Metabolic bone disease or MBD in the bearded dragon is exceedingly popular and remains a big threat. It can be painful and weakening for a beardie. We will talk more about the cure and prevention of MBD in bearded dragons.
Keeping bearded dragons is fun, and it is easy to care for them. However, the problem comes when people are not well informed about the ideal diet for their beardie pets. Due to improper nutrition, these lizards contract many diseases, including MBD.
I will explain to you what you need to know about what causes MBD, how to prevent and cure it, and more.
What is Metabolic Bone Disease in Beardies?
I believe this is not the first time you are hearing MBD; it is not new and has been a common disease affecting reptiles for many years. It is commonly associated with calcium deficiency and weakens the bones.
MBD in bearded dragons is dangerous if it is left untreated and can even kill a dragon. It is destructive because, once the body lacks calcium, it will extract much of it out of the bones. The bones become thin, brittle, and this can be the beginning of paralysis.
The condition keeps worsening and can eventually cause the spines to curve, and the beardie dies miserably. This is a painful thing for a pet to go through; you should avoid MBD at all costs; it is indeed a destructive enemy.
How Do the Beardies Get Metabolic Bone Disease?
Bearded dragons are hardy lizards if you take care of them, provide a proper diet and environment. Then they can live peacefully and for long without getting sick.
MBD or nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism is a metabolic disorder that occurs due to poor husbandry practices. It is common in young bearded dragons that are below two years old.
Many people think that because it is easy to care for the beardie, they can be the best pets for beginners. This is a common misconception, and unfortunately, there might be many beginner’s mistakes in husbandry practices.
In the process, the beardie is exposed to life-threatening disorders such as metabolic bone disease. A couple of reasons cause MBD; here is a list of them.
Low Calcium Level
Calcium mineral is a must-have staple in the beardie’s diet. It is important for muscle functioning, metabolism, bone formation, and maintenance.
Wild bearded dragons obtain calcium from the wide range of plants and animal sources.
On the other hand, the beardie pets have to be supplemented with calcium. The amount of calcium they get from the diet cannot meet the level the body demands. Therefore, it is necessary to dust some calcium in the food but do it occasionally.
To reiterate, if there is calcium imbalance in the blood, the body pulls it out from the bones to balance the level. Low calcium in the bloodstream or hypocalcemia if it isn’t corrected eventually leads to metabolic bone disease.
Providing Calcium Supplement in the Wrong Way
There are many ways to provide calcium to your bearded dragon, but not all of them are correct. For instance, you can choose to leave calcium in a bowl into the cage for your pet to access it freely.
If this is your way, please let it be the last thing you do from today. First, your dragon may be overdosed with calcium, which is pretty dangerous. Secondly, the beardies may get too little of the supplement because it is not guaranteed that they will lick the mineral.
Also, calcium powder provided in that form may be hard to absorb, making it unavailable to the beardies, causing metabolic bone disease.
Dusting the food with calcium powder will be an excellent option, and the beardie can easily absorb it from the diet. You may also decide to use liquid calcium that is dispensed orally using a syringe.
Providing Foods High in Oxalates
You may be feeding your beardie with enough food and sufficient calcium, but they contract MBD.
Oxalate binds to calcium and makes it indigestible; therefore, the beardies cannot absorb it. So, foods that are rich in oxalate might not be best for bearded dragons. Examples of these foods include; kales, collard, carrots, chards, and spinach.
High oxalate foods should never be given daily, but you can use them as occasional foods. To be confident that your pet is getting the correct amount of calcium with food, provide foods that are rich in calcium. Then, reduce the consumption of high oxalate foods.
High Phosphorus Foods
Phosphorus is also harmful as it prevents the absorption of calcium. Therefore, foods such as bananas have a high phosphorus level; thus, they should be avoided because they cause MBD.
Though you can feed your beardie with high oxalate foods infrequently, you need to avoid foods rich in phosphorus completely.
The beardies get enough phosphorus from the vegetables in the diet; they don’t require any more.
Lack of UVB Lighting
Typically, bearded dragons in the wild bask in the sun where they get UVB. On the other hand, the beardie pets are not exposed to sunlight; hence, they need an artificial heat source.
