Metabolic Bone Disease in Pet Reptiles

Whitney has raised and bred different species of geckos, snakes, lizards, tortoises, and other exotics since 2003.

What Is Metabolic Bone Disease in Reptiles?

Metabolic bone disease (MBD) is a common disease in reptiles. MBD is the collective name given to a number of problems seen in reptiles related to calcium. It is different from calcium deficiency, in which there is a lack of calcium in the body, but MBD is associated with calcium disruption in the body.

What Causes It?

Metabolic bone disease can be caused by a number of various sources as well as the combination of various factors:

Improper Levels of Calcium

One cause of MBD is improper levels of calcium in the reptile's diet. Calcium is very important in the building of bones and muscles, as well as the functioning of nerve endings, and when there is not enough calcium in the body problems will arise. Calcium levels, also, affect phosphorus and vitamin D3 regulation within the body, which is why calcium supplements should be given when feeding reptiles.

Improper UV Lighting

Improper UV lighting can also cause MBD. Some reptiles need UVB light added to their enclosure. Without the UVB rays, some reptiles such as bearded dragons, iguanas, and mali uromastyx, cannot digest the calcium properly. UVB aids the production of vitamin D3 which is essential in digesting calcium. Most diurnal reptiles, are those that are in need of the extra UV light. Nocturnal reptiles, on the other hand, do not need the UVB rays, but should be given a calcium/D3 supplement at least once a week.

Improper Husbandry

Improper husbandry is another cause of MBD. Keeping proper enclosure temperatures will help reptiles to digest their foods properly. Being able to properly digest foods is essential in absorbing the nutrients available, including calcium.

Miscellaneous Diseases

Other diseases can increase the chances of a reptile getting MBD. Kidney and liver disease can impair the conversion of vitamin D to an active form. Small intestinal disease disrupts absorption rates. Disease of the thyroid or parathyroid glands can affect calcium absorption since they produce hormones affecting calcium metabolism.

Signs of Metabolic Bone Disease

Symptoms of MBD

Symptoms of MBD vary with age and degree of the disease. Most often symptoms of MBD occur as thin, easily broken bones. Thin bones contribute to walking problems and can hinder jumping and climbing as the bones become weaker. You may also notice that at the joints your reptile may not hold its feet properly, causing them to bend backwards.

  • As bones weaken, the body attempts to strengthen them by laying down connective tissues; this often causes swollen legs.
  • Breaks may cause twisted and crooked backs, toes, and limbs.
  • Paralysis can be a symptom, as well. Damage along the spinal cord can cause paralysis of the front or back legs.
  • Soft, spongy jawbones which can cause eating to become more difficult and painful and a lack of appetite.
  • A receding jawline.
  • Stunted growth.
  • Trembling and weakness in the limbs due to damage to the nerves.
  • Lameness or difficulty walking.
  • Tremors and jerky movements in the toes and legs.
  • Constipation.

Treatment of MBD

  • Correcting the diet. This can be a hard task to take in, as reptiles can be set in their ways and resist change.
  • Oral injection of vitamin D and calcium.
  • Correcting the temperatures in the enclosure.
  • Adding a UV light to the enclosure to assist with vitamin D3 production (only necessary with diurnal reptiles). If you have a diurnal reptile, and the enclosure already has a UV light, you may want to change the bulb, as the UV tubes must be changed every 6 months. You may want to consider the UV spot lights, which give out more UV than a tube.

If you do not see any change, see a licensed reptile vet. You should not let the disease progress to a severe state because your pet may not make it through. You can correct metabolic bone disease if you catch the signs and symptoms early on in the disease.

Please be aware that the advice in this article should in no way replace that of a licensed veterinarian. The methods outlined above may or may not work for your pet. If you have any concerns, you should consult a specialized reptile veterinarian.

Mandii on April 11, 2012:

My beardie is almost 2 years old. He wont eat much of anything or at all. He has working UV lights and a clean home. He dosnt move around much at all and he is only a little bigger then he was the day i got him when he was 6 weeks old. I have tryed bathing him rubbing his belly and feeding him little amounts of calsium and baby food. I dont know what else to do. He isent active or responsive 98 % of the time. any suggestions?

Baby Blue Beardie on September 26, 2011:

We have a 2 year old beardie and a 2 1/2 month old beardie. The baby is currently shedding and isn't eating at all and hardly moves. I've also noticed that the baby has had little spasms that make me think of seizures when my husband or I moves it or picks it up. Just a few minutes ago I picked the baby up and its head started shaking until I began to pet the top of its head and it opened its eyes and stopped shaking, should I be concerned? I know the not eating is normal for some beardies during shedding but the baby didn't do the other stuff last time it was shedding last month.

matt on August 28, 2011:

I have two, 3 year old bds one male and one female. Recently the timer failed to turn on the lights while I was at work. I noticed the following day that the female had a twich in the top of her tail and back legs, I read up and found about mbd and decided to replace the uv light although just 4 months old, and get an extra tub of live food covered with calcium dust. But today I found she is hardly walking and her back legs are stiff. Am I too late, what can I do, these are my first bds which iv had for 6 months and have been following bd books and advice from my local specialist. Problem is is my local vets are not open til Tuesday. (sunday today) is there anything I can do? Thankyou.

Dragon boy on August 05, 2011:

I just got a bearded dragon yesterday he was fine at the store but when I brought her home she started cloesing one eye and shes with a male and I feed them banna and brocoli every day I suplement crikets and mealworms I was just wondering if thers something wrong

JessBD on July 11, 2011:

When I first got my bearded dragon, a few days ago, she was lethargic. Her toes were a bit crooken; but I thought that was normal. Then we noticed her hind legs twitching.

