Knowing Your Bearded Dragon Better

Tail

A bearded dragon’s tail is almost half their total length and with individual caudal vertebrae bones. It helps them in balance, mating, sending social signals, and so on. Without their tail, they would look smaller to their predators,

1. Do their tails grow back?

No. A bearded dragon’s tail doesn’t grow back. While some lizards can drop their tail as a means of escaping from their predators and they grow back another one, the beardies don’t’ drop it, and case it is bitten or cut off, it doesn’t grow back again.

Instead of dropping their tail, they will puff at their predator, open their jaws, and sometimes hiss if they cannot run away.

Bearded dragon
Bearded dragon

2. Tail injuries, fractures, and diseases

The tail is their most vulnerable part of their body when it comes to injuries from falling, bites, and so on. Common causes of fractures and injuries include:

  • If housed together, these pets may bite each other’s tails as they fight. Also, juveniles and baby beardies may nip each other’s tail, thinking it is a bug. Finally, it is not uncommon for an aggressive male to bite a female’s tail.
  • Secondly, your dog or cat may bite the tail off, especially if your dog or cat has strong hunting instincts. Be careful is you have dogs, cats, and beardies.
  • Sometimes, if they fall as you handle them or on their own, their tail may fracture. Any intense pressure can break the tail’s caudal vertebrae. Fractures will result in ischemia as blood cannot flow past the fractured area.
  • Furthermore, incomplete shedding where some pieces of the skin don’t shed well may constrict blood flow to their tail, leading to tail tip necrosis.
  • Besides tail necrosis, these pets may suffer from tail rot, which makes the tail to be darker or black due to infections, injuries, cysts, abscess, and all that.

Cuts and some injuries will lead to blood loss. Apply pressure to help stop bleeding spot using a ball of cotton wool or gauze and let your herp treat it.

To avoid injuries, avoid housing these pets together since it also results in competition for various resources for basking spots and food. Also, take good care of their tail to avoid breakages, rots as they will not grow back.

3. Tail up

As part of their ordinary body language or gestures, while being adventurous, alert, or in hunting mode, it is possible to see your beardie walking with tail up.

Do bearded dragons have ears?

Yes. Bearded dragons have ears with a great sense of hearing despite not having the pinna or auricle – the external protruding parts whose role is to collect sound.

Their ears appear like holes bearded dragon, and they are located slightly beyond and above the edge of their mouth. If you carefully observe it, you will notice a small film covering it, which is the tympanic member (eardrums).

1. How do they hear?

Besides not having the pinna, their ears work similarly like ours where sound gathered makes their tympanic membrane to vibrate and the vibration is picked by three tiny bones them it goes to the cochlea that is fluid-filled in their inner ear.

As the fluids move in the cochlea, the present hairs (cilia) move too, and the nerves at their base pick the movement and send a signal to the brain for interpretation.

2. Do they maintain balance?

Yes. Like in humans, they have fluid-filled semicircular canals with hairs. As these lizards move their head, these hairs get displaced and send a signal to the brain via the nerves at their roots for interpretation.

3. Should I clean them?

No. avoid cleaning their ears. Don’t even attempt to remove any dirt you may notice on their ears. In case of an ear infection, talk to your veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment.

Nose

Bearded dragons breathe via their nose. Their nostrils are small opening located on either side of their upper jaw (snout) a few centimeters in front of their eyes.

Usually, while bathing them or allowing them to swim, the water level shouldn’t go beyond their shoulders to prevent it from getting into their nose.

1. Do they get clogged?

Yes. Beardie’s nose does get clogged, something that will force these pets may breathe via their mouth. It can be due to respiratory infection or shedding. In the case of shedding, be careful as picking their nose may damage their delicate nostrils.

If their nostrils get clogged, it is always a good idea to let your vet handle the unclogging. However, if you insist unclogging it yourself, gently pressing the side of their nose may help in some cases, but if the gooey mucus has dried, it will not come out.

2. Respiratory infections

In case of a respiratory infection, beardies will have a runny nose (fluids or bubbles coming out of their nose), breathing difficulties, and reduced appetite, they will also be mouth breathing, puffing of throat and have wheezing or crackling sounds.

