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Reptiles/Juvenile Beardie - sudden behavior change


QUESTION: I am new to Bearded Dragons but have researched them extensively before picking up our first little cutie at the Pet Store in mid-July (at age 2 weeks). Our Beardie was doing great for 6 months, up until the last 2 weeks, when he all of a sudden won't chase crickets and doesn't move very much - particularly his hind legs. He's in a 55 gallon tank with hot side of 105 and cool side of roughly 80-85. In the evenings, we leave on one ceramic bulb. He also has a Repti-Sun 10 (which is only 4 months old). We feed him collared greens and small crickets (gut-loaded with vitamins and dusted with calcium 2-3x/week).

Given he's only 6 months, could he be brumating? I didn't think juveniles typically did this. I am not sure he's impacted - he seems to defecate about every 2-3 days. Prior to this problem, he was going every day. His back legs seems to flop around and he doesn't seem to have control of them as much as he used to. We slowed down on baths because of the cold temps but just today, I gave him a 5 minute bath in warm water. The other thing is that he seems to be eating food unusually now...he puts the crickets in the side of his mouth and seems to have trouble chewing...almost like I hear clicks. It used to be he would catch a cricket, munch it down in 2 seconds and move onto the next one. Now, he only eats crickets if we hand-feed them to him and it takes him a long time to actually get it down. They are very small crickets (considerably smaller than the space between his eyes).

Does anyone have any ideas on what might be wrong? His vet has been closed for the holidays, which is of course when we started seeing this problem occur. We hope to get him in Thur or Fri this week.

I'm quite attached to Mr. Beardie and want to do whatever is possible to help him.


Thank you,

ANSWER: Hello Anne,

The loss of strength & mobility in his back legs sounds like metabolic bone disease starting.
Which Reptisun 10 light are you using, the tube bulb or the compact/coil light?
Is any plastic or screen between him & the UVB & how far is it from him?

If he is having trouble chewing that is also indicative of a calcium problem, too.  Is he getting enough to eat this way?
At his age, he will need calcium 5 times per week, since he is growing.

Do you have any pictures of him?
These symptoms don't really match brumation but some at that age have been known to brumate.   I am pretty sure it is going to be a calcium issue right now.

Let me know how he is doing.


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

Beardie - full body shot
Beardie - full body sh  

Beardie - face
Beardie - face  
QUESTION: Hi Tracie,

I posted on too so apologies if this is a duplicate.

We got the blood work back and he does not have a calcium problem. I didn't think that was it as our set-up is just about perfect.

His vets report:


Mr Beardie has a slightly high WBC count with changes in the cells that show a low-grade bacterial infection (WBC= 12,000; 36% Heterophils; 57% Lymphocytes; 6% Basophils; 1% Azurophils; Slightly degranulated Hets). The percentage of red blood cells and red blood cell morphology is normal (PCV= 30%). The calcium, phosphorus, muscle enzymes, liver enzymes, bile acids, triglycerides, glucose, BUN, and uric acid are normal. Small amounts of at least 2 different types of protozoan parasites were seen on the fecal exam.

Overall the lab results show a low-grade bacterial infection and parasite problem, but the rest of the results look very good and I do not have an explanation for the neurologic problems. If he seems much better since the exam on 1/3/13, then most likely he has a deficiency in Vitamin E/Selenium, or possibly Vitamin B deficiency. Older trauma is also a possibility, but I can't explain why he is just now showing the symptoms unless there is compression of the spinal cord from the healing process. Continue the Fortaz injections for the bacterial infection, start oral Metronidazole for the protozoan parasites (the parasites would not be causing his neurologic symptoms), and if there was significant improvement after the Vitamins injection then repeat it in 10 days.


Can the mild infection and parasites be causing the neuro problems?  Will he ever get better?  He's been eating better since treatment but still no improvement with his jaw and hind legs movement.

If he doesn't get better, how do we know if his quality of life will be good?

Its just so sad.

Hello Ann,

Could you get the rest of the blood test results to me at:
I want to see if anything was missed.  

Was there an injury & if so, how long ago would that have have happened?  Sometimes it can take a week or so for swelling to cause spinal compression.  Did they do an x-ray?
It could be a thiamin deficiency which can mimic metabolic bone disease symptoms.  
The jaw issues does not make a lot of sense though, as an infection wouldn't cause that.
Is he still having trouble chewing?
You are using the Reptisun 10 tube bulb?

I would still increase his calcium to 4-5 times per week as a juvenile.
There is a reason for this but something is being missed somewhere.  I will help as much as I can to find it.  The parasites shouldn't cause any neurological issues unless they were so high as to interrupt his metabolic processes robbing him of significant nutrition.



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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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