I looked up MBD and things leading up to it; and started to try things to make her better, trying to give her more calcium. I thought she was getting better; she was a bit more lively and I hadn't seen her hind legs twitch, but then her toe bent again. Is the toe bending by itself a problem?

beardedgurl on June 08, 2011:

can my bearded dragon sit next to the window and get uvb and if i take him outside to bask a lot

Cynthia243 on May 01, 2011:

I have a 7" baby BD and for the first time today I found her laying on her back. When I picked her up she was still warm and seemed to be walking and acting normal. But later when I went to feed her I noticed her left arm was limp and dragging a bit. I keep her in a 80 gallon tank and on one end I have a 100 watt bulb for basking and the other end I have her 100 watt nighttime bulb which I turn off during the day. I feed her two to three times a day as many crickets as she wants with calcium power with D3. And I try to feed her apples, carrots, and lettuce as well everyday but she's not a fan and usually won't eat them as much as I'd like her to. I also set her in warm water everyday as well since she doesn't pay much attention to the water bowls I place in her tank. And I mist her in her tank a few times a day. She is very actice. Loves to climb and come out to run around. I'm just wondering if this is the beginning stage of MBD? And if so, what can I do to reverse it and will her limp in her left leg get better so she can continue being active and able to climb without problems?

Please help, thank you.

jennifer on April 26, 2011:

i just rescued a beardie from a women who had no idea how to care for him. She was feeding him a total of twenty crickets a week and greens daily he was under the wrong lights and only going to the bathroom once every three weeks. I have rescued other beardies but never one this bad. He seems to be paralized in his hind end and barely able to control the front end. He is two years old i took him to the vet they prescribed a critical care diet mixed with bearded dragon calicum plus diet saying it was metobolic bone diease. he seems to be eating it ok when i feed him with a syringe. I also went out and bought the correct lights. In your opinion is there any thing else i could be doing.

MechaB on March 16, 2011:

I am hatching bearded dragons and one of the babies appear to have a problem with its back. It wasn't a problem that developed it was born with what looks like a hunched back and its sides look collapsed it doesn't seem to want to move much and I am concerned. All of the other babies appear active and normal thus far does anyone have any ideas or suggestions??

Whitney (author) from Georgia on January 26, 2011:

If you're temps are accurate, the BD shouldn't brumate. It's actually not recommended to do that unless you are well experienced in the particular species and creating that atmosphere. Problems do arise, as you can see, when brumation isn't done properly.

Just bump the temps, try a wide variety of foods, and if the BD starts losing weight, see a reptile vet.

Chelsea on January 22, 2011:

I have a BD and when i first got him he ate just fine now he won't eat any veggies or greens only meal worms and crickets ; he was brimating i think he still is kind of but he doesn't sleep as much as he did. I don't want him to get sick hes 5 & my first beardie i had him since april of last year. I just want him to eat he just spits it out as soon as i force feed him.

Any suggestions ?

Whitney (author) from Georgia on January 08, 2011:

If you do not have the experience to diagnose, you NEED to find a vet. Without proper veterinary experience it is hard for someone with a good deal of experience to properly diagnose and treat. A vet is who you need to see. Do not guess

squish on January 07, 2011:

I adopted a beardie a few days ago from someone that didn't have the least interest in taking care of him properly. I've been treating him for MBD and in that case he appears to be improving nicely, but he has very large, hard and calloused growths all around the base of his tail and most of his hind region. It is uneven, bulbous in some places and not so in others. One of the larger bumps fell off last night a few hours after I had given him a bath. The tissue underneath it was raw and red, and the inside of the bump was concave and very dark, almost burnt looking inside. I called an emergency vet hotline and they said that as long as the wound wasn't bleeding or seeping that he -should- be okay, but I'm concerned that I might not be able to diagnosis it without bringing him to a vet. There aren't any qualified reptile vets around here for hours. Does this sound like anything you've come across in the past?

Whitney (author) from Georgia on January 05, 2011:

I would keep an eye on it. It could be that he stepped on something in the tank or hurt himself while shedding.

mattdowd on January 05, 2011:

my beardie has two swollen long toes any ideas?

Whitney (author) from Georgia on December 31, 2010:

Mealworms are a fine staple insect. Crickets are just an alternative. If the BD eats mealworms, then that is fine. Also make sure to add plenty of fruits and vegetables to the diet, dusting accordingly. I would suggest the calcium plus D3, as well as real UV rays.

First time BD owner on December 31, 2010:

We inherited a BD (maybe 1.5 yrs old) from a friend-BD was always properly taken care of, lights changed as needed, proper fruits/veg/cricket mix. Had been dusting food properly. I noticed after having him a short time he didn't move much-took him to vet, she said he had a clear case of MBD, and gave me a calcium supplement. He has a curvy spine, doesn't use back legs much, but can move them. Hardly ever props up off of belly, just pulls around a little. Anyway, got new light, added calc supp, been trying hard to help him. Now he doesn't eat crickets (ignores them, all sizes and variations) will only eat meal worms and some vegs/fruits. He hardly poops (maybe once a wk). I never heard of the D3 supp til now. Any hope/ suggestions?

Whitney (author) from Georgia on November 26, 2010:

The calcium sandican actually intice the BD to eat it, which can cause impaction, especially in a sick animal. You may need to take the BD to a vet qualified in reptiles to have a fecal test performed, and for vitamin shots. Offer more than just carrots, as carrots digest into sugars.

It will take much longer than a week for a really sick animal to get better, and you have a really sick animal on your hands. I really would recommend you finding an experienced keeper to help you out, especially if this is your first reptile.

paige on November 25, 2010:


I took in a bearded dragon from my friend who didn't take proper care of it. He had no UVB light, Heat lamp or attention he is 7 months old and only a bit bigger than a baby Bearded Dragon!

I now have had him for 1week in a 4ft vivarium, with UVB light, Heat lamp, Calcium sand, plants, hides, thermostat water and food. The temp at the cool end in the day is 30 degrees Celsius. I try to hand feed him as he doesn't eat out of his bowl and he has eaten a little bit of carrot each day and 1 cricket (hand fed) he did it a little bit of carrot on his own.

Problem is, He doesn't hold up his body when he walks, he drags it. Also he doesn't move at all. And he has only 'pooped' once. I have tried bathing him and I give him lots of attention.

What's up with him I thought he would get better?

Whitney (author) from Georgia on October 25, 2010:

I would urge you to see a reptile vet to get a proper diagnosis and liquid calcium shots or oral meds. You can make a puree of the foods and use a syringe to try to force feed if he's not eating. Also try using a UV bulb not the tube and/or giving some supervised outside time for natural sunlight.

