Norman arrived with us, around 6 months old, on 9 October 2005 and passed away at the young age of nearly four years on 13 February 2009. He suffered from back problems and, in the end, kidney problems, but we loved him. Think like having a really small and very inactive dog/cat that doesn't need taking for walks and you've got the right sort of picture of the owner/pet relationship. The background and tank setup details are at the bottom. For general information try www.beardeddragon.org. It is a North American site and so refers to North American products etc. but it is still relevant and some of the postings are from brits. In particular, there are some amazing videos of bearded dragon arm-waving and head-bobbing there.
We buried Norman yesterday, in a gold-covered cardboard coffin in the garden. May he rest in peace.
We've been thinking about where to go next and today put down a £25 deposit on a Panther Chameleon at Millennium Reptiles in Bishops Stortford. Ours should be available for collection in about a month.
Norman died today. Obviously the problems he accumulated had become too much. Bye Normie, we'll miss you.
Norman's blood results came back today and seem to point to kidney problems.
|Uric||Uric Acid umol/L||110||660||943|
|TP||Total Protein g/L||49.00||78.00||80|
|BA||Bile Acids umol/L||1.00||13.00||43|
|HCT||Haematocrit (RBC) %||34.00||45.00||28|
|WBC||White blood count X10^9||7.00||14.00||26.2|
The Uric Acid is very very high, indicating that there is a kidney problem. This, in turn, can cause gout (crystals in the joints and possibly in the liver also). The Phosphorus level is high, again pointing to kidney problems but the ratio of Phosphorous and Calcium is OK at 2:1 so the high level is not a worry in itself. The Globulin level is very high, which is an indication of antibodies in the blood fighting an infection, possibly the infection we can see in his mouth. Bile Acids are high, which is an indication that the liver is likely working harder to compensate for the problems with the kidney. While the Potassium is high it is apparently not a worry. The very low Haematocrit count indicates that Norman is anaemic (kidney problems again) and the very high white blood count is a further sign of his body fighting an infection.
Movement-wise, the vet pinched the fingers of his hands and found that he did move his arms, which he certainly wasn't doing on Saturday. This means that the painkiller is having an effect. Also the antiseptic and antibiotic treatment of the mouth rot appears to be having a positive effect. Our lesson for today is that everything in lizards takes much longer to have an effect because of their slow metabolism. Any gout damage will be permanent, so there is a need to effect an improvement as early as possible. Norman has been given an injection of anabolic steroid, intended to improve kidney function. He will complete his course of antibiotics, will stay on the higher painkiller dose and then make a return visit to the vets in a months' time for another injection of anabolic steroid. If he doesn't get any worse before then, that's a good result. If the two injections of anabolic steroid do not effect a full recovery it will be kinder to put him out of his misery. If you are of a religious bent please say a prayer for Norman.
To show Norman's level of immobility on his front legs, here's a short video of him pushing himself along on his hind legs and his chin (and getting annoyed about the ineffectiveness of it).
Norman made another visit to Lawton & Stoakes Veterinary Surgeons today and saw Mr Lawton this time. There was some concern that the diet of only Superworms is too monotonous and fatty; can cause "fatty liver" in the long term. He would prefer we fed veggies or locusts for variety and protein, though quite how one feeds locusts to an immobile lizard will take some working out. He re-examined the x-ray from last June and saw definite spinal damage at the top but only side to side distortion (scoliosis) rather than up and down distortion (which is called something else). If there were damage to the nerves in the spine he would expect more problems in the back legs, so the problem with his arms could be that the nerves are being trapped as they leave the spine. But if this were the case you'd expect one leg to be affected more than the other.
He has scraped away some of the necrotic tissue in Norman's mouth and given us some antibiotics. He's also asked that we double the dose of painkiller.
Finally he took a blood sample and asked us to ring him on Monday afternoon for the results. If his blood calcium proves to be low then there may be kidney damage. If his blood calcium is OK then we'll need to look elsewhere.
