Chapter 43 Diseases of the Musculoskeletal System
The most common disease of the musculoskeletal system of snakes is metabolic bone disease (MBD), which is the result of poor diet and husbandry practice. This disease is the result of a dietary deficiency of calcium and/or vitamin D, a negative calcium/phosphorus (Ca/P) ratio, or lack of exposure to ultraviolet light. MBD is usually a disease of young, rapidly growing reptiles. Lack of circulating calcium stimulates reabsorption of bone to correct the imbalance and, over time, bones become soft and easily fractured. Diets that lack calcium containing bone are a common cause of MBD (all-meat diets, dog-food diets); for this reason, the disease is infrequent in mice-eating snakes.
Osteosarcomas of the mandible and spinal area have been reported in snakes. As with tumors of the integumentary system, the veterinarian must rule out other causes of lumps and bumps before treatment.
MBD is primarily a disease of long-term calcium and/or vitamin D deficiency, a lack of exposure to sunlight, and/or an improper Ca/P ratio. The disease is commonly seen in young, fast-growing reptiles. Over time, a diet low in calcium or lack of vitamin D and sunlight will cause increased bone reabsorption and a weakening of all the bones within the body. Affected animals experience development of pathologic fractures, and healing bone is replaced by fibrous tissue. As a result of their herbivorous dietary requirements (low calcium and high phosphorus levels), iguanas are quite susceptible to MBD.