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 perhaps genetics. Here are a few of the most common health issues of bearded dragons and some ways to help prevent them.
Impaction is one of the leading causes of death in captive bearded dragons. This is caused by a blockage inside the digestive tract caused by the animal swallowing objects which it cannot pass. Usually impaction comes from small particle substrates (such as Playground sand, crushed walnut shells, or calcium sand) which the bearded dragon accidentally swallows when going after an insect.
Once a bearded dragon begins to show signs of impaction, it’s too late. If caught early, the bearded dragon might be able to be saved, but it’s a painful and costly endeavor. Unfortunately, most cases of impaction lead to death.
Metabolic Bone Disease
Metabolic Bone Disease is a very debilitating disease that is also very common with captive bearded dragons. This disease is a breakdown of the skeleton system due to the lack of calcium absorption in the bones. This is generally due to a lack of calcium intake, or from inadequate UVB exposure.
UVB rays from the sun help a bearded dragon to produce vitamin D3, which promotes calcium absorption. Without vitamin D3 the bearded dragon’s bones will not absorb calcium, which in turn causes the bones to become weak, brittle and deformed.
Mouth rot is a bacterial infection usually caused by low 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 enclosure clean and sanitized. Remove any feces or uneaten food items from the enclosure as soon as it’s found. Be sure the temperatures within the enclosure are correct for your age bearded dragon.
Acts Lazy or Lethargic
If your bearded dragon begins acting lazy or becomes lethargic it could be a sign that the temperatures are too low or too high. Monitor the temperatures throughout the enclosure and adjust as needed.
This 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 natural.
Diarrhea or Runny Stool
Diarrhea or runny stool can be caused by several things, such as possible intestinal parasites or inadequate diet. Feeding a bearded dragon lettuce frequently can cause diarrhea. Change the diet to more nutritious fruits and vegetables.
If the problem persists after a diet change seek a veterinarian.
Loss of Appetite
Loss of appetite can happen if the conditions in the enclosure are not suitable. Usually this is due to temperatures that are too low, or temperatures that are too high. Too much stress can also cause the bearded dragon to not eat, and spend a lot of time hiding.
Most of the time it is temperatures that are too low. Monitor the temperatures throughout the enclosure and adjust them to the correct parameters according to the bearded dragon’s age.
You may need to replace the fluorescent tube if it is older than six months. These bulbs can weaken in strength over time.
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 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.