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Stimulation for dragon with MBD who can't/mustn't climb?

PostPosted: Wed Oct 16, 2019 3:53 pm
by skyfishcafe
Hi everyone. As detailed in this thread, our very young bearded dragon was diagnosed not long ago with MBD -- likely caused by a calcium-depleted mother, inadequate hatchling care, or both. He's just over a week into his treatment and I'm wondering if you have any ideas on how to make his enclosure more stimulating while also keeping him safe.

Our vet encouraged us to remove anything climbable from his enclosure to reduce the changes of injury due to falling or getting stuck. That eliminates his branches, his bridge hide, his stone hide, and his stump hide. He is basically just in an empty room now. We use shelf liner for his substrate, and we've added some different fabrics so he can use them to change the texture and temperature of the ground, but we're at a loss as to how to give him more than blank walls and floors to stare at all day. It saddens me to come up to his enclosure and see that he's just lying down and staring at the corner. Before he became physically unable to run and climb, he loved perching on all sorts of things, climbing on upholstery, running over our shoulders & backs... but now he doesn't get to do those things because of his health.

Any guidance or suggestions are appreciated.

Thanks,
Aaron

Re: Stimulation for dragon with MBD who can't/mustn't climb?

PostPosted: Wed Oct 16, 2019 5:09 pm
by claudiusx
Hi Aaron,

That's a tough one.
On one hand, you don't want to over stimulate him and allow him to over exert himself, but on the other hand you don't want to make him clinically depressed! Lol.

One thing my dragons always liked was having a "blanket" of sorts. I always would kind of ball it up into a corner and let them nudge into it and interact a bit with it. They would typically like to bury their face into it and "hide"
Maybe you can get a couple soft wash clothes and put them in the corner for him to have something to do? Or cut up a few into strips so it's more of a substrate he can move around?

-Brandon

Re: Stimulation for dragon with MBD who can't/mustn't climb?

PostPosted: Wed Oct 16, 2019 5:19 pm
by Hikari
Hmm, maybe soft things, like small pillows, to climb around on/in? Or a small stuffed animal? You could also try a small, shallow container with a cut-out for keeping strips of fleece in as a dig box. Maybe he'd like to wiggle around in it?

Re: Stimulation for dragon with MBD who can't/mustn't climb?

PostPosted: Wed Oct 16, 2019 5:24 pm
by claudiusx
Hikari wrote:You could also try a small, shallow container with a cut-out for keeping strips of fleece in as a dig box. Maybe he'd like to wiggle around in it?

Yes! This is what I was trying to get at with the cut up strips, so I definitely second that idea! The container will help keep them all in one spot :)

-Brandon

Re: Stimulation for dragon with MBD who can't/mustn't climb?

PostPosted: Wed Oct 16, 2019 6:13 pm
by kingofnobbys
Shredded kitchen grade paper towel is good too …. my water skinks love it, as do my dragons.

Re: Stimulation for dragon with MBD who can't/mustn't climb?

PostPosted: Thu Oct 17, 2019 10:49 am
by Ellentomologist
Hi,

You might give him a "Cricket" or "Whiffle" type ball (lightweight, holes in it) to play with by rolling around - just make sure it's larger than his head to ensure there's no risk of him trying to swallow it and small enough he won' try to get on top of it and have it roll around. Also avoid the cat toy versions that have little bells in them for that reason - foreign bodies in a sick baby are not a good thing. :-( Guac loved these when he was younger, but the past year or two he's gotten too "mature" for them I guess. LOL.

You also might consider getting him some BD-approved plants that are a bit more robust than a typical salad or giving him a couple leaves that aren't chopped up each day. For instance, a bundle of 2-3 full collard leaves would provide a uniquely textured mound he might enjoy walking over while being perfectly safe for him. Another option would be a branch of jade or elephant feed - both BD safe succulents you can find in the Bearded Dragon section of TheBioDude's store - again, fun texture and color for him to mess with that should be safe. Those types of succulents are typically purchased with the idea of setting up a bioactive vivarium for the BD, but due to his health concerns that's obviously a bad idea, and I wouldn't even risk putting the entire plant in becuase of the dirt it's planted in... Maybe just purchase a larger elephant feed bush and trim a few inches of every week or so, let it grow back, repeat?

