Jeff the Bearded Dragon

Jeff is a Bearded Dragon who is owned by the animal centre at Cirencester College after rehoming him a few years ago. Bearded Dragons are native to Australia and are large semi-arboreal lizards that are not nocturnal. Combined with being friendly and easy to handle, makes them ideal pets. Beardies can live 7-12 years.

The college knows little about Jeff’s history; however, he presents with a few abnormalities which suggest he may not have received the correct and specific care that reptiles require. Most reptiles require UVB and infrared lights. The UVB allows the correct absorption of calcium as well as produce vitamin D3. For a bearded dragon to be healthy they also require a diet of leafy vegetables and insects to prevent such conditions as metabolic bone disease. Metabolic bone disease (MBD) can be debilitating as the bones become weak and demineralised. This can lead to bone fractures, jaw receding and hard knots in the bones. It can affect mobility and if untreated lead to death. Unfortunately, it is believed that Jeff has had MBD which can be identified by the kink in his tail.

Jeff’s main problem is his mobility, which is why Cirencester college sought out the chiropractic skills of Emma Chivers. Emma states, “when I first met Jeff his gait was rather uncoordinated with significant weakness through his hindlimbs. This caused Jeff to lose balance and topple over onto his side where he would struggle to get back up again. This was becoming quite a regular occurrence and both staff and students were having to keep a close eye on him”. Jeff had been checked by an exotic vet who believed he may have brain damage but was happy to give consent for treatment.

The staff at the animal centre decided to move Jeff into a bigger enclosure to help create more space and lessen the chance of him toppling over as he moves around.

Emma discusses what she found further, “it was clear from Jeff’s gait that he was relying heavily on his forelimbs to pull himself around, rather than using his hindlimbs for propulsion. As a result of this Jeff had a lot of tension through his shoulders. He also presented with significant misalignments through his mid thoracic vertebrae, where it was evident that the vertebrae had become very fixated to the left side of his body, causing quite impressive postural imbalances throughout his entire body. His left hind leg was also noticeably weaker with clear neurological deficits.”

The lightness of the McTimoney treatment is perfect for animals like Jeff who have a complex medical history. Emma discusses Jeff’s treatment plan, “It was important not to do a full treatment but instead treat a small area and see how he responded before then treating another area during the next session. This is because his entire body was compensating for the weakness in his hindlimbs. The initial treatment was focused on releasing tension through his back. Before then going on to work through the tension in his shoulders. Jeff has had several treatments now and there has been a significant improvement in his posture. Although Jeff’s gait is still very ataxic (uncoordinated) at times, there has been much fewer episodes of him toppling over and he was even seen using his left hind leg to scratch some loose shed from his head!”

A key aspect to treating animals that have chronic conditions is going slow to allow their bodies to deal with changes. Compensations in the body develop over time due to pain and discomfort. If all these compensations are removed together then the animal might not cope well. A practitioner must also identify what the primary cause of the compensation is so that when all the compensations have been resolved the initial issue doesn’t cause the compensations again.

Emma also adds, “I feel that treating Jeff really highlights that many animals can benefit from chiropractic. The gentle McTimoney technique makes it very non-invasive and well accepted by many animals. Regardless of species the goal is always the same, to improve comfort, health, and mobility. The best part of the job is seeing animals relax into treatment, especially in animals that can initially be reactive to our touch due to discomfort. Seeing the change in an animal’s behaviour as they begin to feel more comfortable and hearing the happiness from an owner as they see their animal become back to themselves or performing better is the best feeling.”

Emma is based in Wiltshire and can be contacted on 07933 211307