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mbd in leopard geckos
Today’s article is going to discuss MBD in leopard geckos. Learn the most common signs of MBD and how you can treat MBD right at home without having to seek a vet!
If you are a reptile enthusiast, then you must be familiar with Metabolic bone disease or simply MBD. However, if you are new to keeping lizards, you need to know that MBD is one of the most common diseases in captive reptiles, including Leopard geckos.
The other medical terms that you can use to refer to MBD are secondary nutritional hyperparathyroidism, osteodystrophy, or osteoporosis.

Metabolic bone disease can cause serious health problems in Leopard geckos. The disease presents different signs and symptoms from one lizard to another.

Nonetheless, most symptoms cut across the board and are also easy to identify. If you are looking to protect your Leopard gecko from MBD, you need to know everything about the disease.

As such, you need to familiarize yourself with the causes, signs, treatment, and prevention of Metabolic bone disease.

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What Is MBD In Leopard Geckos?

Leopard Gecko with MBD (Twisted and Contorted Legs)
In a nutshell, Metabolic bone disease is a complex medical disorder that affects the skeletal structure of Leopard geckos.
According to veterinarians, MBD is more of a collective term used to refer to bone complications that systematically weaken lizards.
Apart from bones, MBD affects other biological functions in the Leopard gecko’s body. The good news is that Metabolic bone disease is preventable and curable.
You can achieve the former by providing your Leopard gecko with proper husbandry, a balanced diet, and regular checkups at the vet.
As for the latter, Leopard geckos with MBD can undergo treatment which may vary depending on a wide range of factors.
To prevent MBD, lizard keepers need to know the do’s and don’ts when it comes to designing a diet for Leopard geckos.

Moreover, MBD is somewhat of a nutritional disease since it comes about due to calcium deficiency.

Nevertheless, other factors can cause your lizard to get Metabolic bone disease. Most of the causes are diet-associated, so ensure that your pet gecko is eating the right foods.

Lizard keepers need to be gentle when handling Leopard geckos with MBD since they have extremely weak bones.

You can easily detect Metabolic bone disease in Leopard geckos by observing the lizard’s behavior.

If you are keen enough, you can catch MBD in its early stages. This will allow you to offer treatment before the disease damages the lizard’s skeletal structure.

What Causes MBD In Leopard Geckos?

A variety of factors can cause a Leopard gecko to get Metabolic bone disease. As stated earlier, it all has to do with the lizard’s diet.

However, the primary cause of MBD in Leos and other lizards is a lack of calcium in the body. Certain factors may also hinder the body’s ability to metabolize or make use of the available calcium.

As such, your Leopard gecko can still get MBD even when they are on a calcium-rich diet. To elaborate, here are some of the common causes of Metabolic bone disease in Leopard geckos:

Low Calcium Levels

Calcium is an important nutrient not only to Leopard geckos but all animals. It plays a crucial role in the body and ensures all processes are running smoothly.

In Leopard geckos, calcium is essential for bone and teeth formation. Aside from that, calcium is a biochemical messenger, meaning it aids various biological processes in the gecko’s body.

Leopard geckos with low calcium levels may experience a wide range of health problems. Besides, when the body is calcium deficient, the starving tissues will pull in calcium from the adjacent bones.

This process is called decalcification and often changes the physiological structure of the Leopard gecko’s bones.

Consequently, your pet lizard will have weak bones that can snap under minimal pressure. Moreover, one of the common signs of MBD in Leopard geckos is soft bones.

Additionally, too much calcium can cause other health problems in Leopard geckos. This means that lizard keepers need to supply their pets with just the right amount of calcium.

If you are not sure about how much calcium your gecko needs, you should consider consulting your vet.

Lack of Vitamin D3

Leopard geckos need Vitamin D3 to metabolize calcium. Besides, vitamin D3 enables the body to absorb and make use of the available calcium reserves.

Unlike most reptiles that solely rely on UVB radiation to get Vitamin D3, Leopard geckos can survive without UV light.

