I rescued two severely handicapped juveniles

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I rescued two severely handicapped juveniles

Postby jackiegrace » Tue Oct 13, 2020 10:01 pm

Hi everyone,

I could really use some help and advice. Today i rescued two young bearded dragons from petco. While I have kept reptiles for most of my life, both rescued and purchased, I have never had one with such a severe handicap.

The younger, smaller one is paralyzed from the waist down, and his front legs don’t seem to be very strong at all, as he tends to get stuck on his side. However, he does move around his enclosure and has a good feeding response.

The larger one is paralyzed in all 4 legs, or maybe it’s better to say that he does not appear to have any working limbs, as his legs seem to move from the base if that makes sense? He wiggles his torso to move around and is able to make it around his enclosure, but he definitely struggles more than the other one.

The employees at petco who have been taking care of them said that they both developed issues in the store, but they were mobile when they came in, then started to slow down and they realized there was something wrong. They said the vet they use has looked at them and determined that they have neurological issues, and that the paralysis is not due to MBD. They have had the larger one since March, and the smaller one came in June/July. The employees have been hand feeding them crickets and mealworms supplemented with calcium, and giving them flukers reptiboost twice a day.

Does anyone have any experience with anything like this? I will be taking them in to see my exotic vet but unfortunately due to covid It has been extremely difficult to get an appointment, so I won’t be able to get them in until next month. I just want to make sure I am doing everything I can to keep them comfortable in the mean time. I am very concerned for them as they seem to get stuck on their backs/sides often, and while they are happy to be held, its quite sad to see them struggling to get around on their own, and I’m honestly not sure if they would even be able to access their water bowl without my help. They seem to be kind of underweight as well.

Right now I have them (separately) in 20 gallon longs lined with paper towels. they have uvb, basking spot of 106-110, and I have placed 2 hides that they can easily get in and out of in each of their tanks. I offered them pelleted food softened with pedialyte but they were not very interested in it today, but I did get them to eat a few small mealworms and will offer them more in the morning.

I am fully prepared and willing to do whatever needs to be done to ensure that they are happy and healthy, so I would love to get some more insight.
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Re: I rescued two severely handicapped juveniles

Postby Drache613 » Wed Oct 14, 2020 12:23 am

Hello,

Oh my, that is going to be extremely challenging on your end! Are they physically injured
or deformed, or just paralyzed but appear physically normal?
They have either been injured, are impacted, or have severe metabolic bone disease. It
could also be a combination of things. I am sure that it is most likely not neurological but
probably incorrect or no UVB lighting, among other things. If they were feeding them too
large of crickets & or too many mealworms they might have impaction issues. Do you know
if they were on sand or other loose substrate?
How do you have their tanks setup up for them? I am glad to hear you have them separately
housed as well. Since they both have disabilities, I highly recommend keeping their basking
areas directly on the bottom of their tanks so they don't have to try to climb to get warmed up.
Be sure that the UVB light is at the correct distance, also.
For now, I would not keep any water bowls at all in their tanks to eliminate any risk of them
drowning.

Let us know how they are doing.
Tracie
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Re: I rescued two severely handicapped juveniles

Postby jackiegrace » Wed Oct 14, 2020 9:52 am

thanks for the input Tracie!

Physically, they seem mostly normal other than being a bit small for their age. It appears to me that the muscles in their legs have begun to atrophy. The front legs on the larger one are curled backwards, but I assume this is due to his lack of ability to move or use them.

I too had suspected it is probably not neurological, and more likely a Combination of things as you had said, as Petco is not exactly known for its husbandry, but without taking them to a vet it is hard to be sure of anything. It seems that their diet in the store consisted of only mealworms and crickets, and while the employees told me they had UVB, I am hesitant to believe that they were in a suitable setup. To my knowledge they were always kept on repticarpet, so no sand or other loose substrate.

If it were an issue of impaction, is that something that could go on for months? Apparently they have been this way for quite some time. Is there anything I can do on my own other than a warm soak in extremely shallow water and a gentle abdominal massage to help them? I was thinking about giving them a drop of oil to help move things along but I don’t want to do the wrong thing.

