If you have ever cared for bearded dragons or are currently the proud owner of your very own beardie, then you have more than likely heard the term Metabolic Bone Disease. However, you might not have a full understanding of what it is.
Metabolic Bone Disease is the result of a lack of calcium which will cause the affected bearded dragon to become extremely weak to the point of their bones deteriorating and even causing deformities or worse, death. Does this mean that Metabolic Bone Disease is a guaranteed death sentence for your bearded dragon?
No, it does not. So, can bearded dragons recover from Metabolic Bone Disease?
Yes, they can. Metabolic Bone Disease cannot be “cured” but the effects can be reversed.
Catching the disease early enough is the key to an easier reversal. Reversing more advanced Metabolic Bone Disease has been known to happen but it is a long journey for both you and your bearded dragon.
Discovering that your bearded dragon has Metabolic Bone Disease can be extremely disheartening and overwhelming but it doesn’t have to be the end for your beloved bearded dragon. We will be discussing the necessary steps that must be taken in order to reverse Metabolic Bone Disease, the different signs and symptoms of Metabolic Bone Disease, and most importantly, how to prevent Metabolic Bone Disease.
With the proper dedication, patience, and hard work, your bearded dragon will be back to feeling more like their old self in no time. Now, let’s make our way through the delicate world of Metabolic Bone Disease and what that means for you and your bearded dragon.
Signs And Symptoms Of Metabolic Bone Disease
When it comes to Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD), catching it early can mean all the difference when it comes to recovery. Luckily, there are some easy to tell signs and symptoms of Metabolic Bone Disease that you can look out for, including: loss or lack of appetite, lethargy, weakness, muscle twitching or spasms, stunted growth, softening of jaw and/or facial structure, paralysis, and swelling in the lower jaw.
In severe cases of Metabolic Bone Disease, you may notice limb, tail, or jaw deformities, regular seizures, total loss of appetite, and the inability to move at all. Once you begin noticing any of these symptoms in your bearded dragon, it is imperative to get him or her to your local herp vet to be tested for Metabolic Bone Disease and get together a treatment plan for your bearded dragon.
Metabolic Bone Disease is a painful and deadly disease for your bearded dragon to experience but it can be reversed and your bearded dragon can enjoy a long, healthy, and happy life once you begin treatment. But what causes Metabolic Bone Disease in bearded dragons?
What Causes Metabolic Bone Disease
There are several different potential culprits for your bearded dragon to be experiencing Metabolic Bone Disease, it is important to understand that the root of this disease is insufficient calcium levels. A calcium-rich diet ensures your bearded dragon will be capable of growing and keeping healthy and strong bones.
Calcium supplement powders can assist in making sure your bearded dragon is receiving the appropriate amounts of calcium to live a healthy life. Being fed foods that are high in phosphorus and oxalates can also cause Metabolic Bone Disease because high levels of either one of these can cause a depletion in calcium, which, as we just discussed, is highly important in your bearded dragon’s health.
Insufficient UVB exposure and temperatures within your bearded dragon’s enclosure can also be a culprit in Metabolic Bone Disease.
When you are setting up your bearded dragon’s personal paradise, it is extremely important to provide enough lighting and heat to allow your bearded dragon the ability to absorb calcium properly. It all comes back to calcium levels; how much calcium is being ingested, are you feeding your bearded dragon too many foods that will cancel out the calcium being ingested, and does your bearded dragon have appropriate access to sufficient lighting and heat in their enclosures.
Without calcium, your bearded dragon will live a very poor, painful, and difficult life until their death ultimately claims them. If you are ever concerned whether or not your bearded dragon is receiving the appropriate amount of calcium, contact your local herp vet with any questions or concerns.
Method 1: A Change In Diet
When it comes to treating your bearded dragon for Metabolic Bone Disease, a change in their diet would never hurt, especially if they have started experiencing a slack or deformity in their jaw. Organic pureed baby food would be an amazing option for your bearded dragon; it is soft and packed with nutrients your bearded dragon needs in order to get better.
