Oral Health For Lizards: The Doctors, The Cost…

the trips, the time, and “What do we do now?”

At peace with the world Murph and with good teeth😁

Obviously good oral hygiene is important for humans, and the same applies to animals. If it has teeth, there may be problems there. Many people know that dogs and cats get their teeth cleaned, and that responsibility lies in the hands of the parents. Aside from some dental attention from a veterinarian, people may brush their dog’s and cat’s teeth regularly. But did you know lizards’ teeth need cleaning?

I did not, and I think many people do not know this. Afterall, our lizards aren’t eating sugars or our table scraps, so what could go wrong? I assumed lizards’ mouths remained healthy with a natural diet; they’re not getting their teeth cleaned out in nature. Whenever I noticed food stuck on my lizard’s teeth, I’d wet a cotton swab and get it off of there, and that’s the extent of it.

…So, here we go with the consequences of ignorance:

I noticed my Bearded Dragon, Lil’ Murph’s teeth were blackening. I researched and researched this phenomenon and what I walked away with was this: So long as the gums and all surrounding tissue look healthy, black teeth aren’t a cause for concern. So, “Alright,” I thought, “but something makes this happen, and this has not happened to my other lizards.” I called my previous Beardie’s vet to ask what I may use to occasionally brush Murph’s teeth as a means of preventative care. The online query of which led to different suggestions by different people, some diluted this or that product, others didn’t, so I’ll simply ask a professional. The receptionist who asked the vet on my behalf came back to the phone to say, “Well, if the gums look fine there is no need to worry, but you should probably bring him in just to check.” This I already knew. Thanks for nothing. She apparently can’t or won’t give a product suggestion for the time being.

For the back story, check out these posts:

These contain the saga experienced by us, the vets, & their employees (Ooh, people can p*** me off!) when I was finally in a position to address the issue regarding Murph’s teeth as well as the mystery of occasional & mild muscular tremors of a leg, hand, foot, finger, toe, or chin.

My dad was moved into our home so that I could care for him until the end, I could not leave him alone for however long it took to get Murph to a vet & back. No one could help me for this to be accomplished. Add to that – every website and the doctor led me to believe it wasn’t pressing to get Murph seen regarding his “cute wittle toofers” + I was 99% sure his tremors were not the result of metabolic bone disease. I also knew I’d spend a minimum of a few hundred dollars on testing alone to see what the matter is.

A quick second about Dad with this short clip of his character. He is missed very much. We must remember him at the ol’ home before things changed. See, I had been there cleaning. Days later, it was observed by another “Need things tidy person” how many flippin’ lids were in the 2 top drawers, so he went on a cleaning spree of his own! See, Dad had a spell when he kept losing lids to things. They simply vanished. So, he did what any rational person would do, : ) keep a small variety as back-ups, except, he kept saving and saving until… what you see in the video.

I spent years trying to get Dad to love my lizards, or at least think them cute. Mom loved especially Copper, but Dad thought if it didn’t have fur or feathers, it lacked a cute gene. But living with Murph only a couple of months did the trick! He wanted to hold him. He kissed him, stared at him, and finally agreed that he was cute!!

🦎🦎🦎🦎🦎🦎

In the link above, “Lil’ Murph’s News,” it was mentioned how the doctor opened Murph’s mouth. By pinching his chin skin, he pulled Murph’s lip down very far and I saw the side of his gum for the first time. I saw the surrounding tissue near the teeth was not perfectly healthy as I previously believed. There was indeed a problem below the visibility line. No matter how wide a lizard opens its mouth to regulate body temperature, no one is going to see that area unless the lip is pulled down. For lizard parents out there, please, it’s not easy and your lizard will not like it, but if you notice any oral changes at all, you must pull down the lower lips to see if anything is happening that you otherwise don’t notice. This is the yellow line of trouble:

Murph has been seen by two doctors at the same location, at a college that has veterinarian schooling where the students are also learning of exotic animals (I hope many of them, especially after being charmed by Murph will choose to care for exotics). Doc #1 recommended Murph goes under anesthesia and this plaque-type substance be scraped. Yet his concern was it would be scraped to the jawbone. Well, this we don’t want. Without mentioning this to doc #2, she suggested Murph either go under anesthesia or be heavily sedated so a hydro something-rather cleaning may take place. This is basically water shot from a tiny tool at such high pressure that it breaks up this hardened substance. As it turns out, the problem with Murph’s gums can be causing the tremors due to a form of germ, to put it broadly. He does not have mouth rot, nor does his breath stink. In fact, “dragon breath” is a compliment when it comes to Murph.

