Bearded Dragon Diseases, Symptoms, and Treatment

Bearded dragons are hardy pets not vulnerable to many diseases or conditions if they get the correct diet and right habitat, including the correct temperature, UV lighting, humidity as well as proper care, and husbandry.

However, they do get sick, and you need to be on the lookout for some common signs of illness that may include anorexia, diarrhea, vomiting, sunken eyes, sleeping more, being lethargic, hiding more, jerky movements, and among others.

is my bearded dragon sick
is my bearded dragon sick

Besides, don’t forget to take them to your vet for routine vet check at least once in a year to see if they may be having any health issues. Common health problems  or disease and conditions they may have include:

1. Metabolic bone disease (MBD) in beardies

Metabolic bone disease is the most common syndrome in captive bearded dragons, especially young ones, i.e., those below two years and egg carrying ones. It often results from a range of bone diseases triggers by calcium and vitamin D3 deficiency or any other factor that affects these two.

Calcium has many functions in these pets, including proper bone formation and maintenance, muscle, and metabolic function. When it’s not available in the required amounts, this pet will suffer from hypocalcemia and consequently end up with MBD.

As there is a calcium deficiency, to keep the average blood calcium level, beardies will resorb calcium from bones, making their bones may weaken or suffer from skeletal malformation in young bearded dragons.

a). MBD causes

Metabolic bone disease cause in bearded dragons revolve around calcium deficiency. Any factor that leads to calcium deficiency can potentially lead to MBD. Common causes include:

Poor diets or malnutrition

Diets that are low in calcium like most farm-raised feeder insects, especially if you don’t dust them with calcium.

Also, Foods high in phosphorus relative to calcium can lead to secondary nutritional hyperparathyroidism where the excess phosphorus binds with calcium inside their intestinal tract; hence less calcium is available and absorbed into their body. Ideal calcium to phosphorus ratio should be about 2:1. Phosphorus deficiency may be a cause since it helps in bone formation.

Also, dietary deficiency of vitamin D3 can contribute to the occurrence of this condition, among other facts.

Finally, foods high in oxalic acid as oxalic acid will bind with the dietary calcium during digestion, making it unavailable.

Inadequate UV light

Vitamin D3 aids in calcium absorption. Since these pets require UVB for their skin to synthesis vitamin D3 or cholecalciferol, wrong UVB bulbs, the short exposure time may result in inadequate vitamin D3 synthesis by their skin.

Wrong vivarium temperature

Since warmth is vital in their digestion, a reason why they don’t eat as they brumate, low vivarium temperature may indirectly contribute to this problem.

b). MDB signs and symptoms

Metabolic bone disease in beardies will have signs range from mild to severe ones.

  • Lumps on spinal column, tail, legs, and jaw
  • Jerky movements or inability to move limbs or walk or lift its body from the ground in their normal stance.
  • Swollen hind legs
  • Softening of bones, especially on lower jaws, face, and limbs.
  • Bent spinal column or tail – scoliosis and kyphosis
  • Permanent body skeletal deformation, particularly legs, spine, jaw, or tail.
  • Reduced appetite and sand eating where your pet may eat calcium sand
  • Hypocalcemia symptoms, i.e., since calcium level will go low. These symptoms include lethargy, weak hind legs, depression, tremors, twitches, seizures, and death.

c). Treatment and prevention

Diagnosis involves looking at the patient’s history, clinical signs, radiograph (X-rays), bloodwork, including those that measure blood calcium level, among other tests.

Once positively identified, your vet may consider calcium injection or administer it orally, fluid therapy, oral supplements, splints to support broken bones, and so on.

MBD recovery time will depend on its severity and can take up to 6 months or a shorter time., While in its early stages, it is possible to cure and reverse MBD. However, in severe MBD in bearded dragons such as the one that has already resulted in permanent deformity, your pet will require long-life assisted living.