Jody26 on October 23, 2010:


My dragon is showing all the signs of MBD and keeps falling on his back. I am going change his diet and bulbs to see if there is improvement. Where would I get the calcium and vit D oral injections? How do I force feed him? Just pry open his mouth???

Whitney (author) from Georgia on September 11, 2010:

Impaction is a huge concern!! Not only could the BD have a concern of malnourishment but of improper housing! Definitely remove the calcium based sand. It is not good for reptiles. Basically, it entices them to eat it, but it does not dissolve in water and takes days to dissolve in stomach acid, which is enough time to start to build up and start causing problems. Remove the sand.

Xxandyr on September 10, 2010:

Xxandyr went to the vets this morning and Got blood work xrays and all sorts of tests done. He's Kinda cranky now But was found to been Healthy (His Calcium was normal) except for a small amount of calcuim sand in his colon (He gets Mineral oil for 14 days) and being over-weight( which is causing his waddle). This little guy has a New diet, lighting, and Is housed on Reptile carpet. He has actually Started to eat collared greens and not spit them out when I stick them in his mouth. Thank you for your help with the baby food. He will not be getting anymore. Just veggies/fruit and some dusted crickets!

Whitney (author) from Georgia on September 09, 2010:

It's hard to say. I would consider a vet to see if he can prescribe a liquid calcium to add to the diet. The baby food is a huge concern, as it has no nutritional value for reptiles; it's basically nothing but sugary junk for them. You really need to get the bearded dragon eating real fruits and vegetables. Baby food is formulated for human consumption and nutritional needs, not reptiles. It was once thought that it was fine for them to eat, but not any more.

Xxandyr on September 08, 2010:

My BD Recently started Trembling, Ie is head and body have this uncontroably trembling. His feet and legs don't twitch unless im touching him. His appetite hasen't changed much. He Prefers his Crickets without Calcium dust, So I add a scoop to veggie/fruit Baby food like the vet said I can do since he wont eat veggies. Is this sill an ok way of feeding him veggies/fruit and Calcium? His tube's changed every 7-9months, and I just got him a Bulb Uv spot light. Could this be a CD problem or MBD?

Symptoms Listed : Shaking of head/body (Feels like a muscle spasem), Doesn't like to move/ climb except when there mealie worms involded. Then he "trips" over his front feet and kinda waddles. He doesn't runabout any more.

Thanks, Xxandyr's Concerned "Parent"

Whitney (author) from Georgia on August 19, 2010:

It's hard to diagnose with just that, but it sounds like MBD. It could be caused by the improper diet. He needs to have fruits and veggies daily, more so than cricket or other insects. Without it, he will become very vitamin deficient.

Mike on August 18, 2010:

My bearded dragon is showing a few of the symptoms of Calcium defenciency. Things like lameness, limp limbs, loss of diet, inactivity (more of it than usual). It has both essential lights and eats healthy. I give it Rep Cal food and crickets. He hasn't been given fruits and veggies as much anymore though. I have this ReptoCal powder that I put on its food about once a month and it includes Calcium and vitamin D3. He's been like this for only about 4 days now. I even have been spraying him with T-Rex mister that helps it with shedding and such. My dfad recently put it in the bathtub with warm water (low level) to see if it would have a bowel movement. Could it have this MBD or calcium problem?

Whitney (author) from Georgia on July 20, 2010:

Must have been severe impaction, as the signs you described are typically of MBD. Hopefully, he will be fine.

Brooke on July 19, 2010:

I took him to the reptile store and they said he was impacted so they took him back so they could ty to get him to pass it.

Brooke on July 19, 2010:


Whitney (author) from Georgia on July 19, 2010:

Seek assistance of a reptile vet, as you can get prescribed liquid calcium by the vet to help boost the calcium deficiency in the body.

Brooke on July 18, 2010:

Ok so I just got a beardie 4 days ago and he's about 3 months old. He only eats 3 crickets a day and I always dust them with D3 supplement and offer him some 3 times a day by barley eats them. I have a UVB and a basking light and they stay on for 12 hours a day. Just recently I noticed that his hind legs are bent and he shakes and walks weird. I'm pretty sure he has MBD. His jaw is also swollen. He doesn't move a lot and when he does he wabbles. This just started happening. His temps are on the cool side high 80s and on the hot high 90s to 100s. Ever sense I noticed it this afternoon it's been progressing and I have no idea what to do or what I did wrong. Please help! Thanks

mitkit on June 29, 2010:

whitney,my bearded dragon,dude,wont eat his veggies we tried putting them in the waterbowl and during bathtime( that wat the person at the ahop told u to do if he wouldent eat his veggies

ive put them in his mouth but he spits it out wat should i do? i dont want him to get mbd i put that calcium stuff on his crikets but he wont eat them with that calcium stuff on them what should i do ???????

Whitney (author) from Georgia on March 22, 2010:

That is odd, but a good thing. The lack of vegetables could have worsened the situation.

StewyD32 on March 22, 2010:

yeah it is a very quick turn around at the point where her was. The weird thing is that she never eat vegetables and had to gut load the crickets and mealworm, but now she loves vegetables.

Whitney (author) from Georgia on March 15, 2010:

That is very surprising, but good news.

StewyD32 on March 14, 2010:

Hi Whitney. just another little update as its been about 4 weeks now. The BD is doing really well now. She has got her appetite back and feeds for herself now, and is moving a lot faster now. Her walk isn't normal but that is to be expected but she gets around enough to get crickets and is starting to try and walk upright instead of pushing herself around. Her bones are on the mend and her rubber jaw is completely gone (firm now).

Whitney (author) from Georgia on February 18, 2010:

That is good to hear. It will take substantial time to see results, as the BD was very severe.

StewyD32 on February 18, 2010:

Hi whitney05, just to update you now, its been about 4 days since we started to help her, and brought her back to the vets today for a calcium shot. He says she is less chesty and able to breath better and is more coherent, moves a little faster and is able to hold her head up longer now, but for proper results will take a few months, but so far so good. will check back in in a few weeks and update you again.

Whitney (author) from Georgia on February 16, 2010:

Please do.

StewyD32 on February 16, 2010:

ok well i'll keep you updated... thanks

Whitney (author) from Georgia on February 15, 2010:

It is possible, but at the stage of MBD that he was at, it's slim. He'll never be normal, and will more than likely always have some problems. Good luck.

