Metabolic Bone Disease
(and how to treat it!)
Metabolic Bone Disease is a very common disease for reptiles but luckily it is (in most cases) completely reversible. More importantly, this disease is completely preventable. The best way to begin prevention is to understand the disease; what causes it and what it looks like.
What Causes MBD?
Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD) begins when the ratio of calcium-to-phosphorus in the animal's bones is thrown off. This can be caused by any number of reasons, but more times than not it boils down to two things: lack of mineral supplements and/or lack of UVB exposure. Since your pet reptile lives in a sterile environment created by you, it only has access to what you give it. This is why we always recommend using high quality calcium supplements to make up for the lack of diversity in your captive reptile's diet. When it comes to lighting, putting your reptile enclosure "in a bright window" will do nothing for it, as window glass filters out the UV spectrum. UVB lighting is essential to the growth of healthy bones and the overall happiness of your pet. Regular reptile heating bulbs do not provide UVB, so you will need both a heat light and a UVB light.
What Does it Look Like?
Symptoms of MBD are almost always displayed as lethargy; limping; lumps or growths along the limbs, spine and jaws; bowed limbs; softening or jutting-out of the jaw; difficulty carrying or lifting itself; and a decrease in appetite. If caught early, all of these symptoms are reversible and your reptile can live a full, normal life. If it is not corrected in time, however, these symptoms will significantly impact your reptile's quality of life to the point where it may be more humane to euthanize (inability to eat due to a malformed or painful jaw would lead to a slow death from starvation, etc.). Correction of the imbalance of calcium:phosphorus can be done though a diet "dusted" with a mineral powder regularly and the addition of a UVB bulb that will help the reptile metabolize these minerals to be used by the body.