Ways to correct metabolic bone disease include:

  • Adequate UV rays: baby beardies 5% UVB and adult bearded dragons 10-12% UVB bulbs for a photoperiod of 12-14 hours. Let them cover over 80% of your vivarium and replace them while following their manufacturer’s recommendations since they do decline with time.
  • Calcium and vitamin D3 supplementation: Dust their food with products such as Zoo Med Repti Calcium with D3 a few times a week, depending on their age. See more on bearded dragon calcium and multivitamin supplements.
  • Correct diet – Go for feeder insects high in calcium like calci-worms (Black soldier fly larvae), gut load feeder insects, and give them fresh veggies like mustard greens, turnip greens, collard greens, kales, and bok choy that are high in calcium.
  • Kept optimum temperatures: Maintain 105-110 degrees Fahrenheits on basking area and 75-90 on the cooler side.
  • Suitable habitat – provide a spacious enclosure, enrich it with activity stimulating furniture such as climbing branches, hammocks, and so on, to keep them exercised and physically fit.

Depending on its severity, your vet may guide you on vitamin D3 and calcium supplementation, as overdoing it will be harmful to these pets.

2. Tail rot in beardies and treatment

As the name suggests, it is the actual rot or decay of this pet’s tail due to several causes that often result in infections and decomposition.

If untreated or attended will make the tail fall off, and the infection may spread to other internal organs in their body, causing death.  Furthermore, it is painful and will make your beardie uncomfortable, making treatment quite necessary.

a). Causes in a baby or adult beardie

There are many causes. Some of these causes may not directly cause the rot but will open a gateway for infection to occur.

  • Trauma or injuries – trauma on their tail, including something crushing, pinching, breaking, or cutting it. Also, if housed in the same terrarium, they may nip each other’s tail, especially while still young or other pets may bite them.
  • Infection – Infection, including in places with injuries
  • Toxins – Some toxins may cause necrosis (tissue damage) and consequently lead to tail rot.
  • Blood clots or restricted blood flow, including by dysecdysis or not shedding well that will leave some skin constricting their tail.
  • Cysts and abscesses
  • Poor husbandry – Poor or unbalanced diet such as lack of calcium or low UVB light or incorrect temperature may affect calcium absorption and weaken these pets immunity or cause hypothermia, making them vulnerable to infections.

b). Signs to expect

  • The tail color will change to become darker or black as tissues die.
  • Dry and listless look in the affected area
  • Rot or decomposition
  • Irritability or refusing handling
  • Reduced appetite

c). Treatment and remedies

If you suspect tail rot, take your bearded dragon to a herp or vet for diagnosis and treatment. Your herp will choose the best treatment option, including surgery or amputation, in case of necrosis.

Surgery is only necessary for severe cases, especially if a considerable part of the tail part is rotten. Surgery can cost $40-$300 depending on the severity and other factors.

If you are sure it is tail rot and it is still minor, home treatments include soaking it in warm water and betadine at ratios of 3:1 for two minutes and applying non-pain reliving Neosporin such as the Original Neosporin may help. Do this 2-3 times a day for one to two weeks.

Here is a video to guide you.

d). Prevention

Proper husbandry, separate housing, and excellent care, including the right diets, UV light, temperature, humidity, handling, and so on.

3. Bearded dragon mouth rot

Mouth rot (infectious stomatitis, oral inflammation, or necrotic stomatitis) is a fungus, viral, or bacterial gum or jaw infection that affects many reptiles but not so common in beardies.

Early detection and treatment of his oral disease of paramount importance as it may spread to the digestive tract, including their throat, stomach, or cause blood infection.

Finally, aspiration of some types of bacteria may result in pneumonia in your pets.

a). Causes

Stress makes bearded dragons susceptible to mouth rot infection since it weakens their immunity. Stress may arise from poor husbandry like overcrowding, wrong UV and tank temperatures, parasites (internal or external), and poor nutrition.

For instance, diets with wrong calcium to phosphorus ratio or lacking vitamin C often may increase vulnerability to infections.

