Prevalence and risk factors for dental disease in captive Central bearded dragons (Pogona vitticeps) in the UK

Mott, R and Pellett, S and Hedley, J (2020) Prevalence and risk factors for dental disease in captive Central bearded dragons (Pogona vitticeps) in the UK. Journal of Exotic Pet Medicine. ISSN 15575063

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13019_GREEN.pdf - Accepted Version
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Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial.

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1053/j.jepm.2020.09.002

Abstract

Background Despite periodontal disease being recognized as a common condition in captive bearded dragons, there is a lack of data regarding the prevalence. A soft diet has previously been cited as the main risk factor linked to the disease, although there has been little research conducted into the etiology since the disease was first described. The aims of this study were to investigate the prevalence of dental abnormalities and disease in captive Central bearded dragons in the UK, and to begin to investigate the risk factors affecting the presence and increased severity of disease in this species. Methods Data collection was conducted from 20 veterinary practices across the UK from March to October 2018. All bearded dragons presented to participating practices during this time period were assessed for the presence of dental disease, and for each animal a standardized data collection form was completed to provide information concerning the animal's signalment, diet and health status. Severity of any dental disease was also graded in a subset of bearded dragons (n=147) by two of the authors using a grading system from 0-5. Results The prevalence of dental abnormalities and disease was 50% in the sampled population of 304 bearded dragons. Increasing age, an abnormal body condition score, presence of concurrent disease, as well as presence of fruit in the diet were all significant risk factors for the presence dental abnormalities and disease. Conclusions and clinical relevance Contrary to previous reports, neither presence of different live foods in the diet, nor presence of vegetable matter in the diet had any significant associations with dental abnormalities and disease, challenging some of the assumptions made to date about the etiology of dental disease in Central bearded dragons. This study instead found that fruit could be the main dietary risk factor for dental disease and should be excluded from the captive diet of these animals. This study has found a strong association between increasing age and presence of dental abnormalities and disease, and stresses the importance of a thorough oral exam, especially in older individuals.

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