StewyD32 on February 15, 2010:

I brought him to the vet today and he gave him a calcium shot. I bought pure calcium tablets so i can dilute them down and give it to him orally. I also got D3 drops. And i got a 10.0 UVB fluorescent tubeinstead of my bulb.

Do you think id i persist he will become better???. He is a little more coherent since the shots and the lighting but maybe thats just me!!!

Whitney (author) from Georgia on February 15, 2010:

If the BD can't move really, then it's very very severe. In my opinion, he really should be put down humanely.

StewyD32 on February 14, 2010:

Hi. I know my BD has MBD, but was wondering how serious he has it. My BD does not walk properly as it lies on the ground and kinda pushes himself, and he is never able to stand on his four legs, not able to climb or hold onto things like he has not got the energy to do it or isn't bothered.

I have a UVB and change it every 2 months bulb in the tank and i feed him gut loaded crickets that are dusted with minerals. He has a "rubber" mouth which is a sign of MBD but he is kinda inbreed as well as is top lip doesn't meet his lower.

Have you got any advice and how severe it is as i don't want him to go on any longer in pain.

Whitney (author) from Georgia on January 18, 2010:

You can make sure that the BDs have true UV lighting for an hour a day, try finding a vet for liquid calcium dosages. Depending on the extent of the MBD, they may survive just be a little disabled.

Noah on January 17, 2010:

i think i might have 2 give my beardies back to the shop because both of them have MBD and i would be heartbroken 2 see them die i just cant see them die :(

Whitney (author) from Georgia on January 07, 2010:

Generally, hereditary is going to be from poor breeding and improper health of the mother. If the mother is not able to provide enough calcium and nutrients to the eggs from the beginning, they may still be fertile and grow, be lain, and hatch, but the improper nutrients within the mom can cause later problems to the hatchlings. I'm don't have tons of info on this, as most MBD is not caused by hereditary issues. Generally, you'll find the improper health of the female can cause deficiencies within the hatchlings.

Judith on January 07, 2010:

I wonder if you could give me some information about the hereditary of metabolic bone disease?



Whitney (author) from Georgia on November 17, 2009:

You should see a vet to make sure that the BD is ok and that an infection doesn't set in. Are you also using a multi-vitamin and calcium +D3? I'm not sure what BD caclium is. All you need is a pure calcium for most of the time and a vitamin with D3 or calcium with d3. you need something that had d3 in it.

Becky on November 17, 2009:

My adult BD has what looks like a broken toe. It is what would be the pinky on his left foot. It is also swollen a bit. Should I take him to the vet or will he be okay. I touched it to see if it was stuck pointing upwards and he pulled it back and gave me a look like "why did you do that?!" poor guy. He seems very healthy. I give him lots of greens, veggies, fruits and crickets (couple times a week on the crickets), plus pellets with freeze dried insects. I use BD calcium plus powder for the crickets and let them eat on veggies and fruit before I feed them to him. I am due to change my bulb, and I'm hoping he's not developing MBD. What do you think? Thanks ahead of time!

Whitney (author) from Georgia on September 09, 2009:

If she's gravid, it's not going to show on her spine. It doesn't sound like a normal sign of MBD.

jml454 on September 08, 2009:

My 2yo female BD had developed two small boney "lumps" on each side at the base of her spine before her tail begins. Could this be a sign of MDB? We also believe she could be gravid.

Whitney (author) from Georgia on September 08, 2009:

You need to consult a vet. Are the temps accurate? Is the enclosure adequate? Is the BD on sand or a solid substrate like tile or reptile carpet? Do you have UV lighting?

phyllis on September 07, 2009:

hello, we have a baby beardie and i dont know what is wrong with him ? he looks sick his belly is all sunk in you can see his bones i feed him fruits an veggies every day and crickets every friday apprx 2 3 dozen he just doesn't seem to be getting any better can u please help

Whitney (author) from Georgia on July 27, 2009:

At that stage, there is slim hope, and in my opinion, the humane thing is to put the BD down. Baby food isn't much benefit to the reptile, as baby food is junk to them. It is manufactured to have perfect essentials for babies, not reptiles. It's commonly misunderstood and miscontrued as supplement and beneficial as sick reptile food, unless mixed with a highly concentrate supplement and other vitamins.

Patty on July 27, 2009:

I recently took in a beardie who was beyond sick.. it has the worst case of MBD there is, his whole body looks like jello, it can bearly lift its head.. i have been orally feeding it baby food, and giving him cacium, i have the uvb light and heat lamps and proper set up.. the girl who i got it off of, told me she has already taken it to the vet. im wondering with the shots and the uvb light... will he get better? i want to save him.. please help!

Whitney (author) from Georgia on June 29, 2009:

I'm not sure what you mean by smelling. Have they been quarantined? Are the temps accurate? Is the UV new? When was the last time the UV was replaced? What are they eating? Are they being provided supplements? Are they housed separately?

Jess0908 on June 29, 2009:

i got 2 beardies a female and a male they are a mating pair until yesterday my male 1 went stiff and started to smell his eyes were open

Whitney (author) from Georgia on May 26, 2009:

If he's 2.5 years old and he's never eaten fruits or vegetables, then there could be a serious health condition that you're not seeing. MBD is very common if the BD hasn't eaten any produce ever. You'll need to forcefeed, but make sure to let him finish shedding first, as that can be stressful. Make sure the temps are good in the basking area and hot side, as well as a new UV tube (they should be replaced every 4-6 months) unless you're using the emitter then that's a little different.

sasha on May 26, 2009:

hi i have a male bearded dragon he is around 2and a half, we got him when he was 1and a half, he's never ate veggies or fruit since we'v had him and we'v tried everything to get him to eat his greens, although he doesn't eat them he gets fresh ones in his viv everyday. do you have any suggestions? he's also been shedding the last few days and he's not ate a lot he' keeps closing one eye aswel is something wrong with him?

Whitney (author) from Georgia on April 04, 2009:

The tweezers are more for feezing snakes than lizards. How old is the BD? Just leave the fresh vegetables in the tank and it'll get used to them. It would take way too much time to smoosh the appropriate amount of vegetables onto a cricket. You'd probably kill the crickets while doing that, as well. Plus, the BD would get more crickt than vegetable, and they need more vegetable than cricket. Try brightly colored thigns as well, such as carrots, squash, etc.