Also, oral trauma and injuries, food stuck on their teeth, and poor oral hygiene may increase the chance of mouth rot.

b). Signs

While some signs will require oral checks, others don’t. Common ones include the following:

  • Reduced or refusal to eat or drink
  • Redness
  • Minimized licking
  • Saliva thickening or excessive mucus in their mouth.
  • Hemorrhage on affected gum or area
  • Mouth or gum swelling
  • Cottage cheese-like thick pus that may contain blood making their mouth to look like it is rotting away.
  • Swollen jaw area, face or head in cases where infections spread to jawbones or cranium
  • Loose teeth
  • Eye infection in case pathogens goes to the sinus that is near their eyes.

c). Treatment

If you notice any of the above symptoms, go to your vet for diagnosis to determine the exact pathogens involved. Diagnosis may include complete blood count, discharge cultures, biopsies, and so on to rule out other causes and identify the precise pathogen responsible.

Afterward, your vet will treat your lizard, and it may involve abscesses draining if they have some, removal of any dead tissues in case of necrosis, plague dislodging, and administering medication (antibiotics or antifungal depending on the cause).

Furthermore, there may be supportive care in case they don’t eat or drink, such as fluid replacement therapies, vitamin B and C administration, tube feeding with products such as Fluker’s Repta+Boost Insectivore & Carnivore High Amp Boost and so on.

Finally, avoid any home treatments like those that use dilute hydrogen peroxide as you risk destroying your pet’s mouth lining. Only follow your vet’s instructions.

d). Prevention

Treatment alone is not enough. You need to deal with the underlying cause that triggers stress to avoid this problem recurring.

Therefore, ensure you have regular checkups and proper husbandry, including balanced diets, maintaining the right temperature, having a hiding box or place (minimizes stress), and good oral hygiene, such as using a cotton swab to remove any stuck food. When cleaning their mouth, be gentle as you can easily break their fragile jaws.

4. Beardies with respiratory infection (RI) and treatment

Bearded dragons can suffer from lower or upper respiratory infections with pneumonia the most commonly. If left untreated for a long time, it can result in blood infection or septicemia.

a). Causes

These respiratory infections could be due to bacteria, viruses, and fungal infection commonly noted in the stressed bearded dragons, those having wrong diets or living under poor conditions especially in cold tank, those with high humidity (poorly ventilated) or unsuitable habitats such as tropical or substrates that retain much moisture.

b). Signs and symptoms

  • Nasal and mouth discharges, i.e., runny nose or mouth or excess mucus. Sometimes, you may notice a bubble from their mouth or nose.
  • Unusual breathing sounds like wheezing, crackling, sneezing, or coughing sounds.
  • Difficulty (labored) breathing such as shallow or rapid breathing as other unnatural breathing
  • Mouth gaping in case of mouth breathing.
  • Decreased appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Weight loss
  • Throat puffing

c). Diagnosis and treatment

Diagnosis will involve looking at the clinical signs presented, patient history, and tests like fecal exams, X-rays, bloodwork, among other tests to establish the cause.

Treatment may be antibiotics for a bacterial caused respiratory infection or antifungal in case a fungal infection is to blame. Those causes by viruses will need medications to manage the various symptoms shown.

d). Prevention

Proper husbandry is vital in keeping upper or lower respiratory infections at bay. Maintain the right terrarium temperature for the basking and colder side, keep relative humidity at 30-40%, and correct UV light.

Humidity gauge and thermometers will help you monitor vivarium conditions. Furthermore, you need a thermostat to help control temperature while a dehumidifier and a good terrarium screen will help reduce humidity.

Additionally, provide the right diets, including healthy feeder insects like crickets, silkworms, grasshoppers, roaches, and so on, as well as veggies and fruit treats. Don’t forget to ensure you feed your bearded dragons correctly, depending on their age.

Finally, dust their food with calcium, vitamin D3 as well as multivitamins. Products such as Amber Technology Reptaid Immunity Support will also help in boosting immunity. Depending on the weight of reptiles, go for one for smaller or larger reptiles.

5. Atadenovirus (ADV) – stargazing or wasting disease in beardies

Atadenovirus (ADV) or adenovirus is a virus that affects birds, reptiles and mammals that belongs to the genus Atadenovirus  with the reptilian ADV affecting various reptiles including:

  • Agamid lizards like water and bearded dragons (genus Pogona)
  • Mexican beaded lizards and Gila monsters
  • Savanna and emerald monitors
  • Skinks including your blue-tongue skinks
  • Snakes
  • Crocodiles (Nile crocodile)
  • Turtle and tortoise
  • Chameleons

In bearded dragons, atedonovirus is a fatal viral infection that kills most of the baby and juvenile bearded dragons within 90 days while adults may live longer.

