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Please Help! Beardie with swollen legs!


**long post, please read, there’s a lot of details**

So this started last Wednesday.
I noticed my beardie couldn’t move his back legs at all and was hesitant to move. Thinking it was possible impaction, I gave him a bath, he pooped. He seemed to be better. Then over the next couple days I noticed some swelling in the rear legs (most swellings in thighs and also his forearms) and a little in the lower abdomen and kind of in the tail. Walking was getting better day by day but still having a lot of trouble. His big toe was also twitching briefly on 3 separate occasions.

I took him to the ER (no exotic specialist was available, only regular vet) After asking all the important husbandry info vet was thinking MBD. X-ray was showing a normal bone density and no obvious impaction, fractures, etc. organs from the top view looked normal. (Couldn’t get a side view.) Vet wanted to venture a guess and say it was a kidney-related issue due to the swelling. He suggested a fluid injection, calcium injection, D3 injection and sent me home with calcium glubionate. He seemed to park up. I followed up with another vet a few days later to get bloodwork done to pursue the kidney possibility. (This vet was kind of rude and he didn’t ask ANY pertinent info and handled my beardie roughly when examining the legs and abdomen)

He read the results. Everything was in normal range. Kidney, liver, calcium/phosphorous, etc were all good. He suggested it was just a soft tissue injury. We had done a fecal as well to rule out parasites (results not in on that one)

I am a little confused. The sudden onset of my beardies symptoms but his good blood-work health. Could this just be an injury (he is pretty rough and tumble and a trouble maker) or is this the beginning of a really horrible disease that can kill him and it just hasn’t shown in the blood yet..?

I’m so terrified it might be gout or a kidney disease.

I’ve researched so much and can’t quite match his appearance to other cases with posted pictures. I’ve already spent so much money and seen 2 doctors, I’ve already called and made an appointment with a third. If this IS the above mentioned kidney issue-time is so critical.

Here are the facts of his husbandry and background for further info:

—Male, 3 years old, rescue (from poor conditions)
—VERY picky beardie, refuses all greens, except arugula and green beans. (I’ve tried everything) and sometimes dandelion greens. He loves insects: Mealworms, superworms, sometimes Dubias, never crickets. (Yes I know he should eat silkworms…I’m working on that.)
—Will not voluntarily drink water, have to force it by dropper
—-he is overweight at 755grams/1.6lbs
—-he lives in a 55 gallon tank
—-Reptisun T5 10.0
—-zoo med heat bulb 100w (150w was too hot for him.)
—-basking site 6” away from light/heat
—-basking temperature 98-100
—-1 hour of outdoor basking/go for walks (usually 3X weekly) on sunny days

Other than the swelling, and trouble walking:
He is very bright, alert, curious, eating, pooping, normal behavior

So please-anyone who is reading this, what are your thoughts. I acted fast and got him to two different vets with different opinions, but I need to be the biggest advocate for my baby, because he can’t speak for himself, but I know something is up.


BD.org Sicko
Please post pics https://www.beardeddragon.org/useruploads/ click on XIMG at the top of the message box then click on the pic it should post
Where is the T 5? top of screen or inside the tank - are you using a hammock in the tank?
Gout would need blood work and since they pulled blood already it should of been tested for uric acid levels -- to rule it out


Original Poster
Yes I have hammocks in the tank. And yes he totally does jump off of them and he is very active like that.??‍♀️

The T5 is on top of a screen, but his favorite basking site is within 6 inches away from heat/light. It was my impression that if using a screen, you just need to have the lighting closer. But I will try to figure out a way to mount it inside.

He has jumped off of a lot of things before, so I can totally understand how he could have messed something up. He also may very well have had some deficiencies. D3 perhaps?

Uric acid was tested apparently. Here are all the details of the bloodwork, not really sure what each of them means:

AST: 186 U/L
BA: <35 umol/L
CK: 518 U/L
UA: <0.3 mg/dL
GLU: 206 mg/dL
CA: 12.9 mg/dL
PHOS: 3.9 mg/dL
TP: 6.9 g/dL
ALB: 3.8 g/dL
GLOB: 3.1 g/dL
K+: 4.0 mmol/L
NA+ 156 mmol/L

So I am not entirely sure what all that means. It was explained to me that his bloodwork was good. Does anyone know if anything looks out of place here?