=$355.75

=$266.75

Doc #1 prescribed a solution containing the active ingredient of Miconazole Nitrate (1.15% & equivalent to 1% miconazole base by weight). This was to treat what he said was a buildup of yeast in Murph’s mouth. When returning home, I researched the medicine and found it was a topical solution to treat yeast on skin and found nothing about this being orally administered to reptiles. I became concerned. So, I looked up the doctor and found him online. He is not, or it wasn’t stated a specialist in the field of exotic animal care. I then called with my concern of this medicine. I was assured it was 100% safe and prescribed for something similar to “thrush.” I was told to clean Murph’s gums 1-3 times daily.

Doc #2 prescribed this Maxi Guard and Oxbow:

I mix 3/4 of a tsp with about 1 1/2 tsp of warmed water stirring to perfect smoothie texture. Murph licks the drops I apply to the front of his lips. I offer this not daily as prescribed, but a few times a week. He still gets his calcium powder w/ vitamin D3, this adds extra protein among other things, as Murph no longer wants any living food. I rinse everything when he’s done. It’s all clean, dry, & out of the way on the counter for the next use.

About to be medicine time:

Happy Murph is chillin’ with Mommy. Look at those cute little lips. I call them wippies. Murph knows he has cute wittle wippies. If you lived with Murph you might speak this way too.

Once happy Murph sees that I left for a fleeting moment & have returned with his medicine.
Look at him looking… “Really Mom, we were having a fine time. “Why are you doing this?” He sees the stuff.
“Nope, I will appear peaceful & happy or sleepy… whatever it takes to discourage you from doing this Mom.”
We assume position. Possibly Murph is either imagining he has left the building, or that medicine will be gone once he opens his eye.
Here we go again, the doctor better **^%$*’ be right about this.
Well, this is the unhappy, post-medicine appearance. Murph has his own keyboard because he loves to rest on the one in use. Occasionally he leaves his to rest on mine. I placed him there to continue to sit with me – hoping he cheers up quickly. I may administer this medicine daily after meals if it proves to prevent further problems.
Before and after: See the difference? Now, you too can see how a lizard feels by looking at them.

“Cold-blooded animals” are not cold-hearted or dumb. I believe Murph knows I love him, that I must be doing this for a reason. He is becoming used to it & more cooperative by the day. He stopped turning around to bury himself into my shirt as he did so in the beginning! That made me feel awful. Lizards are highly observant! Seriously, what else do they do. They listen, they watch, they learn. They have no language to relate to others what they have grasped, but reptiles can be highly intelligent. They cannot talk or bark or meow, but I hope photos of Murph are evidence that reptiles show their moods in their eyes, upon their faces and in body language. It has been my experience that if handled properly, they thrive with love, attention, or even cuddles and kisses. They love love and have reasoning skills, and seemingly in regard to medical situations as well.

I moved him to the enclosure along with the keyboard because I had other things to do. He just sat there as I transferred them both.🙂
The doctor said Murph needs weighed often. However, I know him very well & notice changes in his weight by ounces. Whether he’s barely eaten for a few days or really needs to poo, I can tell. But doctors don’t know this (& maybe wouldn’t believe me when I claim his weight is or isn’t perfectly normal for him). It just sounded bad when I said the last time he was officially weighed was a few years ago.

Through all of this, we have a dilemma that we’re not sure how to handle. Murph is in no pain, we don’t know if any recommended procedures will work, and the scraping may make things worse and keep him in pain. A risk of anesthesia is (rarely) loss of life. For the first trip, we were there 5 hours. Trip two was 7+ hours, not including drive times (which was a lot). Should we just be as preventative as possible with his dental needs at this point? Not sure what the best thing is.

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“Give me Lizardry or give me Death!” – Dawn Renée ❤️

10 comments

  1. OMG. thank you for the lovely photos. Murphs so cute and sweet and he loves you. Otherwise you couldn’t handle it with the medicine. Unbelievable the high invoices for the vet and time you spent. But we pay almost everything for our pets. No matter what pet you have, there is a lot of responsibility. I would do the same. I am getting a guilty conscience because I should clean Tom’s teeth more often.
    Have a nice weekend. 🙂

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  2. Thank you, Moni. Didn’t mean to tap your conscience. 😙 Veterinary costs are astounding sometimes, but not nearly as mind-boggling & savings-erasing as our doctor bills.
    I wish it were as easy to get a lizard’s mouth open as it is a dog’s. I don’t like pushing on his lips to pry them open or pulling on his chin poof, & he certainly doesn’t want it.
    Our dog had chicken-flavored toothpaste. It did not make the task any less laborious or enjoyable for him. It could have been licorice-laced fairy fart flavored & I don’t think he would have cared. That actually may have smelled better than the chicken, come to think of it.
    You two have a wonderful weekend as well.

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  3. I really should clean Tom’s teeth! will do it this morning after his breakfast. I am wondering if I can get licorice-laced fairy fart flavored toothpase? 😉 Tom would love it I suppose.
    Have a nice day today. love.

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