compared to mild MBD.
MBD recoveries in beardies can take weeks or months, so it will all depend on the severity of the problem.
The type of care that the lizard is getting during treatment will also impact recovery time. If you want your bearded dragon to recover faster, you should follow the vet’s instructions to the letter.
The bearded dragon should get the right care, proper diet, and timely administration of calcium supplements.
You should prevent your beardie from engaging in energy-taxing activities to hasten the healing process.
Depending on the condition that the lizard is in, the vet may or may not advise you to minimize handling during recovery.
How to Prevent MBD in Bearded Dragons
You can only prevent MBD in bearded dragons if you start at an early stage. This disease mainly affects juvenile beardies, meaning it manifests itself when the lizard is still young.
Moreover, preventing metabolic bone disease in lizards is not as difficult. All you have to do is provide your bearded dragon with proper husbandry and the correct diet.
The beardie should be given calcium-rich foods such mustard greens, endive, chicory, turnip greens, etc.
You should minimize phosphorus intake while increasing calcium intake in beardies. Nonetheless, caution should be taken when giving bearded dragons calcium supplements.
Besides, bearded dragons may fail to absorb certain types of supplements. Ensure that you consult your vet before settling on a particular option.
Most veterinarians recommend Calcium gluconate because beardies can easily absorb it after ingestion.
Other Things That You Can Do To Prevent MBD in Beardies
Sufficient UVB Radiation
This will allow the beardie to readily convert calcium into Vitamin D3, thus improving bone health.
This can help prevent some of the common bone deformities that occur when bearded dragons get MBD.
You should only use high-quality UVB lighting systems since they are more efficient. Expert beardie keepers recommend that you replace UV bulbs after every six months.
Provide Appropriate Temperature Conditions
As you already know, bearded dragons are cold-blooded. This means they can neither lower nor raise their body temperature on their own.
Low temperatures can hinder digestion and the absorption of essential nutrients like calcium in beardies and other reptiles.
Always keep the temperature levels inside the enclosure between 75°F and 85°F during the day.
At night, on the other hand, you should lower it at 70°F to 75°F. The basking spot should be between 88°F and 100°F.
Can MBD Kill Bearded Dragons?
Metabolic bone disease is curable in bearded dragons, but it can be fatal if left untreated. To save your beardie, ensure that you take the little guy to the vets in good time.
Since MBD is not uncommon in beardies, most of its symptoms are easy to identify. Getting a diagnosis in the early stages can save the life of your bearded dragon.
If you suspect that your lizard has metabolic bone disease, you should rush them to the vet immediately.
Unlike most viral and bacterial infections that are hard to treat, beardies respond well to MBD treatment. Your bearded dragon won’t die as long as you follow the treatment plan.
Is MBD Painful For Bearded Dragons?
MBD can cause serious bone damage in bearded dragons. It is not only painful but also debilitating.
In most scenarios, beardies with MBD are unable to walk due to too much pain. The fact that it weakens bones makes it even worse because a bone can snap at any time.
If you have ever had a bone fracture, then you must be aware of how painful it can get. Metabolic bone disease also causes discomfort in the joints and other parts of the body.
This disease leaves bearded dragons in a vulnerable situation since their limbs cannot even support their body weight.
However, the pain often goes away after the bearded dragon starts treatment. You can make things better for your beardie by keeping them in a safe environment.
Baby Bearded Dragon With MBD: Can Baby Beardies Get Metabolic Bone Disease?
Metabolic bone disease is common in bearded dragons that are less than two years old. As to how long the disease may take to develop, this may vary depending on a wide range of factors.
Additionally, MBD can progress at varying levels in juvenile beardies. Nonetheless, you can prevent the disease by providing the bearded dragon with a calcium-rich diet.
You should provide bearded dragons with proper husbandry right from day one when they hatch to prevent possible cases of MBD.
The Treatment of MBD on Bearded Dragons
Metabolic Bone Disease is quite common in bearded dragons, especially those on a low-calcium diet.
Poor husbandry practices can also cause MBD in beardies, so ensure that you give your lizard proper care.
You should also reduce phosphorus intake in your bearded dragon sine it inhibits the absorption of calcium.
In addition to this, ensure that you provide your pet lizard with sufficient UVB radiation and appropriate temperature conditions.
MDB is curable and bearded dragons are responsive to treatment most of the time. Even though treatment may take time, beardies can successfully recover from metabolic bone disease.
However, there is a possibility of MBD recurrence in bearded dragons, so you should always be ready to provide your beardie with the right medical care.