What is Metabolic Bone Disease in Reptiles?

When keeping reptiles, it is important to ensure that they’re kept in the best health possible. One of the common problems that many reptiles, especially leopard geckos and bearded dragons, can have is metabolic bone disease. In this article, we will look at what is metabolic bone disease in reptiles.

What is Metabolic Bone Disease?

Metabolic bone disease (known as MBD) is a term used to describe when a reptile has weakened bones. These bones can break easily, form incorrectly or be sufficiently weak to cause the reptile to have health and mobility issues.

What Causes Metabolic Bone Disease?

MBD is caused by inadequate nutrition within the diet. Within many species, it requires the reptile to have a supplement that includes Vitamin D3 as well as calcium. Control of phosphate within the diet is also required.

However, there are some species, such as the bearded dragon, which require access to UVB to prevent MBD from happening.

Symptoms of MBD

There are several symptoms of MBD. For instance, you might see:

  • Unable to walk on their legs, instead crawling along the floor.
  • Legs, hands or tails that look bent or twisted in some way.
  • An underbite.
  • Lack of appetite.
  • Lethargic behaviour.

It is important to note that some of these behaviours can be caused by other illnesses.

How to Prevent Metabolic Bone Disease

There are numerous ways that you can prevent MBD in any reptile. These solutions include the following:

  • Using a supplement to ensure the correct calcium and vitamin D3 are being supplied (critical for leopard geckos).
  • Access to UVB lighting, especially for diurnal species like bearded dragons (who should have about 8 hours a day). Leopard geckos don’t need this but could benefit from two hours of exposure per day. Be sure to change bulbs every six months.
  • Using high calcium prey like black soldier fly larvae or isopods.

However, the best option is to use two of the options above.

How to Treat Metabolic Bone Disease in Reptiles

If you do suspect that MBD might have affected your reptile, there are several treatments that you can do. First, put the reptile into an enclosure where they cannot climb. Those with MBD tend to be less sturdy and a fall could cause serious injury.

Also, use paper towels as a substrate to monitor their toileting to ensure there isn’t another problem caused by the MBD.

Then you need to feed some of the best prey items to your reptile. For instance, you might want to use isopods or black soldier fly larvae. Each prey item should be manually dusted to ensure that they’re getting some supplements in their food.

You should also keep some supplements in their food bowl so they can consume more if they would like to (we recommend this approach even if they don’t have signs of MBD).

You can use UVB for a couple of hours a day (leopard geckos) or up to 8 hours a day for diurnal species.

Treatment can last for a couple of weeks if you catch MBD early enough. Some individuals may make an almost complete recovery. However, if the MBD has been left untreated for too long, then it can sometimes be a permanent issue, though their quality of life can be significantly improved through treatment.

Final Word: What is Metabolic Bone Disease in Reptiles?

Metabolic bone disease in reptiles can be a significant problem. Untreated it can cause death within an individual. However, with quick treatment, they can make a significant recovery, and with some individuals, it can be almost complete.

If you have a question, feel free to ask it below.

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