We took Norman to the vet yesterday. He is in obvious discomfort, especially when touched on his back, so we have painkiller for him. He also has "mouth rot", which we are treating with Iodine. He is down to 290 gm in weight, a loss of, 15 to 20 gm. If he doesn't become more comfortable in the next few days we're going to take him back to the vet for bloods and a proper investigation.
Norman has now begun having problems moving his front legs. One of them doesn't seem to work at all and he pushes himself along inside his vivarium by his back legs. He's still eating pretty well through Alice holding worms in front of his face. We need to take him to the vet again.
We've begun feeding Norman on locusts again. He seems to like adults best and, particularly, if we let them live in his vivarium he enjoys the fun of the chase. The locusts, of course, are pretty stupid, as this picture shows. His spine is looking slightly more twisted near the base, but he's not visibly disadvantaged by it.
Norman is now eating relatively normal numbers of mealworms and pooing at a roughly normal rate (~weekly) so, ignoring his lack of mobility and tendency to end up irretrievably on his back once a day, he is now on an even keel. Phew.
Norman has begun eating worms again and has begun objecting to having his mouth forced open to receive the paraffin and critical care solution. However, he is now pooing every two weeksish and, much more interestingly, he appears to have developed a strategy that gets his legs moving. He does this weird action where he pushes down on the floor with his chin, causing his rear to be raised and he can then move his rear legs properly to move along. Otherwise he has to drag himself along as before. Here's a video of him dragging himself along in his vivarium; he does the chin-down motion at the end but in this case seems to have managed some slight movement in his back legs anyway (it made a more clear cut difference in other outings). What an adaptive boy.
Norman pooed again today, the first time since 24 July. We had visited the vet on 26 July and they seemed happy that he had pooed and that we should wait for him to do so again on the current feeding regime before starting him on solid food (softer solid food, i.e. worms rather than locusts). We were beginning to get worried as he had turned into a disc with legs and a head but when he finally pooed again today (in his bath after feeding) there was a lot of paraffin in it. He is now a more normal shape again.
Now we're going to start feeding him worms and hope for the best.
Norman pooed today! We know it sounds a bit disgusting but we'd been waiting so long and had begun to think we would have to put him down this weekend so this is absolutely excellent news. The critical factor was either that we decided to stop giving him the pain killer/anti-inflammatory drug (in case it was inhibiting feeling) or that Alice began bathing him again. We will continue to bath him and to feed him with the critical care solution to ensure that the behaviour is consistent.
We took Norman to Lawton & Stoakes Veterinary Surgeons again today. He's been perky enough (his top half, at least) and had been eating worms, though stopped again in the last week. Still no recovery in his leg movement though. The significant thing is that he hasn't pooed since the last visit to the vet four weeks ago. Normally he would do so once a week, or maybe every two weeks at the worst. If the injury has prevented his bowel working properly then that's it for Norman. The vet has given us Critical Care Formula (a liquid feed of sugar and electrolytes) and paraffin. We will feed him 1 ml of the liquid and 0.5 ml of paraffin twice a day. Hopefully this will loosen him up and he'll be OK.
We picked up Norman from Lawton & Stoakes Veterinary Surgeons again today. Dietary wise there is no problem (Urea, Calcium and Phosphorous being the indicators).
|Uric||Uric Acid umol/L||110||660||80|
|TP||Total Protein g/L||49.00||78.00||0|
|BA||Bile Acids umol/L||1.00||13.00||0|
|HCT||Haematocrit (RBC) %||34.00||45.00||42|
|WBC||White blood count X10^9||7.00||14.00||6.2|
It is in the X-rays that the problem becomes visible. We haven't received the JPEG's yet, so here is a slightly fuzzy view using scanned copies of the print outs. There are three problem areas.
In the picture below you can see some distortion in Norman's upper spine. This is likely a sign of scoliosis, the lizard version of Spina Bifida, which we didn't think he had in the diagnosis two years ago. This may be what is causing his general instability.
The picture below is a side view of his spine where the remaining two problems are in the red circled area.
