Seeing your bearded dragon twitching can be worrying and confusing – especially if it is the first time that you have seen it. You may have noticed specific body parts twitching or you may have even seen this response across your beardies entire body. Either way, what does this mean and is there anything we should or need to do to support them during this time? Of course it all starts with finding out the cause to begin with and finding an answer to this question; why is my bearded dragon twitching?
A bearded dragon twitches because of a prolonged nutrient deficiency – in both vitamin D and calcium. These are both essential to the health of a bearded dragon and play a role in a number of bodily functions and processes. Twitching is likely a clear sign of Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD) – the most common disease in this reptile that requires veterinary assistance. Other signs and symptoms to look out for with MBD include: swollen legs, fragile bones and deformities in the limbs, jaw, spine or tail. Ways to prevent MBD, or to help reverse it, include specific dietary and living condition changes – ensuring sufficient calcium and vitamin d is obtained.
Twitching is a clear visible sign that something is wrong with your beardie. Sometimes, owners spot this early on – usually in a specific limb like the head or the tail.
For others, the deficiency may be more progressed, where twitching takes place across the entire body. Either way, it often requires the support and expertise of a veterinarian whom can run examinations/tests and put your beardie on an appropriate course of treatment.
Either way, as a bearded dragon owner, there are things you can do to help prevent and reverse mild cases to begin with. As an owner of a reptile, it is out responsibility to ensure they get all the things they need to remain healthy and to meet their needs and requirements.
Firstly, feeding lots of leafy green vegetables is a must. This ensures that they get sufficient calcium in their diet.
Secondly, you must make sure that your beardies enclosure is warmed adequately, as heat helps reptiles absorb the calcium they get in their diet.
Lastly, make sure that your bearded dragon receives ultraviolet light, as this allows reptiles to acquire sufficient Vitamin D and be able to process and use the calcium effectively.
I have spent a lot of time researching the topic and what is to follow combines the advice of experienced reptile veterinarians, reptile specialists and fellow bearded dragon owners. It will help you to understand exactly why your beardie twitches and how you can prevent, and even, help to reverse the onset of MBD.
As MBD is such a common issue in pet beardies, its essential to know what some of the symptoms are. This way you can stop the disease before it starts to take hold, and restrict the health and well-being of your bearded dragon.
Let us now take a closer look at twitching and what you can do to help stop it!
Why Does My Bearded Dragon Twitch?
If you have had your beardie for a while, seeing them start to twitch can be worrisome. Naturally, you will want to get to the bottom of why they have begun to do this.
All reptiles are susceptible to metabolic bone disease (MBD), including the bearded dragon.
MBD develops due to low levels of both Vitamin D3 and calcium in the system of a reptile. For bearded dragons, it is routinely experienced by juveniles (beardies that are less than 2 years of age), however it can, and does develop in bearded dragons of all ages.
Insufficient diet – with an imbalanced phosphorous to calcium ratio (in the favor of phosphorous), a lack of nutritional forms of Vitamin D3, and a lack of sufficient and appropriate light exposure (UVB light specifically) are the main causes for the onset of this disease.
Unfortunately, MBD is a common illness in bearded dragons, and a responsible beardie owner wants to familiarise themselves with the symptoms and treatments of this condition.
MBD can take months sometimes years for this disease to develop, and it doesn’t go quickly.
Twitching is one of the symptoms of MBD that include swollen legs and delicate bones, which can progress into permanent deformities in the jaw, spine, tail, and limbs.
These symptoms are due to an imbalance of vitamin D, calcium, and phosphorous in the body. All of which need to be in a the appropriate ratios in order for a bearded dragons bodily processes to work optimally.
The correct ratio of calcium to phosphorus should be two parts calcium to one part phosphorus.
Take note that twitching is a sign that MBD has become advanced and requires a vet’s expertise to treat.
What Are The Symptoms Of Metabolic Bone Disease (Mild And Severe)
The full spectrum of MBD symptoms vary depending on the severity and length of time for the condition to develop.
Most of the symptoms below relate to muscle and bone effects:
- Arched spine or lumps on the bones of the spine.
- Swollen and soft jaw.
- Receding lower jaw
- Jerky movements and muscle tremors, or twitching in the muscles of the toes and legs
- Swollen or bowed legs, or bulges on the long bone of the leg.
