Reptiles that eat primarily insects or plants are at risk for developing the metabolic bone disease, which is caused by an imbalance in the levels of calcium, phosphorous, and vitamin D in their bodies. Snakes and other carnivorous reptiles that are fed whole prey generally get enough calcium and vitamin D in their diets, and metabolic bone disease is rarely a problem for them.
If calcium levels in the blood become very low, depression, lethargy, twitches, tremors, hind end weakness, seizures, and death may result. A turtle’s shell may become unusually soft, flared up around the edges, or pointed down at the rear. If the large “scales” of a tortoise’s shell (or scutes) have an abnormal pyramid-like shape, metabolic bone disease should be suspected.