So that you can see what's going on, here's a comparison between his x-ray from the visit to the vet two years ago and the same area now. The diagonal arrow highlights a discontinuity in the spine, which is not good, while the double-headed arrow shows that, compared with last time, his pelvis has dropped away from his spine very significantly. The pelvis is normally held to the spine by cartilage. Both of these are likely a result of his fall from the log.
So he has a distorted upper spine, a dislocation in the vertebra and a dislocated pelvis. Not very good really. The vet has been giving him Meloxicam, a combined pain relief and anti-inflammatory (originally designed for dogs but found to work in Iguanas), and he did eat 8 mealworms yesterday, which is a good sign. We have brought him home now and will give him 0.06 ml of Meloxicam each day from a syringe. The vet would like to see him again in 7 to 14 days to see if there is any sign of improvement.
We decided to take Norman to Lawton & Stoakes Veterinary Surgeons today, the same herp. vet we used last time. Their preliminary conclusion is that he is alert, generally healthy in appearance, has some level of control over his legs but is unable to control them properly. He is sensitive from around the middle of his back, which might indicate damage from a fall but wouldn't be the reason for the falling in the first place. Apparently the lower back can sometimes be affected by swelling of the kidneys, but blood tests have shown no sign of kidney problems and calcium levels are normal. They are going to take x-rays and keep him in for a few days to give him anti-inflammatories and pain relief.
We've found Norman lying on his back quite a few times in the last month, mostly just below his climbing log. When we came back from the shops today he was stuck on his back there again, unable to turn over. Having righted him he seems to be having trouble moving his back legs. Being not the sharpest tool in the box he's been dragging himself around by his front legs and still trying to climb up the log, so we've removed it. We hope it's not spinal damage. He's also off his food; for the record, he weighs 320 gm today.
We've been corresponding this week with Jade and Andrew on the subject of locust breeding. Jade is the proud owner of four lizards, two of which are pictured here.
Here's what they have to say about the lizards:
Lucy(fer): Lucy is a young lady in her first year of egg laying. She is bouncy and like so many other dragons, a greedy little girl! She will attempt to eat anything from a plastic plant to the plant patterns on the carpet! Her curious wanderings always amuse me and she is by far the most tame animal I have ever seen. We love her!
Sat(an)-chan 'The Bulldog' 'Stumpy' 'Tidge' (pictured perched on top of Lucy): if satchan was a dog, she would be a terrier. Satchan is a Lizard of two faces. Half is a cute little thing who will perch on your finger, or the window sill for a long as she deems necessary to gain the guise of the cutey well-behaved girl. Then she strikes! Running off at the speed of flight that only little tiny lizards can manage! she is the most curious lizard I own, the most characterful, and the most viscous! (but only towards insects). She is only 2 months longer than Lucy, however due to loosing her tail and being out-competed for food at a long age, she has suffered retarded growth. She requires only minor special attention with extra nutrient paste and sometimes paraffin to help her pass the slightly lumpier locusts she attacks. To see Satchan vs a poor locust please checkout her YouTube clip.
During one of his evening walks this week Norman invaded the Tardis.
Norman has been very actively bobbing again in the last week, which we notice is about the same time of year as he became actively bobby in 2007. Is this the mating season or some such?
Some time ago a friend of one of Hazel's school friend's mothers got in contact asking if Hazel would like Norman to be in a book about keeping Lizards. She said yes and the lady duly turned up with a photographer. A few weeks ago the book arrived and marvellous it is too, full of pictures of Hazel and Alice handling Norman. We've reproduced the cover and one of the pictures below with permission from the publisher, Franklin Watts. The book is available from Amazon here.
The growth chart shows that Norman has now reached his adult length, though he still seems to be putting on adult weight.
|Visually, here's a comparison with how he looked when he first arrived 573 days ago, pictured sitting on the same pair of hands. In the original picture his front and rear legs fit in the palm of one hand. See how his jowls have developed.|
He has also got a lot more accustomed to these human things:
Norman has been bobbing frequently this week and, at last, we've managed to catch him on video. He walks along his log, bobs, pauses, turns around and does it again. We're not sure what's getting him so excited; the only difference we know of is that we've been feeding him super worms rather than locusts since Christmas, so maybe he's getting more energy from that.
