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Reptiles/Bearded dragon starved



Hi Tracie, I had a five year old female bearded dragon named lizzy surrendered to me two months ago. When I picked her up she had a piece of worm sticking out her vent and she had no muscle mass or fat on her body at all. She had improper lighting, food, never given calcium or vitamins or water and never been bathed in the five years the couple owned her. She could not walk. she weighed less than a pound. She went to the vet immediately in my care and I was told she was malnourished so I started her on calcium carbonate, vita plus and repti boost. Her tank set up is correct and we started her off on baby food and slew. She has No front teeth and not much at the back. She has been back to the vet since and had blood tests and fecal sample done and X-ray. She has some mbd and tested negative for parasites. When I have tried to introduce veggies cut really fine (shredded) small, she eats greedily but will then open and close her mouth as if she is having trouble digesting. She has spit out food and a lot of mucous in almost perfectly round ball and I have pulled food and thick mucous out of her mouth that just seems to sit at the back of her throat. She will open and close her mouth a lot when it appears she is "holding" the food in her throat. You can shine a flashlight in her mouth and see the food just sitting there. She is defacating normally and is even putting on weight and walking all over, although not always to full height. She has started to shed some of the old skin which was black and very dirty and healthy coloured skin is appeared. The vet is not sure but feels this is due to malnutrition and it could take months to get her digestive system back to normal. What are your thoughts.? I am unsure if I should continue with the slew and babyfood trying maybe once a week to offer greens and pin crickets or very small wax worms? I have cut the wax worms to make them mushy. I am concerned it could be something I am not aware of or our vet is not aware of. Any help you can provide would be appreciated. Ps we started her on sulfamethox as my vet spoke to another vet who suggested she have a course as her immune system is so low and that is when parasites can over run. Thanks Val

Hello Val,

What a terrible shame that she wasn't taken care of at all before you got her.  I hate hearing that, it breaks my heart.  I am so glad you found her & have given her a chance.  
Which UVB are you using for Lizzy, currently, what type & brand?  How close is the UVB to her & is there any screen or plastic in between her & the light?
Did the vet give a calcium booster to help get her levels up initially?  I would recommend getting her on liquid calcium since it absorbs much easier into the system than the carbonate does.  
She lost her teeth due to malnutrition which is horrible.  Do you have a copy of the blood tests by chance?  She doesn't have any kidney or liver issues right now?
When they are so emaciated & weak, they are not able to swallow very well because the muscles have atrophied.  It is going to take some time to get her strength back up so that she can chew/swallow without difficulty.  
You could help out her GI tract with giving some daily probiotics such as non dairy acidophiliz, or non dairy soy yogurt flavored or plain, to help out for awhile.  
If she is trying to eat the greens & insects, by all means try to help her with that first.  Then supplement more food with the slurries, etc for her to be sure she is getting enough.  
The small crickets should be fine with the waxworms a few times a week, absolutely.  
The Sulfamethox should be fine, just be sure to keep her hydrated.  I worry about starting her on too many harsh meds because of the kidneys.  She has been chronically dehydrated & malnourished for a long time & that alone taxes the kidneys.  
Watch for signs of decreased urate excretion, urates becoming too hard as well as darkening of the beard or tail tip which are signs of distress.  
If she is walking & standing now, you are doing remarkable work for her!  I am quite sure that she is very appreciative of your efforts, too.  Bless her.

Keep me posted on Lizzy & her progress.



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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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