However, adults will develop other complications, such as liver and kidney disease, gastroenteritis,  stomatitis (mouth rot), encephalitis, and so on, that will kill them.

Finally, some may remain healthy while they have this virus, and they can pass it to others.

a). Symptoms

Not all bearded dragons will show signs of ADV infection, and necropsy, after they are dead, will reveal an Atadenovirus infection. Poor husbandry, including whatever stresses these pets or coinfections, may play a role in the appearance of clinical signs.

  • Stunted growth
  • Poor weight gain or weight loss
  • Lethargy
  • Neurological symptoms including body twitching ( tail and toe) and seizures, stargazing posture ( having an arched neck and looking up to the sky), uncontrolled rolling, etc.
  • Hiding and sudden death

Since the disease weakens immunity, other conditions including susceptibility to infections, and internal parasites like coccidia  (Isospora amphibolouri), flagellated protozoa, nematodes, and amoebas, does occur. These infections and conditions may cause other symptoms not limited to diarrhea, reducing appetite, sleeping more, and so on.

b). Transmission

Transmission is by direct contact with an infected bearded dragon or anything it has come in contact with it that contamination by feces of a sick beardie, eating their leftovers, sharing a cage, handling, or any other physical contact or from mother to hatchling.

c). Diagnosis and treatment

Besides seeking history and doing a physical examination, your vet will screen fecal for the presence of parasites, do panel bloodwork, PCR DNA analysis of cloacal swab, among other tests to confirm it is ADV.

ADV is incurable. Therefore, treatment only helps manage various symptoms as well as palliative care. Your vet may treat any other infection that may arise due to compromised immunity. For instance, he or she may give antibiotics in case of a secondary bacterial infection.

Isolate the affected bearded dragon, ensuring their habitat has UV lighting, heat, right humidity, etcetera, and sanitize their cages and habitat supplies, including food and water bowls, décor, furniture like basking rock, climbing branches, and so on. The Top Performance 256 Disinfectant, F10SC Veterinary Disinfectant by F10 SC or TOMLYN Trifectant Disinfectant Tablet, will work effectively in sanitizing the various supplies.

Always wash and disinfectant your hands after handling your pets with good hand sanitizers like Germ-X, Mountain Falls Advanced Hand Sanitizer, Purell, or any other great brand.

Finally, encourage it to drink water by including soaking it in lukewarm water to remain well hydrated and consider syringe feeding if this pet does not eat.

6. Yellow fungus in bearded dragons

Yellow fungus disease is the most common and very aggressive fungal disease that affects captive reptiles caused by  CAVN (Chrysosporium anamorph of Nannizziopsis vriesii) fungus.

This highly contagious keratinophilic fungus can affect bearded dragons, uromastyx, Chinese water dragons, leopard geckos, green iguana, veiled chameleon, among other species.

It begins by eating keratin on the outer skin layer and gradually go deeper into their skin, leaving behind deeper lesions.

While not zoonotic, some people there have been cases on compromised immunity such as those with HIV,  the elderly, or young children.

With a guarded to poor prognosis where most reptiles often die after 12-18 months even with treatment while those that survive may need continuous, long-term medical care, there is a need to try preventing this disease as much as possible.  Treating yellow fungus on bearded dragons is not easy.

a). Risk factors and transmission

Stressed pets, those living in dirty or unhygienic conditions or overcrowded as at a higher risk of suffering from yellow fungus disease. Stress weakens their immunity, making them unable to fend even for minor inoculation of this fungus.

Young beardies are more vulnerable than older ones. However, even healthy and reptiles living under good husbandry may suffer from CAVN but occurs less often.

Furthermore, bite wounds (if housed together) will open inoculation points while prolonged antibiotic therapies can weaken this pet’s immunity.