Pureed chicken, pumpkin, or even squash would work tremendously and will taste so good to your bearded dragon, especially if he or she has not been eating lately. Mixing in calcium powder and vitamin D3 would also be a great idea to boost those calcium levels so they can get back on the right track.
However, if your bearded dragon is on any calcium injections or medications, be sure to contact your vet before administering any additional calcium so you don’t accidentally go overboard with the amount they are receiving. Ensuring that you are serving your bearded dragon foods with a higher calcium to phosphorus ratio will also make a huge difference.
Phosphorus cancels out calcium and doesn’t allow for proper absorption, it is imperative to provide foods with low phosphorus levels and high calcium levels.
Method 2: A Change In Temperature And UVB Exposure
In order for any bearded dragon to live a happy and healthy life, they require temperature gradients and UVB exposure, especially within an enclosure. Your bearded dragon is no different and will only begin to properly thrive once they have a hot side for basking and a cool side to aid in thermoregulation.
Your bearded dragon’s basking temperature should be around 95 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit while their cooler side should be around 75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. While your bearded dragon is not feeling well, it is advisable to keep their enclosure warmer at night as well to help boost their immune system and those vitamins they need.
Bearded dragons require these temperatures and a certain amount of UVB exposure to properly digest their food, produce vitamin D3 (which allows for calcium absorption), and to be able to thermoregulate properly. If you are having a hard time maintaining temperatures or are unsure if you are providing the appropriate temperatures, invest in a thermometer for your bearded dragon’s enclosure to keep an eye on the levels and make adjustments when needed.
A good rule of thumb when it comes to how long to leave your bearded dragon’s light on is 12 on, 12 off or 12 hours of light and 12 hours without light. If you are having difficulties providing this amount of lighting for your bearded dragon, there are amazing timers that can be rigged up to your bearded dragon’s tank that you can set to the appropriate amount of time and will turn on and off using the timer.
Recovery Time For Bearded Dragons:
Depending on the severity of the Metabolic Bone Disease will determine how long it takes for your bearded dragon to properly recover. In minor instances, it may only take a few weeks; in more severe cases, it could take 6 months up to a year to fully recover.
Keeping a close eye out for the warning signs of Metabolic Bone Disease is extremely important, along with maintaining the appropriate husbandry for your bearded dragon. Due to the awful nature of Metabolic Bone Disease and what it could mean for your bearded dragon, it is advised to practice the proper steps to prevent Metabolic Bone Disease so you and your bearded dragon do not have to go through the painful process of reversing its effects.
Preventing Metabolic Bone Disease:
When it comes to Metabolic Bone Disease and the health of your bearded dragon, prevention is the best way to ensure your bearded dragon stays happy and healthy and thriving. Preventing your bearded dragon from suffering from Metabolic Bone Disease will begin and end with everything we have already discussed in this article.
Appropriate calcium and vitamin D3 levels and proper temperatures and lighting will give your bearded dragon everything he or she needs to avoid this nasty disease.
Calcium and vitamin D3 powder supplements make it simple to provide your bearded dragon with all of the extra calcium he or she needs in order to thrive. Ensuring your bearded dragon has an appropriate basking spot with adequate UVB exposure will allow for proper digestion and calcium absorption.
Your local pet shop and/or her vet can help you with any questions or concerns regarding the set-up of your bearded dragon’s enclosure.
Metabolic Bone Disease is a horrible and painful disease for your bearded dragon to endure and can be life-threatening if not handled properly and in the appropriate amount of time. It is also entirely preventable.
Following proper husbandry practices and keeping an eye on the well-being of your bearded dragon is all it takes to ensure your bearded dragon never has to suffer from this awful disease. By providing a proper diet with calcium and vitamin D3, appropriate temperature gradients, and adequate UVB exposure, you are providing your bearded dragon with everything he or she needs to avoid Metabolic Bone Disease.
While it is treatable and it is possible to reverse the effects, Metabolic Bone Disease is extremely preventable and it is up to you as their owner to ensure they are receiving everything they need to prevent this painful disease. If you are ever concerned about the health and behavior of your bearded dragon, do not hesitate to contact your local herp vet for any advice, guidance, or testing needed in order to rule out Metabolic Bone Disease.