Bearded dragons often display various body movements, such as head-bobbing, arm-waving, and flaring their beard.
A bearded dragon owner should learn what these different behaviors mean.
Understanding these body movements is the key to knowing which behaviors are normal and which ones are not.
Tail twitching may be alarming to bearded dragon owners seeing their pet do this for the first time, but it doesn’t always indicate a serious problem.
As a general rule, tail twitching in bearded dragons may be one of the early signs of metabolic bone disease. However, bearded dragons are also known to twitch their tails as a sign of aggression, such as when they are hunting, stressed out, or wanting to be left alone.
It may be difficult, especially for new bearded dragon owners, to determine if their pet’s tail twitching is behavioral or a sign of metabolic bone disease.
You will ultimately want to take your beardie to a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis in either case.
In this article, we provide information on the symptoms, causes, and prevention of metabolic bone disease.
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Tail Twitches From Metabolic Bone Disease In Bearded Dragons
Metabolic bone disease is a very serious and debilitating disease caused by a calcium deficiency.
When a bearded dragon lacks sufficient calcium, it will leach the much-needed mineral from its bones.
This leads to crippling bone deformities, which are often fatal.
Recognizing the early signs of metabolic bone disease and learning how to prevent it is very important to your beardie’s health.
What Are the Symptoms of Metabolic Bone Disease?
Tail and overall body twitching or body tremors are one of the first signs of metabolic bone disease.
Other symptoms of this crippling disease include:
- Swollen legs
- Bone deformities of the spine, jaw, or limbs
- Paralysis caused by damage to the spine
If you notice any of these symptoms in your bearded dragon, you need to seek veterinary care as soon as possible.
A proper diagnosis and treatment may prevent the metabolic bone disease from getting worse.
If your bearded dragon twitches overall, look for other signs of this disease.
What Causes Metabolic Bone Disease?
In the world of bearded dragon diseases, this is a common disease, but it’s preventable.
Metabolic bone disease is primarily caused by a lack of calcium in a bearded dragon’s body.
When a beardie does not have enough calcium in its diet, it will begin to leach the mineral from its bones.
Too much phosphorus in a reptile’s diet will also lead to a calcium deficiency.
Phosphorus inhibits the absorption of calcium in a bearded dragon’s body.
Another factor affecting calcium absorption is vitamin D3, an essential nutrient in metabolizing calcium in a beardie’s body.
Most of the foods you offer to your beardie are low in vitamin D3, so you may need to use a D3 supplement once a week.
And if you’re not using a supplement yet check out our post on the best calcium supplements for bearded dragons.
Vitamin D3 is available on its own or mixed with a calcium supplement.
In addition to a vitamin supplement, bearded dragons are also able to process vitamin D3 from UVB tube lighting.
When a reptile absorbs the UVB rays, they are processed by the body into D3.
Take care not to overdose your beardie on D3, as this will negatively affect your pet’s health.
If you are using UVB tube lighting for at least 12 hours every day in your beardie’s enclosure, you will not need to add a D3 supplement.
How is Metabolic Bone Disease Prevented?
Since the metabolic bone disease has no cure, it is best to take preventative measures to keep your bearded dragon healthy.
Feeding your reptile a varied diet of gut-loaded insects along with a healthy serving of leafy greens and vegetables will go a long way in preventing illness.
Choose feeder insects with low calcium to phosphorus ratio, and add a calcium powder supplement to your bearded dragon’s diet twice per week.
Calcium powder supplements are very easy to use, and they are found in any pet supply store.
Lightly dust feeder insects by placing them in a small plastic bag or container and adding a sprinkle of the calcium supplement.
Gently shake the container to thoroughly coat the insects and feed them to your bearded dragon right away.
You do not want to cake the supplement onto the feeder insects as your bearded dragon will not find this very tasty and may refuse to eat.
Another excellent way to prevent metabolic bone disease is to invest in a good quality UVB tube lamp.
This UVB lighting should be placed above the basking side of your beardie’s enclosure.
The lighting should never cover the entire enclosure because your beardie needs a darker place to escape from the light when it wants to cool down.
Investing in a light timer for your UVB lamp ensures it is not accidentally left on overnight.
This not only allows your reptile to absorb vitamin D3 and other vital nutrients but it helps your pet maintain a steady circadian rhythm.
Keeping your bearded dragon’s enclosure at the proper temperatures is also very important in preventing metabolic bone disease.
A heat lamp aids in your beardie’s digestion and allows it to absorb the calcium from its diet.
Remember, as a cold-blooded reptile, beardies can’t regulate their body heat and require the environment to help them out.
If you suspect your pet has or will have MBD read our post on how to help bearded dragons with metabolic bone disease for a dedicated set of information on the topic.
Tail Twitching As An Aggressive Behavior In Bearded Dragons
While tail twitching in your bearded dragon is often a cause for concern, it is sometimes done on purpose as a form of aggressive behavior.
Look for other aggressive dragon behaviors such as a black beard, open mouth, biting, and other instances of different body language.
Here’s our post on reasons for aggression in bearded dragons to give you an in-depth read on this behavior.
A beardie will also twitch its tail if it feels threatened or stressed.
Limiting loud noises or excessive movement near your reptile’s enclosure is a good way to relieve some of your pet’s stress.
You should also keep larger pets such as cats or dogs away from your bearded dragon, so it does not feel intimidated.
You may also notice your bearded dragon twitching its tail when you pet it.
This is a sign your beardie does not want to be touched or handled at this time.
It is best to leave your pet alone and handle it only after having had a period of time to calm down.
If you observe any type of tail twitching in your bearded dragon, it is best to seek veterinary care as soon as possible for a proper diagnosis, even if you do not suspect metabolic bone disease.