We talk a lot about reptile health. Previously, we’ve written about gout and how diet contributes to it.

This time, we’re diving into a very important topic: metabolic bone disease.

What is Metabolic Bone Disease?

Metabolic bone disease, or MBD for short, is one of the most common health problems for reptiles. It is caused by low calcium and an imbalance of calcium and phosphorus levels.

MBD causes a reptile’s bones to lose density. This can have serious results including broken bones, tremors, and general weakness.

But there’s good news. Metabolic bone disease in reptiles is preventable!

MBD Prevention

Want to understand how you can prevent your reptile from developing metabolic bone disease? First, we have to understand the cause. Yes, calcium/phosphorus imbalance causes MBD. But what causes the imbalance?

As it turns out, many factors are at play. Below we’ve listed the most common reasons for low calcium.

  •  Improper ratio of calcium and phosphorus in the diet. The ideal calcium:phosphorus ratio for adult bearded dragons is 1.5:1. Juveniles and those currently laying eggs will need even more calcium.
  • Too much fat. High amounts of fat in the diet can decrease the absorption of calcium. So even if they’re consuming enough, they may not be processing it.
  • Oxalates. Oxalates bind to calcium, keeping the reptile from absorbing it. Common sources of oxalates include citrus and spinach.
  • Vitamin D deficiency. Reptiles can’t process calcium without vitamin D. While you can find vitamin D supplements, proper UVB lamps are the best way to ensure your reptile is getting enough vitamin D.
  •  Improper heating. If the temperature is too cold, reptiles can’t properly digest their food.  That includes processing calcium!

The best way to prevent your reptile from developing metabolic bone disease is to feed them a healthy diet, use calcium supplements, and make sure you have good husbandry.

But what do you do if your reptile is already showing signs of metabolic bone disease? Let’s explore treatment next.

Treating Metabolic Bone Disease Symptoms

If you haven’t yet, get your reptile to the vet. An exotics vet who has experience with reptiles will be able to assess the severity of your reptile’s MBD symptoms. They will also create a plan to keep him or her as healthy as possible.

Common treatments for MBD are similar to preventions. Calcium supplements, proper diet, and vitamin D are all vital for treating metabolic bone disease.

Your vet may prescribe specific supplements, including calcium injections. They may also need to treat symptoms like broken bones and secondary infections.

Unfortunately, severe metabolic bone disease is not reversible. That’s why it’s so important to know the symptoms of MBD. The earlier you notice something’s wrong, the better the chances of recovery.

Below are the most common symptoms of MBD in reptiles.

  • Reduced appetite
  • Swollen legs
  • Tremors
  • Soft bones
  • Lethargy
  • Weak grip – may not be able to climb
  • Bumps on the bones

Many of these symptoms can be noticed just by observing your reptile. Your vet will be able to confirm an MBD diagnosis with x-rays and/or bloodwork.

As with other reptile diseases, we recommend calling your vet if you think something may be wrong. It’s much better to have it checked out and find out nothing’s wrong than to ignore it only to discover too late that it was something serious.

Keep Your Reptile Healthy and Prevent MBD

Remember, the best way to keep your reptile in good health is through good husbandry and diet. Dubia roaches are a great start when it comes to diet! 

We raise our dubias to provide optimal nutrition to the reptiles that eat them. Just sprinkle a bit of calcium powder over them and you’re good to go!

See our selection of dubia roach sizes in our shop.