Many times bearded dragon owners may come across special health needs of their pets. There are also times when an unhealthy bearded dragon might start showing signs or symptoms of a condition without you really knowing it. Unfortunately, an unhealthy bearded dragon can not tell us what is wrong with them.
That’s why it is very important to pay attention to tell-tale signs that something might be amiss. These signs could give clues as to any unhealthy conditions the bearded dragon is going through. There are times when it shows signs of an unhealthy state that it can be remedied by simply changing its habitat or food. Some serious conditions will require a visit to a reptile veterinarian.
Here are fourteen signs that you should keep an eye on that could mean an unhealthy bearded dragon.
Eyes Are Not Bright, Clear and Alert
If the bearded dragon’s eyes seem to have a film on them, or seem to not move towards any motion, it could mean it is having some complications. A film over the eyes could simply be a shedding issue, or it could be something more serious like an infection. Check to make sure a bearded dragon you intend to purchase always has clear, bright, and alert eyes.
If it’s a shedding issue, try giving the bearded dragon a bath in warm water. Let it soak for about 15 – 20 minutes to help loosen the skin. You can also use Repti Shedding Aid, or Zilla Bath Shed Ease, to help loosen the skin and promote healthy shedding. If the problem does not seem to be a shedding issue, seek a reptile veterinarian as soon as possible.
Acts Very Lethargic
A bearded dragon that seems “lazy” and doesn’t move much could mean a couple things. One problem could be the temperature of the habitat. A young bearded dragon needs a basking area temperature of between 95°F to 110°F, with a cooler region of around 80°F to 90°F. Often low habitat temperatures coincide with loss of appetite as well.
When seasons begin to change from summer into fall and then into winter many bearded dragon may brumate, or hibernate. The bearded dragon’s appetite will decrease along with it’s activity levels. Most of the time this is normal and nothing to worry about. It’s still important to continue to offer food and water while maintaining proper temperatures and light cycles.
Continually monitor temperatures within the terrarium by using a high quality thermometer like an Exo Terra Digital Thermometer/Hygrometer. It is a good idea to use two – one located in the basking area and the other located in the cooler area so that you can check the complete temperature gradient throughout the terrarium. Adjust temperatures as needed by adding a larger or smaller wattage basking bulb depending on your needs. A mercury vapor bulb can be used to supply both radiant heat and UV radiation.
If temperatures are in the correct range for the age of your bearded dragon, and it’s not the right time of year for brumation to occur, and your bearded dragon is still acting lethargic you may need to seek the advice of a reptile veterinarian.
Soft, Runny, or Foul Stool
Soft or runny stool could be a sign that your bearded dragon has a possible internal parasite or an inadequate diet. Feeding a bearded dragon lettuce can cause a runny stool and cause malnutrition. A yellow tinged urate (the end of the poop that is white) can be a sign of dehydration. Urates that are red or rusty-colored could be an indication of possible parasites.
A bearded dragon that is very stressed out could also have a runny stool or temporary diarrhea.
Make sure to feed your bearded dragon a proper diet and avoid feeding lettuce, as it holds no nutritional value and causes diarrhea. Internal parasites can come from feeder insects that are raised in unsanitary conditions. Make sure you are purchasing feeders that are kept properly. Don’t be afraid to ask your feeder supplier about their husbandry.
It is also important to keep your bearded dragon’s home clean and sanitary. Clean the entire terrarium and any decor at least once per month with a quality terrarium cleaner. Do not use household cleaners such as Windex or anything containing strong chemicals. Clean any spills or soiled areas as soon as possible. This will keep bacteria to a minimum.
It is very important to keep your bearded dragon hydrated. If you begin to notice the white part of the poop (the urate) is a yellow-ish tint there could be a hydration issue. Mist your bearded dragon a couple times per day with clean, dechlorinated water. If using tap water treat the water with a water conditioner that removes chlorine, ammonia, heavy metals, and other chemicals. Zoo Med ReptiSafe is a great product. Lightly mist his/her face with water and they will begin to slowly lap the water off the end of the nose. You should also give your bearded dragon a bath in clean, dechlorinated water at least once a week. Baths not only help keep the bearded dragon hydrated, but also help facilitate shedding and can even help with light constipation.
If your bearded dragon is new to its home, or recently moved around it could be stressed, causing temporary diarrhea. Allow some time for your bearded dragon to adjust, and provide a hide box so that he/she will have a bit of shelter for security.
If your bearded dragon has runny stool or sustained diarrhea have your veterinarian perform a fecal exam to find out the cause of the abnormal stool. Ask them to check for parasites and treatments.