Jennie on April 03, 2009:

Having read all the posts, my beardie also does not like fruits and veggies. He/she eats crickets just fine, though. How do I 'force feed' the fruits, greens and veggies? I got a pair of those long feeding tweezers - can I put some smooshed fruit onto the cricket and feed it, so my beardie gets used to the taste? I have left many different kinds of greens, freshly cut, and they are untouched. Please help with any advice - other than this, my beardie seems healthy. Thanks, Jennie

Whitney (author) from Georgia on March 20, 2009:

I would wait until you know that he is good to go before breeding. That's just me.

Lance on March 19, 2009:

Btw, yes this would be her first Breed.. The male is moving around again and showing his dominance. I did dose up on hic calcium intake though and I do believe that lite was the case! Ill keep you up to date......

Thanks, L

Whitney (author) from Georgia on March 19, 2009:

She is probably pregnant, unless this is her first breed, then the odds are slimmer. You never know. You have done the right thing so far. Good luck, and let me know how it goes and what the vet says. Just keep an eye on the male.

Lance on March 18, 2009:

No they get crikets during the week with silkies witch are awesome... And I agree about the breeding, I ment after a few monthes if there weight is up and he is better, and I also will get vet checked first! I have another pair as well..But these two where housed together up until a month ago I found them doing the witch I have video of it cause I caught it at the last 2 minutes of it!!!! So I separated them and here we are. I just hope she does not get pregnant! I have been keeping a close eye on her but no signs yet! But just incase the hovabator is As always it's a pleasure talking to ya.....

Thanx, L

Whitney (author) from Georgia on March 18, 2009:

You don't necessarily need to bump the supers. I thought they only got insects twice a month. I would be leery of introducing them again to breed. Definitely wait to make sure that it's something environmental and not hereditary. At their age it should really be their first breed.

Lance on March 18, 2009:

Sorry forgot again, they only get the supers once or twice a month but I will give them more often. She gets them a lot more often when prenant cause It fattens her up..

Thanks, L

Lance on March 18, 2009:

Well I just got the new bulbs up and running, they are by zoomed the Repisun 10.0 uvb and 36 inches long and 30watts, so now the whole cage lights I would take him outside but to cold as I live in PA! YUCKKKK..... I have the green hammocks about 5 inches from the tube so they should be getting enuff now.. So now if he does get better I may introduce the female in again!! More Babies wooohooooooooo...... Thanks again,


Whitney (author) from Georgia on March 18, 2009:

It sounds like their diets are good. I would say it's probably time to change the UV tube. They should be changed every 4-6 months. Also make sure that the BD can get about 6 inches from the tube, bc after that the efficiency of the tube is minimal. I'd also provide crickets or supers more often than twice a month. I'd go with once a week, and make sure they are coated with calcium.

You may consider taking him outside if it's warm for about 10 minutes to get true UV rays. But make sure that you're with him.

I would just keep an eye out. It doesn't seem too severe as of now.

Lance on March 17, 2009:

Also forgot to metion Monday, wed, friday and sunday they get greens, squashes, mustard greens,dandelions ( witch are hard to find),escarole and different fruits. Tues, thursday and saturday they get 3/4`` crikets and twice a month they will get super worms...He also poops everyday! they also get a bath 1-2 times a week..I just hope that the lite is the cause..............


Lance on March 17, 2009:

Hello, so yesterday I seen that my BD was shaking on his right rear leg while laying down! Now I do suppelment him everyday, calcium monday, wed, friday, sunday and a multi vitimin tues, thurs and sat. Cold side stays between 50-68 as the warm side stays around 90-100. I just checked the light and seen it was a small maby 18 inch long exo terra uvb 10.0. But after checking the site I seen that this lite is crap. So now I got the reptisun10.0 36 inch long uvb. So im hoping that this is the problem and if not imma run to the vet. Also he is 1 and a half about 12`` long. I also have a female in another cage with the same setup and is doing great. Both in 50 gal breeders.. Do you think that the lite could be the cause?

Thanks so much, L

Whitney (author) from Georgia on February 26, 2009:

You need to force feed and find means to get the BD to eat the veggies. Without fruits and vegetables, your BD will have severe health problems in the end.

sPaZmAt1C on February 25, 2009:

what do i do if my BD doesn't eat vegies

Whitney (author) from Georgia on December 02, 2008:

Sounds like you need a reptile vet ASAP! do you have lighting and uv? Are you supplementing? Are you offering high quality foods (IE not iceburg lettuce but darker greens and even some romaine)?

Are your temps right?

CHARITY601 on December 01, 2008:


Whitney (author) from Georgia on November 19, 2008:

Nicky you didn't give me any symptoms as to determine whether or not the BD has MBD or calcium deficiency. I would actually recommend that you purchase the UV bulbs and not tubes, Unless that is what you are talking about. Also, try liquid calcium supplements from a reptile vet. And, consider taking the BD outside during the peak sunray times; because of the cooling weather you want to make sure that it's the warmest part of the day and that you only do it for a short period; otherwise I would recommend a few hours mid-morning, depending on where you are located. Also from now on remember to change the tube (if you're using UV tube) every 4-6 months. More than likely the vet is not wrong.

bidders on November 19, 2008:

Hi there

I bought an 18 month old bearded dragon (my first ever) and very quickly realised something was wrong as he was walking on the back of his feet and dragging his back legs along. I took him to the vets and they said he was calcium defficient and that I need to give him extra calcium supplements to his diet. I started to do this and laid off the cabage etc which has something in it that can remove calcium from a beardies diet. Still though a week or two later he is not better. So I went to my local reptile breeder who asked me to check his UV light bulb to see what level UV he had been getting (bear in mind that this poor chap had had this bulb in from when he was a baby beardie i.e 18 months!!!!!!!) I checked the buld and he was on UV bulb 2 and he should have been on a ten. So yesterday I purchased a new UV 10 bulb and I am hoping that Oscar will now start to get better.

Do you think that this is Metabolic Bone Disease rather than just a calcium defficiency as I think the vet was wrong.

