16 month old male, fluid in abdomen

gtmobi74

Member
Hello everyone. One of my bearded dragons is currently sick and I am not sure what to do from here. I apologize for the long post but I want to make sure I give all the details.

For some background, I have two bearded dragons, one female (Reptar) and one male (Lucky). Both are 16 months old and housed separately in 40 gallon tanks with a 160w Mega-Ray MVB bulb at the basking spot and a 24 inch Reptisun T5. These bulbs are all approximately 4 months old and will be replaced again in March. Their lights are on a timer and are on from 8am-730pm. The humidity ranges from 20-25% and the basking spot stays around 102-103 in each cage, and they are on reptile carpet. Up until a year old, they were offered a variety of bugs every day (crickets, hornworms, dubia roaches, soldier fly larva, superworms, mealworms, waxworms) that were coated in calcium each feeding and vitamins 1-2x/week. I've always offered a variety of greens but both of them will only eat kale, so they get fresh kale and calcium often. In February 2021, they were both taken for their first vet visit as their appetites drastically decreased. They had coccidia and pinworms, and were mildly overweight, but were otherwise in good health according to the vet. She recommended offering greens daily and bugs only 2-3x/week. The parasites were treated with medications. During the time when they were being treated, I fed a half-dose worth of Repti-Boost and some probiotics every couple of days to help them recover from the parasites and medications. After they recovered, I cut the bug feedings down to a couple times a week. I had also read on the internet to let them eat as many bugs as they want in their feeding period. Both would over-indulge, but especially Lucky. There were times he would eat over 200 bugs (mostly BSFL, which are small, but that is still way too many), so I also limited how many bugs they got in each feeding session. Both dragons have seemed healthy since. They poop regularly, had good appetites, and were very active. With the new diet, Reptar grew to a normal size and weight, but Lucky still appeared obese, even though I greatly cut his food intake down as he grew.

In early November, as the weather was getting colder, both dragons became pretty sluggish and stopped eating. I attributed this to brumation and left them alone. Reptar would wake up to eat every so often, but Lucky wouldn't. One day when I was soaking Lucky, he closed his eyes, froze up, and started twitching. I thought he may be low on calcium and this was the beginning of MBD from not eating/brumating, so I started to give him small amounts of repti-boost daily and scheduled a vet appointment. I was very concerned for him and thought he may have parasites or MBD. I had to wait over a month for the appointment. During that time, Reptar came out of brumation and had been her normal self, but Lucky was still sluggish and refusing to eat, but was "awake" all day. I kept giving Lucky supportive care, but he was not acting himself.

I took both dragons in with stool samples. The vet weighed Reptar and checked her stool sample but Lucky was the main focus of the visit. Reptar was 480 grams and had a negative stool sample. Lucky had a negative stool sample and weighed a whopping 685 grams. Based on what I described, the vet was also concerned for MBD, so she took an x-ray. On the x-ray, he had fluid in his abdomen that was also pushing on his lungs. Per her recommendation, she did a needle aspiration of the fluid and bloodwork. She removed 13cc of clear yellow fluid from his abdomen and sent everything to a lab. He had a normal calcium level (12.5), no signs of MBD on the x-ray or bloodwork, normal kidney and liver function, and everything else was normal. She suspects that it was the beginning of an infection or fatty liver disease, so she prescribed 7 days of Baytril and recommended a feeding schedule of bugs once per week and fresh greens offered daily to bring his weight down. She said that he is not obese, he just looks like a very large dragon, and over her last 20 years as an exotic vet, she has noticed that they seem to be breeding them to be larger and larger, and the larger ones have more health issues. She said no more repti-boost or supplements, just let him eat if and when he wants, and hopefully he will slowly lose weight and fluid will stop accumulating. The vet visit was on January 4th. After the visit, Lucky has been more active and mostly acts like his normal self. I am not sure if this can be attributed to the aspiration or the antibiotic. However, he is hardly eating. Since the visit, he has eaten a total of 8 superworms, 3 dubia roaches, and a few pieces of kale. I am not offering any more worms as I know they are full of fat. I am concerned again because I think I might feel more fluid in his abdomen, and I'm worried that this is decreasing his appetite, or going to lead to breathing troubles. I'm at a loss here. I am a fourth year medical student, so I have seen heart failure, liver failure, renal failure, and fluid issues in humans plenty of times. I have an understanding of the physiology and pathology behind these diseases, but that is in humans and not reptiles, so this is probably worsening my fears. I get worried when he doesn't eat for long periods of time because I don't want him nutritionally deficient or to develop MBD, but I also don't want food to be making the fluid worse. I don't want to lose him, but I also don't want him suffering. The vet wants me to talk with her at the end of the month to see how he's doing, and may want to see him for another visit, and warned that if he isn't eating, he may need to be hospitalized. I will be bringing everything I've said here up with the vet but if he would need a bunch more lab testing or hospitalization, I simply can't afford it. Has anyone here dealt with something similar? Is there something the vet may be missing? Is there anything else I can do to help him? What are the next steps in treatment, and what is his prognosis?
 

