Do you have a bearded dragon? If so, you may want to do some research on metabolic bone disease, or MBD. Also called nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism or fibrous osteodystrophy, MBD is a fairly common affliction in beardies, and one that is not only very painful for your pet, but can also be life-threatening. As your Marion, IA area veterinarian, I discuss MBD in bearded dragons below.
MBD can cause some very serious issues. Your pet’s bones can become very soft, and fragile, and may break easily. MBD can also cause problems with the muscles, and prevent them from contracting easily. As the disease progresses, your lizard’s body will start to metabolize tissue as it tries to repair the damage to bone structure. Dragons with MBD often end up with paralysis, and they may become very deformed and/or weak. Unfortunately, MBD can be fatal.
What causes MBD? There are a few common culprits. Nutritional deficiencies—specifically a lack of calcium and/or Vitamin D3—are at the top of the list. Too many phosphates and/or oxalates in the diet can also be the problem, as these things interfere with the way lizards process and metabolize calcium and vitamins. Poor lighting is another potential culprit, as reptiles need UVB lighting for their digestion.
MBD does have some specific warning signs. These include swelling of the face, mouth and/or back legs, lethargy, and trembling limbs. In more severe cases, we may also see muscle twitching, general weakness, unusual postures, and deformities. Contact your veterinarian right away if you notice any of these things, or anything else that seems unusual. Fortunately, MBD can often be treated with a proper diet and lighting. However, it needs to be caught early on.
Now for the good news. While MBD is one of the most common illnesses we see in beardies, it’s also one of the most preventable. Simply making sure that your tiny dinosaur is eating a good nourishing diet, and ensuring that he has the proper lighting in his habitat, will usually be enough to ward off this painful and debilitating disease. Ask your veterinarian for specific care tips. Also, be sure to pay attention to your dragon. This will make it easier to spot anything unusual.
Do you have questions about bearded dragon health or care? Contact me, your Marion, IA area veterinarian, today!