MBD which is the abbreviation of metabolic bone disease is also known as nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism. It is the collection of many disorders that due to nutritional deficiencies the skeleton structure of the bearded dragon affects.
As its name indicates, it is associated with nutritional deficiencies and affects bone structure and strength. It is one of the most common health problems of pet bearded dragons. Dragons that are present in a wild environment, have complete freedom and have an open choice of eating.
So, the risk of developing MBD in them is low. Mostly the bearded dragons who are kept in closed captivity face this problem because they eat what they are offered. It is not a deadly disorder but if neglected, it could be fatal. This is not caused by any bacteria, virus, fungi, or any other pathogens but it is linked to diet.
Causes of Metabolic Bone Disease
There are a few common causes of metabolic bone disease. Some of them are linked with nutritional deficiencies and some are linked with poor management.
Nutritional deficiencies include:
- Calcium Deficiency
- Vitamin D3 deficiency
- Phosphorus rich diet
- Calcium Deficiency
As calcium is one of the main parts of bone and bones form the skeleton and its deficiency could lead to bone weakness and deformation. If the diet which is being offered to the bearded dragon is deficient in calcium then it causes structural deformity.
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Vitamin D3 deficiency
As vitamin D3 is involved in the absorption of calcium from the intestine to the body. If the diet is deficient in vitamin D3 then there will be no proper absorption of calcium in the body and it ultimately leads to bone weakness and deformation.
Phosphorus Rich Diet
In the body of animals, calcium and phosphorus are antagonist to each other and inhibits the absorption of each other. If the diet is too rich in phosphorus then this phosphorus inhibits the absorption of calcium into bones and leads to bone deformation and weakness.
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Problems linked with poor management are
Improper UVB Lighting
UVB lighting is also linked with proper digestion and absorption of nutrients. So improper UVB lighting also causes less absorption of calcium and could lead to MBD. As extracted from the above-mentioned causes that metabolic bone disease is ultimately related to low calcium levels. When the level of calcium in the body is low then the body starts to take calcium from bones to compensate for the decreased level of calcium.
So, depletion of calcium from bones causes them to become weak, fragile, soft, and easily breakable. As calcium also plays an important role in muscle contraction, decreased levels of calcium in muscles also cause them to lose their ability to contract. Due to this fact, most cases of MBD are associated with partial paralysis. Due to bone and muscle damage, the affected bearded dragon is usually weak and deformed.
Symptoms of MBD in Bearded Dragons
In the early stages of MBD, the symptoms are not too specific but with the passage of time, they begin to clear. Symptoms in the early stages include
- · Dullness
- · Depression
- · Stress
- · Lack of appetite
- · Weakness
- · Lethargy
- · Sometimes Constipation
But at later stages of the disease, when it becomes moderate to severe, the symptoms become more evident and clear. At this stage, symptoms could be devastating. These symptoms include
- · Swelling of face and mouth
- · Swelling of the back leg
- · Trembling limbs
- · Muscle twitching
- · Soft jaws
- · Dropping lips
- · Stunted growth
- · Dragon is unable to lift its own weight
- · Bowed limbs
- · Fractured and broken bones
- · Tremors and seizures
- · Paralysis of limbs
- · Unusual posture and deformities
All these symptoms are reflected in the behavior of the dragon. If these symptoms are caught in the early stages this disease would be easy to handle but when these symptoms become severe then it would be difficult to treat and it could be fatal for the dragon.
Diagnosis of MBD in Bearded Dragons
At the start, the symptoms are not specific to MBD and also not obvious. So, at this stage, it would be very difficult to diagnose but if a dragon shows above mentioned symptoms then the doctor can make a diagnosis on basis of observation and by checking the level of calcium in the diet. At later stages when the disease becomes severe then symptoms become more evident and making a diagnosis at this stage becomes easy.
Treatment of MBD
A decreased level of calcium in the body especially less level of calcium in bones is the main cause of metabolic bone disease. So, its treatment is also linked with the provision of calcium to dragons. If the disease is noticed and diagnosed in the early stages when symptoms are mild then it can be treated by eliminating the cause and by adjusting the level of calcium in the feed. At this stage, no specific medication is needed. But if this disease remains unnoticed or neglected and diagnosed at later stages when symptoms become severe, at this stage aggressive treatment is needed. This include
- · Calcium supplements orally
- · Intravenous calcium injection
- · Calcitonin injection
- · Vitamin D3 injection
- · UVB Lighting
- · Hydration
If bones are broken then the veterinarian will proceed accordingly. Hydration of dragon is necessary at all stages of treatment because water is the medium of life and it is one of the essential nutrients. It also plays its role by moving the nutrients throughout the body.
Home Remedies for MBD
If symptoms are light and the disease is in its early stages then by providing a good source of calcium at home, this disease could be tackled. Good sources of calcium include
- · Papaya
- · Mustard greens
- · Endive
- · Squash
- · Cactus leaves
- · Escarole
- · Figs
Advice and Instructions for the Owners
If the bearded dragon is in captivity then make sure that it has a free choice of eating.
· Its movement must not be too restricted.
· Its diet must be nutritionally balanced.
· Proper Hydration.
· Observe the behavior of the dragon regularly and don’t neglect any change.
· Avoid self-medication.
· At least 12 hours of UVB lighting.
If the disease becomes severe and symptoms become move devastating then
· Call the Doctor.
· Follow treatment plan properly.
· Remove the dragon from the cage.
· Remove all things that may cause inhibit the dragon’s moment.
· Water level in the dish should be low to avoid any chance of drowning.
· Make sure that the dragon is in its comfort zone.
· Provide proper UVB lighting.
· If MBD develops then keep patience as it takes time to be cured.
Metabolic bone disease is associated with nutritional deficiencies and in it the bony structure of the bearded dragon becomes deformed. It mainly develops in dragons kept in cages. Calcium deficiency is a major cause of this disease in which bones become weak and fragile.
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In the early stages, it is difficult to diagnose but at later stages, symptoms become more evident and the disease could be easily diagnosed. It is a treatable disease. In the starting stages, it is easy to treat but once devastating symptoms develop then it would be difficult to treat. As the development of metabolic bone disease takes time, same as its treatment also is time taking. By proper management, this disease can be prevented.
Q):- Is MBD caused by any pathogen?
A):- No, it is not caused by any pathogen. It is associated with nutritional deficiencies especially deficiency of calcium.
Q):- Does MBD hurt?
A):- Yes, in later stages this disease becomes too much pain when bones become too much soft and easily breakable and muscle movement reduces.
Q):- Could MBD lead to paralysis?
A):- Yes, at later stages due to extreme deficiency of calcium bones become fragile and muscle movement reduces and which may cause partial or complete paralysis.
Q):- How common is MBD?
A):- It is very common in bearded dragons which are kept in close cages. According to an estimate, more than half of the total population of bearded dragons who are kept in captivity are suffering from this disease.
Q):- Is MBD treatable?
A):- Yes, at the early stages of the disease, it can be easily treated by providing proper nutritional supplements but once devastating symptoms develop then it needs aggressive treatment and proper care.
Q):- How can MBD be prevented?
A):- MBD can be easily prevented by noticing the behavior of the dragon and by providing it with a nutritionally balanced diet and freedom to eat and by giving it freedom of movement.
Muhammad Nouman Nazir DVM(UVAS), M.A political science(UOS). I am always trying my best to share my knowledge to the audience all over the world to help them.