Finally, the transmission is by direct contact or indirectly by touching items used by an infected beardie.

b). Symptoms

  • Skin discoloration – There will be crusty yellow or brown patches on the affect skin and scales that grow with times. Sometimes, they may appear greyish.
  • Increased or irregular shedding at early stages. Once the old skin sheds, a darker, thickened rough surface remains behind.
  • Presence of painful sores and lesions as the infection progresses that may turn black as they rot and then fall off. The skin will break, exposing susceptible and inflamed tissue.
  • Slow healing of wounds and the presence of trouble spots (small sores) that won’t heal
  • Reduced appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Weight loss
  • Death

c). Diagnosis and treatment

Skin scrape for PCR test to identify if CANV DNA is present, bloodwork to check the general health of your bearded dragon. Also, a skin biopsy will help in differential diagnosis to rule other possible causes like cancer.

Being a fungal disease, expect fungal medication, including systemic, oral topical, or other forms of treatments or a combination. For instance, your vet may give oral voriconazole or a combination of itraconazole and terbinafine.

Povidone-iodine or Silvadene cream will help heal lesions and slow down the spread of infection, and debridement (removal of dead skin) will ensure better penetration of topical solutions.

The topical use of terbinafine, itraconazole, or miconazole hasn’t proven efficiency in treating yellow fungus disease. However, some note Lamisil has a promising effect.

d). Prevention

Isolate the affected pet to prevent cross-infection and minimize the stress that results from things such as housing these pets together as they will often compete for food, basking spots, and so on.

A hiding place is also vital in reducing stress. Usually, stress will suppress their immunity making them more susceptible to this fungal as well as other infections.

Also, keep proper sanitation and hygiene by regularly cleaning and disinfecting cages, their décor, furniture, and water, and food bowls.

Provide the right habitat, i.e., the right temperature, UV light, and humidity. Never miss accurate humidity gauges, thermometers, and thermostats (help regulate temperature)

Try giving them probiotics such as Nutribac Dietary Supplement for Reptiles & Amphibians to help stimulate appetite and bring back the healthy GI microflora if under antibiotics.

Finally, avoid buying your beardies from where they are housed together or suffer from skin lesions or discolored patches.

7. Bearded dragon impaction and laxatives

Bearded dragon hardy, easy to care for, and laidback reptiles, making them an excellent exotic pet choice even for first-timers and kids. However, they do suffer from several issues, one of them being impaction, a life-threatening condition.

Impaction refers to the accumulation of material inside your bearded dragon’s digestive tract forming a solid mass that entirely obstructs their digestive tract making it impossible for food to pass through their GI.

While it is not the same thing as constipation where regular bowel movements slow down, they do share similar symptoms, and if prolonged, it can lead to impaction.

a). Impaction causes

Wondering why it occurs? Here are the main reasons:

Wrong food

Giving large prey (shouldn’t be larger than the space between the eyes of your bearded dragon), ones with a hard, indigestible exoskeleton like mealworms or superworms, large crickets or other prey especially in baby bearded dragons.

A large prey will cause pressure on your beardie’s spinal cord during digestion, cause impaction, and even kill your pet. Also, don’t forget, overfeeding can also result in an impaction.

Indigestible material

Ingesting indigestible materials including loose terrarium substrate like sand, pebbles, gravel, bark, or any other that is pelleted and indigestible. Such slowly accumulate and may block this animal’s gut. The ingestion can happen accidentally as your beardie is trying to eat its food primarily if you use loose substrate types.

Wrong temperature setting

Temperature aids in digestion and must be at its optimum. Low temperatures may slow down food digestion, increasing the risk of impaction.

b). Impaction signs and symptoms

Some of the telltale signs include

  • A small amount of stool, straining while pooping, bloody stool or not passing stool at all
  • Lethargic, dull-looking and sluggish bearded dragon
  • Loss of appetite
  • Looking bloated
  • Regurgitation and vomiting
  • Trembling of their legs or not walking properly
  • Partial leg paralysis where your pet may drag one or both leg hind legs, which happen to the front limbs if impaction occurs higher on the digestive tract.
  • A bump on the spine at the point of impaction

c). Treatment

Since impaction is a life-threatening condition, see your vet for further diagnosis and treatment if your pet goes for over five days or longer without defecating. X-rays will help know where the solid mass is blocking the GI, while severe cases may require surgery that will cost you anything from $300 to $1200.