On the other hand, if this is a soft tissue injury. Does anyone know what I can do to help the swelling go down and stabilize the injury?

The swelling got worse since that vet was pulling and prodding at his legs and feet roughly.
The right side is a tad more swollen but the left side he has a hard time lifting and putting his foot all the way down when walking.

He wanted to put him on anti inflammatories and maybe a painkiller.

I don’t really feel comfortable using drugs on him, until I have a 100% diagnosis


BD.org Sicko
Yes no drugs till you have proper diagnosis--- Tracie is really good reading test results I will flag post -- I would get rid of the hammock -- your UVB needs to be inside the tank w/ a distance of 12-15 inches directly above the basking decor piece that is going to help w/ the healing process --
3 M command Velcro fasteners- picture hanging wire –long plastic zip ties-- fishing line-- and I recommend this stuff it works really good -- its like a Velcro strap cut into strips wrap around your fixture https://www.homedepot.com/p/GE-15-ft-Cable-Ties-Hook-and-Loop-Spool-Black-10375/304220195


Original Poster
Thank you so much! You folks are a godsend!

I’ll get crafty. Your recommendations were a great idea!
Meantime until I order it-I cut-out a hole in the screen to allow the uvb to go uninhibited.

I agree about the hammocks. The only issue Is my tank is a very tall one. It’s 21 inches high, 49 inches long. So in order to get him close enough to his heat/light lamps I had to get him up higher a little bit. I have a smaller, shorter tank 40gal I can put him in so the light/heat will reach him. He hates the smaller tank/change in general but he will have to suck it up as it’s for his own good.

Thank you for flagging for Tracie. She seems super knowledgeable and I would appreciate the feedback!!


BD.org Sicko
Staff member

Can you post a picture of your tank just so we can see the lighting placement?
If you are using a T5, then it would be too close if you placed it in the tank. You mentioned
that he can get within a 6 inch distance with it on top of the screen?

Overall, the bloodwork does look good. The uric acid is low, maybe too low, which could
indicate a mineral deficiency perhaps. He doesn't really look dehydrated though. What
supplementation are you using? The calcium you are using, does it have D3 or without?
If it has D3, I would recommend using a calcium without D3 so he doesn't develop any
toxicities. Hypervitaminosis can happen if there is too much supplementation which causes
an imbalance of one thing or another. What did the vet say about any puffiness or swelling?



Original Poster
Thank you tracie!

So here is a picture of the tank. Ignore the weird decor placement. (I’m still playing with it) This was just a temporary change until I get him in a smaller tank that is shorter so I can keep him on flat ground. The reptile carpet on the basking site was just for him to sleep at night on.

I put down the measurements on the picture itself but to recap:

The Reptisun T5 10.0 is the far most left, then next to it the repti basking 100w. Both within reflecting fixtures.

I’ve changed his cage around quite a bit but he always seems to love hanging out in that corner so he can look out the window that’s why I have it over there.

On the right side is a cermamic heat emitter 60w (mostly for bedtime heating) and a coil Reptisun 10.0. He doesn’t really go on the right very much. he likes his basking side where he looks out the window

Rep-Cal brand herptivite 1X weekly
Rep-cal brand calcium w D3 2x weekly

He also goes outside on sunny days for about an hour. Sometimes we take him hiking. (Not now w his injury)

The reason for the calcium with D3 is I realized I had accidentally put a Reptisun T5 5.0 in, instead of my 10.0 (I bought a new hood and it came with a 5.0.)
This mistake wasn’t caught until 2 months!

Also we recently moved from a desert climate to a coastal area and he had a VERY hard time adjusting!! He wouldn’t eat or bask for the first month or so and was very upset by the change. But eventually (once we drove back and brought his original cage…he started eating again!) but he still has never been the same since we moved about 4 months ago.

Now the vet said the puffiness would be due to a soft tissue injury. (He likened it to a human injury where you hurt your knee or something and it swells up badly)

I mentioned to him that his toe twitches sometimes and then he ventured to guess maybe it’s a neurological issue due to the injury.

And again, the X-ray didn’t show any broken bones etc, that’s why this vet is thinking soft tissue injury.


