First Time Posting - Need ADVICE. Possibly sick??

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First Time Posting - Need ADVICE. Possibly sick??

Postby Allegra » Sun Sep 15, 2019 1:56 pm

Bearded dragon has been gaping frequently outside of tank and is refusing to drink water (even from syringe or in bath).

She is not showing any other signs of RI- i.e., she isn’t making any noises, has no mucus, no discoloration, etc. She has a healthy appetite (eats mealworms and a LOT of lettuce- dark greens), continues to be active, and is pooping regularly (and it is not discolored, runny, etc.). Though I know lettuce has a lot of water in it, the drinking refusal concerns me (as it is a relatively new development- past week and a half-ish or so). She is at a healthy weight (per vet). The out-of-tank gaping has been going on for about a month and a half or so but seems to be slightly increasing in frequency.

I took her to the vet last month because of the gaping and other symptoms (head shaking, unsteady gait, slight lethargy). I had been afraid of possible RI but my beardie was cleared from RI after x-rays in early August. No changes to environment have been made since. She WAS showing early signs of MBD (despite regular blood level, her X ray showed decreased bone density) so she’s been on a prescribed calcium supplement (originally refused to eat anything with the powder on it) since the August vet visit, which she takes without objection (strawberry flavored). Since starting the supplement, she appears much healthier- no longer shakes her head, walks regularly, is more active. She’s probably not 100% “good to go” just yet but I think that aspect is getting under control. The gaping persists (hence the continued concern on my end)

Vet bills have been VERY expensive (which is super difficult as a broke grad student with crippling and accruing student loan debt) so I am writing here to ask if these behaviors (or lack thereof with respect to drinking) are concerning as I’d rather not spend hundreds of dollars (again) to learn nothing is wrong.

Set up as follows:
- 40 gallon tank (ReptiHabitat Bearded Dragon 40 Gallon Terrarium Kit) with Zilla Ground English Walnut Shells substrate
- Lighting:
- —Day: ReptiSun 10.0 Compact Fluorescent UVB Bulb and Repti Basking Spot Lamp 100 watt
- — Night: Exo-Terra Infrared 75 watt

Noteworthy history:
Got her as a baby from Petco ~ 11 months ago. She had tail rot mid January-ish and had part of the tail surgically removed in February. Was on antibiotics pre and post surgery. Had i NOT recognized the state of the end of her tail at the time, you would never know she was sick- which contributes to why I’m CURRENTLY concerned, as she never seems to display any signs of overt discomfort or super super concerning behavior when she is very sick.

Also important to note- I have removed all her hides in August as she was spending too much time under them (per vet) and was not getting much UVB. She spends more time under the light now as a result.

Thanks in advance for all of your input and suggestions!!
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Re: First Time Posting - Need ADVICE. Possibly sick??

Postby KarrieRee » Sun Sep 15, 2019 2:09 pm

Ok the gaping is from the Walnut shell substrate your using -- it is toxic to dragons------------- it is dry and dusty --- the other thing lettuce is a more of a hydrating food and that is why she is probably not drinking --- I would lay off the lettuce and feed her greens like mustard collard turnip squash etc-- here is a website for nutrition
http://www.beautifuldragons.com/Nutrition.html
but the first thing you need to do is get her out of that walnut shell substrate -- use paper towels for now --- you can get some textured non adhesive shelf liner from Home Depot or Lowes its cheap easy to clean w/ vinegar / water in a spray bottle 50/50----
Please get rid of this Compact Fluorescent UVB Bulb---- she basically has been getting NO UVB ---- that is the MBD issue you need to invest in this ASAP
Which UVB light should I use?
The best UVB light is a ReptiSun 10.0 fluorescent tube HO (Or Arcardia 12% in the UK). Compact or coil bulbs do not emit the proper amount of UVB light for a bearded dragon, and should not be used. Other brands, such as the Zilla Desert Series and ReptiGlo have been known to cause eye problems and other health issues with bearded dragons, and should be avoided. The reason that some UVB lights (Zilla, ReptiGlo, coils/compacts, ect.) are considered dangerous is because the wavelength of UVB that they emit is shorter and more intense than the wavelength of the "safe" lights (ReptiSun, Arcadia). UVB lights should be replaced every 6 months. The T5’s are a strong bulb and only need to be replaced once a year – the T 8 every 6 months--- where as the T 8 are not as strong—they need to be placed inside the tank the T 5 10.0 bulb approx 10-11 inches from basking spot – the T 8 approx 8-10 inches from basking spot—the cover needs to be off the bulb for full effect of the UVB rays-- this is going to be spendy --- you can check your local Petsmart or Petco stores and get a T 8 there --- the T 5's you might find there but my stores here do not carry them --- she is in desperate need of good lighting UVB -- get rid of the night light --- they are harmful to the eyes of the dragon and can cause long term eye damage--- dragons sleep in the dark-- your tank if it needs heat at nite below 65 get a heat emitter - also known as a CHE --- they come in 75 watt or 100 I believe and produce NO LIGHT!!!! any more questions please ASK

