Metabolic Bone Disease (also known as MBD) is among one of the most common diseases found in reptiles in captivity, and it is a complicated issue all together which doesn’t always stem from calcium deficiencies (however, by far the most common reason). MBD is an umbrella term referring to abnormalities of bones caused by a broad spectrum of disorders. For reptiles it is generally an improper calcium to phosphorus ratio in the body as well a lack of Vitamin D. As such, with a lack of calcium, the body compensates by taking from other areas of the body, such as bones. This leads to the softening of bones, which in turn makes it easier for fractures to appear.
It also causes disposition of fibrous tissue as the body tries to strengthen the bone in an absence of available calcium.
MBD symptoms vary depending on severity, however, commonly noticeable signs of MBD are as followed:
* Bowed legs
*Hard lumps along the legs, spinal column and/or jaw
*Softening and unusual flexibility of the lower jaw
*Difficulty raising off the ground
*Tremors, jerky movements and twitching
*Lameness and anorexia
*Lethargy, weakness and paralysis
*For tortoises and turtles their shells become soft and may cause the shell to “pyramiding,” the shell starts looking like a pyramid.
Though there are various treatments that can be done for MBD, they are often expensive, hard to find and can take years. If you suspect your animal to have MBD it is advised you make an appointment with an appropriate veterinarian and get a proper diagnosis.
However, there are measures one can take to help prevent the cause of MBD in your reptile.
Lighting and heating is essential to the prevention of MBD, it’s important to know the appropriate temperatures for your animal (as all reptiles require different temperatures), as prolonged exposure to coolness can cause MBD. Lighting is also essential, by lighting we aren’t talking about the light from the basking bulb, we’re talking about specialised bulbs that emanate ultraviolet radiation, these bulbs are known as UVB bulbs, they generally come in various different watts, sizes and types that are appropriate for your lizard.
Another important factor is how your animal will get it’s calcium, as the main staple diet often rarely fully donates enough calcium for their bones. Generally speaking most reptiles eat insects, as such these insects are sprinkled with a mineral or calcium powder to help supplement and augment the diet. Reptiles that often have a mammalian diet tend to get plenty of calcium from the bones of their prey item. Choosing a high quality calcium and/or mineral powder is crucial because a calcium supplement with too much potassium will actually increase your reptile’s chances of getting Metabolic Bone Disease.
Next on our list is a Vitamin D3 supplement. Though calcium dust and mineral powder are important, it wouldn’t matter if your reptile ate nothing but calcium if he also wasn’t getting enough Vitamin D3. The best way to insure your animal gets Vitamin D3 is a combination of certain calcium powders alongside with a UVB Bulb, make sure you read the label of your calcium powders carefully for the indication of Vitamin D3.
The most commonly used, and one of the highest grade calcium powders (which come in a variety specific to certain reptiles), is REPTI-CALCIUM by Zoo Med which can be a little tricky to get a hold of–luckily we sell it here.
Lastly, regarding feeding, it’s important to use the highest quality insects or animals around. This will guarantee that your animal will get the most of what it’s eating and with the calcium powder and the UVB bulb you will not only be preventing MBD you will also help prolong the life and providing excellent animal husbandry.
It’s also important not to overfeed your animals, as this can also be a factor in causing MBD. Many new comers to reptiles often make the mistake of overfeeding their animals and one should do proper research on the animal of choice before any big purchase.
*It’s very important that you witness signs of MBD that you take the animal immediately to an appropriate veterinarian clinic. As they have the equipment, knowledge and experience to deal with this issue accordingly. Consult the chart above if you feel that your animal is at risk as MBD kills reptiles. The process of MBD may be as simple as injecting the animal with a calcium shot, or it may be a long and gruelling experience for others. This disease and issue should not be taken lightly!*