Hypothiaminosis - Hypothiaminosis, also known as vitamin B1 deficiency, causes tremors and twitching. The best way to replace the lost B1 is by buying a vitamin B1 supplement, which is available in most health food stores, drug stores, and vitamin stores. You can buy a vitamin B1 supplement in tablet form, crush it up and add a small pinch to your beardie's salad. Then just store the left-over powder. You can also buy it in a powder-filled capsule, and simply dump out some capsules into a small container.
Dystocia - Dystocia, also known as 'egg binding', this is a very serious (and potentially fatal) situation. Female Bearded Dragons will lay eggs whether they have mated or not. Unmated females will lay infertile eggs, and mated females will usually lay fertile ones. It can occur in cases of both fertile or infertile eggs. It is thought to be caused by a biological deformity which may not allow enough room for the eggs to pass through. Another potential cause is very large or malformed eggs. To decrease the chances of egg binding, a proper lay box must be provided, temperatures must be accurately measured and the female will need additional protein and calcium supplementation during this time. Malnutrition and dehydration are also contributing factors to egg binding. If you suspect egg binding in your female dragon, a diagnosis and treatment should be performed by your vet immediately. Treatment can vary from warm soaks with simple massage, to removal of the eggs or organs through surgical means. DO NOT TAKE A CHANCE with egg binging as, if left untreated, it will kill your dragon!
Constipation - If your beardie does not defecate (poop) for several days (whether continuing to eat daily or not), it could be a sign of a bigger problem. The longer your beardie goes without defecating, the more serious the situation. If waste is allowed to back up in the system, organ failure and even death can result. If you notice that your beardie seems constipated, the first thing to check is the temps in the enclosure. Proper temps are essential for digestion in Bearded Dragons. If the temps are correct (or if raising the temps doesn't do the trick) a warm soak and massage may be required. A constipated dragon should be bathed in warm (about 95-99 degrees F) water for 20 minutes. While they are soaking, gently massage them in a downward motion from their belly to their vent. Be careful not to push too hard! Since water cools quickly, be sure to add warm water as necessary to maintain the proper temperature. If the constipation is due to improper temps, small pieces of ingested substrate, or a mild case of parasites the beardie should defecate within 24 hours. If the blockage is due to heavy parasite infestation or impaction, you must take your beardie to a vet for treatment. Severe MDB and paralysis may also lead to constipation. Again, a vet visit will be required to determine the cause and treatment. Untreated constipation or impaction is often fatal.
Diarrhea - A common cause of diarrhea in beardies is parasites, including worms and protozoans. The urates (the white portion) may also be tinged a reddish or rusty color. The first tip off that parasites may be present (in addition to diarrhea) is that the smell of the feces will be quite overpowering. Stress, dietary changes, or eating a food that does not agree with their digestive system may also cause temporary diarrhea.
If parasites are suspected, a fecal test is required to determine what organism is causing the problem. Do not treat parasites with products found in pet stores, as they often cause more problems than they are worth. Once you have spoken with your vet and treated your beardie for parasites, always do a second fecal test to make sure the parasites have been cleared. In severe cases, additional treatment may be necessary.
MBD - MBD or Metabolic Bone Disease is caused by an imbalance in vitamin D3, calcium, and phosphorus. Several foods which have a high calcium content (such as spinach, carrots, collards, chards and other thick leafy greens) also contain oxalates, which bind to calcium. Oxalates attack calcium and make it useless in your dragon's body. Vitamin D3, calcium, and phosphorus interact together to perform a number of functions including bone growth and maintenance, muscle contractions and blood coagulation. Too much phosphorus can throw this balance off, as can too much or too little vitamin D3 or inadequate UVB light.
Symptoms of MBD include hard knobs in the long bones of the legs, bumps along the vertebral column of the back and tail, and softening or hard swelling of the lower jaw. Regular physical exams are a must since these signs may be felt before they can usually be seen. Visible signs of moderate to severe MBD include jerking or twitching movements when walking, tremors and shaking, as well as spasms in the limbs and muscles of the legs and toes when at rest or after exercise, and shakiness when being held. Advanced cases of MBD will include all the above signs plus constipation, anorexia, and bone fractures. Severely deficient beardies tend to be lethargic and may only be able to drag themselves along the ground.
There are treatment options available for MBD. Moderate to severe cases will require the proper diet, temperatures, and UVB as well as a more powerful calcium supplement than those found in pet stores. Oral administration of calcium glubionate (NeoCalglucon®, 1cc/kg) or injections of calcium lactate (Calphosan, 250 mg/kg) or calcium gluconate (100 mg/kg) are generally prescribed by veterinarians. Studies have shown a faster recovery with calcitonin (Calcimar, Miacalcin, 50 IU/kg in the front leg, repeated once a week for two weeks) when administered to beardies who have a normal serum calcium level. Your vet will need to perform a blood test to determine your beardie's serum calcium level. In mild cases, treatment consists of correcting the diet and environment.
