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  • Rescued Dragon - Tumor

    So, yesterday I rescued a bearded dragon from my LPS. The owner had sold it to a family last Christmas, but the family had brought the dragon back a few weeks ago because it ‘wasn’t walking right’. The petstore owner had started to hand-feed it but now it’s not eating at all. Knowing that I work at a vet clinic, he offered the beardie to me to see if I could try to get it to eat anything.

    I’ve always wanted a beardie and had researched them off and on for years, and I agreed to give it a try. I brought the beardie home and set it up in a 10-gallon (it’s all I had in a pinch) with a UVA/UVB light, heat mat, and heat bulb. It’s 105-107 F on the hot side and 95-ish on the cooler side –obviously there’s not much of a gradient in the 10 gallon. He has a cardboard hide and a shallow water dish. He (I say he but I really am not sure) is not able to use his back legs or tail and ‘swims’ using his front legs. For this reason I started calling him ‘Dory’ in the hopes that he ‘just keeps swimming!’. He also has a prominent lump on his back. He is very tiny for a supposedly 1 year old dragon – he is barely 3 inches (not including tail) and easily fits in the palm of my hand.

    I started doing hardcore research and everything seemed to point to a severe impaction rather than a broken back. I started to give him saunas in Pedialyte/water and spoon-fed him chicken babyfood and spinach baby food. He didn’t eat a lot, but he did eat some. He never drank anything from the sauna or his water dish. I tried to get some mineral oil down him but was unsuccessful.

    Today, I brought him with me into work. We did some x-rays, and he has a calcified tumor along his spine – no signs of impaction or fractures of any kind. We also aspirated the lump, and the vet agrees that it has a tumor-like consistency. It is definitely not a cyst or abscess. I gave him another sauna at work and he ate a little bit more babyfood. The vet gave me some Metacam in the hopes that it will help make him comfortable enough to eat some, but he does not appear to be in any obvious pain. He does seem to have some feeling and reflexes in his back legs but definitely can’t use them to walk. Considering his stunted growth, the conclusion is that he was born with some kind of congenital defect.

    On the way home I bought some small crickets (I was extra-careful to make sure they weren’t bigger than between the eyes) and even with the back legs torn off and tweezer-fed he has absolutely zero interest in them. He did eat a small amount more of babyfood.

    So, I know that this isn’t a forum that specializes in bearded dragons, but I’ve gotten a lot of help from this forum and I’m hoping that someone has some suggestions for anything I can do for this little guy. He can’t be on baby food for the rest of his life – I’d really like to get him onto a ‘normal’ bearded diet. I have decided that if his appetite doesn’t improve by Monday he’ll most likely need to be put down before he starves to death.

    Any suggestions? I know that a 10-gallon is not ideal and I’ve been combing craigslist for something more suitable. I’m combing the internet for any idea of what I can do to help him live as normal a life as possible.

    Thanks in advance!
    May you take time to celebrate the quiet miracles that seek no attention.

  • #2
    Kudos to you. I'll keep my fingers crossed for the little guy!
    ~Amber~
    "Saving the life of one animal may not change the world, but the world will surely change for that one animal"
    Anyanka's Geckos
    RIP Willow, Darwin, Tara and Chai. I miss and love you all!

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    • #3
      get him out of the 10 gallon as in tomorrow in a tub if you have too, in a 20 gallon you can not get the proper temp gradient which you need to get that down to 75-80 tops. And honestly a storage tub will work perfectly fine, it is better to invest in vet care right now over something fancy, and depending on its size varies on the size to go with, but something along the lines of a 20 long in length will work fine. No UTH is needed for these guys, they absorb heat from the top, they do not register heat from below well, so just stick with a basking light.

      You need to give a bit more information, lighting what kind of UVB? How old is it?

      Can your vet get critical care at all? Baby food isnt the best choice for the beardie for obvious reasons. Critical care makes an omnivorousness blend which will give the beardie the calories and protein needed to get a good start wile helping with hydration, a much better choice over baby food. If he cant get it, check around other vets offices, esp if there is an avian vet in your area.

      Did he do a fecal at all? I would highly suggest getting one done.
      lets just say I have a lot of stuff
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      • #4
        @ Thongwedgie -- Based on my research these guys like a nice hot basking spot (100-110F) which is why I had it that temperature. I have unplugged the UTH. The only reason I had an UTH is because when I was researching how to help an impaction, I read somewhere that having belly heat can help them pass an impaction. Now that it's obvious he is not impacted and he his too hot, I have unplugged the UTH.

        I can ask about the critical care. There is a reptile show in my area this weekend and I could potentially pick some up there as well. The vet did not do a fecal. The bearded has not provided one in the nearly 24 hours that I've had him and he looked really empty on the x-ray. I doubt he's been eating enough lately to digest anything, but I hope that he provides me with one soon.