Original Poster
Ok I got him into the smaller cage!!
It’s very sparse. I don’t know if the log is ok for him to be on or should I take it out? He gets really bummed if he isn’t high up/climbing something.

So same UVB 10.0 reptisun, the coil UVB on the other cooler side and the 100w heat in the middle.
Basking site was 107 degrees, ambient 85.

He also ate some bee pollen and a couple dandelion greens!
He likes bee pollen but it’s really unusual he voluntarily eats greens. I dusted them with multivitamin.

Would you at all recommend spirulina for him? Maybe a good way to get his minerals in naturally.

Also I know tart cherry is typically thought of in the use of gout but I know, in people, it’s excellent for pain and inflammation. (I use it myself.)
Could I perhaps give him some?

I am very hesitant to give him anti-inflammatory drugs and painkillers (which is what the vet wanted)

I would prefer any natural remedies first-unless of course he depends on it or his pain gets so bad he stops eating or behaving normally, etc.


BD.org Sicko
Would you at all recommend spirulina for him? Yes to this question--
Basking site was 107 degrees I would try and get this down to 95-100
Also I know tart cherry is typically thought of in the use of gout but I know, in people, it’s excellent for pain and inflammation. (I use it myself.)
Could I perhaps give him some? Yes to this question
Now for the UVB please get it unobstructed -- your screen is blocking 30% of those rays --- if the screen is wide holed your gonna need to have the distance 8-10 inches w/ the basking decor directly under it -- you can either take the screen off or have it half on and move everything to the center of the tank -- w/ the way the UVB is positioned now width wise --- he needs that UVB --- next please DITCH THE COIL - they are no good --- right now he needs that T 5 and his basking temps 95-100--- most older dragons do not like it real hot --- Tracie can help more -- if it is an injury then that UVB is gonna help him heal faster -- did you cut the screen out? I cant tell from the pic --


Original Poster
Yes! I cut out a hole the length of the tube in the screen and a little wider so the light can disperse better. I did that as soon as you mentioned it in the first reply. So it is uninhibited by the screen! I am working on getting supplies to mount it inside of the larger tank and having it slightly lower than the 6-7 inches so it’s not too much like Tracie said.

He is currently 11 inches (no screen) from the light in his small tank.
I can get him higher but then we run into the problem of him injuring his legs more :(

I will get the temps lowered then, too. The smaller cage certainly is heating up quicker and I will have to get a lower watt bulb to put in it.

I will get another hood for an additional T5 10.0 tube tho and put it there instead of the coil, also with the screen cut out!

In the meantime I also will get him outside too for real sunlight. This perks him up a lot! Like I said we moved from the desert to a coastal state and we are all trying to adjust to cloudiness. Heat/Light was never an issue in the desert. Always bright and sunny skies shining into his cage. So Im still trying to make adjustments accordingly. You are so amazing! Thank you so much for your advice. I am going to make the suggested heat/light changes!!

I feel like both of you are so much more helpful than the vets!

The so called reptile vet recommended his basking heat being no lower than 105-110 and up to no more than 125

Even I was like “ehhhh-that seems a little much”
I have always kept him at around 95-100 and the vet had encouraged me to make it hotter ??‍♀️


BD.org Sicko
You dont want temps over 110- and you dont need another UVB your one T 5 is plenty -- you dont want him hiding from the UVB or over UVB him --- I am using a 120 gallon Zen and I have one 24" UVB in the tank --- its plenty for him --
here are some things you can use to hang the UVB w/ when he goes back to the bigger tank
3 M command Velcro fasteners- picture hanging wire –long plastic zip ties-- fishing line - potted plant wire hangers or this stuff - I use this in my tank and it works great its like a Velcro strap cut into strips wrap around the fixture


BD.org Sicko
Staff member

How is your dragon doing today?
Go ahead & leave the basking where it is so he doesn't have to climb too much & risk
hurting himself. It sounds like you got the lighting all taken care of. Hopefully that will
help him out to have a stronger UVB exposure.
That is a bit high indeed! The recommended basking temperatures are the range of 95-
110 MAX. Really any higher than 110 most of them run for cover & simply wont bask.

Let us know how he is doing.
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