The most obvious enrichment option I'm seeing, though, since you're so limited to safe options is just giving him as varied a diet as you can give him while keeping it healthy. Add some bee pollen, cilantro, basil, all those unusual but safe for BD food options you don't normally see to his salads. Though, since he's a youngster, he's probably still eating almost entirely protein... Still! Gut load your feeders with different things! Carrots one day, berries the next. Mix up what feeders you offer - obviously you'll still want to offer one of the more nutritious ones as his main, but that doesn't mean he can't have 98% what's healthiest for him and an extra waxworm added in there for fun.

Wishing you and your boy the best of luck,
-Ellen

Re: Stimulation for dragon with MBD who can't/mustn't climb?

PostPosted: Thu Oct 17, 2019 1:44 pm
by skyfishcafe
Many thanks for the suggestions and advice! Brandon, Hikari, and kingofnobbys, I appreciate the ideas you've shared for a sort of "soft dig box". I've picked up a couple yards of fleece to slice up for Alduîn to snuggle into (with enough left over to make him a hammock once he's more mobile). I may need to try the paper towel, too -- certainly a different texture, and he may prefer it :)

Ellen, I appreciate the spectrum of options you've shared! We are hoping he will be healthy enough by the time we upgrade his enclosure that we can transition him to bioactive. For now, we'll see what we can do about those safe succulents and the varied diet (if we can ever get him to eat his veggies, of course!). I love the idea about just putting down whole collard green leaves for him to examine. We always have so much left each week over since he's so tiny, so this may be a great way to use it. And I'll have to keep my eyes open for a little whiffle ball, too!

Alduîn is having a tough day today mobility-wise, but his tail has finally begun to shed. Perhaps tomorrow he'll want to explore the new additions to his environment.

With gratitude and kind regards,
Aaron

EDITED TO ADD: Follow-up question. How wide do you typically make these strips of cloth? I have them about an inch wide but not sure if he might do something silly like try to eat it.

Re: Stimulation for dragon with MBD who can't/mustn't climb?

PostPosted: Fri Oct 18, 2019 6:40 pm
by skyfishcafe
I wanted to post a brief update and photo to thank everyone again for the ideas to help Alduîn. As soon as I put the cloth strips into his enclosure, he declared himself King of Fluff Mountain:

[Click image to enlarge]


We got a small box to put the strips into, but it's a little too high for him in his current condition. I'm expect he'll be able to traverse it more easily as he gets bigger and stronger, so we'll keep the strips loose for now.

I used some of the fleece fabric to sew a small hammock for him -- now I just need to put in some grommets and slope the hammock appropriately so he can safely scale it!

With gratitude,
Aaron

Re: Stimulation for dragon with MBD who can't/mustn't climb?

PostPosted: Tue Oct 22, 2019 11:50 am
by JumpinJellyfish
skyfishcafe wrote:I wanted to post a brief update and photo to thank everyone again for the ideas to help Alduîn. As soon as I put the cloth strips into his enclosure, he declared himself King of Fluff Mountain:

[Click image to enlarge]


We got a small box to put the strips into, but it's a little too high for him in his current condition. I'm expect he'll be able to traverse it more easily as he gets bigger and stronger, so we'll keep the strips loose for now.

I used some of the fleece fabric to sew a small hammock for him -- now I just need to put in some grommets and slope the hammock appropriately so he can safely scale it!

With gratitude,
Aaron

Cutest king ever! :0)

Re: Stimulation for dragon with MBD who can't/mustn't climb?

PostPosted: Tue Oct 22, 2019 12:50 pm
by Aaradimian
I'm a bit late to the party, but my two dragons have window views that help keep them occupied.