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Captive Reptiles May Have Nutritional Deficiency

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Common Nutritional Disease Can Be Recognized Early in Pet Reptiles

Your pet reptile may have a nutritional disease that is commonly referred to as metabolic bone disease.  Reptile pets in captivity typically show signs and symptoms of the nutritional deficiency early in the disease.  Owners can look for:

  • Shakiness
  • Bone knobs and bumps
  • Weight loss
  • Changed or reduced appetite
  • Jerky walking
  • Abnormal tail and torso dragging
  • Abnormal activity levels
  • Bones that appear broken
  • Bones that don't feel firm

Your veterinarian will check your pet's behavior, observe signs and symptoms and guide you with supportive nutritional decisions.

Pet owners keeping reptiles in captivity as household pets may sometimes find that their pets have a nutritional deficiency.  Metabolic bone disease is "the most common nutritional deficiency affecting captive reptiles," advises veterinarian Fredrick L. Frye in Reptile Care:  An Atlas of Diseases and Treatments.  Dr. Frye suggests that the disease is a result of dietary intake creating an excessive amount of phosphorus in the animal's body.

Metabolic bone disease (MBD) in reptiles can often be overlooked until the pet seems to have broken toes or a leg that presents as impaired.  Bone produced by the animal's body is brittle, fragile and can be spongy in texture.  When your pet lizard or iguana jumps from one hard surface to another the bone can easily fracture.  Normal movements your pet makes can be painful with the disease.  Your pet reptile may experience discomfort when walking or moving around a cage, terrarium or your home.

Young lizards with metabolic bone disease may have skulls that fail to grow larger and become longer.  They can retain the rounder shape seen at birth.

Early signs of metabolic bone disease in reptiles can be recognized when watching your pet closely.  If you see that your iguana or lizard is using its front legs to move and the back legs are dragging you'll want to contact your veterinarian for an immediate appointment.

Lizards and iguanas, for example, use all four legs to move around.  Their tails do not remain limp behind them with normal movement.  There is a natural lift to many reptile tails that supports their forward motion.  An iguana may be able to lift the front of its body, yet the torso and tail will be dragged due to the disease.

Watching your pet you'll be able to see if it looks jerky while it walks.  Its limbs or muscles may show twitches and tremors.  You may experience your pet's shakiness when holding it.

When handling your pet, you may also find that it has knobs or bumpy places along the bone ends and between the bones of its back or tail.  Your vet will always check for knobs and bumps during an office exam.  Eating may become decreased and weight loss may occur if your pet's jaw is affected by the disease.

Advanced cases of metabolic bone disease may also include anorexia and fractured bones.  Dr. Frye advises that "severely deficient reptiles tend to be lethargic and may only be able to drag themselves along the ground. A reptile lacking the ability to lift it's body from the ground when sitting or walking often suffers from a moderate to severe case of MBD."

When a diagnosis is made for metabolic bone disease, your veterinarian will guide you with treatment recommendations and nutritional guidelines for your pet.

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    I love Balboa Pet Hospital! Balboa Pet Hospital's staff is amazing! The staff is knowledgeable, caring and above all honest! I feel confident that my pets are getting the best possible care there. The staff has always taken time to answer all of my questions and if I think of something after my appointment, I can just email! I know I won’t have to wait too long for response.

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    LOVE everything about this place!!! The people are all super nice & caring. I never feel like they’re trying to sell me stuff I don’t need. The vets (especially Dr. Alice Chan) are wonderful, I always fee; comfortable coming here whenever Walle has an issue. They even help me file the insurance claims after each visit! Would highly recommended any pet owners to see them for their fur-baby needs.

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    My dog has been a regular patient since 7 years ago. Once in a while we visit other hospitals due to time conflicts. However, we always go back to Balboa Pet Hospital. My dog has bad allergy and the doctors and assistants always follow up with us after the treatments or visits, help us submit the insurance claims. It’s not a cheapest place to go but their patience and caring are irreplaceable.

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    I’m glad to have found Balboa Pet Hospital near my home. It’s definitely a hidden gem! Dr. Chan saw my dog, Oreo, for her skin problem last week, and my three cats, Pepper, Tofu and Cola, today for annual check-up. She’s very patient (especially with Oreo who’s shy to strangers), knowledgeable and approachable. The front staffs are also very friendly and helpful. They are so prompt to reply my email (within a few hours when I checked back my mailbox). All my pets are about 1-year-old and I’ll definitely bring them here for their health issues/checkup in many years followed.

  •           5/4/2017

    Brought my dog here for a checkup and some minor concerns. Dr. Chan was very professional. She got my dog the treatment he needed and answered all my questions regarding my concerns. The rest of the staff were very friendly and gentle with my dog. You could tell that the staff are genuine animal lovers; definitely something you want when you entrust the health of your pet to someone.

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    Been bringing our animals to Balboa for over 25 years and will continue because they provide great advice and care. We love Dr. D and staff are really helpful and friendly. Now if I can find medical care for myself like my animals get at Balboa...

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    The staff is very kind and gentle, the doctors are very caring and patient when dealing with my scared cat Lulu. I appreciate the time they took to put her at ease and making this procedure as painless as possible for the both of us. Will definitely be spreading the word. Thank you Balboa Pet Hospital.
     

    Linda P.

    San Francisco, CA

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