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Metabolic Bone Disease in Bearded Dragons


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Bearded dragons make the best of friends. But how do we take care of our little buddies the best way we can? The first step is to make sure we have all the information we need about what can make bearded dragons sick.

Pets just like people can be prone to all sorts of issues that stem from lack of proper nutrition or even sunlight. A lack of calcium can be detrimental to the mobility and function of your pet’s limbs. Just like a lack of proper sunlight can make humans vitamin D deficient, reptiles need certain levels of warmth and light in order to metabolize their food properly.

Calcium is crucial in keeping them healthy, strong, and well. Unfortunately, calcium deficiency can lead to bone deterioration. MBD can be scary but staying informed on how to prevent and even cure it can keep our pets healthy, happy, and give them a long life.

>>Read more about the most recommended calcium solutions 

What is MBD?

MBD is a huge issue that is facing the comfort and lives of bearded dragons. It can be a vague term that is used to describe a whole world of deficiencies that the domesticated bearded dragons face explicitly. Most commonly it is related to calcium or Vitamin D3 deficiencies.

Bearded dragons face issues with this specifically and their bones can weaken and even become brittle and deformed if it is left long enough. MBD isn’t something that you can cure, but you can prevent it and if your little buddy is already suffering you can try to reduce and reverse symptoms if you catch it at the right time.

But how can you tell if your beardie is having trouble with MBD?

What Symptoms Come With MBD?

Is your beardie acting abnormally? There are some specific things to look for when you’re worried that something might be affecting your pet. It is really important to pay attention to any abnormal behaviors, including any or all of the following;

  • Spasms or Convulsing
  • Lethargy and Weakness
  • Decrease or Lack of Appetite
  • Fragmentation of Bone
  • Impediment of Growth
  • Paralysis
  • Swelling or “Rubber” Jaw/Weakness of the Facial Bones

If you see any of these symptoms or your beardie starts acting or looking strange, make sure to take it seriously and see as soon as you can. It is important to catch these things early so there is a chance to reverse the symptoms.

Your vet is your best chance of properly diagnosing any issues you might be seeing your pet struggle with. They are trained and certified to help you make sense of the symptoms and how they relate to the bigger issues your pets may be facing. It is important that if you truly think something is going wrong with your bearded dragon, you consult a vet on the matter as they can give you the most accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.

What Happens When MBD is Severe?

Because metabolic bone disease attacks the bones it is easy to see when your bearded dragon is suffering from it. The bones will become weak, frail, and deformed. The way that this is most noticeable is if your beardie’s limbs are bending oddly or dragging. You may notice them struggling to walk or move.

Their limbs may also start twitching or convulsing due to the weakness in the bone structure. Other noticeable symptoms will be a severe loss of appetite to the point where your bearded dragon may actually need to be fed. The body will only continue to shut down and become tired and weak.

You might be wondering though, what causes this problem? It can be a lot of different factors that we can break down so you know how to properly prevent it.

How Do They Get MBD?

It is caused by a mixture of things that boil down mostly to incorrect or insufficient care. This isn’t something to be scared by, you may not be aware of exactly what you’re doing and how that is causing an issue with your pet. That’s okay, we can help you understand the causes so your little guy or girl can stay in good health.

Inadequate Calcium or Too Much Phosphorous

Calcium is important to every creature, but bearded dragons especially need to keep their bones sturdy. They also should be taking in enough D3 and Phosphorous in order to balance out their calcium intake and strengthen their muscles as well. A healthy and balanced diet can make all the difference in keeping your beardie healthy.

Ensure that they aren’t eating too many phosphorous rich foods while also avoiding greens like spinach and kale as they can actually be detrimental to your beardie’s calcium levels. Those greens are known as Oxalates and they prevent proper absorption of calcium in your beardie’s body.

Make sure not to overdo the phosphorous or the calcium and ensure to dust the cage with calcium to keep all the levels balanced and even. Too much phosphorous and too little calcium can really mess with your beardie’s body.

UVB Exposure and Proper Temperatures

Keeping your beardie in balance is all about the proper levels and absorption of vitamins and minerals in their diets. So there are two other factors that if they fall out of balance, they can severely affect the way that your pet absorbs their nutrients. These factors are UVB exposure and proper heat.

Bearded dragons need heat in order to fully absorb their vitamins and minerals as well as properly digest their food. They are animals that thrive off of heat and so it only makes sense that they would need that heat to function at their highest. UVB aids in metabolizing their nutrients and helps them synthesize Vitamin D3.

So you know what can cause it, but how do you recuperate your beardie if they are already suffering?