KarrieRee

BD.org Sicko
Beardie name(s)
Hiccup he is 4 and Blaze is 2
Hello everyone. One of my bearded dragons is currently sick and I am not sure what to do from here. I apologize for the long post but I want to make sure I give all the details.

For some background, I have two bearded dragons, one female (Reptar) and one male (Lucky). Both are 16 months old and housed separately in 40 gallon tanks with a 160w Mega-Ray MVB bulb at the basking spot and a 24 inch Reptisun T5. These bulbs are all approximately 4 months old and will be replaced again in March. Their lights are on a timer and are on from 8am-730pm. The humidity ranges from 20-25% and the basking spot stays around 102-103 in each cage, and they are on reptile carpet. Up until a year old, they were offered a variety of bugs every day (crickets, hornworms, dubia roaches, soldier fly larva, superworms, mealworms, waxworms) that were coated in calcium each feeding and vitamins 1-2x/week. I've always offered a variety of greens but both of them will only eat kale, so they get fresh kale and calcium often. In February 2021, they were both taken for their first vet visit as their appetites drastically decreased. They had coccidia and pinworms, and were mildly overweight, but were otherwise in good health according to the vet. She recommended offering greens daily and bugs only 2-3x/week. The parasites were treated with medications. During the time when they were being treated, I fed a half-dose worth of Repti-Boost and some probiotics every couple of days to help them recover from the parasites and medications. After they recovered, I cut the bug feedings down to a couple times a week. I had also read on the internet to let them eat as many bugs as they want in their feeding period. Both would over-indulge, but especially Lucky. There were times he would eat over 200 bugs (mostly BSFL, which are small, but that is still way too many), so I also limited how many bugs they got in each feeding session. Both dragons have seemed healthy since. They poop regularly, had good appetites, and were very active. With the new diet, Reptar grew to a normal size and weight, but Lucky still appeared obese, even though I greatly cut his food intake down as he grew.

In early November, as the weather was getting colder, both dragons became pretty sluggish and stopped eating. I attributed this to brumation and left them alone. Reptar would wake up to eat every so often, but Lucky wouldn't. One day when I was soaking Lucky, he closed his eyes, froze up, and started twitching. I thought he may be low on calcium and this was the beginning of MBD from not eating/brumating, so I started to give him small amounts of repti-boost daily and scheduled a vet appointment. I was very concerned for him and thought he may have parasites or MBD. I had to wait over a month for the appointment. During that time, Reptar came out of brumation and had been her normal self, but Lucky was still sluggish and refusing to eat, but was "awake" all day. I kept giving Lucky supportive care, but he was not acting himself.