I think it is disgusting that some people are to ignorant to ask for advice or take the proper advice and let a poor animal like Oscar suffer the way he has it is pure cruelty to animals.



Whitney (author) from Georgia on September 12, 2008:

I have never tried the Solar drops, although I have heard of them. I would consult a vet before using them so that you can see how much to give your BD. Otherwise, just following whatever instructions are on the box. Try changing out your UV tube, and letting the BD get natural rays from the sun, if possible, in addition to the tank.

Rami on September 12, 2008:

Hello I have a problm I hope you can help me with.I just bought th t-rex bone aid liquid calcium and the solar drops. I was wondering since my beardie kind of already has MBD(swelling of the arms,partial paralysis of the legs) about how many drops of the bone aid should i give her and how often and also about the solar drops.

Thank you

Tiny on June 24, 2008:

OKay then thanks

Whitney (author) from Georgia on June 24, 2008:

The UTH goes on the hot side of the tank. You should really have all lighting and UTH all on one side to create the warm side.

Tiny on June 23, 2008:

Does the UTH go on the Basking Side or the UVB side of the tank?

Whitney (author) from Georgia on June 14, 2008:

You still need to use UV lighting. I've never used the drops, but you really can't replace the UV lighting. Could be an inner ear concern; keep an eye on it, and if it continues, you'll want to see a reptile vet, as it could be something serious. I'm not sure. Make sure that your temperatures are accurate in the tank at the basic spot, and definitely get the UV lighting. Also, make sure that he's getting his supplements on his feeders as well as his fresh veggies daily.

Tiny on June 13, 2008:

I give my Beardie this stuff callled T-Rex Solar Drops(Liquid UVB)as an alternative to using UVB lighting, is this good for my pet or should I get the real deal?. Also, my pet has been doing the weirdest thing lately. He turns his head up & to the left and holds it there for long periods of time, he even does this during bath time and it causes him to swim in circles. What could be causing this?

Metabolic bone disease in reptiles

John Makaryshyn displays one of his reptile pets. Photo: Dr. Gwen Roy.

Today’s pet market offers more species of reptiles than ever before. But all too often, these popular pets are falling ill with completely preventable diseases such as metabolic bone disease (MBD) – a condition that often goes unnoticed until it’s too late.

For owners, what’s challenging is that the disease’s clinical signs can look very different from one reptile species to another, and these signs can be subtle.

“The first thing that I notice is a crooked tail, or weakness or tremors,” says John Makaryshyn, a reptile hobbyist and breeder. “You pick them up [and they’re] just shaky when moving around.”

He adds that he often hears owners describe their pet’s condition as “lethargic” or “wasting away.”

MBD occurs when there’s an improper balance of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients making up the reptile’s bones. Key factors are too much phosphorous, and low calcium and low vitamin D3 which regulate calcium absorption.

“If there’s not enough calcium in the bones, the bones are not as strong as they should be … sometimes the muscles can actually be stronger than the bones — depending on how much calcium is missing,” says Dr. Miranda Sadar, a former faculty member at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM).

The board-certified specialist is now an assistant professor at Colorado State University’s Avian, Exotic, and Zoological Medicine Service.

“Of course with weak bones, they are more prone to getting fractures so a classic presentation of metabolic bone disease is going to be fractures.”

Sadar finds that juvenile reptiles are the most likely suspects for MBD, and sometimes, it takes owners a long time – two to three months after purchasing their pets – to visit a veterinarian.

“[That’s] often when we will start having animals come in for any kind of problem – [it] could be metabolic bone disease, it could be just straight anorexia,” says Sadar. “But those clinical signs may have been going on longer.”

Makyryshyn rarely has issues with MBD but finds breeding females the most challenging to prevent the disease since their eggs contain a lot of calcium. He notices the most problems with MBD during the spring when females begin laying their eggs.

In many reptile species, vitamin D3 is produced by the skin after sunlight exposure, which is replicated in captivity with ultraviolet (UVB) lighting. As well, some reptile species such as ball pythons can get adequate vitamin D3 from their diet.

Makaryshyn is frustrated by the lack of scientific information available for reptile owners and breeders – especially about topics such as UVB lighting.

“[For] some reptiles it’s debatable whether they need UV [light] or not. It would be nice to have some scientific data or even a vet who actually has experience with this [topic],” says Makaryshyn, who has owned over 20 different reptile species.

Makaryshyn displays this female gecko’s full calcium sacs, which are found on the roof of the mouth in crested geckos. Photo: Gwen Roy.

While care of reptiles and other zoological companion animals (exotics) is well established in Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) programs at veterinary colleges like the WCVM, Sadar agrees that the lack of scientific data in the area is challenging for owners. As an exotic animal veterinarian, she prefers owners to err on the side of caution and provide UVB lighting for their reptile pets. UVB bulbs also degrade over time, so timely bulb replacement is important.

“Once they started to actually do emission studies … we’re realizing that six months [between bulb replacement] may even be stretching it. Some people may go as short as four months, so we say every four to six months,” says Sadar. “We typically tell people that it [UVB] doesn’t penetrate glass and plastic so don’t put those between the light and the reptile.”

If a lack of UVB lighting isn’t the problem, insufficient calcium in a reptile pet’s diet is another common cause of MBD. Many feeder insects, such as crickets, are high in phosphorous and low in calcium. To compensate, Makaryshyn dusts his reptiles’ meals – crickets and fruit flies – with calcium and vitamin D3 if certain pets don’t have access to UV lighting.

According to Sadar, reptile owners can run into problems if they feed too many live crickets at once. This allows the insects enough time to groom the calcium dust off before being eaten.

However, Sadar warns that it’s possible for reptile owners “to overdo it” with vitamin D3 supplements, which could potentially damage the reptile’s kidneys.

“The worst-case scenario is if you have a reptile that can absorb vitamin D from the sun and can also absorb vitamin D from the diet,” says Sadar. She adds that doubling up on vitamin D supplementation could potentially cause toxicosis in the pet.

Sadar notes that the success rate for treatment of MBD varies widely from species to species.

“Probably the easiest success cases are tortoises because they’re in a shell,” she says. “You do a squish test on the little tortoises, where you put pressure on the top and bottom of the shell, and they should get less squishy over time. Overall I’ve had fairly good success with them. Reptiles are amazing healers — it just takes them a little while to get there.”

