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Metabolic Bone Disease

Housing of Green IguanaMetabolic bone disease (also called fibrous osteodystrophy) is caused by a poor diet and/or a lack of exposure to ultraviolet light. This disease causes bone weakness and malformation. If you are making sure your reptile has a healthy diet and gets plenty of exposure to ultraviolet light, he will not develop metabolic bone disease. However, it is a good idea to be aware of the symptoms, just in case.

Reptiles that have metabolic bone disease may look quite normal. However, if the disease is present, most animals will develop fat thighs. While a small amount of fat might not be enough to warrant the attention of most, a good hobbyist will be diligent in observing changes in his or her reptile. If your reptile’s thighs are looking fat, gently squeeze one between two fingers. If he is suffering from metabolic bone disease, the thigh will feel hard, not soft like muscle tissue.

Another symptom of metabolic bone disease is the swelling and deformity of a reptile’s jaws. Extremely flexible upper and lower jaws is one of the most common symptoms of metabolic bone disease. Another common symptom is a reptile’s inability to lift his body and tail tip above the surface when attempting to move.

If your reptile is exhibiting any of these symptoms, he should be taken to the veterinarian right away. Metabolic bone disease is highly treatable if it is diagnosed early and treated immediately. Most reptiles are able to fully recover and live healthy lives, so long as you review the steps of your care and make sure your reptile gets adequate nutrition and plenty of ultraviolet light exposure. Female reptiles that suffer from the disease at some point in their life may have trouble breeding later on.


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