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.