Toes

Bearded dragons have a total of 5 toes or digits, each with a toenail, on each of their four limbs. Toes and nails are vital as they help these pets climb, walk well, and even burrow.

Common problems that may affect a bearded dragon’s toe include the following:

1. Toes or digit missing

A missing toe can be due to untreated infection, burns, accidents, including being entangled by carpet, caught by a door, among others may be the reason why your bearded dragon does not have one or more toes.

Secondly, it may be bitten off by another pet or bearded dragon. Young and juvenile bearded dragons often nip each other’s toes unknowingly, thinking it’s a feeder insect.

Furthermore, during shedding, some skin fails to shed off on their toes, and it may cut blood supply to this area, which, if not fixed, can make the toe to die and fall off. Always check if their toes shed well. In such a case, help this lizard to shed well by soaking, misting, and rubbing the affected area with a soft toothbrush to help the get rid of remaining.

Remember, once lost, a bearded dragon’s toes don’t grow back. However, nails may grow if their root or germinal matrix is not damaged.

2. Toes twitching

Their toes may twitch due to metabolic bone disease, hypocalcemia (low calcium in the blood), infections, exposure to toxins, low blood sugar levels, or any other thing that can cause muscle twitches and spasms.

3. Curled or pointing upwards

A bearded dragon’s toes may curl upwards if broken, they are sitting on a hot surface, making this reptile to curl them upwards, or it could be a relaxing stance, including as they lie down.

However, if the upward curled toes and accompanied by jerky movements, swollen limps, and so on, it would be a sign of metabolic bone disease.

4. Fused

If their toes are fused, this could be a congenital problem (born that way) or stuck together as they were healing after an injury.

Also, they could temporarily stick together in case of shedding problem, if they are injured, and the dry blood binds them together or they something else sticking is holding them together.

Soak their feet in lukewarm water and use a reptile safe antibiotic ointment such as the Vetericyn Plus Reptile Wound and Skin Care. A vet visit will be necessary if the injury is severe.

5. Swollen

A bearded dragon’s toes may swell if they are injured, broken, or infected. A vet check, as well as X-ray, may reveal the cause of the swelling.

To help pinpoint the cause, look at the other clinical signs presented since each of these cases won’t fail to show clinical signs.

Nails or claws

Like other animals, a beardie’s toe and fingernails or claws have keratin, and they help this lizard in digging and climbing trees, branches, logs, and so on.

1. Nails missing or broken

Injuries including being bitten, cut, entangled by something, some diseases and conditions may make the nail or even toe to break or fall off. In case of a broken or a missing finger or toenail, expect it to grow back if its geminal matrix or nail root is still intact. Otherwise, they will not grow back.

Any ripped nail that results in a toe injury and bleeding needs treatment to minimize the pain and avoid infections.

2. Cutting or trimming bearded dragon nails

While in the wild, they don’t need nail clipping since they are always digging, running (while hunting or being hunted) on a rough surface that wears down their nails.

However, when living in captivity, your bearded dragon’s nails may become very long and razor-sharp. Some may even be curling affect how your pet walks. Such needs to be trimmed or cut as they can easily cause an injury to you, scratch their habitat, or break off easily.

Therefore, always trim this pet’s nails regularly, mainly if you use a smooth type of terrarium substrate that doesn’t encourage nail wear such as newspaper, linoleum tile, or reptile carpets or if they have grown long.

If you have climbing rocks and rough surfaces, they may wear them down, and trimming may be unnecessary.

To cut your bearded dragon’s nails, you need a good nail trimmer. Any brand suited for small animals will work well. Our best three picks are:

  1. BOSHEL Dog Nail Clippers and Trimmer with Safety Guard
  2. Pet Republique Dog and Cat Nail Clippers and Nail Grinder Series
  3. Gonicc Dog & Cat Pets Nail Clippers and Trimmers 

All these clippers come with a file or grinder to help in buffing and shaping your bearded dragon’s nails if you don’t want to clip them.

Once you have your nail tripper or clipper, enlist the help of someone and follow the below steps:

  1. Let your helper lightly hold your bearded dragon still on your grooming table so that it doesn’t try to escape or struggle as you begin to cut his or her nails.
  2. Hold its toe and locate the trimming point where the nail becomes thinner and begins to curl. In some, it is where it is dark without a white part), and it is vital as it will ensure you don’t cut your beardie’s nail veins, i.e., you shouldn’t cut the quick.
  3. Trim off halfway from where the thin part of the claw begins. This pet requires some of its nails to be able to walk and climb. Don’t trim it entirely to where it is narrow.

