My bearded dragon seems swollen or bigger in the back part of his body. I’ve noticed it for a week or so, the way he

Expert's Assistant chatimg
Customer: Hi, my bearded dragon seems swollen or bigger in the back part of his body
JA: Hi there. I'll do all I can to help. When did you first notice this swelling? Does the Bearded Dragon lick the skin as well?
Customer: I’ve noticed it for a week or so, the way he looks when “pushing up” with his front legs is also strange. No licking. this is my first reptile so I’m not sure what’s normal
JA: What's the Bearded Dragon's name and age?
Customer: spike is approximately 9 months
JA: Is there anything else the Vet should know before I connect you? Rest assured that they'll be able to help you.
Customer: No
Answered by Dr. Caryn – Vet in 5 mins 9 months ago
Dr. Caryn – Vet
Pet Specialist

2,242 satisfied customers

Specialities include: Reptile Veterinary, Herp Veterinary, Exotic Animal Medicine, Amphibian Veterinary

Hello and thanks for posting your question on My name is***** and I have been a licensed and accredited veterinarian in the US for over 21 years, specializing in aquatics, reptiles, amphibians, avian and other exotic species. You may already be aware, but on this platform veterinarians can provide insight and advice, but as this is not considered a legal client-patient relationship, we are unable to prescribe medications, provide medical records or sign documents for your specific pet. For that you would need to make an in person visit with a local veterinarian. I am happy to chat with you via the JustAnswer app via text but if you are interested in a phone call instead that is an option you can choose for an additional charge. In the meantime, I am putting together some questions and/or suggestions to help with your pet’s concern.

I am sorry to hear that your bearded dragon Spike is under the weather. Can you tell me a bit more about what you mean by he seems swollen or bigger in the back part of his body?

If you can upload a photo or video that might be helpful so I can see what you are trying to describe. You can do so using the upload attachment (paperclip) icon below the text field. Please note that files need to be less than 5 Mb to upload properly. Thanks.

Also sounds like he may be having difficulty lifting himself up or are you seeing anything odd about the way he is moving?

Any obvious lumps or bumps on his body or along his spine or tail? Any areas of discoloration? Any changes in appetite or activity?

I have some questions that will help me get a better idea of your pet’s environment and what may be going on with them:

-What is the current tank set-up, e.g.,

Temperature gradient (cool side, warm, and hottest basking temp)?

Do they receive any access to UV light? When was the UVB bulb last changed out?

-Have they been eating normally?

-What do you feed them? Do they receive any calcium or vitamin supplements?

-Have they been pooping regularly and has it looked normal?

Thanks very much for providing additional information, it is very helpful for me to try and figure out what is going on with your bearded dragon and the history information will help me to do that.

Here is one picture
Closer up of his back

Okay, thanks for photo! My goodness, it looks like spike has some pretty significant spinal deformity. When did this occur and was it sudden or slow onset?

The most common cause for this would be a condition called metabolic bone disease, though an injury to the spine could also cause this though with an acute (sudden) injury you would expect to see some pretty significant paralysis of the hind limbs.

Does he get calcium supplements, if so how often?

Does he get 12 hours a day of UVB light? What type of UVB bulb do you have and when was it last changed out?

I feel like it was a slow onset but I've just started really scratching my head at it.His basking temp stays at around 105.
Customer attachment 2/10/2022 5:15:07 PM
This is the bulb and it was changed in September
Customer attachment 2/10/2022 5:15:41 PM
He gets this 2-3 times per week
He gets 12-14 hours of uvb a day

Interesting....that bulb would normally be a fine choice for a bearded dragon though I have a couple of questions. Can you measure the distance between the bulb and the basking surface (in inches)? Also is there anything between the bulb and the enclosure, acrylic or glass or mesh tank lid?

ReptiCalcium is fine though when getting UVB light, though I prefer the calcium without D3 to avoid possible oversupplementation. How are you administering it? Dusted on insects? If so, how do you feed the insects?

He eats collard greens and a variety of super worms, nutrigrubs, crickets, and dubia roaches. And occasionally he has horn worms and a few meal worms
Here is his tank. Carpet is being cleaned right now!