They get most of the essential vitamins from the foods that they eat. Therefore, you should see to it that your Leopard gecko gets enough Vitamin D3.

Still, you can consider providing your Leopard gecko with UVB radiation. In fact, gecko experts recommend it since it makes the lizards healthier.

Most insects and bugs are rich sources of vitamin D, so you should consider including them in the lizard’s diet.

Alternatively, you can provide your Leopard gecko with vitamin supplements from time to time.

That way, they will be less likely to suffer from nutritional diseases such as MBD. You should only go for supplements that are pet-safe to avoid possible health complications.

Low Temperatures

Low-temperature conditions can hinder digestion in Leopard geckos. Plus, Leos are cold-blooded, so they rely on ambient heat for thermoregulation. When the temperatures are extremely low, the food inside the gecko’s stomach will take a longer time to digest.

In addition to this, the lizard won’t be able to absorb essential nutrients such as calcium once digestion is complete. Metabolic processes in Leopard geckos and most lizards also tend to slow down when temperatures are extremely low.

As a result, the gecko won’t metabolize calcium. If this happens regularly, your Leopard gecko may suffer from calcium deficiency. Leopard geckos with low calcium levels are highly susceptible to Metabolic bone disease and other nutritional disorders.

Calcium-to-Phosphorus Imbalance

Calcium and phosphorus are crucial nutrients for Leopard geckos. Nonetheless, the body needs a certain amount of both minerals for it to function properly. When the amount of calcium inside the gecko’s body is too low relative to phosphorus, the Leo is likely to get MBD.

Too much phosphorus in Leopard geckos can cause a condition called hyperphosphataemia. This condition can trigger the secretion of parathyroid hormone (PTH).

When PTH is in excess amounts, it can signal the body tissues to absorb calcium from the gecko’s bones, thus weakening them gradually.

Additionally, phosphorus inhibits the absorption of calcium through membranes. As such, the body tissues won’t get enough calcium, resulting in a deficiency.

Early Signs of MBD In Leopard Geckos

The best way to manage Metabolic bone disease in Leopard geckos is by catching the disease early. You can only achieve this if you are familiar with some of the early signs. Plus, MBD advances gradually, so chances of missing the signs are minimal.

However, some lizard keepers assume the early signs of MBD in Leopard geckos out of ignorance. The general rule of thumb when it comes to keeping Leopard geckos is that you should always take the lizard to the vet if they appear sick.

Getting an early diagnosis can make a big difference since it will increase the gecko’s chances of overcoming the disease. Most of the early signs of Metabolic bone disease are general symptoms that present themselves even when the lizard is suffering from other diseases.

With that being said, the signs are like red flags that should tell you something is wrong with your pet lizard. As such, the fact that your Leopard gecko is showing the below-listed signs does not automatically mean they have MDB.


Lethargy refers to inactivity, deep unresponsiveness, and a lack of energy. Leopard geckos with Metabolic bone disease are likely to become lethargic because their bodies are too weak.

In addition to this, lethargy may present itself in Leos as a result of pain and discomfort. This happens because bones become more sensitive when they are lacking in calcium.

Lethargic Leopard geckos will spend most of their time hiding inside the enclosure. If your Leo suddenly becomes inactive, you should take them to the veterinarian since this can be a sign of MBD.

Lack of Appetite

Like most animals, Leopard geckos lose their appetite when they are sick. A lizard with Metabolic bone disease may have no interest in eating because its jaw is weak and painful.

The problem with this complication is that it can lead to other health problems. If your Leopard gecko fails to eat regularly, it could mean they are ill.

You should, however, keep in mind that this is a general symptom for most medical disorders in Leos and other lizards.

Inability To Support Body Weight

Since MDB affects the skeletal structure, your Leopard gecko will be unable to lift its body from the ground. Furthermore, your leopard gecko may move slowly as a result.

As such, there is a likelihood that the lizard will lay on its belly most of the time. If this is the case with your Leopard gecko, you should not force the Leo to get on its feet.

Doing so may cause bone fractures and other physiological injuries. Instead, you should call a vet to have a look at the pet. Also, ensure that you handle the gecko with care to avoid causing any discomfort.