But not every case of MBD has a happy outcome, and in most cases, recovery rate depends on early detection.

“The ones where we haven’t had success is when they have some kind of nerve damage, typically,” says Sadar, who strongly recommends regular wellness exams for reptiles. “If I could get every reptile [owner] to do that, it would be huge.”

Makaryshyn’s advice for reptile owners is to “just get as much information you can and make the best decision you can.”

Dr. Gwen Roy, who received her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree in 2018, is a graduate student in the college’s Department of Veterinary Pathology.

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Common Reptile Diseases and Solutions

Keeping reptiles can be very rewarding and many different types of reptiles – snakes, lizards, turtles, tortoises, etc. – make great pets. They are not like cats and dogs, however, and it is important to understand reptiles' health needs in order to provide them a comfortable, safe home. If you can recognize the most common reptile diseases, you can easily take steps to keep your pets happy and healthy.

Recognizing a Sick Reptile

Many symptoms of common reptile diseases are similar, and while one or two symptoms may not allow you to properly diagnose what ails your pet, if you notice these types of symptoms it is best to seek proper veterinary care. Typical disease symptoms include…

  • Diarrhea or excretions that show excess mucus or blood
  • Weight loss, lack of appetite or reluctance to eat
  • Vomiting or discharge from the mouth or nose
  • Trouble breathing, including coughing or sneezing
  • Overall lethargy, listlessness or lack of energy

Because many symptoms are quite general and could be signs of different diseases, an expert veterinary diagnosis is essential to ensure your pet reptile gets the proper treatment.

Most Common Reptile Diseases

There are a number of different diseases and infections that are common in reptiles. While some types of reptiles are more susceptible to certain diseases than others, some of the most common problems to watch for include…

    Ear Infections
    Turtles are especially prone to ear infections. A bulging ear drum, pus around the ears and pain when the mouth is opened are all key ear infection symptoms. Head shaking and general sensitivity around the ears are other clues.

Treatment: Clean the reptile's environment, adjust temperature and humidity to proper levels and ensure the reptile's diet includes adequate vitamin A.

Amebiasis is a bacterial infection that is more likely to affect carnivorous reptiles, especially those that eat a diet of raw meat. Insect-eating reptiles are less likely to be infected with this disease, but it can still happen.

Treatment: Be sure all feces are cleaned up to minimize contamination and isolate infected reptiles to prevent the disease from spreading to other pets.

This viral infection is especially common among turtles and tortoises, which may show excessive itching or mouth sores in addition to other symptoms. Left untreated, this disease can cause severe liver damage as well as damage to the digestive tract.

Treatment: Thoroughly disinfect the reptile's habitat and administer antiviral medication as prescribed. Ointments and oral medicates are both options.

This disease, also called swollen vent, is an inflammation around the reptile's vent – the opening where feces and urine are expelled. It may be caused by stones or clogs, as well as other infections.

Treatment: Remove any obstruction of the vent and clean the area well. Antibiotics may be prescribed for severe infections. A balanced diet can help prevent cloacitis.

Metabolic Bone Disease
This disease can cause bowed legs or other deformities in reptiles, including soft shells in turtles. Reptiles that eat only plants or insects are more prone to developing metabolic bone disease because they ingest insufficient calcium.

Treatment: Provide a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D, as well as full spectrum UV lights for reptiles to better metabolize calcium.

Mouth Rot
More formally called stomatitis, this disease is caused by bad diet as well as poor temperature and humidity conditions in a reptile's habitat. Mouth sores or infected tissues will develop, and in severe cases, surgery may be required.

Treatment: Keep the reptile's habitat at the proper temperature and humidity levels, and keep the tank or aquarium clean. Antibiotics may be prescribed.

Keeping Your Reptile Healthy

Because so many of the most common reptile diseases are spread through a poor environment, it is critical to keep your reptile's habitat in peak condition to keep your pet healthy. Check the environment's temperature and humidity levels regularly, and make any adjustments necessary to keep the readings within your pet's optimum range. Clean and disinfect the tank or cage often, removing all feces, leftover foods, soiled bedding and other debris. Provide a nutritious, balanced diet to your pet, paying attention to meeting all their vitamin and mineral needs. With this type of good care, you can help your reptile stay healthy and avoid many of the most common diseases pet reptiles can succumb to.

How can You Tell if Your Beardie Lizard has 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.

  • Lethargic.
  • Anorexia.
  • 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.
  • Slow-growing.
  • 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.

Septicemia, caused by bacteria in the blood, is a common cause of death in reptiles. The disease affects the whole body and may result from trauma, an abscess, an infestation of parasites, or environmental stress. Death may be sudden or occur after longterm signs of illness. Common signs are trouble breathing, lack of energy, convulsions, and loss of muscle control. Reptiles with septicemia may develop small, purplish red spots on the belly skin chelonians may have reddened plastrons. Keeping a reptile’s environment clean and well maintained can reduce the risk of septicemia. Affected reptiles should be isolated and treated with antibiotics.

Reptiles’ digestive systems can be affected by viral, bacterial, protozoal, and parasitic infections.


Adenoviruses may cause fatal liver or digestive tract diseases in certain snakes (Gaboon vipers, ball pythons, boa constrictors, rosy boas, and rat snakes), lizards (Jackson’s chameleons, savannah monitors, and bearded dragons), and crocodilians. In bearded dragons, the adenovirus appears to be transmitted by fecal-oral contamination (feces coming into contact with the mouth). Signs of infection are more common in younger dragons but can also affect adults, usually to a lesser extent. The signs are vague and include lack of energy, weakness, weight loss, diarrhea, and sudden death. The illness rate is high in young bearded dragons, but supportive care (fluid administration and assisted feeding) and antibiotics to treat secondary bacterial infections can increase survival.

The signs of adenovirus infection in bearded dragons are similar to those caused by coccidia and nutritional disorders. The diagnosis of adenovirus infection can be confirmed with a liver biopsy.

Lizards that have recovered from the infection should be quarantined for at least 3 months. The length of time a lizard can infect other lizards after recovering is unknown, so you should not plan to sell or trade a previously infected animal.

