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Reptiles/Bearded Dragon Swollen Joint


QUESTION: Reptile Zone said you were the best. :) Last year my Bearded Dragon (Rango) got sick and took him to the vet. Found out he wasnít getting enough calcium. Took Rango back 2 months later and the Vet said his bones are looking great but to keep up with calcium, A & E cat/dog food and baby food. I moved to Florida in January and brought him with me. About 2 months ago I noticed his front right leg was very swollen. I thought it was broken. I Found a vet in Florida that does reptiles. They took an Xray. Nothing was broken and was impressed by his bones. The doctor said it was Gout. He told us to stop giving him the calcium. Rangoís arm is now double the size from before but now localized to his elbow joint instead of his whole arm. Because of the swelling his elbow now has a scab on it from breaking open (Puss did come out of it). I took him back to the vet. They want to give him antibiotic shots every 5 days for 5 shots. He said that if the shots donít help they will amputate the arm because he things it might be a tumor. They gave him 1 shot (he got very active but didn't do much for the arm) Went to get the 2nd shot and they didn't have any of the antibiotic. They gave me Clindamycin Hydrochoride liquid to give him every day. I've notice that its slowly clearing up his sore on his elbow (its still huge, but the sore is getting smaller) But his elbow down to hand is still very swollen. I don't want them to amputate his arm. He is such a sweet lizard. I just wish there was more I could do for him. I would like some help.... does this seem reasonable? is this normal? What else can I try? Is there anything else I can do??? Any ideas? Will the sore get smaller then will his arm swelling start going down? or is there more going on?

ANSWER: Hello Beth,

How old is Rango?
Who is the vet in Florida that you are going to or found?
Was a blood test done initially to determine uric acid levels or white blood count for an infection also?  
The x-rays that were done, did they see any tophi (uric acid crystallization) around the joint area?  
IF he does have gout, antibiotics are not the proper treatment that he needs as it will just make it worse by damaging the kidneys further.  The clindamycin is used for abscesses, maybe that is what they thought he had?  Is there any chance that he could have been bitten by a cricket or spider to have induced the swelling?
It could be gout caused by oversupplementation or from improper absorption of calcium, or genetic issues.  We need to figure it out quickly though to get him on the right course.
Are there any other areas on him that are showing any type of swelling too or no?
Which calcium is or was being used, a powder or liquid?
Are you using a UVB light for him also?  If so, what type & brand are you using?
Definitely do not amputate yet, more information is needed.  I think they are jumping the gun on this for your poor Rango.  
How long have you been giving him the A&E cat food?  
A blood test really needs to be done for further analysis.  If he weighs at least 100 grams, then they can draw enough blood to test.

Where in Florida are you?


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: We got rango from the pet store in April/May so roughly a year and half ish.

We are going to the Banafield in Oviedo, as they have been the only ones who will see/deal with bearded Dragons.

No blood test was done.

They didn't mention the tophi (uric Acid Crystallization), but they did mention the elbow joint is displaced from the swelling. I personally think his wrist joint might be broken (although could be displaced from swelling...its not normal from the xray)(I'm not an xray tech though)

They said Gout, then swelling got the point of double in size and the big sore on size elbow where puss came out. (my guess, the swelling got so bad the skin broke open, but the sore kept growing. The oral antibiotic has helped it, its about half the size now, but still pretty huge.) When they decided to do the antibiotics by injection, they figured if that didn't work he didn't get better, it had to be a tumor. But he only got the oral because they didn't have the inject-able antibiotic and their wasn't any other Orlando Vets that would do it.

He DID NOT get bitten by crickets because he hasn't had any since he was a baby. He was on the A & E Cat/Dog Food Since roughly last Aug. (when we found out I wasn't given him enough calcium) til roughly 2 months ago. (mixed with calcium and baby food) Now we are just feeding him the baby food. I promised Rango if he got better I would buy him

Calcium is the powder. Fluker's Calcium: Phosporus 2:1

The swelling is mostly in his Elbow, not as bad but goes to his claws. The swelling comes and goes to the rest of that leg. Some days I go in his shoulder to the elbow is swollen and some days its not. Some days the whole arms looks really really bad. My heart aches for him. Besides that one leg, nothing else swells.

A month ago when I was at The vet he told us what lights to get, but the more I'm reading I still don't have the right lights. I don't know if he just don't know about bearded dragons or what. But I feel so mislead-ed.

I've been fighting with Rango's lights ever since we got him to get the right combo for him. The Red heat light I'm lucky if it lasts 2 weeks. It always explodes. I've tried different brands, wattage's, fixtures...etc. I bought a ceramic one which was great, but that is what we had when this problem developed, so not sure if that was one of problems. The heat one stays on all the time. The day time basking light I read the box of the one we just bought and its UVA. I've bought All living things, Zoo Med,  and there is another brand not coming to mind.

I'm in Orlando, Florida. Are we allowed to share personal info on here?


Hello Beth,

The Banfield should be fine, they do deal with reptiles.  
Yes, you can share personal information if you are comfortable.  You can email me if you would like.
My email is

The UVB you will need to get is either the Reptisun 10 tube or the Arcadia D3 12%.  They have better UVB.  The All living things is an aquarium light which emits virtually no UVB.  The red bulb you can turn off & use a bright white basking bulb instead such as a halogen or regular house hold light.  You can use a ceramic heat emitter during the night if heat is needed but red lights or colored lights stress them out & are hard on their eyes.
Since he has not had proper UVB exposure, he most likely is having trouble absorbing his calcium & other vitamins which can cause pseudo gout but not visceral gout so much.
It sounds localized so it could be an abscess but my question is what initially caused the swelling if there was no injury or cricket bite?  If he has metabolic bone disease, then the joint could have been damaged or fractured which would explain the swelling.
He is just on baby food now?  How long was he on the canned food?  Could you check the label for me for vitamin A, D & E?  
He really needs a blood test as that is the only true way to determine gout & assess the uric acid levels, among other levels, too for assessment.  The x-rays are good, but if they did not detect any tophi, then it is possible something is being missed.
I doubt it is a tumor there, but they can check for that again.  
Do you have any pictures?
We really need to confirm gout for sure, because if it is treatment needs to start soon.

Let me know how he is doing.


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Tracie Kretzschmar


I can answer questions pertaining to health, UVB specifics, overall husbandry care & supplementation, analysis of blood test results, and behavioral problems & handling. I can answer questions pertaining to bearded dragons, leopard geckos, iguanas, uromastyx & ball pythons. I can answer adeno virus related questions in bearded dragons, & then specifically about the testing methods as well. I am beginning an Pogona Adeno Testing Society in 2008 which will help to begin to start some standardization within the bearded dragon colonies of the breeders who choose to test.


I have been working with bearded dragons for over 5 years now, as well as leopard geckos, too. I am currently doing rescues, as well. I hope to be able to educate people prior to them purchasing an exotic pet in order to avoid any health crisis with them.

I have a master's degree in sports medicine & physiology, & 1 year of vet tech schooling, & am currently working on a reptile certification through the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council.

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