Leopard Gecko Calcium Deficiency Symptoms—Severe Signs Of MBD In Leos

Besides the early signs, Metabolic bone disease has severe symptoms that you should look out for.

These symptoms may occur gradually or at the same time. Additionally, their presence highly depends on the lizard’s health condition.

Below are some of the severe signs of Metabolic bone disease in Leopard geckos:

Soft Jawbone (rubber jaw)

MDB causes decalcification, resulting in soft and weak bones. The bones found around the mandibles are the most affected. Consequently, the lizard will have a hard time chewing its food.

Bumps Along the Spine

As the bones soften over time, they start to bend. Unfortunately, bone deformities are not easy to fix and the damage is often permanent.

Bumps can also form on the lizard’s legs and any other area around the body.


You may also notice your Leopard gecko limping due to bone fractures. Fractures can occur when weak ones are subjected to pressure.

Greenstick Fractures

Greenstick fractures are different from regular fractures in that the affected bones appear bent but not entirely broken. Lizards with greenstick fractures often have bowed legs.

Twitching of Limbs

Hypocalcemia can cause the muscles in the Leopard gecko’s body to twitch or spasm. This type of response is called neuromuscular irritability and is also associated with Metabolic bone disease.

MBD Diagnosis and Prognosis In Leopard Geckos

In as much as your lizard may show signs associated with MDB, you still need a medical diagnosis.

Plus, most of the signs exhibited during the early stages are general, so you can never be sure. In Leopard geckos, veterinary doctors can run a diagnosis by relying on:

Physical Examination

The vet will observe the visible signs of MDB by examining the gecko’s physiological performance.

The presence of bumps and bone fractures are some of the things that the veterinarian may look for during examination.

Husbandry History

In most cases, the veterinary doctor will ask the pet owner a few questions about the lizard’s diet, environment, and other health-related queries.

Blood Work

The veterinarian may also run tests on the Leopard gecko’s blood samples. Through this, the vet will be able to determine the amount of calcium that is in the blood.

In addition to this, the vet will compare the calcium levels to phosphorus to check for an imbalance. The ratio of calcium to phosphorus in a healthy lizard should be 2:1 respectively.

Any slight deviation from this can result in an imbalance, thus causing MBD and other nutritional diseases.


With the help of X-rays, veterinarians can examine the skeletal structure in Leopard geckos.

This technique is very effective when it comes to identifying fractures and other bone deformities that may come about due to MBD.

MBD Treatment In Leopard Geckos

MBD is not only preventable but also treatable in Leopard geckos. However, the type of treatment offered may vary depending on the severity of MDB.

Metabolic bone disease is easier to treat in the early stages. When the disease advances, it can be a bit challenging to manage.

As such, your Leopard gecko should get proper medical care immediately after the diagnosis.

Treating Mild MBD In Leopard Geckos

In the early stages, Metabolic bone disease can be treated by simply changing the lizard’s diet. You can do this by feeding calcium-rich foods to the Leopard gecko.

Additionally, you can provide your lizard with healthy dietary supplements to prevent calcium deficiency.

Besides, you can treat mild cases of MBD in Leopard geckos at home. Nevertheless, you should take the lizard to a veterinarian for regular checkups during the treatment period.

This will enable the vet to make necessary changes to the treatment plan, should there be a need to do so.

Treating Severe Metabolic Bone Disease In Leopard Geckos

Treating severe MDB in Leos can be somewhat daunting, especially if the disease has deformed the lizard.

This is not to say advanced MDB is not treatable, it’s just that some of the deformities may fail to go away after treatment.

However, this does not mean that the lizard will die. With the correct treatment plan and proper diet, your gecko will overcome the disease.

When dealing with severe Metabolic bone disease, the vet may prescribe oral calcium medication. Also, injectable calcium can be administered throughout the treatment period.

The commonly used injectables in lizards include calcium gluconate, calcium lactate, and calcium glubionate.