Swollen Limbs or Tail
Swollen limbs or tail could be a sign of a fractured or broken limb/tail. This could come from a fall or when multiple bearded dragons housed together get into a skirmish. Limbs or a tail that tend to break or fracture easily could be a sign of Metabolic Bone Disease. There could also be a bacterial infection, such as tail rot, that could cause swelling.
If your bearded dragon has a swollen limb or tail seek a qualified veterinarian immediately. The veterinarian can perform x-rays and other tests to determine exactly what’s causing the swelling and prescribe treatment.
If you suspect possible Metabolic Bone Disease, seek a qualified veterinarian. This is a life-threatening disease that should be treated immediately.
There are some steps you can take to help reduce the risk of Metabolic Bone Disease with your bearded dragon:
- Always provide adequate UV radiation by using reptile-specific bulbs such as the Exo Terra Repti-Glo 10.0 UVB Fluorescent Bulb or the Exo Terra Solar Glo Mercury Vapor Bulb.
- Always supplement food items with calcium powder such as the Rep-Cal Calcium Powder with Vitamin D3. Dust insects and plant matter liberally at each feeding.
Loss of Appetite
Loss of appetite can be due to a variety of issues – everything from inadequate temperatures to stress. Unfortunately, our cute bearded dragons cannot talk to tell us what the problem is, so we must use our best judgement according to conditions.
Check the habitat temperatures to make sure they are in the proper ranges for the age of bearded dragon you have. If the temperatures are correct, then check to make sure adequate UV radiation is provided.
There are many things that can cause bearded dragon’s to become stressed. The most stressful times are when a new pet is first brought home, or when the terrarium setting drastically changes. Remember, bearded dragons have different personalities just like people, so each one will act differently. Some bearded dragons are not fazed one bit by change, others may freak out. If you have recently acquired a bearded dragon give it time to adjust and only disturb him/her when absolutely necessary. Do not leave live feeders in the terrarium overnight or for long periods of time as this can cause some stress.
If you have covered all the bases and your bearded dragon is still not eating well you should seek the advice of a reptile veterinarian as there could be other possible health issues such as impaction or Metabolic Bone Disease.
Hanging Mouth Open
If your bearded dragon sits with his mouth open, this could be due to temperatures being too warm. Many times they will open their mouth as a way of cooling off. Check habitat temperatures and adjust them accordingly.
Inside of Mouth is Blacked or Discolored
A discolored, or blackened mouth could be the symptoms of mouth rot. Mouth rot is a bacterial infection that affects the mouth and gums of bearded dragons. It is typically caused by unsanitary conditions and low temperatures, and must be treated by a veterinarian.
If the stomach of your pet darkens, or becomes black, it could be due to stress. This can happen most commonly with bearded dragons that have recently been brought home, or changed habitats. Give it time to adjust to the new surroundings. Stress can also be caused by feeder insects left in the habitat overnight, or incorrect temperatures.
Boney / Malnourished
This is usually a direct sign that the bearded dragon is not eating correctly. This could be due to stress, improper temperatures, or a sign of a more serious condition. Check habitat temperatures, and vary the diet to provoke eating.
Disfigured Tail or Limbs / Brittle Bones
Tail or limb disfigurement can be a sign of a broken bone resulting from a drop, or impact of some type. This can often times be the sign of Metabolic Bone Disease. Have a veterinarian perform an exam immediately.
Bearded dragons in the wild are very active creatures. Captive-raised bearded dragons do not have the room typically to be as active as in the wild. With an abundant amount of food, couple with less activity, can lead to obesity. You can combat obesity by supplying it with plenty of leafy greens, and taking it out for regular exercise.
Jerky / Shaky Behavior
There can be many reasons why your bearded dragon is showing jerky, or shaky behavior. The most common reason is due to calcium and vitamin D3 deficiencies. Bearded dragons need calcium for strong bones and vitamin D3 in order to absorb calcium. Providing your pet with sufficient UVB rays is important too reducing the risk of these deficiencies.
Bloody / Damaged Snout
A bloody damaged-looking snout is most commonly caused by snout rubbing. This generally happens when it is kept in an enclosure that is too small. As it searches for a way out of the enclosure it will rub it’s snout until it’s bloody and raw. This can be remedied by ensuring the bearded dragon’s enclosure is adequate and has the proper diet. Taking it out of the habitat occasionally can also help with snout rubbing.
If your bearded dragon appears to have sunken eyes, it could be the signs of an infection. This can also result from dehydration. Give it a bath in warm water. It should lap some of the water after you set it in. Always supply your it with fresh water daily. Be sure the water container is relatively shallow so it can not drown. Misting your bearded dragon several times a day will also help. It will lap up drips of water from its nose as you mist it.