Bearded Dragon With MBD: Meaning, Causes, Signs & More

Last Update:
BeardedDragonHQ is reader supported. When you purchase through referral links on our site, we may earn a commission.. Learn more
Bearded Dragon With MBD

Once in a while, you turn a blind eye to your beardie’s inactivity or lack of appetite, and she becomes her regular self hours later. But what if this period of inappetence lasts longer than a few hours? 

A day or two, maybe? That’s not good. A healthy bearded dragon should not go a day without eating, let alone two. 

That said, it’s time to consult your vet. It could be nothing serious, but everything is not okay. Worse still, it could be MBD, and this, my friend, is not something to be hesitant about. 

Now you’re wondering what this MBD is, what a bearded dragon with MBD is like, what the causes of MBD are, et cetera, et cetera. Allow me to educate you on this debilitating disease so you know what to watch out for and how to prevent it. 

Let’s get started already!

What is MBD in Bearded Dragons?

Metabolic Bone Diseases, MBD for short, is an umbrella term for several bearded dragon illnesses that affect the skeleton structure. Some of the diseases under this category include:

  • Fibrous osteodystrophy 
  • Nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism
  • Hypocalcemia
  • Renal secondary hyperparathyroidism
  • Osteoporosis

MBD can cause serious health issues, like soft bones that can easily break. It can also affect your bearded dragon’s muscles, causing contraction problems. 

MBD causes a lot of pain, and the bearded dragon may become deformed or suffer paralysis. Sadly, the disease can lead to death. 

Causes of MBD in Bearded Dragons

Causes of MBD in Bearded Dragons
Causes of MBD in Bearded Dragons

The major cause of metabolic bone diseases is calcium deficiency. There are different ways your dragon can end up with insufficient calcium in the body. For example:

  • Less calcium content in their diet. Since calcium is an element, the only way to get it into the body is through the diet. So if you feed less calcium-rich foods, your beardie will likely suffer calcium deficiency. Apart from food, your pet can get calcium from calcium supplements. 
  • Insufficient vitamin D3. With vitamin D3, bearded dragons can make calcitriol, a hormone that helps with calcium absorption. So with less vitamin D3, calcium in the dragon’s body is useless.
  • Poor lighting can also lead to calcium deficiency, though indirectly. Bearded dragons use UVB lighting to make vitamin D in their skin. And, as I said, vitamin D helps with calcium absorption.
  • Excess oxalates in the diet. Small oxalate amounts are okay, but too much inhibits calcium absorption.
  • High phosphorus content. In the same way, too much phosphorus prevents calcium absorption. 
  • While calcium deficiency is the root cause of MBD, excess calcium in the body can also cause these diseases. 

Bearded Dragon With MBD

MBD is probably the most common health disorder in pet dragons. And though it’s complex, it can easily be avoided with proper care, particularly the right diet and good UVB lighting. 

That said, it’s important to understand the signs and symptoms of this disease so you know what to watch out for. 

Signs of MBD in Bearded Dragons

Signs of MBD in Bearded Dragons
Signs of MBD in Bearded Dragons

MBD builds up slowly in bearded dragons and takes a while to show. Blood tests reveal low calcium levels in bearded dragons before the disease is noticeable. 

Early signs

Apart from bone development, calcium plays other roles in a bearded dragon’s body. Therefore, you may miss other signs if you focus too much on bone-related signs.

Most bone-related signs are shown in advanced MBD cases. The first signs can easily be mistaken for other health problems. Common early MBD signs include:

  • Overall body weakness
  • Lack of appetite
  • Constipation
  • Retarded growth

The above signs may result from other health problems. However, don’t hesitate to visit your vet immediately if you notice them so your pet can be treated. 

Advanced signs

In moderate to severe MBD cases, symptoms are more devastating. A sick bearded dragon may show three or more of these signs:

  • Swollen limbs
  • Severe body weakness such that they can’t support their body weight
  • Impaction 
  • Inability to eat even when hungry
  • Bowed legs and arched spine
  • Fractures
  • Deformed bones
  • Receded lower jaw
  • Soft facial bones

Being attentive to your pet’s normal behavior will help you notice sudden changes and improve the likelihood of full recovery in MBD cases. Watch for these early and advanced signs and seek immediate medical treatment if you notice them. 

Can MBD kill bearded dragons?

Unfortunately, MBD can kill bearded dragons. This is especially so if the disease is discovered at an advanced stage. It is also fatal if left untreated or if treatment is not taken seriously. 

The key to reversing MBD is catching it at an early stage and following treatment plans to the letter. The longer it takes to notice, the lower the recovery probability. 