Karrie
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Re: First Time Posting - Need ADVICE. Possibly sick??

Postby claudiusx » Sun Sep 15, 2019 2:14 pm

Hi there,

There are a few issues with your husbandry that you'll want to take care of.
Firstly, crushed walnut shell needs to go. It's one of the worst substrates one can use. It really can cut them up when ingested.

Secondly is your uv light. The xrays showing low bone density are most likely caused by the improper uv exposure. the thing with most coil uv bulbs like you have is that the uv they output diminishes extremely quickly with distance. So it's not necessarily that she isnt getting enough calcium, but that she isnt absorbing it properly due to insufficient uv exposure.

I'd highly suggest upgrading to the reptisun 10.0 tube or the Arcadia tubes.
If you have time, check out the lighting threads here in the enclosures section to learn more.
Lastly, your night bulb. I assume that's a red light? Dragons need darkness at night. Lights will disrupt their sleep. So I'd ditch it. You dont even need to provide supplemental heat at night unless her home drops below 60 at night.

Now onto your question in regards to drinking. Is there a reason you want her to drink from the syringe? Is she showing signs of dehydration?
What do her urates look like?

How are her activity levels right now?
Is she eating and pooing a normal amount?

-Brandon
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Re: First Time Posting - Need ADVICE. Possibly sick??

Postby Allegra » Sun Sep 15, 2019 2:49 pm

claudiusx wrote:Hi there,

There are a few issues with your husbandry that you'll want to take care of.
Firstly, crushed walnut shell needs to go. It's one of the worst substrates one can use. It really can cut them up when ingested.

Secondly is your uv light. The xrays showing low bone density are most likely caused by the improper uv exposure. the thing with most coil uv bulbs like you have is that the uv they output diminishes extremely quickly with distance. So it's not necessarily that she isnt getting enough calcium, but that she isnt absorbing it properly due to insufficient uv exposure.

I'd highly suggest upgrading to the reptisun 10.0 tube or the Arcadia tubes.
If you have time, check out the lighting threads here in the enclosures section to learn more.
Lastly, your night bulb. I assume that's a red light? Dragons need darkness at night. Lights will disrupt their sleep. So I'd ditch it. You dont even need to provide supplemental heat at night unless her home drops below 60 at night.

Now onto your question in regards to drinking. Is there a reason you want her to drink from the syringe? Is she showing signs of dehydration?
What do her urates look like?

How are her activity levels right now?
Is she eating and pooing a normal amount?

-Brandon


She is eating and pooping regularly- nothing “funny looking”. She is active- she likes digging a lot (vet complimented her pecks and biceps lol) which is why I had the walnut substrate (we previously had some form of vitamin sand but she was eating it, which she obviously wouldn’t be able to digest). I use a syringe (more like a pipet- excuse the confusion) because she would not drink out of a water bowl. With my beardie growing up (who lived to 13!), my family was told to hydrate him via dripping water on his nose with a syringe so I’ve been doing that with my new girl.

The night bulb is red- yes. It does look obnoxious. I actually recently added it because she had a purple one previously that burned out and the red one was the quickest replacement I could get ahold of. I didn’t like it to begin with but panicked when the other bulb burned out because I thought might lights were necessary. Thanks for clearing that up. I will look into the other UVB bulbs- very odd that my vet had not suggested that switch. My lizard did get a shot that is supposed to help her absorb UVB rays after the initial MBD “diagnosis”

I will absolutely change out the substrate. My vet (in passing) recommended something like seemed like cat litter that is not chemically treated but instead just little balls of paper (that are digestible in case she inadvertently eats some). I think it was called “Yesterday’s News”- do you have any experience with that?
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Re: First Time Posting - Need ADVICE. Possibly sick??

