Clinical signs will only start a few weeks after the introduction of a sub-optimal diet or husbandry flaw. The first signs to appear are usually related to the skeletal system. Affected animals may be unable to lift their bodies from the ground, may have soft, pliable jaws and bilaterally thickened fore- and hind legs. Animals may or may not show decreased appetite. These early signs are usually only observed by experienced herpers or vets. Observant keepers will also be able to recognize these changes if they are aware of the syndrome.
In advanced cases animals will show jerky movements, tremors and malformed bodies. Signs may progress to complete lameness and eventually death. Complications of MBD include bone fractures, drying of the mucous membranes of the mouth and the inability to walk or eat.
there are any signs that may suggest MBD the animal must be
handled with the utmost care to prevent fractures and injury.
Veterinary diagnosis and treatment are usually indicated.
Fractures are the most
common complication of MBD. Falling or climbing from heights that would
normally pose no problems for normal calcified bones is a common
cause. Drying of mucous membranes of the mouth due to inability
to keep the mouth close and inability to walk and eat are also
commonly seen. Egg production may also be affected in females.
When any of the clinical
signs are seen the animal should immediately be treated by a reptile friendly vet or an experienced herpetologist. One recommended treatment is parenteral calcium administration repeated as described by the vet. Treatment can be life saving. The diagnosis can be made on the history of inadequate calcium supplementation and/or insufficient exposure to UV radiation and clinical signs alone, no radiographs are indicated. The prognosis depends on the severity and the future cooperation of the owner. In early cases where supplementation and husbandry are improved the outcome is usually
Calcium can only be optimally absorbed in the presence of activated vitamin D3 and/or adequate ultraviolet (UV) radiation. UV rays
(are part of a group of rays, collectively known as the light spectrum. The three groups important here are
UV rays, visible light rays and infra red (IR) rays. The wavelength of UV rays is shorter than, and that of IR are longer than visible light. IR rays are responsible for heat transmission and visible light includes all the colours visible to the eye. Ultraviolet can further be subdivided into UVA and UVB. UVA rays are apparently needed for lizards to see optimally. UVB rays are needed for the activation of vitamin D3 and subsequent calcium absorption.
Diurnal lizards, i.e. Bearded
dragons (Pogona vitticeps) and Iguanas need natural or artificial UV radiation. It is recommended that animals without the correct UV lighting should be exposed to natural sunlight for at least (preferably more than) 2 hours a day. Important things to keep in mind when exposing animals to sunlight are:
Always provide ad lib water and shade for in case animals get overheated.
Never put animals in closed containers,
i.e. aquariums, desert dens, etc. in direct sunlight as it will heat up and mortalities can occur.
Never put animals outside when the temperature are not within the correct temperature range for the specific species.
Artificial sunlight can be supplied by various sizes of commercially available UV florescent lamps. It is important to use the biggest/longest possible lamp for the
vivarium or container. Two important factors of a lamp is its output, indicated as a percentage or number, and the spectrum, UVA
and UVB. The percentage output is the amount of rays the lamp emits. The popular percentages include 2.0 (2%), 5.0 (5%) and 8.0 (8%). Desert reptiles obviously need more radiation, i.e. 8% where in some cases tropical species can get away with 5%. Although most lamps are indicated to transmit both UVA and UVB it is important to get a lamp that at least transmits
UVB. As ultraviolet lamps doesn't emit sufficient heat (i.e. IR rays), they should be used in conjunction with the correct heating. Important things to keep in mind when exposing animals to artificial sunlight are:
Use the correct fitting. Fluorescent fittings differ according to length (usually indicated in foot / ft.) or wattage.
Never use a UV fluorescent lamp for more than 6 months. Old lamps can emit cancer causing rays.
UV lamps should be mounted as close as possible to 30cm
/ 12" from the basking spot of the lizard.
Nocturnal lizards, i.e. Leopard
geckos (Eublepharis macularius) which do not need UV radiation must be supplemented with a suitable calcium supplement including adequate activated Vit. D3. See
supplementation for more info.
Supplementation refers to the addition of extra elements to a diet to make the diet more balanced. The two most important supplementation categories are calcium and multi vitamin/mineral supplements. Various commercial multi vitamin/mineral combinations are available from specialized pet shops and reptile friendly vets. It is important to note that adequate calcium supplementation is not included in multi vitamin/mineral combinations and should be supplemented separately.
The more important additions to calcium supplementation combinations are phosphorus and vitamin D3. For adequate calcium absorption and bone incorporation the calcium to phosphorus ratio should always be between 1.2:1 and 2:1. Theoretically Vit. D3 combinations are only required in nocturnal species such as
(Eublepharis macularius) which doesn't have UV requirements. Calcium/Vit. D3 combinations are obviously more expensive than regular calcium supplementation. Where correct UV lighting are supplied dietary Vit. D3 precursors will be converted to vitamin D3 and only calcium need to be supplied.
Calcium supplements are usually sold in a powdered form and are available from reptile friendly vets or specialized pet shops. Calcium should be supplemented at least twice a week and three times a week to growing lizards and gravid females. Make sure to read added instructions for further additions that might apply to specific supplementations.
There are various ways to supplement reptiles. Methods include dusting food, adding supplement to water and supplying
ad lib calcium. As many lizard species rely more on food for their water requirements than fresh water, the recommended way to supplement calcium is by dusting its food. Both crickets and herbaceous foods can be dusted. As
(Eublepharis macularius) are known to lick calcium according to need,
ad lib powdered calcium/Vit. D3 in a separate shallow container are adequate for supplementation.
It is important to note that calcium supplementation should not be done by gut loading crickets. Gut loading of crickets is ideal for multi mineral/vitamin supplementation, but the amount of calcium needed for adequate calcium supplementation are known to cause mortalities in crickets.
see the Dusting & Gut Loading Feeder Insects Prior To
Feeding section for more info.
MBD is a less serious
disease and can be treated, but even though this is the case it
should not be ignored. Although quality of life are still
optimum treated animals will physically never be the same than
before the disease. As with all diseases prevention is obviously
better than cure. With MBD prevention is simply following the
correct husbandry instructions i.e. supplementation and UV
"If you think I should add more
information to this section or think that something is incorrect, contact
me and let me know. I would love to hear your ideas or methods
you might use that is different than ours."
Last updated 11 September 2005 by Renier Delport
remember only to buy healthy animals from reputable pet shops
and breeders. Make sure to buy animals that are captive bred in
your own country and that it is not illegally imported or caught
from the wild."
Important Points To Remember When Feeding Lizards
Aspects Of Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD)
& Amphibian Quarantine
& Breeding Crickets
Keeping & Breeding Mealworms
Bearded Dragon Care
Leopard Gecko Care
| Top |
Melvin J. & Reece, William O. 1993. Dukes’ Physiology
Of Domestic Animals. 11th ed.
Douglas R. 1996. Reptile Medicine & Surgery. W.B.
| Introduction | Physiology
| Physiology In Short |
Dietary History | Clinical
Signs | Complications
Of MBD | Diagnosis
& Treatment | Supplementation
| Husbandry | Conclusion
| Related Topics | References
This Page | Mealworms
For Sale | Crickets For Sale |
Lizards For Sale |
| Dusting & Gut Loading
Feeder Insects Prior To Feeding |
Aspects Of Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD) |
| Most Important Points To
Remember When Feeding Insectivorous Lizards |