Metabolic Bone disease or MBD for short is a nasty disease caused by lack of calcium in the bloodstream over a long period of time.
If left alone or not caught early enough it can be fatal to your beardie. Metabolic bone disease is easy to stop in its tracks with enough information.
its preventable with correct diet, great husbandry and care
There are different things to look out for in your bearded dragon when they have Metabolic Bone Disease and i will talk about those down below.
What is metabolic bone disease?
Metabolic bone disease is caused by a lack of calcium or Vitamin D3. Usually caused from a bad diet including a lack of supplementation (open new tab here)
MBD affects the bone structure of the bearded dragon and eventually will lead to paralysis and sometimes death.
over time they will lose function of their back legs and it will be painful. Its very difficult to watch.
Along with vitamin D3 and calcium these are also issues that cause Metabolic Bone disease
- Calcium and vitamin D3 Deficiency
- Improper UVB Lighting
- oxalate and phosphorus ratio too high
UVB lighting is extremely important for your beardie to absorb nutrients correctly. If the bulbs aren’t replaced often they can get sick. Replace the bulbs every 6 months even if the bulb is working
Phosphorus and oxalates are important to understand because if the ratio is too high then your bearded dragon will not be able to absorb calcium correctly. The oxalates will stop the absorption and phosphorus works the same.
The easiest way to stop MBD is just feed your beardie correctly (open new tab)
What lack of calcium does to Bearded Dragons
A lack of calcium will cause bones to become brittle, soft and easy to break. Think osteoporosis for humans. Usually older folk will get that disease and when they fall it can break bones.
Muscles begin to lose their function. They don’t contract properly and eventually over time that is what will cause the paralysis
Your bearded dragons body will actually try to supplement the needs of the body by taking its own calcium supply. The bodies tissues will start to lose nourishment and that can cause death.
proper supplementation is vital for you bearded dragon over time. Dust the insects you feed them with calcium powder often.
Symptoms of Metabolic Bone Disease
There are many symptoms of MBD that you should be aware of as it progresses. Obviously if you’re worried bring your beardie to you vet and they can do a blood test. It will reveal all their health issues right away.
Look for these signs
- Stress (they will puff out their beard and it will be black)
- lack of appetite and energy
- Trembling and twitching limbs
- Soft facial bones and soft jaw
- swollen limbs
- bone fractures
- arched spine
- bent bones or folded bones
- difficulty moving
Moving down the list you will notice the symptoms getting worse and that is how this disease progresses. Like i said before its really hard to watch this happen to your beardie and its so preventable
Constipation, lack of appetite and stress can be caused from impaction but its totally better to be safe than sorry. If you’re unsure just bring them to the vet.
What to do if your bearded dragon has Metabolic Bones Disease
Immediately bring it to your vet. They will be able to tell you regardless of where they are in progression.
Its better to be safe than sorry. If you just brought your beardie home and they have this disease you can help them recover now that you know whats wrong
Your vet will have taken blood work on your beardie. Blood work will show what they’re missing. They will have taken x rays as well and they will know if there is any permanent damage because of the prolonged disease
Your vet is going to give you a plan to get your beardie back in good health. Depending on how progressed the disease is the recovery period might take longer
Changing your bearded dragons diet
This is the main way to fix up your beardies health and its very simple really. Keep the fruits to a minimum, and ramp up the vegetables and insects. You should also dust both the veggies and insects with calcium powder.
Severe Metabolic Bone Disease
If things are pretty bad then sometimes you’ll have to go down a more expansive route.
- Special UVB Lighting
- much more calcium intake through diet and injections
- Vitamin D3 injections
- Oral calcium supplements
Make sure that during the recovery period you avoid handling them. Since their bones and tissue are weak you run the risk of hurting them and also breaking their limbs. if you need to move them do it with extreme care and move slowly.
Proper UVB light is important to check. If the UVB is too low they will not be able to digest food properly. bearded dragons are cold blooded reptiles which means they need heat. If you think of the wild for example they will be in very hot to very cold environments depending on where they’re from.
During the day its very hot so they will go out in the sun when needed and eat. That heat the sun generates will help with nutrient absorption and digestion. You are mimicking that in their enclosure.
At night the temp will drop down and they will find somewhere warm to sleep. Without proper UVB lighting they wont be able to function properly.
Your vet might tell you to buy a specific light to help them out with heat and UVB requirements. Follow their instructions closely.
That’s why UVB is so crucial. If your beardie isn’t able to absorb nutrients it wont be able to absorb the calcium needed to replenish whats missing from the bones themselves.
Remove anything from the cage that can be a hazard to them. If you have a cage that’s taller and its full of things to climb on then you should take it out and lay things down more flat.
If they were to fall they could break a limb or even worse deform their spine or head. This can result in permanent damage so be careful here
Anything you do leave in the cage just make sure its easy to climb on and off of (think basking rock or logs)
Make sure they have proper water. Bearded dragons like most living things need proper water supplementation because it helps with absorption of nutrients and waste disposal.
Use a shallow water dish if possible too. They may find it difficult to climb out of if they are weakened by Metabolic bone disease
Conclusion for metabolic bone disease
Here are some quick tips for you to screenshot
Remember your bearded dragons NEEDS calcium supplementation in order to live healthy and happy. The best way to achieve that is through dusting insects and vegetables with calcium powder (affilate link)
Replicating the natural environment is key to the health of your bearded dragon. That means you’re going to want to make sure your beardie is getting at least 12 hours of UVB exposure per day. This will help with the absorption of nutrients
I have a basking spot for my beaded dragon to sit in during the day which sits at a temperature between 95 degrees Fahrenheit and 105 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure you replace the bulb every 6 months regardless if its working or not.
I keep the temperature of my bearded dragons tank at 75 degrees Fahrenheit at night for him.
Understand that it will take quite a bit of time for your bearded dragon to recover from metabolic bone disease so be patient.
Many people want to rush the process by going too overboard with care but just give them time. Be careful with them if you do pick them up.
Some owners feel bad that their beardie got MBD and want to hold them to show affection and care but do that when they make a full recovery.