What is Metabolic Bone Disease in Reptiles

Posted by Spencer Doepel on

What is MBD (Metabolic Bone Disease) in Reptiles?

Improper calcium and phosphorous metabolism lead to MBD (Metabolic bone disease) in Reptiles. It has the main effect on the bones of the reptile body, and if left untreated, it may be degenerating and fatal.

Metabolic bone disease MBD in reptiles can also be described as:

  • Rickets (softening of bones in young animals, especially long bones)
  • Osteoporosis (thinning of the bones that cause fractures and brittleness in bones)
  • Fibrous Osteodystrophy (softening of the bones and more amount of connective tissue, which most commonly affects the Reptile's jaws)
  • Osteomalacia (misshapen bones due to softening of the bones.)
  • Secondary Nutritional Hyperparathyroidism (low levels of calcium in the bloodstream increases the production of parathyroid hormone (negative feedback mechanism), which removes calcium from the bone)

What are the causes of MBD (Metabolic Bone Disease) in Reptiles?

Multiple causes lead to this condition. If we talk about particularly Reptiles, then some of the reasons are pathological(associated with pathogens that cause diseases), some are physiological(irregular metabolic processes), and some are environmental(sunlight or UV light, etc.) Keep on reading to know more about these causes which lead to MBD.

Some of the possible causes are:

  • The main reason is calcium and phosphorus imbalance, i.e., Too little calcium or too much phosphorus in the Reptile's diet.
  • Vitamin D deficiency
  • The presence of different substances in the diet affects or impairs the absorption of calcium or phosphorus.
  • Lack of exposure to UVA and UVB light, which is compulsory for the reptiles to develop their vitamin D
  • Improper functioning of Thyroid or Parathyroid gland
  • Insufficient protein quantity in the diet
  • Low calcium level in the breeding season after laying eggs(only in females).
  • Kidney or liver disease(Severe acute or chronic)
  • Small intestinal diseases
  • Living in cold temperatures, which disturbs normal digestion and decrease calcium absorption
  • Vegetables fed to herbivores can also be restricted compared to reptiles' natural foods because they do not contain enough calcium.
  • Most species eat seasonal and varied foods in the wild, which provide multiple supplements and adequate diet nutrients that cannot be achieved in captivity.

Here, we provide you the best solution for this, and that is the use of Black soldier flies Larvae, which are reared on high calcium feeder with a balanced Ca:P ratio, which your Reptile need. Using these Black soldier flies Larvae, you do not need to worry about the low dietary calcium in any condition in your reptiles. It will work best when your adorable Reptile lays eggs and are calcium deficient or when dietary calcium is inadequate due to any nutritional imbalance.

Calcium and phosphorus imbalance (Mechanism):

As we discussed, MBD is produced as a result of an improper balance of calcium and phosphorus. Calcium is a biochemical messenger used in many metabolic pathways and nerve transmissions, which means that a lack of any level of calcium can cause a severe problem. In addition to MBD, that can lead to muscle weakness (mostly) and other cardiovascular diseases, which can weaken the heart and reduce the ability to form blood clots. If the calcium level is too low, cardiac failure may occur, and your beloved Reptile may die due to your negligence, so start giving Black soldier flies larvae by ecoflys. When phosphorus level is much higher than that of calcium, it supports calcium phosphate formation in the intestine, which is less absorbed because it is an invisible salt. Thus, calcium deficiency may be the result of high phosphorus accumulation rather than low calcium.

In reptiles, the normal range for calcium to phosphorus ratios is 2: 1. It is ideal for any reptile species. If the ratio falls too low, phosphate ions can be absorbed, leading to hyperphosphatemia, which stimulates the parathyroid gland to secrete parathyroid hormone (PTH). This increased PTH level signals the brain to obtain calcium from any source to maintain their Ca to P ratio that is 2:1. So, the body extracts the calcium from bones and leads to MBD.

Causes of calcium/phosphorus imbalance?

