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Reptiles/Bearded dragon health issues


QUESTION: I bought a bearded dragon from a pet store 3-4 weeks ago he's around 5 month old. He appears to have swollen joints, seems bloated at times, barely eats at the minute but bowl movements are daily and are fine.

I have taken him to the vets. He has been x rayed, the X-ray shows no substrate blockages, no obvious MBD no obvious signs of fractures or injury

He has a UVB 10 and UVB 2 bulb... A basking lamp and heat lamp for the night time. His temps are around 40.0C for high point 26.0c for the cold spot. He has water and veg available, when he eats he has a choice of hoppers, crickets, meal worms and wax worms. Everything fed to him is coated in calcium.

Do you have ideas as to what could be the issue with him?
And how do I encourage or force him to eat to get nutrients and calcium into him?

ANSWER: Hello Daniel,

Do you have any pictures of him I could see?  
Are you in the UK or the US?
The x-rays didn't reveal any metabolic bone disease?  It could possibly be gout since you mentioned swollen joints.  What about his fingers & toes, are they swollen any?
Which UVB are you using, a Reptisun 10, or an Arcadia 12% & are they a tube bulb or a compact/coil light?  
Are you putting calcium on everything, for every single feeding?  If so, that could be a bit too much calcium.  They need calcium once daily, estimated, 5 or so days a week when they are under a year.  As long as he eats a pretty good amount at one meal or sitting with calcium, then you wont or shouldn't need to give more for the day.  
If he is not eating very much right now, then you can get him started on some baby food such as chicken or turkey, mixed with a squash variety or sweet potato baby food.  
The temperatures sound fine, are you using a digital probe or a temp gun to measure the temperatures?  
Let me know how he is doing & send pictures of him & his tank setup, too.


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

QUESTION: I'm in the UK
The X-rays didn't reveil anything obvious the vet said there wasn't any obvious signs of MBD. Some of the toes look to be a little swollen.
I know the bulbs are tube, and are exo terra replti glo. They were supplied by the pet store
I only calcium the food once a day. But at present he just won't eat, best you can get him to eat is one or two meal worms.
The temperatures are from digital probes that stay inside the viv. The hot spot reads his basking area, the cold spot is the far corner away from the basking spot

ANSWER: Hello Daniel,

Poor Spyro, so his beard is black all of the time, or just sometimes?
I do see some swelling, yes.  It looks like it will most likely be gout, or it gout be pseudo gout which is caused by poor absorption of vitamins/minerals.  
He may not be absorbing his calcium very well due to the low UVB output on the tube bulb you are using.  I am not saying that is what it is, but a good possibility.  When they are unable to absorb calcium properly their calcium to phosphorus ratios become imbalanced & can cause swellings, soft tissue swellings/cysts, etc.
The other possibility is regular gout in which he is just having trouble with his kidneys, due to genetics or chronic dehydration, or too much protein.  It doesn't sound like you give him too much calcium though right now.
Since you haven't had him for very long, he likely wasn't kept very well previously which can predispose him to possible health issues.  Chronic dehydration is a very common problem when kept in petstores, too.

Let me know how he is doing.


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

QUESTION: The bulbs are brand new so output shouldn't be too degraded yet, plus we do let him bask in the sun when it's out.
We have given him baths every couple of days for the past few weeks to help with the shedding and he gets misted from a spray bottle has plenty of water available
I did see a specialist who thought that it could be septic arthritis. Placed him on antibiotic injections whilst they do tests and get his history and things from the other vets

His beard is black pretty often he also for the past 3 or 4 days sits and continuously puffs it out. I did read that they do it to shed and break the skin soi don't know if it's that or something more serious.

Between the vets Wednesday and again Friday he has deteriated he doesn't look comfortable, he's puffing his beard up more, he isn't as alert and awake as he used to be. Instead of basking in the heat he seems to want to hide more under things or in the cool end

Hello Daniel,

I am sorry he is not improving!
Which antibiotic did they give?  Usually the best one to give is the Azithromycin as that has shown a lot of promise towards that type of ailment.  Are they sure it isn't gout?  If it is antibiotics will make it worse, quickly.  Do you have a copy of the blood test I could see?
Are you able to get any fluids into him?
Let me know the results of the other tests when they come in.
I hope he starts getting better.  Keep me posted on him.
You can send his blood tests to my home email at:



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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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