MBD Recovery At Home

In addition to making a vet appointment, you’ll also want to heed the warnings above and ensure that UVB levels, diet, and temperature are all in order. There are things that you can do to try and reverse the symptoms as well as make your beardie more comfortable while you’re trying to figure things out.

For their diet, you can feed them a special mixture to boost their vitamin and mineral levels. Calcium powder can be mixed in with pureed squash and poultry to up their vitamin D3 levels. If their tank is too cool as well it can make it more difficult for this to work, so if you need to keep their tank a little bit higher in heat while they’re recovering that can help.

Do not go for the wrong heating source either, this can make things worse. We recommend a Ceramic Heat Emitter (CHE) to warm up their tank as the wrong kind can burn your bearded dragon instead of warming them up properly. They won’t realize if it is too hot so make sure things are at a consistent heat with the cool side of their tank between 80-85 degrees and the hot side at around 100-105.

UVB bulbs can also be a great investment while your beardie is in recovery. They can help spread the rays throughout the tank rather than keeping it in one spot. Make sure you get a proper recommendation for a UVB tube bulb rather than a coil so your beardie is taking in the best amount of UVB they can. This bulb is a great option.

Further, the only other thing you can really do to keep your beardie comfortable and healthy is to educate yourself on proper caring techniques and recommendations. Make sure you are getting your information from a credible source, however. While there is a wealth of information out there for owners to pull from, that does not mean that you will be getting the best advice.

Specialty blogs, scholarly articles, vet, or sanctuary websites are all good resources to look into for the most accurate information regarding the care and keeping of your bearded dragon. Pet shops or unaccredited resources are risky as they can often be filled with misinformation. It is best to use your judgement and when in doubt, contact your primary vet for your beardie.

MBD Treatment

Taking your bearded dragon to the vet while they are struggling is the most important thing you can do to treat MBD or prevent it. Getting your vet’s treatment recommendations is an invaluable asset in keeping your beardie in good health. If they are positive that MBD is the culprit behind your pet’s issues, they will prescribe a proper treatment plan that you should follow.

There will likely be medication prescribed that needs to be given 1-2 times per day and will need to be given through shot or something they can take orally. The length of time they need to take this medicine will vary depending on how severe the MBD is. It can either be a few weeks or a few months.

In addition to the medication, it is also recommended to keep up with the other things that are supposed to help manage symptoms. Plenty of properly distributed UVB light, as well as heat, is imperative for helping your pet stay on the path towards recovery. Their diet should also continue to be monitored no matter what.

It takes a lot of things to ensure that your bearded dragon is managing to fight against MBD. All of the treatment options as well as symptom monitoring and continued attention to care are important to stick with to not only reverse the issues that MBD can cause but keep them well long after their treatment is over. Unless specifically stated by your vet you should continue any and all treatments given until they are finished and once they are, if symptoms have persisted, it is best to schedule a follow-up appointment.

Treat your beardie’s health concerns as you would treat your own and take them seriously.

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Just because your beardie is sick, doesn’t mean that it is the end of it all. Bearded dragons are very sturdy creatures and are able to recover from a lot with proper care and management of symptoms. This also means that even though they may be struggling with MBD it doesn’t mean you are a neglectful owner.

The best advice we can give to help you keep your beardie in proper health is that you shouldn’t just take your pet store’s advice without doing your research first. There are a lot of misconceptions about proper care for bearded dragons and your local pet shop might actually be misinformed about a lot of things, or giving you the wrong information in order to sell a faulty but expensive product.

We recommend you pay attention to different owners’ testimonials, researched blogs and articles, and your vet’s advice in order to properly care for your pet’s needs. The best thing you can do is arm yourself with as much information as possible and keep your beardie’s tank in proper condition. Heat, UVB, and proper diet is imperative to overall health for your little buddy and not just the treatment of MBD.

Pets are like family, so we understand how important it is to keep them around as long as possible. MBD may be scary, but it isn’t a death sentence for your friend. Proper management is really all it takes if you want to reduce symptoms and keep your beardie strong and healthy. Bearded dragons are remarkable companions and they can have great lifespans if you’re willing to put in the work to keep them functioning at their best.

Remember, to ensure the longevity of your beardie, free from MBD or other issues, follow recommended caring advice and monitor your pet often so you can catch any symptoms early. It also never hurts to consult your vet or a trusted resource for any tips on keeping your pet well.

Our pets are like family, and they should be treated with the same kindness and respect that you would want to be given to you.

Honestly, if my apartment didn't allow dogs I never would have had the chance to see how cool Beardies were. Me and my little guy are best buds! I've done a lot of research over time, so I figured I'd just share some info to help others on their bearded dragon journeys.

Important: is for informational purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.  Always consult a veterinarian for bearded dragon concerns.

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