Welcome to Part 10 of the Bearded Dragon Care Sheet: Common Health Issues of Bearded Dragons!
Bearded dragons are very robust reptiles, but they can develop some health issues when kept in captivity. Most problems tend to stem from improper husbandry conditions or sometimes genetics. Here are a few of the most common health issues of bearded dragons and some ways to help prevent them.
- Learn about the most common health issues bearded dragon owners could face
- Learn how to treat some of the most common minor health issues of a bearded dragon
Impaction is one of the leading causes of death in captive bearded dragons. The origin is a blockage inside the digestive tract when the animal swallows an object (or objects) which it cannot pass. Usually impaction is due to small particle substrates (such as Playground sand, crushed walnut shells, or calcium sand) which the bearded dragon accidentally ingests when lunging for insects.
Once a bearded dragon begins to show signs of impaction, it’s usually too late. If caught early the bearded dragon may undergo surgery to remove the impaction, but it’s a painful, costly endeavor. Unfortunately, most cases of impaction lead to death.
The best way to reduce the risk of impaction is to remove any small particle substrate and use reptile carpet liners, newspaper, or ceramic tiles as substrate.
It is never recommended to use small, loose particle substrates with baby bearded dragons.
Metabolic Bone Disease
Metabolic Bone Disease is a debilitating skeletal disease common with captive bearded dragons. This disease is a breakdown of the skeleton system due to the lack of calcium absorption in the bones. A lack of calcium intake, or inadequate UVB exposure are typically at the root of MBD.
UVB rays from the sun assists with the production of vitamin D3, which promotes calcium absorption. Without proper levels of vitamin D3 the digestive system will not synthesize calcium, which in turn causes the bones to become weak, brittle, and deformed.
Always provide adequate full-spectrum lighting and follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for proper location and schedule for bulb replacement.
Supplement each feeding with calcium powder containing vitamin D3.
If you suspect your bearded dragon may be showing signs of MBD seek a veterinarian immediately for treatment.
Keys To Success
- Avoid using loose particle substrates with young bearded dragons to prevent possible impaction
- Provide adequate full-spectrum lighting and calcium supplements to avoid Metabolic Bone Disease
- If the bearded dragon acts lazy or sluggish, it could be a sign of low temperatures. Always monitor temperatures using a high quality reptile thermometer
- Runny stool can be a sign of inadequate diet or possible intestinal parasites
- Bearded dragons should be seen by a reptile veterinarian for routine medical checkups at least once per year
- If the well-being of the bearded dragon is EVER in question seek medical evaluation by a reptile veterinarian
Mouth rot is a bacterial infection due to low terrarium temperatures and unclean living conditions. The symptoms are dark colorations on the lips, gums, or tongue. The illness will get worse as time goes on causing the gums to bleed and teeth to eventually fall out.
Always keep the terrarium clean and sanitized. Remove any feces or uneaten food items from the enclosure as soon as possible. Maintain the correct temperatures of the terrarium according to the age of the bearded dragon.
If your bearded dragon begins showing signs of dark colorations around the mouth seek a veterinarian immediately. A veterinarian will need to treat the infection.
Acts Lazy or Lethargic
If your bearded dragon begins acting lethargic it could be a sign that the temperatures are too low or too high. Monitor the temperatures using quality thermometers throughout the enclosure and adjust as needed.
Lower activity levels could also be a sign of brumation, if it is during the fall and winter months. Bearded dragons naturally want to brumate, or hibernate, during this time of year once they reach the juvenile stage. This is very common and a natural reaction to changing seasons.
Diarrhea or Runny Stool
Intestinal parasites or inadequate diet are two of the most common causes of diarrhea or runny stool. Feeding a bearded dragon lettuce frequently can also lead to diarrhea. Avoid feeding the bearded dragon lettuce and change the diet to more nutritious fruits and vegetables.
If the problem persists after improving the diet seek a veterinarian to test for intestinal parasites.
Loss of Appetite
Loss of appetite can happen if the conditions in the enclosure are not suitable. Improper temperatures can affect appetite. Too much stress can also cause the bearded dragon to not eat, and spend much of its time hiding.
Monitor the temperatures throughout the enclosure and adjust them to the correct parameters according to the bearded dragon’s age.
Loss of appetite could also be due to a lack of UVA exposure. UVA radiation helps to encourage a healthy appetite.
Make sure you are using a good full-spectrum light and the placement of the light is within the manufacturer’s guidelines.
Always replace fluorescent bulbs after six months. Fluorescent bulbs tend to weaken in strength over time.
Concluding Common Health Issues of Bearded Dragons
This certainly doesn’t cover every health issue that could arise with bearded dragons, but are some of the most common. It is important to use the best husbandry practices you can to help prevent these undesirable conditions. Provide nutritious food items and add calcium and multivitamin supplements at each feeding. Be sure to always use high-quality full-spectrum lighting and heating elements, and always monitor temperatures.
Next, we will discuss what to do when acquiring your first bearded dragon.