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Metabolic Bone Disease in Reptiles

By: Dr. Jenni Bass

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In most cases, MBD will not be completely reversible, so close attention to your reptile's husbandry requirements from the beginning is always best. Most importantly:

  • Check maximum and minimum temperatures throughout the cage with a thermometer over 24 hours
  • Change your ultraviolet light regularly (usually every six months, particularly in the case of young, growing pets)
  • Be sure that the UV light does not shine through glass or plastic (these effectively block UV rays)
  • Constantly evaluate the composition of your pet's diet (what he actually eats)
  • Educate yourself as to the normal appearance and behavior of your species of reptile and seek veterinary attention as soon as you suspect a problem.

    Except in the case of carnivores, most reptiles in captivity will require a dietary supplement if they are to meet their calcium needs. Don't assume that because it is available for sale, it will work well for your pet. Determine what product is best suited to your pet through research and consultation with your reptile veterinarian

    While the addition of calcium to the diet is crucial, over-supplementation is equally dangerous. Read the labels on the supplement containers. Compare the ingredients with particular attention to the presence of vitamin D and phosphorus, as well as calcium. The type of calcium is important, and should contain not phosphorus (calcium phosphate), but calcium carbonate or calcium bound to a sugar (calcium gluconate, calcium glubionate).
    Annual visits to your reptile veterinarian, including a review of husbandry practices, a physical examination and laboratory tests when appropriate are an important part of an effective preventive health program.

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