In terms of their tank setup, right now I have kept it super simple so that I can easily monitor them. I am using paper towel as substrate so that I can keep track of how often they are going to the bathroom. I do not keep a water bowl in with them as I fear that they would drown or get stuck in it. I placed a hide at each end of their enclosure, and have a thermostat with a probe to ensure that their basking spot is at the correct temperature on the floor of their cage.
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Re: I rescued two severely handicapped juveniles

Postby saraho » Wed Oct 14, 2020 1:07 pm

I'm sad to hear of these little guys. I'll be following your updates and sending my best wishes!
“Let me tell you: the only way to get rid of dragons is to have one of your own.”
― Evgeny Shvarts,
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Re: I rescued two severely handicapped juveniles

Postby Drache613 » Wed Oct 14, 2020 11:51 pm

Hello,

Well, that is good they were not kept on sand or other loose substrate. So maybe they are
not impacted from that at least. The UVB provided, if any, was likely poor quality so they
probably have bone issues because of it. I'm not sure whether or not they will get a lot of
their strength back, but hopefully some.
Water therapy can be helpful for building strength but definitely keep an eye on them because
they could drown easily.
You could consider using a liquid calcium to see if that helps out with calcium absorption.
Has either one of them had a black or darker beard as they would if they were in pain or
distress?
Have you gotten them to eat anything yet?

We are all pulling for their recovery. They certainly have a lot better chance with you then
they would in the pet store.

Tracie
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Re: I rescued two severely handicapped juveniles

Postby jackiegrace » Thu Oct 15, 2020 8:49 pm

hey! just wanted to give a quick update on my little fighters

I decided to take the boys to my local reptile store, as the owners are extremely kind and knowledgeable, and have many years of experience with all kinds of exotics. After taking a look, he said that he definitely thinks their issues are due to MBD and/or nutritional deficiencies from improper care. Tracie, as you had said, they likely did not have the correct (or any) UVB lighting or access to calcium, which unfortunately is not a surprise to me given the reputation that petco has. He suggested I soak them in pedilyte 3 times a day to make sure they stay hydrated, which I haven begun to do using a small plate so that they are safe.

I’ve been getting them to eat plain organic chicken baby food mixed with a VERY small amount of organic unsweetened apple sauce. I then add pedialyte, reptaboost, 2 calcium supplements, and reptile vitamins to this mixture. The smaller one will even go after a few very small dubia roaches and crickets with a bit of help, but the larger one doesn’t have much interest in them, I think he’s just a bit too weak right now. As their appetite increases I’ll play around with adding some greens to their diet, but so far they’ve been taking small amounts of food from a syringe 3-4x a day without much of an issue, and it seems that they get more excited to eat with every feeding.

Thankfully, they aren’t displaying any noticeable signs of pain or discomfort. They do have some slight stress marks on their bellies; I’m sure that they will fade in time, as although they’ve been through a lot, they seem to be warming up to me/their new home very quickly.

I know I’ve only had them for a little over 48 hours, and I don’t want to get too excited, but I feel like I have already noticed an overall improvement. They seem to have settled in and have definitely been enjoying all of the TLC. They are much more active, alert, and reactive which makes me so happy to see, especially considering that I was told that the larger one barely moved at all and today he was wiggling around and exploring his enclosure. They’re the sweetest little guys and I really couldn’t be happier to have them.

Thanks for the support!
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Re: I rescued two severely handicapped juveniles

Postby Drache613 » Fri Oct 16, 2020 12:42 am

Hello,

Oh I am so happy that you had someone to assess them at the reptile store! Well, I am
not all that surprised. While metabolic bone does cause neurological issues but it is due
to improper muscle firing from the inability of the body to absorb & store calcium. Metabolic
bone disease leads to a myriad of issues, from nutrition problems to constipation. The primary
reason is causes constipation or impaction problems is because calcium plays a vital role in
the smooth muscle contractions of the GI tract. So when they are deficient, the muscles are
weakened thus causing the problems with constipation & sometimes prolapses.
I would go easy on too much protein & give nice nutritional slurries made of squash, greens,
canned or fresh pumpkin with a drop or two of coconut or olive oil. That can help with softening
up the stools as well as hydration status, too. If they are impacted, it can take weeks or even
months for them to fully pass things through.
Which UVB are you using for them?
Bless them, I am glad you are seeing a slight bit of improvement. that is encouraging! Which
calcium are you using, you could consider a liquid calcium to increase the speed of absorption
for them.
Feel free to post some pictures of them both, when you have a chance. We would all love to
see them.

Tracie
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