MBD is a life-threatening complex of diseases that cause outward signs of crippling of the bones, similar to rickets. The physiology
of calcium and phosphorus metabolism is complicated; to understand it better see the full text of Dr. Henness’s article, along with the suggested reading. The most important thing to know is that the body strives to
maintain a narrow range of calcium in the bloodstream. If the diet does not provide enough calcium, or if other nutrients interfere with its
uptake, or if too much is lost through the kidneys, then the body will leach calcium from the bones to maintain adequate levels in the
Various mistakes in the diet provided to opossums are the cause of MBD. The most common errors are too much meat protein, too much fruit, and too much Vitamin A (either from foods or vitamin supplements.
Often the care-giver does not notice the first signs of MBD, which are loss of grip, decrease in climbing ability, and decrease in general activity. Many times the opossum will be completely "down", that is, crawling instead of walking, before the care-giver realizes there is an urgent problem.
The following list of signs are exerpted from Dr. Henness’s article NUTRITIONAL METABOLIC BONE DISEASE: Its Causes . . . Its Cure. Follow the link to read the article.
Sequence from earliest (mild NMBD) to advanced (severe and/or chronic NMBD):
The ONLY way to correct MBD in the opossum is to correct the diet. CALCIUM SUPPLEMENTS SHOULD ALMOST NEVER BE USED as a dietary supplement, although this is an appropriate prescription for other species. The opossum processes dietary nutrients very quickly and efficiently, and supplementing with calcium can cause hypercalcemia and complicate the disease. However, an opossum that has a poor diet history and that has developed tremors or other neurological symptoms may need immediate veterinary intervention to prevent death.
A safe way to BEGIN correction of the diet is to start feeding the following mixture as soon as any symptom is noticed:
MBD is life-threatening, and must be treated approriately. The opossum can recover much of its mobility and life span, but ONLY with the correct treatment.
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