Postby Allegra » Sun Sep 15, 2019 2:56 pm

KarrieRee wrote:Ok the gaping is from the Walnut shell substrate your using -- it is toxic to dragons------------- it is dry and dusty --- the other thing lettuce is a more of a hydrating food and that is why she is probably not drinking --- I would lay off the lettuce and feed her greens like mustard collard turnip squash etc-- here is a website for nutrition
http://www.beautifuldragons.com/Nutrition.html
but the first thing you need to do is get her out of that walnut shell substrate -- use paper towels for now --- you can get some textured non adhesive shelf liner from Home Depot or Lowes its cheap easy to clean w/ vinegar / water in a spray bottle 50/50----
Please get rid of this Compact Fluorescent UVB Bulb---- she basically has been getting NO UVB ---- that is the MBD issue you need to invest in this ASAP
Which UVB light should I use?
The best UVB light is a ReptiSun 10.0 fluorescent tube HO (Or Arcardia 12% in the UK). Compact or coil bulbs do not emit the proper amount of UVB light for a bearded dragon, and should not be used. Other brands, such as the Zilla Desert Series and ReptiGlo have been known to cause eye problems and other health issues with bearded dragons, and should be avoided. The reason that some UVB lights (Zilla, ReptiGlo, coils/compacts, ect.) are considered dangerous is because the wavelength of UVB that they emit is shorter and more intense than the wavelength of the "safe" lights (ReptiSun, Arcadia). UVB lights should be replaced every 6 months. The T5’s are a strong bulb and only need to be replaced once a year – the T 8 every 6 months--- where as the T 8 are not as strong—they need to be placed inside the tank the T 5 10.0 bulb approx 10-11 inches from basking spot – the T 8 approx 8-10 inches from basking spot—the cover needs to be off the bulb for full effect of the UVB rays-- this is going to be spendy --- you can check your local Petsmart or Petco stores and get a T 8 there --- the T 5's you might find there but my stores here do not carry them --- she is in desperate need of good lighting UVB -- get rid of the night light --- they are harmful to the eyes of the dragon and can cause long term eye damage--- dragons sleep in the dark-- your tank if it needs heat at nite below 65 get a heat emitter - also known as a CHE --- they come in 75 watt or 100 I believe and produce NO LIGHT!!!! any more questions please ASK

Karrie


Thank you so much for your response! I will absolutely switch out the substrate ASAP. I didn’t know that could lead to gaping! I will also go to the store to check about the UVB bulb. I am glad to hear the lack of drinking is likely due to her already being sufficiently hydrated- that is comforting.
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Re: First Time Posting - Need ADVICE. Possibly sick??

Postby claudiusx » Sun Sep 15, 2019 3:10 pm

I'm not familiar with that substrate, but a lot of us here like solid substrate. Like tile, linoleum, shelf liner, even paper towels or newspaper.

Ok good, I am glad that you are just dripping it on the nose as opposed to force feeding her.
Pay attention to her urates to determine her hydration level. Soft and white means well hydrated. If it starts getting hard and chalky or discolored, that can be a sign of dehydration. Note though that excess supplementation can also discolor the urate. So what your vet gave her might cause that for a few days.

Yup, no need for any night bulb of your house stays above 60. And if it doesnt, youd want a CHE as these produce heat but no visible light.

Uv is largely not understood very well, even by some vets so that's not very surprising. If you look up some UVI charts for different reptile bulbs you will see the output of the coils versus the bulbs we recommend. There is a big difference.

That's great that shes eating and is active.
It sounds like shes doing just fine but she will definitely benefit from the change of substrate and the uv upgrade.

UV bulbs can be a bit confusing so dont be afraid to ask before you buy! :)

-Brandon
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Re: First Time Posting - Need ADVICE. Possibly sick??

Postby Allegra » Sun Sep 15, 2019 3:51 pm

claudiusx wrote:I'm not familiar with that substrate, but a lot of us here like solid substrate. Like tile, linoleum, shelf liner, even paper towels or newspaper.