- Weakness and partial paralysis ( due to their physical weakness)
- Limping and lameness
Treatment for MBD depends on the stage of the disease. In mild cases, making changes to your bearded dragon’s diet and living conditions may be sufficient.
In advanced stages of the condition, your vet must provide your reptile with intensive calcium supplements and high-intensity UVB lights.
Make sure to avoid feed foods high in oxalates as it attacks the calcium in your pet’s body, rendering it ineffective.
You must avoid the following foods: spinach, kale, broccoli, cabbage, beets, swiss chard, sorrel, dock, celery, whole grains, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and tofu.
How To Stop Your Bearded Dragon From Twitching
Muscle twitching and the other symptoms of MBD can be difficult to spot, but making the right changes to their diet and living conditions can significantly improve their health.
When your bearded dragon twitches, this is a sign that MBD has advanced, and you must take your dragon to the vet immediately.
Your vet will undertake a thorough examination of your beardie – looking for potential fractures in the bones, and looking at other limbs and body parts for potential deformities.
Usually, x-rays and blood tests are performed to ascertain the levels of Vitamin D and Calcium. From there they will be able to diagnose the condition.
If MBD is diagnosed, then calcium supplementation, re-hydration, specific nutritional support and injectable Vitamin D3 will be prescribed.
There are some things you can do ahead of time, and some preventative measures that can stop your bearded dragon from twitching. These are particularly effective if you notice a small body part begin to twitch. This way, you can stop MBD from progressing and becoming severe:
- Calcium is the key to having a healthy bearded dragon. Feed your beardie plenty of leafy green vegetables, some ideal sources of calcium include lamb’s lettuce, spring greens, and Timothy hay; but avoid spinach as this can hinder the intake of calcium. You can also add calcium mineral powders to insects before serving them to your pet.
- Heat is vital for your bearded dragon’s absorption of calcium from his diet. You will need to add lamps to your beardie enclosure that keep part of the space between 38 and 42 degrees Celsius. Your pet also needs cool areas in his enclosure between 22 to 26 degrees Celsius.
- Ultraviolet light is essential as it enables bearded dragons process calcium. Fluorescent strip light provides sufficient lighting, emitting between 10% to 12% UVB light. At least two-thirds of your pet’s enclosure needs light from the lamp, and you can use a UV meter to monitor the levels. You must replace the bulb according to the manufacturer’s instructions as UVB light diminishes over time.
- Special Soaks like unflavored Pedialyte and a little calcium powder. Human calcium supplements will suffice. Set up a shallow bath of 1/2 water and 1/2 Pedialyte add a generous spoonful of calcium and mix it in the water. You can soak your dragon in this way twice daily for twenty to thirty minutes.
Twitching is a clear sign that your bearded dragon is in the advanced stages of metabolic bone disease and needs immediate veterinary attention. MBD is extremely life-limiting for your reptile, and the prognosis can range from anywhere between mild to grave depending on the stage of the condition when diagnosed.
Captive bearded dragons often lack the nutrition of a seasonal and varied diet, enjoyed by their wild counterparts; this leads on to MBD. However, prevention of MBD is possible by practising proper husbandry; this includes firstly ensuring your dragon has a balanced diet with the correct ratio of calcium to phosphorous. Secondly, supplying your dragon with adequate heating, as warm temperatures allow bearded dragons to absorb the calcium in their bodies. Make sure that there are cool zones in your pet’s cage. Thirdly, ultraviolet lights helps your bearded dragon to process calcium.
Finally, your reptile requires special soaks with powdered calcium. Their bodies have vents which absorb calcium.
There is a lot of work involved in keeping a bearded dragon healthy, but, hopefully, your efforts mean no twitching and no bone disease.
Is MBD in bearded dragons reversible? Bearded dragons affected with MBD typically respond well to treatment. Many owners report that many of the less severe symptoms resolve and their bearded dragons do well to recover. Optimizing the diet, vitamin/mineral supplementation and an increase in UVB lighting can go a long way. However, total reversal of symptoms does usually not occur in more severe and developed cases. Prevention is ultimately much more effective than cure.
How do you know if your bearded dragon is healthy? Healthy bearded dragons generally are: larger (more plump), do not have any swollen/broken limbs, are active and alert, have clear/bright eyes, have healthy skin, move around effortlessly and are generally energetic.
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.