Signs of metabolic bone disease


Signs of metabolic bone disease
Signs of metabolic bone disease
I think my Leopard gecko
has MBD. What should I
There are very few words or
letters that fill reptile
keepers with as much fear
as MBD. Most of us have seen the condition and
some of us have had to deal with this illness. It is
widespread and still largely incurable. In
addition, the problem with MBD is that the
symptoms are so varied, ranging from just a
slight kink in the tail to twirling and seizures.
This means that it can be hard to recognise in
its initial stages. Reptiles are especially good at
hiding indicators of sickness, and by the time
that symptoms appear in some species, it can
be almost be too late to do anything.
MBD is not reported to occur in the wild, so
its presence in vivarium stock confirms that we
still have much to learn from nature. Leopard
geckos have taken millions of years to perfect
their complex relationship with the sun. We
simply cannot expect to have discovered
everything that we need to know about them
in a few short decades of large scale keeping.
As indicated, MBD cannot be accurately
diagnosed from clinical signs, but depends on
blood tests, with an x-ray examination revealing
the state of bone density. It is worth
remembering that many of the symptoms of
MBD are the same as for other conditions. In
fact, it is not widely realised that the symptoms
of Vitamin D3 and calcium toxicity through
over-supplementation are almost identical to
the signs of a critical undersupply, which results
in MBD. Furthermore, an infection of the jaws
can be linked with a vitamin A deficiency or it
could be an indication of MBD. There are just
too many variables for anyone to say an animal
is suffering from this illness until blood tests
have been carried out.
where it can be used for the correct functioning
of the muscles and to maintain brain function.
In the wild, this short-term shortfall is strictly
seasonal, and causes no permanent harm. The
deficiencies will be made up rapidly, once the
reptile is feeding normally again, and has
emerged from its hiding place to bask in the
In vivarium surroundings however, a
downward spiral can rapidly develop. An absent
or underpowered UV system along with a poor
diet prevents the absorption of sufficient
calcium into the bloodstream, and its
subsequent uptake by the skeletal system.
What happens is that the reptile is forced to
continue sacrificing calcium back into the
bloodstream to stay alive, but at the long term
expense of its skeletal structure. Unless the
husbandry system improves, this depletion
continues and the animal starts to display an
ever more serious range of calcium deficiency
So what should you do, suspecting that your
leopard gecko could be affected? Firstly, seek
the advice of a specialist reptile vet, and be
prepared to pay for blood tests and X-rays if
your lizard is not insured. This is important in
ascertaining the severity of the problem.
What to do
There are a number of treatment options,
depending partly on the severity of the
condition. High-powered UV basking lights,
calcium injections and suitable supplements
can all be valuable.
The key to prevention, however, is to
re-create the UV index that your reptile would
encounter in the wild, as closely as possible.
High output UV sources including the Arcadia
Reptile T5s do now make it much easier to
obtain and maintain a suitable photogradient
(or range of lighting conditions) inside a
vivarium. It is then a matter of addressing the
very significant area of diets and supplements.
Carry out your research, and choose a brand
of supplement that can accurately tell you
how to get the best out of the system. If we
can balance Vitamin D3 provision, we can
increase the gecko’s natural calcium intake and
uptake. If this can be used alongside an
effective diet that is potent and carefully
formulated, then MBD should become a thing
of the past.
Finally, It is imperative that no animal either
male or female is bred from, if you suspect or
know that it is suffering from a calcium
deficiency. Producing eggs or young will
simply worsen the situation significantly, and
the offspring themselves in turn could start life
being at risk from MBD.
John Courteney-Smith, Arcadia Reptile Product
What happens
MBD in short is the end result of a period during
which the reptile was not being able to obtain
or assimilate sufficient calcium into its body.
This could be through the winter when
brumation and even hibernation typically occur.
These natural events take place for short
periods in the wild though, and during this
period, a hormone is released back into the
blood stream that leads to the breakdown of
calcium from the bones.
This is then passes into the bloodstream,
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