Also, the following home remedies may help.

d). Warm bath

A lukewarm bath in a shallow tub (not going beyond its shoulder) will help relax their muscles and promote bowel movements. Do this for up to 30 minutes. It is not uncommon for some to pass a poop as you bathe them. You can allow him to swim a little if it so likes.

e). Belly massage

To further help dislodge and break the impacted mass, do a belly massage while it lies on its belly as well as near their cloacal area.

f). Laxatives

A good bearded dragon impaction laxative is pureed prunes. Syringe feed your pet with any reptile-safe laxatives, including pureed prunes without any added sugar.

g). Prevention

To avoid impaction, give correct food size, avoid those with a tough exoskeleton, don’t overfeed them, keep the recommended terrarium temperatures, and use food bowls in case you have a loose substrate in your enclosure.

8. Constipated beardie

Constipation occurs when a bearded dragon finds it very difficult to empty his or her bowels, especially if their stool becomes hardened. While it may cause some symptoms similar to impactions, these pets are unable to pass their feces but not usually.

a). Causes

The common reason why your bearded dragon constipated include:

  • Poor diets that don’t provide enough fiber and moisture content to promote bowel movement.
  • Inactivity is common in bearded dragons housed without furniture and enrichments to stimulate activity. Activity helps spur bowel movements.
  • Obesity and over-eating
  • Dehydration primarily due to not drinking enough water
  • Presence of intestinal parasites and infections
  • Tumors, injuries and old age
  • Cloacal obstruction by hardened urates, especially in case of dehydration. It can prevent feces from passing out, something that will cause a buildup, and a fecal mass may form.
  • Cool vivarium. Warmth promotes digestion.

b). Signs  and symptoms to expect

To tell that your bearded dragon may be constipating, look at some of the following signs:

  • Reduced appetite or unwillingness to eat
  • Your beardies will not be defecating like they usually do, straining when defecating or passing out small dry poop. In some cases, they may pass blood-stained poop.
  • Lethargy, sluggishness, or inactivity, while some bearded dragons will become skittish if you try to handle them.
  • Dehydration symptoms such as sunken eyes
  • Symptoms of impaction

c). Treatments and remedies

If you notice any of the above symptoms, visit your vet for further treatment. He will want to know your pet’s history, look at some of the symptoms present, do stomach palpation to reveal a hardened cylindrical mass, check for a cloacal plug, fecal tests, conduct X-rays, and so on.

The treatment option will depend on the cause. Your vet may have to treat parasites if they are the cause, remove a cloacal plug, administer oral, intraosseous (via bone canal), or subcutaneous fluid with intraosseous chosen in case of severe dehydration, etcetera.

Furthermore, if deemed necessary, he may perform cloacal swab lubrication, enemas, or use of a catheter, especially in cloacal obstruction and so on.

Finally, the following remedies may help make resolve constipation.

  • A shallow lukewarm bath – Give them a 30 minutes bath in lukewarm water not going beyond their shoulders. If they like, you can let them swim.
  • Misting – misting them encourage them to drink water just as they do in the wild while it is raining.
  • Belly massage that involves stroking from their sternum towards their vent
  • Bathe and massage those that suffer from metabolic bone disease or partial paralysis more often.
  • Try foods that work as natural laxatives like a pureed prune, squash, among other safe foods.

d). Prevention

Provide drinking water, bathe and mist your bearded dragon to ensure proper hydrating, feed them the right diets, allow your pet to exercise, treat any intestinal parasites, avoid overfeeding them, ensure they don’t consume substrate if it is the loose type such as sand, and maintain the right habitat conditions especially temperature.

9. Dehydration in bearded dragons

Water has many physiological functions in all living things, including your bearded dragon. Therefore, you need to ensure they always have water to drink. However, for one or the other reasons, including sickness, impaction, and so on, they may fail to drink enough water, making them dehydrated.

a). Signs and symptoms

  • Lethargy
  • Wrinkled skin
  • Sunken eyes
  • Reduced appetite
  • Shock and death in severe cases
  • Inelastic skin. Gently pinch their back skin and see if it springs back or not. If it doesn’t, your bearded dragon is dehydrated.
  • Sunken fat pads

b). Treatment and remedies

Since other underlying conditions may cause these symptoms, see a vet for proper diagnosis and treatment. Your vet will rule out other illnesses that have similar signs and help in rehydration.