Ok good, I am glad that you are just dripping it on the nose as opposed to force feeding her.
Pay attention to her urates to determine her hydration level. Soft and white means well hydrated. If it starts getting hard and chalky or discolored, that can be a sign of dehydration. Note though that excess supplementation can also discolor the urate. So what your vet gave her might cause that for a few days.

Yup, no need for any night bulb of your house stays above 60. And if it doesnt, youd want a CHE as these produce heat but no visible light.

Uv is largely not understood very well, even by some vets so that's not very surprising. If you look up some UVI charts for different reptile bulbs you will see the output of the coils versus the bulbs we recommend. There is a big difference.

That's great that shes eating and is active.
It sounds like shes doing just fine but she will definitely benefit from the change of substrate and the uv upgrade.

UV bulbs can be a bit confusing so dont be afraid to ask before you buy! :)

-Brandon


I will definitely reach out if I get confused! I’m going to check out Petco for UVB bulbs and change out substrate within the next few days (hopefully tomorrow).

I SINCERELY hope that my vet is just uninformed re: UVB (though that is concerning in itself), but I must admit that I have been quite skeptical about her and her practices. Sadly, she is the only geographically convenient exotic animal vet, so I am forced to pay her astronomical fees. I do not want to believe she has any malicious or greedy intentions but I will say that she did not mention ANYTHING to me about financing/insurance until AFTER I paid ~$2k OUT OF POCKET (VERY thankful my parents were willing to help me out with that- they love my girl almost as much as I do). At one point, I even resorted to having my lizard board at parents’ so that my dad (he’s an MD) could give her the antibiotic shots (pre/post tail surgery) in home instead of shelling out ~$200/week for MONTHS to have the vet administer them. Not to mention, she has tried to charge me ~$40 for a temperature gauge that I found on Amazon for nearly a quarter of the price (thanks, Google!). I apologize for the semi-tangential vet rant but it’s all to say that I feel much more helped/supported by you and the other responder, free of charge, than I ever have from my little girl’s vet. I am eternally grateful for both of you.
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Re: First Time Posting - Need ADVICE. Possibly sick??

Postby claudiusx » Sun Sep 15, 2019 4:04 pm

Vets are an important tool, but unfortunately not all are as knowledgeable on dragons as we'd like. They need to know a bit about lots of different creatures where as we have the luxury of only having to really know one.

But, all we want here is for you and your girl to be healthy and happy, and that's what we try our best to achieve.

If I was at home at my computer I'd show you some of the output charts of the coil bulbs vs the linear tubes so you could see, but I'm out on mobile right now. If you're interested I'll try to get them up for you later :)

-Brandon
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Re: First Time Posting - Need ADVICE. Possibly sick??

Postby KarrieRee » Sun Sep 15, 2019 4:10 pm

Holy cow I was wondering why that vet did not ask about her husbandry ----- I would ditch the vet --- once you get the things replaced in that tank and her diet in order she should do a lot better ---- she should know all the simple things we have told you about husbandry it is the key to a dragons health --- I am sorry to say she took you for a ride for all the money you shelled out-- your dragon should be in immaculate health!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Please get a digital probe for your tank and/ or a infrared heat gun to take basking temps --- they are extremely important as well -- the digital probe you can get at Petco or Petsmart and the Infrared heat gun at Home Depot or Lowes for around $10-12 --- here is a website for nutrition
http://www.beautifuldragons.com/Nutrition.html
If you need anymore help please ask
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Re: First Time Posting - Need ADVICE. Possibly sick??

Postby AHBD » Sun Sep 15, 2019 5:27 pm

Good advice being given so far Allegra, sorry you've had to dish out so much money and would have been gouged another $200 a week for antibiotic shots. How many months did they do the shots ? Was the tail amp. $2000 ? BTW, it's always good to see pics of the dragon, can you post some here to show her body condition including her tail ? Here's how to post pics :

https://www.beardeddragon.org/useruploads/ Then use the XIMG to upload the pics
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Re: First Time Posting - Need ADVICE. Possibly sick??

Postby Allegra » Sun Sep 15, 2019 7:43 pm

AHBD wrote:Good advice being given so far Allegra, sorry you've had to dish out so much money and would have been gouged another $200 a week for antibiotic shots. How many months did they do the shots ? Was the tail amp. $2000 ? BTW, it's always good to see pics of the dragon, can you post some here to show her body condition including her tail ? Here's how to post pics :

https://www.beardeddragon.org/useruploads/ Then use the XIMG to upload the pics


They charge a visit fee + cost of shot. When we got her the shot to help her absorb UVB, I paid $75 for visit and $60 for the shot. $135 for two minutes in the office (might as well be seeing a psychiatrist at that rate).