Norman has begun drinking again during his evening bath, first slightly opening his mouth when we drip water on his nose and, once, dipping his head into the water to drink. Could it be that the consistently higher temperatures afforded by the summer weather are getting to him?
Norman's return to fitness has continued. He's climbing everything he can, spending lots of time up on top of his log and not falling over as he used to. And he's also started head-bobbing, apparently at his own reflection. We'll try to get video of it at some point.
Norman's gait is now back to normal and he's raising his tail as a proper counter-balance as he walks. A much more able-bodied creature all in all. Here's a video of his gait to prove it (compare with previous gait below).
Just to show how alert Norman is, here is his Locust balancing act.
With the branches back in his tank, Norman has taken to sleeping under them which unfortunately takes him some distance from the mercury vapour lamp. To attract him back, Hazel has made a lean-to of sticks underneath the lamp. This seems to have worked reasonably well.
Norman is now thoroughly back to normal and furnished again with lots of branches to climb on in his tank, though he seems to find it more interesting to hide underneath them. Here's a short clip of him waiting for locusts to jump into his mouth.
Norman has been eating less during the last week and Alice wonders if he is brumating - the bearded dragon equivalent of hibernating when they eat less and move around less. He's spending a lot of time sitting in the corner of his tank and has been digging which suggests that he's trying to create a burrow.
Since he's eating less he is probably becoming a little dehydrated because tonight, for the first time ever and to rapturous applause, he actually drank some water! He licked the water that Alice was dripping on his nose, then dipped his head in his bath and drank. Coo.
Norman is showing definite signs of improvement. He's moving around more easily and is less kinky when he walks. A good sign, though treatment continues.
Alice was concerned about what appears to be a bit of white skin that hasn't quite shed from the tip of his tail. She's been trying to get it off in his baths without success. A few days ago we noticed that a portion of it had gone. What actually seems to have happened is that a few millimetres of the end of his tail have broken away. Alice found the broken bit, which looks fine (not hollow or anything). He's happy enough and still gets annoyed when Alice attempts to remove the final bits of skin - evidence that there are nerve endings alive there. We're not going to worry.
Today we began our attempt to breed locusts to feed Norman. See here for details of our progress.
We realised this week that the reason our humidity meter is displaying "--" is not because it's broken but because the measurement is out of range - too low. In an attempt to compensate we've begun hanging a damp cloth in the tank, though this tends not to last all day. To ensure the quality of his food, we're also feeding the locusts he eats with greens, fruit and cucumber. We have some Bug Grub (from Vetark) on order to improve them even further.
Norman continues to take his medicine nightly and seems to be lifting his rear body up slightly more after a week's treatment, though he remains just as kinky.
£200 later and what do we know? Well, his x-rays show a lot of damage in his tail bones but that the back itself is perfectly fine. We assume that the tail bone damage is from an accident in his youth that was a little more than a nip from a playmate. No sign of scoliosis (the thing that is similar to Spina Bifida).
The blood tests showed that most levels, including calcium, are normal. Some show slightly high but are apparently nothing to worry about.
|ICa||Calcium ion mmol/L (the absorbable stuff)||0.95||1.45||1.47|
So there's no congenital disorder and no diet disorder. The vitamin supplement we are giving him (Nutrobal from Vetark) is apparently fine, though the vet didn't think that we should bother with the calcium supplement but should instead give the vitamin supplement every day as it has a calcium balancer in it already. He thought 20 locust nymphs a day was excessive and that we must feed-up the locusts on fruit, cucumber and possibly a vitamin supplement, after which we might find that Norman needs fewer of them.
What's left? The vet thought he might possibly be deficient in vitamin E resulting in weakened muscles, or maybe there had been some muscle damage from falling off one of his logs that he simply needs time to repair. Certainly, he is a viable creature in that his breathing and digestive system are fine. We have to give him BSP vitamin drops (1 drop in 200 ml of water) in his bath and bath him every day.