  1. Inadequate calcium to phosphorus ratio can have many causes, but most are related to poor feeding. It may be as simple as not having enough calcium or too much phosphorus in the diet, but there are many more complex reasons. Other dietary causes may include too much fat, leading to decreased calcium solubility, thus reducing calcium absorption. Oxalates, for example, are bound to calcium, and this chelated or combined calcium excreted from the Reptile's body without being used. So, the only possible solution is to give Black soldier flies larvae in a diet containing low fat and an appropriate amount of Ca and phosphorus to naturally boost your Reptile's health.
  2. Another common cause of low calcium levels is vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D is essential for calcium metabolism. It enables the absorption of calcium into the duodenal membranes, from which it can be transported throughout the body. Vitamin D deficiency is not usually a dietary problem. Although reptiles can get some vitamin D from food, they do not absorb it well. However, regular exposure to UVA and UVB light is required for reptiles to produce Vit D, which ultimately triggers calcium absorption. This is why MBD is also happening due to inappropriate or insufficient lighting.
  3. Another common polishing problem that can contribute to low calcium levels is a poor or unstable heat source. Cold temperatures can slow down and impair digestion, reducing calcium absorption.
  4. In general, some medical conditions can also distort the calcium/phosphorus ratio. For example, severe liver and kidney disease impair the ability to activate vitamin D. Small intestine disease inhibits the normal digestive process and disturb calcium absorption.

Which Reptiles are at risk for MBD (Metabolic Bone Disease)?

Metabolic bone disease is more common in reptiles, which require ultraviolet light (sunlight) to produce vitamin D3. These include lizards, especially iguanas, as well as turtles. It is rare in snakes, which do not need ultraviolet light for the synthesis of vitamin D3, and which usually eat whole prey, provide a proper balance of calcium and phosphorus. But if snakes are kept in captivity, they must be given dietary calcium supplements.

Signs and symptoms of MBD (Metabolic Bone Disease) in Reptiles:

It depends on the severity of the condition and the length with which the Reptile is deprived of calcium supplements. It also depends on the age and species of the Reptile. Due to the importance of calcium in muscle function, nerve transmission, and bone formation, most of the signs and symptoms are related to bones and muscles' effects. These include:

  • Bone fractures due to osteoporosis
  • Bumps on the spine or arched spine
  • Swollen legs or bumps on long bones or increase bone size of legs
  • Muscle jerks and tremors in the muscles of the legs and toes
  • Receded lower jaw
  • Swelling and softening of the jaw (sometimes also called "Rubber Jaw")
  • Limping and lameness
  • In turtles, such as yellow-bodied sliders, carapace or plastron(shell) softening occurs
  • Lethargy
  • Constipation or obstiption(no defecation)
  • Weakness and even partial paralysis (sometimes failing to get your body off the ground because of how weakness)
  • Anorexia and Stress (not eating)

Metabolic bone disease is usually diagnosed based on symptoms, physical examination, and history of calcium feeding in the diet. Radiographs (X-rays) can be taken to confirm the diagnosis and monitoring treatment, and blood calcium levels can be tested. If you want to avoid all these symptoms mentioned above, there is only one solution to give you reptiles. Black soldier flies larvae by ecoflys.com with the best calcium composition is the best natural diet for reptiles. You can even give that to MBD affected reptiles too, and see their improvement with your own eyes.

Prevention from MBD in Reptiles:

Owners of reptiles should pay close attention to their pet's diet and environmental conditions to avoid metabolic bone disease. Calcium-rich foods or commercially prepared high calcium diet should be given. Calcium and vitamin D supplements are also essential for those reptiles that eat mainly plant material or insects. Nutritional insects/Feeder insects like Black soldier flies larvae should be raised on a nutritious diet, healthy food, and rich vitamins and minerals. Then these feeder insects should be given to reptiles. Be careful not to overdose on calcium and vitamin D supplements. This can lead to other medical problems that can be just as serious as those associated with metabolic bone disease.

Turtles and lizards that are mainly active during the day need ultraviolet-B light access. Full-spectrum UVB bulbs should be used inside the terrarium. Depending on the pet, natural sunlight can sometimes be used, as it is the best source of these wavelengths. However, keep in mind that reptiles should never be exposed to direct sunlight. Proper caring, management is more than just providing the right food.

So, we recommend using our high-quality Black soldier flies Larvae that are genetically modified and bred to ensure the proper calcium level in your reptiles. It works with all kinds of Reptiles ranging from lizard to skinks, from anole to geckos, from chameleons to dragons. For more info, visit ecoflys.com


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