If the Leopard gecko has any bent or broken bones, the vet will apply the most effective treatment procedure to correct the deformities. But as we said, not all deformities will go away.

Leopard Gecko MBD Recovery Time

There is no specific recovery time for MBD in Leopard geckos and other reptiles. The time taken to overcome the disease varies depending on severity, diet, husbandry, and response to treatment.

Leopard geckos that are suffering from mild MBD usually take a shorter time to recover. On the other hand, severe MBD will require more time and additional treatment.

The type of foods that the lizard eats will also determine recovery time. As such, if you don’t feed the gecko calcium-rich foods, they will take a longer time to recover and vice versa.

Bone fractures and other physiological complications may recover faster or take a long time depending on how you handle the lizard.

Some lizards are more responsive to treatment than others, meaning they can recover at an enhanced pace.

As you can see, the recovery time is not constant. It will all depend on how you take care of your lizard.

Plus, the Leopard gecko will only recover if you follow the treatment instructions from your vet. Supplements should be given in the correct amounts and at the right time.

Phosphorus-rich foods should be avoided during treatment since phosphorus ions can disrupt calcium absorption.

If you do everything correctly, your Leopard gecko will recover within a limited duration.

How To Prevent MBD In Leopard Geckos

There are different ways through which you can prevent MBD in Leopard geckos. You just need to familiarize yourself with some of the causes.

That way, you will be able to provide your Leopard gecko with the proper care. Here are some of the things that you can do to prevent MBD in Leos:

Provide Calcium-rich Foods

Ensure that you feed your Leopard gecko foods that are rich in calcium. Butterworms, crickets, waxworms, and mealworms are some of the calcium-rich foods that you can give your lizard.

To avoid malnutrition, the lizard should be given the right amount of food in each feeding session.

Add Supplements To Your Leopard Geckos Diet

You can also provide the lizard with calcium supplements. Most calcium supplements come in powder form, making them easy to administer.

The best way to do this is by dipping the gecko’s food in the powder supplement before feeding it to the lizard.

This will supply the Leopard gecko with enough calcium, thus preventing nutritional deficiencies.

Nonetheless, too much calcium can cause hypercalcemia in Leopard geckos. This may result in other health problems that can be life-threatening.

Aside from calcium, you should also provide your gecko with vitamin D3 supplements. Besides, geckos rely on vitamin D3 when metabolizing calcium.

Provide The Leo With Appropriate Temperature Conditions

According to expert Leopard gecko keepers, the temperature inside the lizard’s enclosure should be kept between 77°F and 90°F. This will allow the gecko to digest its food effectively without experiencing any problems.

With the right temperature conditions, your lizard won’t have a hard time absorbing calcium. Favorable temperatures can also boost metabolism in Leopard geckos.

Can MBD Kill Leopard Geckos?

Metabolic bone disease causes gradual damage to bones, organs, and other systems in the lizard’s body.

All in all, a large percentage of lizards with MBD often recover from the disease.

However, if the Leopard gecko does not get any treatment, they are likely to die. The only way that you can avoid this is by providing appropriate treatment at the right time.

Additionally, you need to identify the early signs of MBD before the disease becomes severe. This will not only make treatment easy but will also help you prevent permanent deformities in Leopard geckos.

Is MBD Painful For Leopard Geckos?

Since Metabolic bone disease weakens bones, Leopard geckos can experience excruciating pain if one of their bones snaps.

As their bones bend, they are subjected to equally torturing and unbearably distressing pain. This is one of the reasons why lizards with MBD prefer being inactive.

MBD can also cause muscle aches and general discomfort in Leopard geckos. As such, you should be gentle when handling Leos with Metabolic bone disease.

What to Do For a Leopard Gecko With MBD?

If you suspect your Leopard gecko has Metabolic bone disease, ensure that you schedule an appointment with your vet.

MBD is both curable and manageable but it will all depend on when the disease is detected. If your lizard is diagnosed with MBD, it should start treatment immediately.

Severe MBD can be hard to treat, so ensure that your pet gecko gets the right treatment, proper husbandry, and a healthy diet.