That's a good variety of insects. I do recommend adding some variety to the veggies though as collard greens and other cruiferous veggies have high levels of goiterogens that can interfere with thyroid function (and thus growth).

So if you feed the insects by putting them into the enclosure to run around then they can clean off the calcium dust. Better to feed only as much as they will eat in 5-10 minutes or so and add more if needed. Or feed them in a enclosure where the bugs can't escape or from a feeder cup.

I dust the Roaches and crickets with it, and put them in his tank to hunt.

Where is the UVB bulb? I only see the basking bulb.

There is mesh between it
He is lifting a little bit
Do you think changing supplements, adding other veggies, and feeding more directly is enough?

Okay, thanks. So note that since you have your UVB light on top of a metal screen, this can block up to 40% of the UVB light from getting into the tank. So best option is to mount the bulb inside the enclosure. If that's not a possibility, then getting a reflector housing and a more powerful bulb (15.0) or mercury vapor.

The ReptiSun 10.0 T8 linear (the bulb you have) has the appropriate UVB penetration for full sun desert species like a bearded dragon only to 3-5 inches from the bulb. So since it's on top of a metal screen you are likely not getting sufficient UVB penetration.

I think you need to change the UVB set-up, having it inside the tank is preferable, but also getting a more powerful bulb or a reflector housing and increasing the calcium supplementation frequency but using just calcium, not with D3, especially if you are going to amend the UVB situation. Juveniles should be getting calcium supplements at least 4x per week and I would avoid feeding a lot of high fat worms such as mealworms, the fat can interfere with calcium metabolism. Also recommend giving a multivitamin supplement at least once weekly.

You can add a calcium supplement to the water but if they are eating well and get it from dusting insects and salad plus I also recommend gut loading your insects with a commercial gut loading formula to boost their nutrition:

To boost the nutritional value of the feeder insects it is recommend to "gut load" them for at least 24-48 hours prior to feeding them out. That means to feed the insects a nutritious food so that the bearded dragon gets the benefit of that nutrition. Some options for gut loading are:

Mazuri Better Bug Gut Loading Diet

Mazuri Hi Calcium Gut Loading Diet

Repashy SuperLoad Insect Gutload Formula

Ok, I will do these things. I’m not sure how to mount on the inside but I’ll do some research and figure it out asap. Do you know if they make tanks with the bulb think inside?

So you can mount the fixture to the back of the tank wall inside using some adhesive hooks or strips.

You should also consider taking him to a local reptile experienced veterinarian for a checkup as he may need a course of prescription strength calcium supplements.

To find a local veterinarian with reptile experience, here is a useful website you can use to search for a local reptile veterinarian:

(please note this site may not work on older browsers like Safari)

These veterinarians are active members of the Association of Reptile and Amphibian Veterinarians, which means they have interest and experience in treating reptile patients.

Would you do that immediately or see if corrective measures help?

So I do think implementing corrective measures as soon as possible is important but also getting him evaluated is important as well (not an emergency if he is still bright, alert and eating but within the next week or so if possible, sooner if he's showing signs of discomfort, not eating, lethargy, etc.).

Okay, great. Thank you for your help! I do appreciate it very much
We are fixing the light right now, I changed the bulb for good measure, and I am headed to the pet store and grocery store as soon as we have the light fixed.
We moved it on the inside but is he able to get the UVB?
It seems like the fixture is blocking it

That's great. Hopefully he will do ok, but note that his back is weakened now as are his other bones so handle him gently and support his full weight evenly when/if you need to lift him. I will attach a bearded dragon care sheet with some additional info on lighting, diet, supplements, but feel free to ask me any additional questions if you need clarification or further information.

You might need to reposition his hammock so it's underneath the UVB light.

I checked with the manufacturer's website, ZooMed, and for the bulb you have, the ReptiSun 10.0 T8 linear fluorescent bulb, ideal UVB distance zone for a bearded dragon from the bulb is 3-5" so hanging a hammock under the bulb so it's in that distance is perfect.

My best to you and Spike. Please let me know if I can be of any further assistance.

Sincerely, ***** *****

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Dr. Caryn – Vet
2,242 satisfied customers
Pet Specialist
Dr. Caryn – Vet
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