Calcium Article 3

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Pet Vet Articles (Published Weekly in the Northern Territory News)

Calcium Deficiency in Reptiles
Dr Stephen Cutter B.V.Sc(hons)

About this time of year I see a lot of sick and dying pet baby blue tongue lizards and bearded dragons.
Often it is the person’s first pet that they got a few months ago. The lizard is now depressed, not eating and often with lumps appearing on its spine or legs. Inevitably when I feel or xray the lizard the lump turn out ot be broken bones.

This problem is very avoidable. Fundamentally these lizards lack calcium. Calcium is important in several different body functions
but most importantly in making strong and healthy bones. I have seen lizards whose bones you can bend and often they have dozens of small fractures.

People often buy or find a baby lizard and house it in an old tank and feed it some meal worms, but lizards have some special requirements.

Rapidly growing young lizards require plenty of calcium. Most lizards’ diets are deficient in calcium. Insects alone are not a complete diet for lizards as most insects are naturally low in calcium.

However the main reason that the lizards are not getting the calcium they need is because they are not getting sufficient ultraviolet light. Most people are used to thinking of UV light as bad and certainly most of us have an excess rather than a shortage.
UV light is necessary to utilize calcium and make strong bones.
Most artificial lights do not produce any UV and glass effectively
filters it out. The net effect is that the poor lizard that desperately needs it is missing out.

Proper husbandry is critical. If you choose to keep an unusual pet it is essential that you find out about how to look after it properly. Each species of lizard has its own dietary requirements so it is
important to find out what to feed it. Simply because it eats something doesn’t mean it should. Use a good quality full spectrum light and change it regularly.

If your lizard is showing signs of being low in calcium it is important to get it checked out because often medical intervention is often necessary. Early stages are reversible but it is important to seek prompt intervention.

Copyright © 2005-2008 Dr Stephen M Cutter
May not be reproduced without written permission from the author.