        I'm looked around for the box that the UVA/UVB light came in. I know that it had the correct rays but was probably too big for a 10-gallon because I intended to get him a larger enclosure -fast-. I do not know the specs on the heat lamp - it was an extra I had lying around.

        Like I said, combing craigslist for a 20 gallon long or 30 gallon, or something similiar. Can you post links to tubs that would be appropriate but would not melt under the heat lamp? I can try to do a wal-mart run or see what I have around.

        I don't have much information on this guy. He is about a year old, based on the information I was given.

        Thanks so much for the advice, guys.
        May you take time to celebrate the quiet miracles that seek no attention.

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        • #5
          Good luck with him!
          Can you imagine a world where they would blur out our middle finger to protect a "consumer" over blurring out an innocent child to protect their integrity and privacy? - Pink
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          • #6
            Ok, the Light is a Zilla Slimline desert feature: Desert 50 UVB T8 fluroescent bulb. Hopefully that helps.

            Also, I know that babyfood isn't the best, it is what was recommended for impacted beardies. He is eating small amounts, which I think is better than nothing. He has absolutely zero interest in crickets. I would like to do a kroger run for some greens -- any suggestions on what might be the most enticing to try to get him to eat something? I have blueberries at home, but I'd really like to try to see if he'll eat something that would be considered more of staple if at all possible.
            May you take time to celebrate the quiet miracles that seek no attention.

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            • #7
              You are amazing to take on that poor thing.

              I say for temporally housing, buy a large sterilite tub and create a screen opening for the lid for the lighting equipment. Not the best thing but better then the 10 gallon.
              Crested Gecko 1.0 (His name is Frogner!)
              Leopard Gecko 1.0 (His name is Vastervik!)

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              • #8
                @ dragonfly dust: I found a Sterilite 48 quart tub I was not using in the basement. I took the screen from the 10-gallon and put it at one end to hold the light and heat lamp. The sides are a lot lower than I'd like for a normal beardie but considering this one can't use it's back legs I think it's ok for now. Currently setting it up to see how it'll work for tonight. Beardie is getting another sauna right now. He seems to enjoy them.

                Thanks so much for the support everyone. I'd love for this little guy to eat a more regular staple bearded dragon diet and live as comfortably as possible. It'll all depend on how much I can get him to eat and if he ever poops - I really hope the tumor isn't so advanced the little guy can't digest anything.
                May you take time to celebrate the quiet miracles that seek no attention.

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                • #9
                  Working with these guys since 98'......yes they need a basking spot of 105-110, 100 is required for proper digestion. HOWEVER they need a cool area also. I am not telling you these things to e mean, I am telling you these things because I have been working with this species since 1998, I know quite a bit on them.

                  You wont find critical care at a reptile show, it is for vet use only. Your vet should be able to get it. The problem is your beardie isnt going to want to eat a whole lot. Look at it this way, when youre sick you dont want to eat. And when you go days without eating it is hard to get yourself to eat again. In order to get the energy to eat you need to take in calories and protein, which is why when you are dehydrated and super sick when you go to the hospital they pump you full of fluids and try to give you high calorie liquids. The same goes here. Your beardie doesnt have the energy to eat salads, nor eat crickets hanging infront of its face. Things like critical care, heck even bird hand feeding formula will work better than baby food. I used to give directions on how to make smoothies back when I was a beardie mod, however I now just suggest critical care as it is a much better balance. Like I said check around for an avian vet as they are most likely to carry it. If you can not find one you can send me a PM and I can tell you how to make a proper slurry for these guys. He more than likely will not eat anything you put in front of him, including fruit which I really would avoid right now anyways for quite some time until he is eating well.

                  Yes the tub will melt if youre placing the light directly on the plastic however if you are using a clamp you shouldnt have an issue. But like I said you need a temp gradient of 105-110 on the hot side and you want to get the cool side down to around 75-80 degrees. If everywhere is hot it can cause dehydration and heat exhaustion because remember in the wild they would simply hide in a cool area, in captivity what we offer is a cool side along with a hide spot, if everywhere is hot, the animal has no way to thermoregulate itself.

                  And if the beardie does hav a tumor on the spine, for life a shorter tank may be best due to mobility isues. Although semi terrestrial and they do enjoy to climb, height with an beardie with any sort of spinal issues (remember these guys will hide pain as much as possible without us knowing it), all it takes is one wrong jump for something to go wrong. So stick with basking rocks and a hide.

                  Once he does get to eating better. Try to keep his protein intake higher, although age wise he is almost an adult, for instance when fed correctly these guys average about an inch a week for the first 3 months and are normally 12" by the time they are 3 months old. He will probably never get to adult size, but I would offer more crickets to him daily when he is finally eating over what you would give an adult. But like I said he wont start eating on his own until you get good calories in him.

