Metabolic Bone Disease: What to Do

Muscle spasms, loss of appetite, lethargy—all are common symptoms of Metabolic Bone Disease, also known as MBD. The sad reality of purchasing reptiles in pet stores who don’t hire specialists is often the UVB lighting is not replaced as often as it should be. Though UVB bulbs and light strips may still emit a light frequency, the potency of the fixture decreases over time, limiting the actual amount of UVB exposure the animal is receiving.

What to Do if Your Animal Shows Symptoms

As convenient as it would be to simply bring your reptile to the vet, often buyers are placed in a state of emergency when the new companion they bring home goes into severe spasms. This is a severe state of MTB, and while the animal IS capable of making a recovery, the likelier alternative is the animal will pass.

While under UVB lighting, the animal can be submerged in an electrolyte bath—X part clear-infant Pedialyte to X part water is sufficient. If the animal shows improvement between spasms, a meat-heavy baby food, for example, pureed chicken can be placed on the tongue of the reptile.

Opening the mouth of your reptile can be tricky, especially if they are in a slightly vegetative state. The safest way is to take a small skewer with a flattened end and gently pry open the side of the mouth. From here, the baby food can be glided across the tongue with a Q-tip, dull toothpick, etc.

For less severe symptoms, such as lethargy and loss of appetite, the best bet is to take your reptile to an exotic-trained veterinarian that can identify the source of the issue. As mentioned earlier, it is best to run through the components of your enclosure to consider if MTB is a possibility, or if there could be other issues brewing. UVB strips are excellent for target large areas of a terrarium, however, as their potency fades over time, they need to be switched out. As an average, every six months is reasonable for a strip or bulb to be replaced.

When Purchasing an Animal

Everyone tends to get caught up in the excitement of getting a new animal, and often overlook how the animal is acting, the housing environment, or diet provided.

Before ever purchasing a new companion, it is crucial to be an observer to the creature in its environment. Take note of the diet currently being fed—is it nourishing, is there a lack of nutrients? Notice the skin of the reptile—are the scales in good condition? Look at the eyes—are they reflective and clear, are they dull and cloudy? Most importantly, notice the interaction of the animal with its surroundings and be sure it does not appear lethargic. A new animal should be just as curious as you are to it. If the animal requires special lighting, don’t be afraid to ask an employee the last time the UVB bulb was switched.

Always be sure to hold special lighting as a priority for new companion animals. Unlike housing decorations, a lack of this could prove detrimental to the health and the two should be considered inseparable at the register—if you buy one, you buy the other.


Olive, Chinese Crested Water Dragon

Before you purchase any animal, be sure to do your research, not only the habitat and diet but of the potential ailments as well. Above all else, don’t be afraid to question the health of the animals being purchased, as this could better prepare you for the road ahead for you and your new companion.

Stay adventurous,

Olivia Grace

A Helping Hand


Pictured Above: Fred, A Sugar Glider From a Past Clinic

“I have no fear of losing my life—if I have to save a koala or a crocodile or a kangaroo or a snake, mate, I will save it.” -Steve Irwin, Wildlife Conservationist

I grew up watching Irwin as a kid and was fascinated by his devotion to the wildlife around him. His desire to help never faltered despite the situation presented. Sure, there were moments where he was fearful, but his driven passion helped override his apprehension.

I knew animal medicine and rehabilitation was the route I wanted to take when I found my Eastern box turtle, Eartle. A little over the size of a quarter, he was dropped by a bird and suffered a hairline cracked shell. After movement made a slight improvement within a few weeks, I looked at the percentages of survival with young box turtles: mortality rate rests among 95%.  I took one look at the little guy and how hard he was struggling to eat his cucumber slice and knew he was going to be my long-term companion.

More recently, I was walking outside my complex when I noticed a female sparrow convulsing. Her leg was awkwardly bent inward, forcing the bird to drag herself when trying to move. There was no hesitation. I asked my boyfriend to go inside and grab the softest kitchen towels I had. With a scooping motion, I picked up the sparrow and brought her inside to be placed on a heating pad. She laid there, allowing me to stroke her head with her shaking decreasing. Together, my boyfriend and I pondered what to call her, but I knew eventually she would be released. To avoid getting attached, he suggested we just call her Bird. I reminded him she was indeed a lady.

Miss Bird it was.

Over the weekend she remained on low heat, as well as was transferred to a larger enclosure. Around two days after finding her, with a belly full of sunflower seeds, Miss Bird flew on home.

There was no tangible reward for helping that sweet bird, as there isn’t for helping most wildlife. What you do receive, however, is what I felt that day—a deep and joyous satisfaction knowing she was pruning in a tree somewhere, spending the night with her own kind versus lying on the harsh cement.

I guess you could say stories like Eartle and Miss Bird are what my blog is about. I’ve never been one to walk away from an animal in need, and I hope that by documenting my path at least one more person will realize the importance and beauty of the creatures around us.

There’s a lot out there to learn, and I know I am just at the beginning of my journey. What I can be confident about, though, is it only takes a little compassion to get started.