Norman was obviously happy to be home but in his enthusiasm he's fallen over 4 times already. The pictures below show his kinkiness and his fallen-over state (with blackened beard to show his annoyance).
We've taken most of his logs out of his cage to prevent him having quite so many accidents. Here's hoping that time and vitamins do the trick.
Finally, just to emphasise the effect of the kink, here is a video of Norman running along the floor, getting all annoyed again, and being dunked in his bath for medication.
Norman has remained in his C-shaped pose so today we took him to Lawton & Stoakes Veterinary Surgeons in Harold Wood. They have kept him in to do an x-ray and blood tests on Monday. It could be that we have not been feeding-up the locusts he is eating and so he has become calcium deficient or simply had an accident (falling off one of his logs) which will repair with an improved diet. The tests will tell us whether he has a congenital disorder similar to Spina Bifida. If this is the case there won't be a lot we can do about it.
Got Norman out of his tank today for a walkabout. As we placed him on the scales it was clear that the kinky shape he was in was not a voluntary thing but more a shape that he'd ended up in and couldn't change. He wandered around the floor in a C-shape. Now we're wondering if this is why he's falling over and being unable to recover (he's not been out of his cage since he started being an upside-down lizard).
It may be time to find a herp. vet in the area, but we'll give him a few more days and another walkabout to prove it's not a temporary problem. Herp. vets aren't cheap.
In the last few weeks Norman has begun accidentally falling onto his back and then being unable to right himself. He gets quite annoyed about this, his beard goes black, etc, but he has real difficulty doing anything about it. He uses his arms to rock the top half of his body, but doesn't seem to be able to put his legs into useful positions. Beginning to wonder if the injury to his tail area was a result of some slightly broader injury to his equivalent of the pelvis and this has affected how his legs can move. We watched him struggle for 40 minutes before helping him out, though since we've just been away for 6 days the chances are that he has fallen over and managed to right himself in that time.
Norman is now 50% heavier than when we bought him just over 2 months ago. He's growing at 3.5 g and just under half a centimetre per week.
Norman spent most of this morning hanging vertically along the side of his largest lump of wood. Then this evening he chose to sit in a sort of lizardy-splits position with his legs splayed-out in a most uncomfortable looking manner. Weird creature.
Norman's shipment of locusts failed to arrive this week. After some conversations with Cambridge Reptiles who supply us, it appears that more than one shipment has got lost in the mail. Norman has had three days of starvation and sits looking mournfully at the pile of bran where the locusts normally appear. He didn't show much interest in the reserve supply of pellets we had bought for this kind of occasion. We managed to get out and buy some locusts today which he wolfed in nothing flat. He's now gone to bed early to digest the rather lumpy load we can see in his stomach.
Also bought a few frozen pinkies - new born mice, almost embryonic. He's not showed any interest in them though.
|We purchased a humidity (and temperature) meter from Thermometers Direct and mounted it in the centre-middle of the tank. The humidity measurement is in the body of the instrument, not in the probe, so we had to mount the whole thing inside the tank. Measurements show that the day-time humidity is around 20% while at night time, with the lights off, it goes up to 40%. This seems about right.|
Norman has seemed ravenous on his "no locust" days, so from this week we've shifted him to one box of locust nymphs a day as well as the veggies. He's also becoming rather more adventurous on his daily roam around the lounge now.
|Purchased a 125 Watt mercury vapour lamp plus choke/fittings from www.pwbelg.clara.net/mercury and replaced the 100 Watt household spotlight with this setup. This should give him all the UV he'll ever need.|
Decided to give Norman a bath tonight. Filled a plastic washing-up bowl with a few centimetres of warm tap water and put him in it. He seemed slightly annoyed and tried to climb up the side to no avail. Not sure it made any difference to him, but it did no harm.
Alice made quite some head-way on the feeding front today. First of all Norman ate wax worms from her, Leo's, and then Rob's hands. He later ate the spring greens (a bit like cabbage) chopped up in his bowl but didn't eat the butternut squash. Since he's clearing up the locust nymphs pretty efficiently as well, we consider him settled in.