Severe cases will need a subcutaneous fluid injection, while milder cases may need giving these pet fluids orally. Also, the following home remedies may help promote rehydration:

  • Fill their water bowls with clean, freshwater. Condition tap water using ReptiSafe to detoxify it and get rid of chlorine and chloramines. You may have to train them to learn to drink from bowls by adding a small amount of fresh strawberry, papaya, grapes, or cranberries.
  • Give them water using a syringe, dropper, or pipette. However, don’t force these lizards.
  • Give them a lukewarm bath or let this pet swim for 15-30 minutes. However, ensure the water doesn’t go beyond its shoulders so as not to cover its vents. Some will drink water as they swim.
  • Get a good mister – Misting will encourage natural drinking behavior as it will seem as if it is raindrops falling as it rains. Dripping some water droplets at its snout will help it to drink. Some may also lick water on the terrarium walls or décor.
  • Give fresh leafy green veggies as they contain a lot of water, as they will help in ensuring this reptile is well hydrated.

However, avoid too much water. Keep the amount of water that your beardies drink daily to 1-2% of their body weight. Also, ensure you always clean and disinfect their water bowl daily or if they defecate inside it. Use safe disinfectants such as Zoo Med Wipe Out.

10. Hypocalcemia

Closely linked to metabolic bone disease, hypocalcemia happens when there is a low level of calcium in a bearded dragon’s blood. It often results in lethargy, muscle twitches and tremors, seizures, hind leg paralysis, and death with baby and younger bearded dragons more vulnerable.

Providing food high in calcium, dusting their diet with calcium and vitamin D3 supplements, and ensuring correct UV light (both the required photoperiod and amount) and keeping optimum terrarium temperature will help deal away with hypocalcemia.

11. Cancer in bearded dragons

Beardies can suffer from various forms of cancer, such as bone, leukemia, gastric neuroendocrine carcinomas, common in the stomach, but can spread to the liver, squamous cell carcinoma (skin cancer), myxosarcoma (affecting connective tissues), peripheral nerve sheath tumor among others.

Cancer symptoms will depend on which type or where it occurs. Common ones include neoplasia (growths), weight loss, lethargy, loss of appetite, and your bearded dragon not looking well.

Diagnosis will involve looking at clinical signs, histopathology, complete blood count, radiographs, including X-rays, biopsies, and so on.

12. Bearded dragon overweight – obesity and diet

Like any other pet, excessive food, wrong food choice, and a sedentary lifestyle (little or no movements) can make your bearded dragon to gain weight and look overweight.

While it is not easy to tell when a bearded dragon is overweight or not weigh more than their expected weighing bearing in mind their age. It should fall within their healthy weight chart with adults weighing 280-510 grams.

Secondly, looking chubby with a round solid tail base (where they often store fats), and having fat legs, belly, chin, and so on may be an indicator.

Furthermore, they will often drag their stomach on the ground even when they have not eaten anything. However, don’t confuse a gravid female for being overweight.

Weight loss and diet

Weight loss will involve creating a calorific deficit to force these pets to use stored fats as a source of energy eventually.

  • Gradually reduce the amount of food given and let them make some effort, such as hunting let them chase live insects inside their vivarium, or a reptile feeding tong to dangle food with live food and let them make an effort to get it.
  • Avoid highly calorific foods, including live feeder insects that are high in fats, especially waxworms as well as dog or cat foods. You can increase the ration of their veggies, depending on their age.
  • Including enrichments that will stimulate activity, including climbing rocks and branches, etc., ensuring their cage is the right size and handle them more. Also, remember that a very small vivarium makes these pets inactive as there isn’t enough space.

13. Ear infection in beardies

Bearded dragons can suffer from ear infections that may be due to a fungal or bacterial infection. Depending on the extent of the infection, symptoms may be mild to severe neurological ones in case of inner ear infection.

These lizards may have swollen eardrums (the visible thin film also known as tympanic membrane), discharge, hearing loss, black-brownish spots, among other symptoms.