UVB bulbs are used in captivity to generate the UVB rays necessary for activating vitamin D in the body to vitamin D3. For the beardies to effectively absorb calcium from the diet, Vitamin D3 must be present.
Lack of UVB can result in metabolic bone disease. The reason for lack of UVB can be due use of low-quality bulbs that don’t produce enough UVB rays. It can happen when the lights are not on most of the time.
To prevent such a problem, make sure you purchase quality UVB bulbs and replace them every six months. Put the lights on for about 12-14 hours each day.
Bearded dragons require heat for digestion and absorption of nutrients by the body. It is crucial to ensure there are proper temperatures in the basking spot, which should be around 95-110℉.
Low temperatures in the enclosure mean low digestion and nutrients, including calcium, will not be absorbed by the body. Due to poor or no absorption of calcium, it can encourage MBD.
How can You Tell if Your Beardie Lizard has MBD?
Fortunately, when your dragon is suffering from MBD, the signs are apparent. However, before they become visible, it means the root cause of this problem has been there for a while.
When you are attentive to your beardies’ behavior and appearance, you will know when things change. The truth is a bearded dragon-like other animals can’t speak up and tell you when it is sick, it is upon you to note it.
To ensure that your pet is safe, keep an eye on it, and observe it regularly. It will help you to identify the problem early and address it before it is severe.
Here are the symptoms of metabolic bone disease in bearded dragons.
- Softening of the facial bone.
- Softening of the jaw and at the same time, the lower jaw is swollen in most cases.
- Tremor or twitching.
- Bone fracture and the beardie is unable to move.
- Limb paralysis.
You will notice some symptoms like anorexia, weakness, and stunted growth due to a different disease apart from MBD. But generally speaking, they are all concerned problems and require a qualified reptile veterinarian to intervene.
MBD can be fatal and is not a good experience for your pet. If you observe even a single symptom in your beardie, the best thing is to inform your reptile vet.
How is MBD Treated?
How well a beardie will respond to treatment will depend on the period it had stayed with the disease. If they receive treatment earlier before the problem becomes worse, they will quickly and successfully recover.
Presenting the beardie to a vet late in the course of the problem might be hard for the beardie to be successfully treated, and you may end up losing your pet.
Fortunately, MBD, in most cases, is treatable. The earlier the treatment, the better. More often, immediately, you take the beardie for treatment, the vet will diagnose it for the diseases. This can be done through a physical examination and a detailed history of your pet.
The vet may choose to go further and conduct blood work, x-rays, or sophisticated imaging, depending on how serious the problem seems. X-rays will help show if there is a bone fracture and display recovery progress during treatment.
After diagnosis and the vet detects there is MBD in bearded dragons, he/she will recommend the medication to give your dragon depending on the severity of the disease.
If MBD is in its early stages, the vets recommend you give a calcium and vitamin D supplement more often. This can be done by administering the calcium supplement orally or via injection.
You will also need to ensure that the beardie is getting enough UVB in the enclosure, temperatures are correct, and provide the ideal diet for the beardies.
More importantly, use foods that are high in calcium; the body quickly absorbs this type of calcium. A list of foods that are rich in calcium include; dandelions, papaya, mustard greens, escarole, etc.
Some people may assume that because they already know the treatments available for MBD in bearded dragons, they can treat their pets themselves. However, this is not right at all. You can end up treating the wrong disease or do what is unnecessary.
Always allow the vets to do their job. In a life-threatening disease like this, don’t even risk to treat your pet without your reptile vet’s prescription. It also applies to any other disease.
How Long Does It Take for the Beardie to Recover from MBD?
The treatment length will depend on how advanced MBD is; some can take several weeks and other months to recover completely.
But generally, treatment for metabolic bone disease needs time. Some beardies can even take a year to recover fully. This is quite a long time and process and demands a lot of care and your time.
But the best thing is that you can avoid reaching into such a situation if only you are keenly observing your pet and report any symptoms you notice quickly.
Now, as I conclude MBD in bearded dragons, I want you to note that MBD is preventable. Just make sure you practice the correct husbandry practices at all times. It will save your pet from many problems and allow them to stay healthy.
Metabolic bone disease in the bearded dragon is not always a life-threatening disease, especially if detected earlier. Prevention of MBD in bearded dragons and detecting it early are the key.