If you didn’t follow the above steps well here is a video to guide you through:

Filing or grinding is a safer way to reduce and shape your bearded dragon’s nails. However, it takes a longer time, and it may frustrate and stress your pet.

3. Is it painful?

If done correctly, it doesn’t hurt at all. However, if you cut veins, it will hurt them, and they may bleed.

In case you overcut their toe or fingernails, and they are bleeding, use a blood clotting gel such as CELOX First Aid Temporary Traumatic Wound Treatment. Pour it on the bleeding place and put pressure for a few seconds. Alternatively, you can apply cornstarch using a Q-tip to stop bleeding.

Belly or stomach

Your bearded dragon’s belly can reveal a few things about this pet, such as being stressed, gravid, afraid, and so on. For instance:

  • Dark markings or spots (stress marks) – These spots appear on their belly and chin when they are very stressed out. Ensure you find out why bearded dragon stressed.
  • Belly flattening – When afraid or in grave danger, these pets will flatten their stomach on the ground, display their beard, and open their jaws to make them look bigger. However, belly-flattening can also happen when basking to increase surface area for heat absorption, especially if you have low vivarium temperature.
  • Bigger with bumps and lumps – This is an indication that your pet is gravid (carrying eggs or pregnant) if present towards the hind legs. However, don’t confuse this with impaction or constipation that will have a solid mass.
  • Swollen – it could be due to impaction, stomach tumors, bloating, among other problems.

Finally, when ill and unable to move or raise its body from the ground, your bearded dragon may lay its stomach on the ground.

Mouth and tongue

Bearded dragons use their mouth eating, tasting, breathing, and thermoregulation. It has a short, stocky tongue that extends outwards but not so much and has a sticky surface to guide their prey into their mouth.

A healthy beardie’s mouth and tongue should be vivid light pinkish with a slight yellow tint without any sores, swellings, discoloration, or any other abnormalities.

Some behaviors and issues include involving the mouth or tongue include:

  • Mouth opening or gaping – It is a sign of aggression, optimum basking temperature (if it occurs as they bask), yawning, or respiratory infections that may cause mouth breathing.
  • Licking – Licking or flickering their tongue helps them taste for smell things. Its surface collects microscopic particles and takes them to their sensory organ, the Jacobson’s organ.
  • White, yellowish or greyish patches – The most often culprit blamed for these patches is mouth rot. Gum swelling, cottage-like puss, loose teeth, reduced appetite, and so on are other common signs. Injuries may also make their mouth patchy.
  • Pale pink – This is an indication that your reptile is anemic, and they may also have a pale tongue tip.

Proper oral, as well as dental care, are essential in avoiding oral infection, gum inflammation (gingivitis). Your herp will advise you accordingly.

Do bearded dragons have teeth

Bearded dragons have teeth, i.e., the front or pleurodont teeth that grow and regularly fall as well as their side or acrodont teeth which may wear out and never grow back. Furthermore, these acrodont teeth are fused to their jaw bones and are serrated.

The front teeth help in grasping and tearing their prey or food while their side teeth chew and grind veggies and plant matter.

1. How many teeth do they have?

Unlike human beings, the number of teeth they have varies. Beardies have four front teeth (pleurodont teeth) on their upper and lower jaws as well as 10-17 side teeth (acrodont teeth) on either side of their upper jaw while the lower jaw has 13-20 on either side.

2. Bearded dragon dental problems

Besides wear and loss of their side teeth that don’t grow back common dental problem problems they may have include:

  • Periodontal disease:– Depending on the stage may result in teeth discoloration due to mild to severe yellow tartar buildup, gum redness, gingival recession, osteomyelitis, jaw part death, or break off if it remains untreated for a long time.
  • Gingivitis: Besides periodontal disease, there may be gingivitis where gums will be inflamed, gum recession, dental abscesses, trauma, among others.

3. Brushing and dental care

You should brush their teeth using a cotton bud dipped in oral chlorhexidine solution or water. Do this once in a week or month.