Kindly take your bearded dragon to an experienced vet for proper diagnosis and treatment. Don’t use any eardrops unless advised so by your vet.

14. Eye infection and problems

There are many eye problems and conditions that may affect your bearded dragons. These problems or illnesses may have various symptoms like squinting, swelling, oozing, crusting, gunk formation, eye closing, and so on.

Common eye conditions include the following:

  • Eye infections– Infections may affect the eye, its surroundings, or even the tear duct. Common blamed pathogens include viral infections such as poxvirus or herpesvirus or bacterial infections like Pasteurella, Pseudomonas, salmonella, or Aeromonas.
  • A Swollen eyeball– It happens around the eye or on the eye itself and is due to infections. The eyeball may swell, and the retina may detach, leading to blindness if not treated. Also, injury, tumors, blocked tear ducts, may make the eyeball to distend.
  • Vitamin A deficiency– Will have symptoms such as swelling around eyelids and iris that recur, orbital gland changes, visible conjunctive swelling and redness, tearing, among others. Give diets rich in vitamin. Also, your vet may recommend eye drops and ointments.
  • Parasites– Cause swelling and tearing, especially mites. The eye is one of their favorite locations.
  • Droopy eyes– this may be a sign of kidney failure, both acute or chronic.
  • Puffing out during shedding– This is a typical pre-shedding symptom that helps these reptiles to loosen and shed skin around their eyes. They will puff their eyes while they are closed and may rub them on objects once shedding begins, perhaps to the associated itch.
  • Corneal abrasion and deposits– Cornea abrasion and damage occurs due to wrong or abrasive substrates such as sand with sharp edges or dusty substrate types. On the other hand, cornea lipid deposits may occur.
  • Wrong UV light – At times, what you consider as an eye infection may be due to photokeratoconjunctivitis as well as other eye problems that result from UV light that emits shortwave UVB.

Other eye problems include uveitis (bacterial), hypopyon (bacteria), cataract, tumors, foreign objects, weak blood vessels, clogged nasal cavity,

Proper diagnosis and treatment are necessary. Your vet will advise you on eye drops to use, administer any injections, or guide you on how to use saline solution to clean their eyes.  Don’t try any home remedy unless you know the cause.

15. Head base aneurysm

While its cause is not known, the bulging or distention (aneurysm) of arteries in their head base is often fatal.

16. Gout and pseudogout

Gout is a fatal condition caused accumulation of uric acid in joints (articular gout) and internal organs (visceral gout) like spleen, lungs, liver, heart, or mucous membrane in their mouth.  Pseudogout occurs when there is a deposit of some calcium crystals instead of sodium urate crystals.

Usually, it occurs due to excessive production of urates or when their kidneys cannot handle all the uric acid (urates) formed during protein metabolism, i.e., there is a defective uric acid metabolism.

While most of their wastes are ammonia and urea, they also produce some uric acid.

a). Causes

  • Diets high in protein as well as husbandry problems
  • kidney failure or diseases
  • Starvation
  • Dehydrated
  • Genetic factor

b). Symptoms

  • Stiff and swollen joints
  • Bearded dragon unwilling to move
  • Visible uric crystals in their mouth
  • Their kidney will enlarge

c). Diagnosis and treatment

Diagnosis is by looking at patient history and clinical signs as well as radiographs (X-rays) blood tests and swollen joint aspiration to check for the presence of uric acid.

Treating young or juvenile bearded dragons presents a lot of challenges since they still need proteins. However, in adults, they may have diets low in protein as well as medications to help in uric acid elimination. Veggies will make the bulk of their food with some fruit treats.

Also, ensure proper hydration, and if they don’t drink, give them about 5 milliliters of water, dilute fresh fruit juice or Pedialyte via syringe. The use of milk thistle or black cherry extract isn’t scientifically verified.

Finally, surgery to remove uric from joints, supportive care, right habitat (temperature, humidity, and UV light), and so on, may help manage this condition. However, in hatchlings and juveniles, extreme cases of gout need euthanasia.

Other bearded dragon skin diseases

Besides the yellow fungus disease, other skin problems may include burns if it goes near a heat lamp or their heating mats are too hot

See also

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