                  You never did say if you got a fecal done or not.
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                  • #10
                    @Thongwedgie thanks for the advice. I know that they need a cooler spot (just like any reptile) but in the pinch the 10 gallon was all I had and I figured it was better to err on the side of heat, especially when I thought he was impacted, and figured with the saunas he'd be ok for today at least. He is now in a sterilite tub which should work a lot better. And again, the baby food was based off of advice for impaction and he did seem to eat some of it, which I saw as a good sign. I will ask my vet tomorrow about the critical care or try to find an avian vet.

                    I figured with his spinal issues floor space was more important than height, so the tub is longer but not high. I don't have any decor for him other than some cardboard hide boxes (they are too tall to climb, but work well to hide in) and the shallow water dish. I saw some rock 'slabs' at Petsmart that I think will work well if I position them very carefully. He seems fine to 'drag' himself around but I honestly don't know if he'd be able to even climb slabs or not. He has a lot of trouble crawling into my hand even, so a slab as thin as 1"... I'm not sure if he would be able to get on top of it and I don't want him to scratch his stomach. Obviously, I'm not going to put in anything that would encourage him to climp up higher than an inch or two in case he falls.

                    I stated in my second post about not being able to do a fecal: "vet did not do a fecal. The bearded has not provided one in the nearly 24 hours that I've had him and he looked really empty on the x-ray. I doubt he's been eating enough lately to digest anything, but I hope that he provides me with one soon. "

                    I do plan to run a fecal as soon as one is provided. As I stated earlier I'm beginning to doubt if the little guy can even properly digest food at this point of if the tumor has progressed too far. I'm really hoping that with proper care and great advice he as a little longer left.

                    I've been reading that for an adult beardie, protein should be 20% of the diet and veggies 80%. Would you recommend 50/50 for this guy?
                    May you take time to celebrate the quiet miracles that seek no attention.

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                    • #11
                      Adults are usually 75% veggies and 25% greens, however since you have a special needs animal you have to realize you will need to adjust the feeding. It probably never grow to full length even without considering its condition however I would be suprises if it made it to 14" with the right diet. Myself once it was wiing to take crickets I would start with 6 a day and slowly increase up to about 18 a day, which is still far less than a young Beardie would eat, but about double that of what an adult requires. Then when you notice growth has tailed off and you see no growth for several months, then you can scale it back.

                      But like I said if you can't find the critical care, even CGD is a better choice over baby food. But let me I know if you can't, I can give you tips on a better home made slurry over baby food.
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                      • #12
                        I'll try some CGD for tonight until I can get a hold of some critical care. As I've stated the baby food was just to ease the passing of the suspected impaction. I've only had the beardie a little over 24 hours so I was just dealing with what I could get in a pinch based on the internet research I was able to do on short notice (and on an initial, incorrect diagnosis).

                        Ok, temps for the sterlite set-up: Directly under the basking light it is 111 F and on the cool end it is 78F. Where the dragon is resting right now it is 100F.

                        I'll try to keep everyone posted. He perks up now and again but he seems worryingly lethargic.
                        May you take time to celebrate the quiet miracles that seek no attention.

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                        • #13
                          I didn't see it mentioned in your other posts but you are using a thermostat or a dimmer to help regulate the heat, right?

                          Since the tub you're using is not very high, it's easy of lighting to become too hot. I wouldn't suggest the ones like petsmart or petco since I find them very inaccurate.

                          Here's the link to the one I use. It might be expensive for you but they offer 24-hour rush shipping:

                          http://www.bigappleherp.com/BAH-1000-Thermostat

                          Hope this helps~!
                          Crested Gecko 1.0 (His name is Frogner!)
                          Leopard Gecko 1.0 (His name is Vastervik!)

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                          • #14
                            Also are you reading the temps with a temp gun, digital, analog (dials), or stick on thermometer
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                            • #15
                              I don't have a thermostat/dimmer. I think you can get them at Lowes (?) and was hoping you guys had suggestions for one from someplace like that. I think it would be easier and less expensive for me to get one from a hardware store or something similiar than do overnight shipping.

                              I am using a digital probe to read the temps. I find it to be pretty accurate. I checked the temps again this AM and they are the same as last night. I'll check them again when I come home from lunch and keep as close an eye on them as possible until I can get a thermostat.

                              He ate about half a pea sized amount of CGD this AM, and seems alert and moving around. Currently he is sitting under his basking light with his mouth open, but I understand that this is normal behavior for a beardie that is basking. Is this correct?

                              Also, I need suggestions/insight on what to do about calcium for this guy. Obviously I can't dust crickets, and I don't want to add anything to the CGD. Does the rescue Critical Care have the D3 calcium that he needs? What about the baby bird formula?

                              I really appreciate the time everyone's taken to write out detailed responses and words of encouragement.
                              May you take time to celebrate the quiet miracles that seek no attention.

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