We purchased some more logs, this time from Millennium Reptiles in Bishop's Stortford (who, incidentally, have an amazing collection of very friendly chameleons). Now Norman can get up close to his UV lamp. While we had him out of his tank we tried to feed him a wax worm, but he wasn't having it and even started to blacken his beard at us. This extra loggage is definitely making a difference - he visits the cool end of his tank and climbs up on the knee of the log to look for locust nymphs up near the UV lamp.
|We bought a pair of digital
thermometers from Thermometers
Direct yesterday and they arrived today. We placed the probe
of one in the cool end of the tank and the probe of the other in the hot
end of the tank then mounted the two read-outs next to the
thermostat. This shows the temperatures at each end to be just right
and the minimum temperature overnight to be over 20 C (compared to
the minimum allowed 15 C). Hence we've now plugged the
thermostat into the timer so that it automatically goes off overnight.
Will continue to monitor the overnight temperatures as winter approaches.
|Well, he's eaten about two thirds of the locust nymphs and this afternoon was seen to perch on one of the higher branches in the tank. We tried feeding him some spring greens, but they appeared unattractive. Took him out, petted him for a minute or two, narrowly avoided an escape and then returned him to his tank down the cool end (which he hasn't yet explored).|
We now have the lizard, christened Norman. He's 4 or 5 months old, 28 centimetres end to end (half of which is tail) and 60 gm in weight. Here he is.
We played with the vivarium's behaviour last night and found that the infra-red lamp was good at keeping the whole environment to temperature, but of course when it's up to temperature it switches off and so the vital basking light goes away. To remedy this we drilled more holes in the roof at the cool end of the tank and put in another light at the hot end - a perfectly normal 100 Watt household spotlight in another cage. Ultimately we should replace this with a mercury vapour spot-lamp to give him more UV as well. We also found that the temperature sensor for the thermostat was touching the (now warm) glass and angling it away made the temperature control more reactive. Finally we put in a water bowl, some stones to bask on and some branches of apple tree. Suspect we need to put some higher things in there so that he can get closer to the UV lamp.
Norman was then put inside along with a portion of locust nymphs (30) dusted with two pinches of Calypso calcium powder. Routine will be to refresh the locust nymphs every other day and once a week to replace the calcium dusting with Nutrobal multivitamin supplement (from Vetark). Cambridge Reptiles will supply locust nymphs by mail order.
The tank arrived today. The finish is a little ropey, but it will do.
We went off to Cambridge Reptiles and we bought a 48", 40 Watt ReptiGlo Terrarium lamp (which says it gives out 33% UVA and 8% UVB) with GloMat starter, a 250 Watt infra-red lamp with cage to fit around it and a Habistat pulse-proportional thermostat to control the lamp. Bark chippings were recommended for the substrate, and we also got a few pieces of drift-wood in an attempt to form a basking platform. See it all put together below. Now to purchase the lizard.
After transferring our fish to the new larger tank, we were wondering what to do with our old 120 litre Jewel tank. Rob thought we might keep a reptile of some form. An evening's research on the web proved that the best reptilian pet to keep with kids in mind is a bearded lizard. Originating from Australia, this lizard is easy to feed, easy to keep, likes being handled and has loads of personality. It breeds easily - all the stock available outside Australia has been bred from the last exports back in the 1970's.
A discussion with Cambridge Reptiles has shown that while all this is true, an adult bearded lizard needs something larger than a 120 litre (100 cm wide by 30 cm deep by 40 cm high) tank; 3 ft by 2 ft by 2 ft was recommended as a minimum. This would be a difficult size to place in our lounge (bearded lizards like being in the thick of the household), however there appears to be a Tahiti Glass Vivarium (60" x 21" x 15") which we could fit where the old tank is.
So, we wanted to use an old tank but are instead planning to buy a new even bigger tank just in order to have a bearded lizard as a pet. Ho hum. We might be able to use the old tank yet to breed locusts as food for the lizard. P.S. actually some friends of ours had a disaster with their fish tank and so took the old one off our hands with glee.
More updates when we've purchased the tank, all the kit and the lizard.