Having a crested gecko as a pet is fun and interesting because of their idiosyncrasies and how low maintenance they are.
But having a crested gecko also means being vigilant and keen in observing the health of your pet regularly and monitoring their body and behavior for any signs of illness or stress.
This is because, unlike cats or dogs, a crested gecko cannot properly express its distress before it is too late.
One of the most common health issues that impact crested geckos and nearly all species of pet reptiles is the metabolic bone disorder.
It is important to know what the onset of metabolic bone disease looks like. Knowing the early signs will let you treat metabolic bone disease in your crested gecko before it gets fatal.
What Is Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD)?
Metabolic bone disease is one of the most common diseases afflicting the reptile population. It is a disease caused by severe deficiency of calcium in reptiles.
What happens in metabolic bone disease is that when the body of a reptile does not get the required amount of calcium from its diet, it starts absorbing the calcium from the bones.
This makes the bones weak and starts showing up as deformations in the body of the reptile. It is painful and the reptile that suffers from it becomes very weak.
The worst part of metabolic bone disease is that it is incurable – so, if not caught early on, its symptoms will go on worsening the health of the reptile.
In the worst cases, a reptile could even die because of the weakness caused due to metabolic bone disease.
Signs Of MBD
Although it is incurable, metabolic bone disease is still preventable. And the silver lining is that even though it cannot be completely cured, the symptoms of the metabolic bone disease can be kept in check with proper care of the crested gecko.
That is why it is pertinent to know the early signs of metabolic bone disease and limit its impact by making lifestyle changes for the crested gecko.
Some of the early signs of metabolic bone disease are:
- An unusually curved or bent spine.
- An unusually curved or bent tail.
- A weak or swollen jaw.
- Irregularities in the shape of the jaw.
- Excessive shaking or trembling, even when the crested gecko is at rest.
- Loss of appetite and an unusual loss in weight.
The intensity of the symptoms of the metabolic bone disease will vary depending on how far the disease has progressed.
If you suspect that your crested gecko has the metabolic bone disease, you should consult a vet to get a proper test done.
A vet will take X-rays of your pet crested gecko and will be able to confirm if your crested gecko has the metabolic bone disease, and if so, how far it has progressed.
Causes Of MBD
Metabolic bone disease is a disease caused by a severe deficiency of calcium. But what causes this severe deficiency of calcium in crested geckos?
Cause 1 – Scarcity of foods that have high calcium and vitamin D3.
The most common cause of the onset of metabolic bone disease is the absence or scarcity of foods that have high calcium and vitamin D3 levels.
You may need to recheck the diet you’re feeding your pet and ensure that the ingredients are rich in calcium and vitamin D3.
As a general thumb rule, the diet of a crested gecko should maintain a ratio of at least 2:1 calcium-to-phosphorus quantity.
Cause 2 – Excess intake of oxalic acid.
Are the foods you’re feeding your pet rich in oxalic acid? If yes, then you may need to reduce the quantity of those foods in the diet of your pet.
The oxalates present in oxalic acid reduce the absorption of calcium and vitamin D3 by the body.
So, even if your crested gecko is getting enough calcium, if there is an excess of oxalic acid, the absorption of calcium in the body of your pet will be low. And this will again lead to a deficiency in calcium reserves in the body.
Cause 3 – Improper enclosure temperatures.
A non-food-related cause of reduced calcium reserves in the body of a crested gecko is the temperature of its surroundings.
Crested geckos, like all reptiles, are cold-blooded animals.
This means that your crested gecko depends upon the temperature of its enclosure to maintain its body temperature at the functioning level.
If the temperature of the enclosure is not in the ambient range, it will disrupt the temperature regulation of your crested gecko’s body.
This will further impact several bodily functions, including digestion and absorption of nutrients.
Consequently, through indirect means, the absorption of calcium in the body of your crested gecko will reduce.
Medical Treatment For Crested Geckos With MBD
The medical treatment for crested geckos with metabolic bone disease differs depending upon several variables including the severity of the disease, medical history of the crested gecko, etc.
But some general steps in the medical treatment will include:
X-ray is the best way of confirming if your crested gecko has metabolic bone disease. So, when you take your crested gecko to the vet, the first thing they will do is take an x-ray and accordingly decide the course of treatment for your pet.
After confirmation of the disease and its severity, the vet will prescribe a set of medicines and fluids to help manage the symptoms of the disease in your pet crested gecko.
The most important part of the medical treatment of metabolic bone disease in crested geckos is the lifestyle changes that will be recommended by your vet.
Your vet will most likely recommend that you start giving your crested gecko supplements for calcium and vitamin D3, position the enclosure in a way that it gets natural sunlight, regularly monitor the temperature and other parameters of the enclosure, and make suitable changes to the diet plan of your pet.
An important part of the new routine of treatment for your pet crested gecko will be regular follow-ups with the vet for a prescribed period of time.
How Long Do Crested Geckos With MBD Live?
A crested gecko in captivity will ideally live comfortably for a huge period of 15 to 20 years. However, in a very severe case of metabolic bone disease, your pet’s lifespan may decrease to around 7 to 10 years depending on the severity of the disease.
Even in the wild, where there is no medical treatment or diet plan available, a crested gecko is known to live for a period of 7 to 10 years. So, your pet will be able to live for almost a decade even with MBD.
But, the quality of life of a crested gecko afflicted with metabolic bone disease reduces drastically. The symptoms of the disease are usually very painful and cause a lot of discomfort to the crested gecko.
Can Crested Geckos Recover From MBD?
Yes, if detected early. Whether metabolic bone disease in a crested gecko can be treated or eliminated depends on the progress that the disease has made in the body.
If the disease has become severe, all you can do is provide a course of treatment to manage the symptoms and make it less painful for the crested gecko.
However, if you detect the early onset of metabolic bone disease and start the medical treatment in a timely manner, you can effectively manage and possibly even reverse the impact of metabolic bone disease in your pet crested gecko.
How To Prevent MBD In Crested Geckos
The best way to prevent MBD in crested geckos is to ensure that your pet gets the required amount of calcium and vitamin D3 in its diet and lifestyle. Some helpful tips to follow are:
- Make sure that the diet you prepare has a calcium-to-phosphorus ratio of at least 2:1.
- Limit the amount of oxalic acid intake of your crested gecko.
- Ensure that the enclosure, and thereby your crested gecko, is exposed to get natural sunlight to improve the vitamin D3 reserves in the body.
- At the earliest signs of metabolic bone disease, consult your vet, get a confirmation of the onset of the disease, and promptly start the treatment. Delays in treatment can sometimes become fatal.
Can Geckos Recover From MBD?
Whether a gecko will recover from MBD depends heavily on the severity of the disease and how promptly the treatment starts.
Early onset of MBD symptoms can be treated effectively and possibly even be reversed completely. The longer it takes to detect and start the treatment, the lesser treatable is the disease.
Metabolic bone disease is one of the most common health issues affecting crested geckos and all reptile species in general.
While the early onset of the disease is effectively treatable and can possibly even be reversed, if the disease is detected late, it becomes virtually incurable.
The best way to prevent MBD in your pet crested gecko is to ensure that your pet gets ample amounts of calcium and vitamin D3.
Knowing the early signs of the disease will help you detect it sooner, start the treatment in a timely manner, and help your crested gecko manage and possibly even eliminate the symptoms of metabolic bone disease.