Metabolic bone disease is caused either by insufficient calcium intake or inability to absorb calcium that is taken in. This is preventable by providing a proper diet with supplements and also providing proper lighting (UVB).
This disease goes along with calcium deficiency and vitamin D3 deficiency. These also are preventable by providing proper care. Though, these problems can be reversed and treated if they do occur.
Bearded dragons need a varied diet, even though they will seem quite intent on eating just crickets or other prey. Make sure that you provide your dragon with vegetables, prey items and also calcium and vitamin supplements.
The supplements will be very crucial for this. I really like Rep-Cal for calcium supplementation. Used properly the calcium supplement will help decrease the possibility of metabolic bone disease. Check out my Bearded Dragon Feeding page to find out more on dragon diets.
Ultra violet B light will also help in reducing the risk of deficiencies that will lead to MBD. Though, it is disputed that UVB light isn’t needed, no one can dispute that the effects benefit a bearded dragon.
There are continual advances in reptile lighting technologies with products such as mercury-vapor bulbs and also Zoomeds Reptisun 10.0florescent bulb. If you don’t have a UVB source and you are experiencing deficiencies and MBD, you might want to add a source for your dragon to receive this light.
Symptoms of Metabolic Bone Disease
Symptoms of Metabolic Bone Disease are softening of jaw bones, deformities in the tail and spine, not growing at normal rate, fractured limbs, and not being able to move.
In extreme cases there is complete immobility, no appetite, and twitching and spasms of their limbs. These symptoms will show when the disease has already set in. There really are no early signs of this condition.
This problem occurs most in hatchlings and juveniles that are growing rapidly and need the extra calcium. At this stage in their life make sure that you provide extra attention to their diet.
Usually for younger dragons you’ll want to provide calcium supplementation daily. Supplements vary by brand, though. Make sure you follow the directions on the supplements container.
What Can I Do?
Calcium supplementation should be done immediately. I have read of people using Neo-Calglucon (used orally by people) to get calcium in their dragons quickly (Klingenberg, The Bearded Dragon Manual , 2001).
If your dragon is too weak and can’t feed by themselves you will have to help them by giving them liquids and food. If your dragon doesn’t accept the involuntary feeding, you will have to see a vet.
Metabolic bone disease can be prevented. It is far better to prevent than to treat. With proper diet and care your dragon shouldn’t develope this problem. Though, even with the best care things can still go wrong. If you do happen to come by this illness, it is reversible.
For questions on feeding and UVB lighting see Bearded Dragon Feeding page and Bearded Dragon Lighting page. Hopefully, armed with information on caring for bearded dragons you won’t have to worry about metabolic bone disease.