The antibiotics she took for about three months (some was pre surgery in hopes the surgery could be avoided, the rest was post surgery to make sure she was good after it). She had to get an antibiotic shot (between scales :[) every three days- so, honestly, it would have probably totaled over $200 a week now thinking about it in more detail.

Re: tail rot expenses. It’s hard for me to remember exactly but I think the following breakdown is pretty spot on...
Initial visit, X-rays + bloodwork was around $350ish, I would say. Follow up vet visits prior to surgery were around $250. Surgery + sedation + antibiotic “take home” shots + “boarding” (was told she had to stay all day because reptiles take a long time to “come to”) was about $1300. Then there was a follow up visit after the surgery which was around $100.

She’s asleep right now(WITHOUT the obnoxious red light- I listened!) so I’m attaching a picture of her from a few days ago when she was hanging out on my thigh watching tv haha. You can’t see the tail in its entirety but I’ll take a picture where you can see her “lil stump” as soon as the “sun” comes up. [Click image to enlarge]
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Re: First Time Posting - Need ADVICE. Possibly sick??

Postby Allegra » Sun Sep 15, 2019 7:52 pm

KarrieRee wrote:Holy cow I was wondering why that vet did not ask about her husbandry ----- I would ditch the vet --- once you get the things replaced in that tank and her diet in order she should do a lot better ---- she should know all the simple things we have told you about husbandry it is the key to a dragons health --- I am sorry to say she took you for a ride for all the money you shelled out-- your dragon should be in immaculate health!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Please get a digital probe for your tank and/ or a infrared heat gun to take basking temps --- they are extremely important as well -- the digital probe you can get at Petco or Petsmart and the Infrared heat gun at Home Depot or Lowes for around $10-12 --- here is a website for nutrition
http://www.beautifuldragons.com/Nutrition.html
If you need anymore help please ask
Karrie


I ABSOLUTELY agree that she SHOULD be in immaculate health- I find it quite ridiculous that i wasn’t informed of the majority of what is being suggested here. It seems that knowledge would have probably prevented A LOT of the issues I’m dealing with right now. thanks for the nutrition link and the suggestion to get a heat gun- I’ll check into that as well! The one helpful thing my vet did say was that the temperature stickers were inaccurate, so I do have a temperature probe (that I purchased on amazon for a quarter of the price that the vet was charging “in shop”)
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Re: First Time Posting - Need ADVICE. Possibly sick??

Postby Allegra » Sun Sep 15, 2019 7:56 pm

claudiusx wrote:Vets are an important tool, but unfortunately not all are as knowledgeable on dragons as we'd like. They need to know a bit about lots of different creatures where as we have the luxury of only having to really know one.

But, all we want here is for you and your girl to be healthy and happy, and that's what we try our best to achieve.

If I was at home at my computer I'd show you some of the output charts of the coil bulbs vs the linear tubes so you could see, but I'm out on mobile right now. If you're interested I'll try to get them up for you later :)

-Brandon


If you are able to get them up, that would be great! If not, it seems there is a lot of overlap in your suggestions about the right UVB bulb- so I can always start with that!
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Re: First Time Posting - Need ADVICE. Possibly sick??

Postby Drache613 » Sun Sep 15, 2019 11:19 pm

Hello,

Great advice from everyone. I just wanted to chime in & say how bad I felt about you
not getting much help from your vet but getting financially gouged. It just is not fair at all
for their prices to be so out of control!
I do think though that with a few tank setup changes that she will begin to recover for you
& her immune system will get stronger. As for her bone condition, hopefully with a stronger
UVB source, along with her supplementation it will reverse some.
She looks very sweet so I really hope she starts feeling better soon.
I agree, do keep her a little warmer at night, to help her immune system out right now.

Let us know how she is doing.
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Re: First Time Posting - Need ADVICE. Possibly sick??

Postby Allegra » Mon Sep 16, 2019 1:56 pm

[Click image to enlarge]


Here’s a picture from this morning. Ignore the lettuce she threw around her tank, haha. I’m changing the substrate tonight!
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