I took both dragons in with stool samples. The vet weighed Reptar and checked her stool sample but Lucky was the main focus of the visit. Reptar was 480 grams and had a negative stool sample. Lucky had a negative stool sample and weighed a whopping 685 grams. Based on what I described, the vet was also concerned for MBD, so she took an x-ray. On the x-ray, he had fluid in his abdomen that was also pushing on his lungs. Per her recommendation, she did a needle aspiration of the fluid and bloodwork. She removed 13cc of clear yellow fluid from his abdomen and sent everything to a lab. He had a normal calcium level (12.5), no signs of MBD on the x-ray or bloodwork, normal kidney and liver function, and everything else was normal. She suspects that it was the beginning of an infection or fatty liver disease, so she prescribed 7 days of Baytril and recommended a feeding schedule of bugs once per week and fresh greens offered daily to bring his weight down. She said that he is not obese, he just looks like a very large dragon, and over her last 20 years as an exotic vet, she has noticed that they seem to be breeding them to be larger and larger, and the larger ones have more health issues. She said no more repti-boost or supplements, just let him eat if and when he wants, and hopefully he will slowly lose weight and fluid will stop accumulating. The vet visit was on January 4th. After the visit, Lucky has been more active and mostly acts like his normal self. I am not sure if this can be attributed to the aspiration or the antibiotic. However, he is hardly eating. Since the visit, he has eaten a total of 8 superworms, 3 dubia roaches, and a few pieces of kale. I am not offering any more worms as I know they are full of fat. I am concerned again because I think I might feel more fluid in his abdomen, and I'm worried that this is decreasing his appetite, or going to lead to breathing troubles. I'm at a loss here. I am a fourth year medical student, so I have seen heart failure, liver failure, renal failure, and fluid issues in humans plenty of times. I have an understanding of the physiology and pathology behind these diseases, but that is in humans and not reptiles, so this is probably worsening my fears. I get worried when he doesn't eat for long periods of time because I don't want him nutritionally deficient or to develop MBD, but I also don't want food to be making the fluid worse. I don't want to lose him, but I also don't want him suffering. The vet wants me to talk with her at the end of the month to see how he's doing, and may want to see him for another visit, and warned that if he isn't eating, he may need to be hospitalized. I will be bringing everything I've said here up with the vet but if he would need a bunch more lab testing or hospitalization, I simply can't afford it. Has anyone here dealt with something similar? Is there something the vet may be missing? Is there anything else I can do to help him? What are the next steps in treatment, and what is his prognosis?
What is his weight? Is he losing weight? I would keep track of it- it is not uncommon for dragons to slow their eating in the winter time - if hes losing weight then I would be concerned --- developing MBD would be lack of UVB --- and you have good lighting going w/ that being said where do you have your UVB ? Is it on top of the screen or inside the tank and what kind of screen is on the tank ? Fine mesh like a screen door or wide hole type of screen? this makes a different for the effectiveness of the rays
 

gtmobi74

Member
Original Poster
What is his weight? Is he losing weight? I would keep track of it- it is not uncommon for dragons to slow their eating in the winter time - if hes losing weight then I would be concerned --- developing MBD would be lack of UVB --- and you have good lighting going w/ that being said where do you have your UVB ? Is it on top of the screen or inside the tank and what kind of screen is on the tank ? Fine mesh like a screen door or wide hole type of screen? this makes a different for the effectiveness of the rays
He was 685 grams at the vet on the 4th, I have not weighed him since. The MVB and UV are on top of the screen. It's a Thrive (Petsmart) brand front-opening cage and the top is metal with holes in it. I know that this is probably cutting down on the lighting but neither of them have had issues digesting or shown signs of MBD. I would love to mount the UV inside but it's a strange top and I have no idea how I could safely mount it.
 

KarrieRee

BD.org Sicko
Beardie name(s)
Hiccup he is 4 and Blaze is 2
He was 685 grams at the vet on the 4th, I have not weighed him since. The MVB and UV are on top of the screen. It's a Thrive (Petsmart) brand front-opening cage and the top is metal with holes in it. I know that this is probably cutting down on the lighting but neither of them have had issues digesting or shown signs of MBD. I would love to mount the UV inside but it's a strange top and I have no idea how I could safely mount it.
I would say take the screen off --- show me the screen please lets have a look
 

gtmobi74

Member
Original Poster
I would say take the screen off --- show me the screen please lets have a look
Here is the screen close up, and here is a link to the cage: Thrive Front Double Door Opening Terrarium Desert Essentials Kit - 40 Gallon | reptile Starter Kits | PetSmart

I did see this universal lid on Petsmart's website: Thrive Reptile Habitat Screen Cover | reptile Habitat Accessories | PetSmart

This lid looks like it would let a lot more in, do you think it would be worth it to put this lid on their cages?
 