Infectious Stomatitis

Infectious stomatitis, infection and inflammation of the tissue lining the mouth, is seen in snakes, lizards, and turtles. Early signs include tiny, purplish red spots in the mouth. Diseased tissue develops along the rows of teeth as the condition worsens. In severe cases, the infection can extend into the upper and lower jaw bones. Bacteria that are commonly found in the mouth are the most frequent causes of stomatitis. Respiratory or gastrointestinal infection may develop if stomatitis is not treated promptly. Treatment involves surgical removal of dead tissue from the mouth, cleaning with an antiseptic solution, antibiotics , and supportive care. More extensive surgery may be required in severe cases. Vitamin supplementation, especially with vitamins A and C, has been suggested but may not change the course of disease.

Intestinal Parasites

The stress of captivity coupled with a closed environment makes reptiles susceptible to heavy infestations of parasites with direct life cycles—that is, parasites that require only 1 host species to complete their life cycle. Every effort must be taken to rid reptiles of parasite burdens and to rid the environment of intermediate host species (like insects).

Treatment should be attempted when evidence of an infestation of parasites is found. Drugs called anthelmintics are usually needed to eliminate internal parasites. Many different anthelmintics (dewormers) are available. Your veterinarian can prescribe the one considered most effective for the particular parasite involved.

Roundworms of the stomach (stomach worms) are seen in lizards and can cause stomach ulcers in severe infestations. Numerous snakes are infected by a hookworm that lives in the upper gastrointestinal tract and causes wounds at sites of attachment. Large swellings caused by the inflammatory response to this hookworm can cause intestinal obstruction.

Parasites known as ascarids also frequently infect reptiles. Severe tissue damage and death may occur in infected snakes. Snakes infected with ascarids may regurgitate partially digested food or adult worms and may have no appetite. Infection may cause inflammatory swellings in the gastrointestinal tract. These swellings may abscess and perforate the intestine.

Many other species of roundworms may be found on examination of a reptile's feces. Prey animal parasites (like mouse pinworms) that do not cause disease in reptiles may also be seen in a reptile's feces after the reptile consumes an infected animal.

Protozoal Diseases

Protozoa are single-celled organisms some cause disease in animals. Entamoeba invadens is the most serious disease-causing protozoan of reptiles. Signs of infection are loss of appetite and weight, vomiting, mucus-containing or bloody diarrhea, and death. The disease may spread quickly in large snake collections. Plant-eating reptiles appear to be less susceptible than meat-eating ones. Several kinds of reptiles that seldom become affected or die can serve as carriers these include garter snakes, northern black racers, and box turtles. Most turtles are resistant, although giant tortoises are susceptible. Other resistant species include eastern king snakes, cobras (possibly as an adaptation that allows them to eat other snakes), and crocodiles. Susceptible snakes include most boas, colubrids (a family that includes king snakes, garter snakes, and racers), elapids (a family of venomous snakes including coral snakes and mambas), crotalids (the pit viper family, including copperheads and rattlesnakes), and other vipers. This protozoan is transmitted by direct contact with the cyst form. Diagnosis is made by examining feces or tissue samples for the protozoan.

An antiprotozoal drug is usually prescribed for treatment. To help prevent transmission among reptiles, turtles and snakes should not be housed together. The potential for this disease to be passed on to humans should not be taken lightly, and strict sanitation and hygiene measures should be observed.

Cryptosporidiosis is infection caused by protozoa of various Cryptosporidium species. It can cause regurgitation, marked weight loss, and longterm weakness. In snakes, the organism affects the lining of the digestive tract, causing thickening of the stomach lining and loss of normal digestive motion of the stomach. A veterinarian may be able to feel a mass in the stomach area. Radiographs or an examination using an endoscope may reveal thickening of the stomach lining. Many lizards, including Old World chameleons and savannah monitors, are affected primarily in the intestine. Cryptosporidiosis is diagnosed with tests of the feces or regurgitated food or by biopsy of the stomach. Several treatments have been suggested, but most do not work consistently. Intensive supportive care will often stabilize and help prolong the life of the affected reptile.

Cryptosporidiosis can be transferred from animals to humans. However, Cryptosporidium species typically found in reptiles appear to rarely infect humans.

Species and Individual Animal

Specifics concerning the foregoing information will vary widely from species to species, and within each species depending upon the animal’s age, general health and reproductive condition. Please write in with questions concerning those reptiles and amphibians which you keep.

Ultraviolet A Light

Ultraviolet A radiation is important in maintaining normal behavior in most reptiles and amphibians, even those that do not bask. As this will ultimately affect appetite, calcium metabolism and general health, your pets should always be provided with a UVA source.

Environmental Conditions

No matter how a species obtains Vitamin D3 and metabolizes calcium, the process will not function properly if the animal is stressed by inappropriate environmental conditions – heat, humidity, day/night cycle, cage-mates and terrarium set-up and location must all be in order. Inattention to these details will also impact your pet’s immune system, leaving it prone to a wide range of health problems.

Dietary Quality and Variety

All reptiles and amphibians, whether or not they bask, must be provided with adequate amounts of calcium in proper proportion to phosphorous, and with dietary Vitamin D3. Feeder insects should themselves be fed a nutritious diet (please see my article, Providing a Balanced Diet to Reptile and Amphibian Pets) so as to pass on valuable nutrients to the animals that consume them, and a wide variety of foods utilized. Canned insects and light traps are very useful to those maintaining insectivorous species.

Vitamin Mineral Supplementation

Dusting your pet’s food with a vitamin/mineral supplement is another method of adding calcium and Vitamin D3 to the diet. However, this cannot be done indiscriminately, as too much can be as bad as too little.

We know very little about the exact needs of many species, and that which we do know is tempered by many factors. Overall composition of the diet is extremely important in determining the proper dosage of vitamins and minerals. For example, a Mexican Axolotl being fed a diet comprised of Reptomin Food Sticks, earthworms, blackworms, minnows and canned shrimp will require no supplementation, while a hatchling Leopard Gecko subsisting on crickets and waxworms will likely require additional vitamins and minerals with most of its meals. Please write in with questions concerning specific pets and situations. Thank you.

Watch the video: My crested gecko died. Taylor Joness (July 2021).