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Reptile Calcium Deficiency

My reptile has been diagnosed with a swollen mouth and throat, and a calcium deficiency.

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Screaming Lizard
Bearded Dragon Won't Eat

I have a 1 1/2-year-old male savannah monitor that has stopped eating. He has been diagnosed to have a swollen mouth and throat and a calcium deficiency. I was wondering if, in fact, medicine can be given to him to get him feeling better. Do you have any suggestions?

Who diagnosed the swollen mouth and throat, and calcium deficiency? If a herp veterinarian did, then why were medications not prescribed at that point? You haven’t given me a lot to go on, but I’ll try to help you sort this out.


Swellings in the mouth and throat are symptoms – not a true diagnosis. What we need to know is what is causing the swellings. Are the swellings related to skeletal abnormalities from the calcium deficiency? This lack can cause the skeleton to become soft and swollen. Other causes of these swellings include infection (most likely), tumors, parasitic infestation, fractures or fluid buildup. It will take diagnostic tests, which might include blood work (CBC and chemistry panel), radiographs (x-rays), cytology, Gram’s stains from the swellings, tissue biopsies, a bacterial culture and sensitivity, a fungal culture or other specific tests deemed necessary by your herp vet. Based on what the tests show, medications can be prescribed to treat them.

Please take your concerns to your herp vet. If you don’t have one, please find one and make an appointment, so you can have your lizard properly diagnosed and treated. If you don’t have an experienced herp vet in your area, you can always suggest your normal vet to set up a consultation with an experienced herp vet through the veterinary diagnostic lab he or she uses. This is usually a free service to assist vets with difficult or unusual problems, or vets can use it for a second opinion on a case. If you feel your vet, in helping you, has reached a dead end, please suggest a consultation. If necessary, ask for a referral to a larger referral center, which should have experienced herp vets to assist you in getting your monitor healthy.

Please ensure that you keep your monitor within the correct temperature and humidity ranges and that you provide an appropriate diet and full-spectrum lighting (or outside sunlight unfiltered through glass or plastic). That way, you will be providing him with the factors necessary for him to become and remain healthy.

Margaret A. Wissman, DVM, DABVP has been an avian/exotic/herp animal veterinarian since 1981. She is a regular contributor to REPTILES magazine.

Need a Herp Vet?
If you are looking for a herp-knowledgeable veterinarian in your area, a good place to start is by checking the list of members on the Association of Reptilian and Amphibian Veterinarian (ARAV) web site at www.arav.com. Look for DVMs who appear to maintain actual veterinary offices that you could contact.