How to prevent MBD in Bearded Dragons

How to prevent MBD in Bearded Dragons
How to prevent MBD in Bearded Dragons

The good news is that MBD can be avoided with proper care. Use these tips to prevent the disease:

Make sure the UVB lights are working efficiently. Some UVB lights stop functioning after a while. Get the best UVB light and ensure it is working as required. In addition, make sure there are no obstacles between the light and your beardie for maximum absorption.

Observe diet guidelines. Feed your pet enough calcium-rich foods and watch for foods with high phosphorous and oxalate levels. 

Pay attention to the calcium supplement you feed them. Too much of anything is poisonous, so ensure you are watching your pet’s calcium intake because too much may lead to MBD. 

Bathe your pet in direct sunlight regularly. This helps in making vitamin D under the skin, which helps with calcium absorption.

Always consult your vet in case of changes. As I said, the earlier you catch MBD, the better. Consult your veterinarian in the event of sudden changes so you can correct calcium deficiency immediately before it proceeds to MBD.

What to do if your bearded dragon has MBD?

What to do if your bearded dragon has MBD
What to do if your bearded dragon has MBD

Once your pet is diagnosed with this debilitating disease, you need to take several actions to help with recovery and, hopefully, ease your dragon’s pain. 

Some of the things to do include:

Be careful when handling your pet

Beardies with MBD endure not only pain but also suffer general body weakness. Any carelessness when handling your pet may worsen the situation or cause extra pain. Therefore, only handle your pet when necessary and be careful as you do. 

Take your pet to the vet

Take your pet to the vet anytime you notice something strange. Your vet should be a close friend by now, so don’t hesitate to consult them in case of any noticeable change. 

Follow the treatment plan religiously

Your vet will prescribe medication and require you to observe some health guidelines to help with recovery. Follow the treatment plan religiously and work with your vet to reverse the issue. 

Bask your pet in direct sunlight and work on UVB lighting

Remember, calcium deficiency is the root cause of MBD. To correct this, bask your bearded dragon in direct sunlight and ensure UVB lighting works efficiently. 

A bearded dragon enjoys having good UvB light in his tank
A bearded dragon enjoys having good UvB light in his tank

Be patient with your pet

Your pet will not recover overnight, so be patient with the treatment and allow them to recover. They may also take more time to move or eat and may also get messier at this time. Your pet needs you at this hard time, so be there for them. 

Observe healthy diet

You need to follow a healthy diet now more than ever. Always ask the veterinarian if you’re unsure of what to feed your bearded dragon. 

Make sure your pet is hydrated

Water helps with the absorption of nutrients as well as calcium. With that in mind, make sure your pet is well-hydrated all the time. 

Remove obstacles in the cage

Bearded dragons with MBD have weak bones that can easily break. Besides, they have difficulty moving around, especially since they’re in pain. Remove anything that can restrict movement from their cage to provide a free area. 

Can MBD be cured in bearded dragons?

Can MBD be cured in bearded dragons
Can MBD be cured in bearded dragons

Yes, with the right treatment and strict adherence to health guidelines, MBD can be cured. Depending on the severity of the disease, it might take longer in some bearded dragons, but with the right treatment plan, your pet might recover fully.

However, you need to be patient and put in the work for the treatment to work.

How long does it take to reverse MBD?

How long depends on the severity of the disease, how religiously you follow the treatment plan, and your pet’s response to treatment.

It can take months to reverse the disease. Some owners report taking six to twelve months for a full recovery. Others take even more, especially in extreme cases.

Explaining the causes of MBD and how to prevent it.

Wrapping Up

MBD is a collective term for different bone-related problems in bearded dragons. These diseases interfere with bone structure and may lead to deformity or paralysis. 

Luckily, you can prevent the disease with the right care and reduce the risk of MBD. But if you notice any of the above signs, visit your vet immediately and do some blood tests.

Photo of author


Felix Olofsson is a reptile enthusiast and the driving force behind Bearded Dragon HQ, a website dedicated to providing expert advice and resources for bearded dragon owners. With years of experience working with reptiles, Felix has developed a deep appreciation and understanding of these unique creatures, particularly the beloved bearded dragon. Felix's passion for bearded dragons started when he adopted his first dragon, Spike, and quickly fell in love with these fascinating creatures. Through Bearded Dragon HQ, Felix aims to share his knowledge and expertise with other bearded dragon owners, providing them with everything they need to give their pets the best possible care. From nutrition and habitat design to behavior and more. Bearded Dragon HQ is the go-to source for all things related to these beloved pets.