Also, to avoid bone inflammation or infection, your herp vet should sedate and scrap any accumulated tartar and plague at least once a year during the routine health check. However, before anesthesia use, a health check is necessary.

Always ensure they have crunchy veggies and insects (avoid soft foods including soft insects and cooked foods) and give them less sugary fruits,

Also, provide proper UV lighting and terrarium temperature, calcium, vitamin D3, and multivitamin supplementation to promote healthy and strong teeth or bones.

Finally, avoid falls, banging their heads, minimize stress (causes glass surfing and headbanging), prevent fights, and ensure their immunity is strong.

Eyes

Bearded dragons have two eyes for seeing things around them, which work in a more or less same fashion as our eyes as well as a third eye.

1. How do bearded dragons see – sight

Sight is an essential sense to beardies as it lets them see things around them. They have a pleasant sight, can see color, and have a wider angle of view owing to the position of their eye.

While they can see more colors (have four receptors), can see some UV waves we cannot see, and things far way clearly than us, they don’t have a good depth perception like us, making it possible for them to knock on things.

Finally, beardies don’t see at night. Why would a night vision be essential when they are diurnal animals?

2. Common eye issues and gestures

  • Eye puffing or bulging – Happens just before shedding to help them shed the skin around their eyes. Also, if they suffer from high blood pressure, you may see them bulging their eyes by allowing more blood to flow to their eyes.
  • Closing eyes – These pets can close one or both eyes due to discomfort, wrong lighting, or other eye problems, or infections. If they close eyes as you stroke them or handle them, it is not a sign of them enjoying but rather an indication of discomfort. You need to leave them alone.
  • Sunken eyes – A sign of dehydration or constipation.

Watery eyes (runny eyes), yellow discharge, redness, crusting, swelling, and so on are signs of eye infections or problems. Let your vet recommend the right eye drops and eye care routine.

Bearded dragon third eye (parietal eye)

Besides their two eyes, the bearded dragon, as well as some reptiles, fish and amphibians, have a third eye that is on top of their head, also known as the parietal or pineal eye.

Unlike typical eyes, it has some skin over it, making it not easy to see. However, if you keenly look on top of their head, you will see a scale that may be greyish or having a different coloration.

Linked to the pineal hormone, this the photoreceptive pineal eye doesn’t process images. However, it has a simple lens and retina.

Some of the roles it the pineal eye does include regulating circadian rhythm, producing hormones that help in thermoregulation and detecting shadows to see birds swooping near them, and so on.

Research has shown that it also helps in the navigation or perhaps orienting to the sky to help them locate a specific place.

Finally, unlike the ordinary eyes, it doesn’t hurt if you touch it slightly. However, a force from a hard object may damage it.

Missing or broken legs

Your bearded dragon’s legs help in walking, climbing, or running. Of course, they have four legs, two front, and two hind limbs. Some common issues that may affect include the following:

1. Missing legs

Bites by mates, other pets, or accidents may be the reasons why a beardie may not have legs. Your vet will help in the treatment, and such a beardie will need lifelong assisted living.

2. Swollen and broken legs

Swollen or broken legs may be due to accidents such as falls, bites, dislocation, or anything that will make their leg bones, including femur to snap. Also, metabolic disease predisposes various bones like the leg, spinal, jaw, etc., to breakage.

Signs of a broken or swollen limp include limping, jerky movements, swelling, not moving, or favoring the fractured leg. Sometimes, the broken bones may protrude, or there might be physical injuries, bleeding, and so forth.

Since proper diagnosis that may involve the use X-ray is necessary, all you need to do is clean the wound with contact lens saline solution or povidone-iodine (Betadine) and generously applying a cotton batting and loosely cover it with a Vetrap Tape to immobilize the fracture.

Afterward, let your vet handle the breakage. Don’t try to treat these pets at home as you may not know the extent of the fracture.

In case of a broken limp, talk to your vet for treatment, which may include support using tape to immobilize it, external skeletal fixation use, surgical repair that may require pins and plates, or in severe cases where repair is not possible, your vet may contemplate amputation.

Healing time will depend on the severity, age, diet, UV light, and temperature. Ensure optimum UV lighting, temperature as well as good nutrition. Don’t forget to gut load their feeder insects and dust their food with vitamin D3, calcium, and other multivitamins.

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