UVB light is necessary in treating and preventing MBD. Vets have prescribed the use of self-balasted mercury vapor UVB/heat bulbs as part of the treatment for MBD. These bulbs have both a UVB element as well as a heat element. Proper diet is also essential to recovery. Feed calcium-rich, nutrient dense foods like squashes, green beans, mustard greens, dandelions, escarole, and papaya. Supplement the food with additional calcium and a multivitamin formulated for reptiles.Mouth Rot - This is a systemic infection that often shows up as a white or yellow-gray substance in the soft tissues of the mouth. In advanced cases, the head may be quite swollen, and the teeth may be loose. A vet examination is necessary for a proper diagnosis. Antibiotics will often be prescribed, along with treating the mouth with diluted solutions of Betadine and Nolvasan. The plaques that form along the teeth and gums must be dislodged by a vet. Do not allow your beardie to ingest the dislodged plaque. During the course of the antibiotic therapy, check your beardie's mouth daily for any regrowth of plaque. Severe cases may require additional or reapted treatment.
Beardies suffering from mouth rot often cease or greatly reduce their intake of food and water. Supportive therapy should include replacement of fluids and administration of vitamin B-complex and vitamin C . Vitamin A may also be supplemented(in very small doses due to potential toxicity).
When under treatment of antibiotics beardies should be kept near the upper end of their required temperature to ensure maximum benefit from the antibiotics and to keep their immune system functioning optimally. Hydration should be acheived either by droplets licked off the Beardie's nose, misting or bathing.
Respiratory Infections - Generally, beardies are very hardy and resistant to respiratory infections. However, low temperatures, improper humidity, and poor cage conditions and hygiene could result in respiratory problems. The usual treatment involves the use of antibiotics as well as raising the temperature of their environment. Symptoms of a respiratory infection include excessive or prolonged gaping, forced exhalation of air, puffing of the throat and/or body, and lack of appetite. Mucus may also accumulate in the mouth, eyes or the nostrils. The presence of the above symptoms usually means that immediate attention is necessary from a qualified reptile vet. Respiratory infections, if left untreated, can be deadly.
Shedding - Shedding is a process that beardies will repeat throughout their entire lives. Baby and juvenile beardies will shed many times as they grow. Some owners refer to this as a 'continuous shed', as it seems to never really stop. Beardies often shed in parts rather than shedding their entire body at once. Indications of a coming shed include loss of appetite combined with a change in color. Their color will get duller and sometimes turn a powdery white color.
Daily soaks or misting your beardie with warm water helps to loosen a shed. It is not necessary to purchase any special shedding aids commonly sold at pet stores as plain, warm water works just as well. Your beardie may be seen scraping it's head or body against the sides of the enclosure or their cage furnishings. This is a normal part of the shedding process and should not be discouraged.
Although it is tempting to try to help by pulling off the shedding skin, this should never be done as it can damage the newly developing scales underneath. In some cases, (such as around the toes and tip of the tail) they may need help to remove the shed completely. You can help this process along by using your finger or a soft bristled tooth brush to gently attempt to loosen the stubborn skin while in a warm bath. Examine your beardie's body daily while they are in a shed, as the skin can constrict the toes or nails, causing injury. Your beardie may also have difficulty getting the shed skin inside their nostrils to come loose. You can gently try to dislodge it with your finger, which is generally much appreciated as it is presumably quite uncomfortable, and can interfere with proper breathing.
Shedding is uncomfortable to beardies. Think back to having a sunburn and the itching and peeling that our skin suffers. It is much like this for a beardie in a shed. They may get grouchy, and their appetite may decrease (or they may refuse food altogether). Other than the above mentioned steps, the best way to help your bearie is to try not to disturb them too much during this time.
Thermal Burns - Thermal burns are often caused by heat rocks or under tank heat sources. Blisters will most likely develop, which can break open and cause a bacterial infection, which could be deadly. A visit to the vet is necessary to treat thermal burns, and extreme cage hygiene is a must, as exposed areas of burned skin can easily be infected by feces or other matter left in the enclosure.
Adenovirus & Yellow Fungus - These are two conditions which we know little about. Adenovirus seems to affect hatchlings more than adults, and is deadly. To prevent infection, you must follow strict quarantine procedures for all new animals who come into your home. Adenovirus has the potential of devastating entire collections. Yellow fungus is a disease which may or may not be related to Adenovirus. Like Adenovirus, Yellow Fungus seems to affect young dragons, is quite contagious and can be deadly. Again, little is known about this condition. If you see unusual spotting on your beardie's skin that does not disappear with sheds, or any sort of open wounds or sores you will need to bring your dragon to a vet right away for a skin culture. The culture for yellow fungus takes longer than traditional skin cultures and the usual antibiotics are not effective. Anti-fungal medications seem to work best.
Signs of Pain or Discomfort - Since our beardies cannot speak to us directly, changes in their appetite, defecation and behavior are the only clues to a potential problem. If your beardie is dislaying any of the signs below, it may be a good idea to make an appointment with your vet to determine the cause. While some of these changes may be normal under certain circumstances (such as during a shed or in a breeding season), they are usually a sign of distress and should be taken seriously.
Natural changes associated with Breeding Season:
· Color, activity level and daily routines
· Feces and urates
· Behavioral changes
Natural changes associated with Shedding:
· Color, activity level and daily routines
If it is not breeding season or the beginning of a new shed period, the following signs may indicate an injury, an abscess, a tumor, an abdominal mass, infection, internal organ damage or failure or other problem:
· Lack of usual activity
· Reluctance to move
· Favoring a limb, tail or quadrant
· Limping, lameness
· Slowed reflexes (in the absence of being too cold)
· Unusual aggression to all contact
· Withdrawal or avoidance behavior, especially in an otherwise sociable animal
· Hunching (abdomen tucked up)
· Won't lay down, even in favored places
· Stands holding foot or limb elevated