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Drache613

BD.org Sicko
Staff member
Moderator
Hello,

So sorry your boy is not doing well. If you have pictures, both of your dragon & tank set up that would be great.
Do you happen to have a copy of the blood test also you could post?
If he is developing fatty liver issues, you can help out his health with milk thistle. Did the vet suggest that at all? It is routinely
used for that problem. It's safe to use long term, also.
Everything the vet has already done, sounds fine to me. The liver is regenerative so if you have caught it early enough it could
turn around for him.
Looking forward to seeing pictures of him!

Tracie
 

gtmobi74

Member
Original Poster
161413.jpg
Here are some pictures of him and his setup. I don't have much in his cage right now because the vet doesn't want him doing anything strenuous. I've been looking into his lighting more and purchased the replacement lid to let more light in but it doesn't fit with the stacker, so now I need to either mount the UV tube inside or find a slightly smaller lid.

I don't have copies of the bloodwork but I can try to get them. The vet didn't mention milk thistle.
 

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KarrieRee

BD.org Sicko
Beardie name(s)
Hiccup he is 4 and Blaze is 2
View attachment 67077 Here are some pictures of him and his setup. I don't have much in his cage right now because the vet doesn't want him doing anything strenuous. I've been looking into his lighting more and purchased the replacement lid to let more light in but it doesn't fit with the stacker, so now I need to either mount the UV tube inside or find a slightly smaller lid.

I don't have copies of the bloodwork but I can try to get them. The vet didn't mention milk thistle.
What are you using for the uvb?
 

KarrieRee

BD.org Sicko
Beardie name(s)
Hiccup he is 4 and Blaze is 2
A 22" Reptisun 10.0 T5 in a 24" t5 zoomed terrarium hood. The heat lamp is also a 160w Mega Ray MVB.
Ok the uvb inside your tank distance 12-15 inches directly above the basking decor- is the megaray in the tank now?
 

gtmobi74

Member
Original Poster
Ok your going to move the uvb correct? If your screen is a fine mesh like a screen door it definitely needs to go inside
It's not a fine mesh, it's a thick metal with small holes in it. It's hard to explain without seeing it because I've never seen another terrarium lid with a top like it, and I always felt it was reducing the lighting, but until Lucky got sick, neither of them seemed to have any lighting related issues. I did notice at Petsmart when I was buying the replacement lid that they are releasing a new version of the terrariums and they have a redesigned lid with a different mesh that would let more light in. Since I can't fit the replacement lid on with the stacker I'll be moving the UVB hood to the inside. I did check the temperature and humidity again and his basking spot was at 104 and 22%, and it's very cold here, so the Mega-Ray has no issues with heating from above the screen.
 

gtmobi74

Member
Original Poster
An update: Yesterday, I gave up on trying to find a new lid, and was able to mount the UV hood inside their cages with Velcro. Lucky's cage has never looked brighter and he loves it. He seems more alert and has been sitting on his log right under the UV. He pooped for the first time since the vet visit. I'm hoping this light will help him continue to heal and get him to eat. I will be speaking to the vet on Friday and will ask about milk thistle. Any other advice for me?
 

KarrieRee

BD.org Sicko
Beardie name(s)
Hiccup he is 4 and Blaze is 2
An update: Yesterday, I gave up on trying to find a new lid, and was able to mount the UV hood inside their cages with Velcro. Lucky's cage has never looked brighter and he loves it. He seems more alert and has been sitting on his log right under the UV. He pooped for the first time since the vet visit. I'm hoping this light will help him continue to heal and get him to eat. I will be speaking to the vet on Friday and will ask about milk thistle. Any other advice for me?
The UVB inside the tank is going to benefit him tremendously -- his behavior has already changed already it sounds like -- keep us updated please
 
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