Is your bearded dragon’s health declining? Has it stopped eating? Is it lethargic or gasping for breath? Are its eyes sunken, and is it having difficulty moving around? These are a few signs that something is going wrong with your beardie and that it may be dying.
Being a bearded dragon owner, you are the best person to determine if your bearded dragon is not behaving as its usual self. If you have any concerns about your beardie’s health, it is important that you follow up on it so that you can determine if you need to make any husbandry changes or have your pet seen by a veterinarian. This article will provide an overview of what to look out for that may indicate that your bearded dragon is dying.
How Do I Know If My Bearded Dragon Is in Distress?
Signs of your bearded dragon is in distress include:
Loss of Appetite
There are many reasons why a bearded dragon stops eating. Common reasons include:
Not providing the proper temperature and lighting is one of the most common reasons why bearded dragons stop eating. We will discuss this in the next section, What are the Causes of Death for Bearded Dragons?
Are there other things with your bearded dragon besides not eating? Numerous diseases can cause a bearded dragon to stop eating.
Many reptile species go through brumation to adapt to cooler seasons. When in brumation, the bearded dragon’s metabolism slows down significantly. If your bearded dragon is in hiding and appears healthy otherwise, this may explain why it is lethargic. Remember, bearded dragons do not go into brumation until they are nine months or older.
Sometimes, bearded dragons will undergo brumation, which is similar to hibernation. Unlike hibernation, animals who go into brumation do not go into a deep sleep. Instead, their biological functions slow down. They still may occasionally eat and drink.
When in brumation, bearded dragons have been known to go without food for two months. However, there are ways to tell if your bearded dragon is in brumation or ill:
- Bearded dragons who are in brumation will look healthy other than not eating.
- They will find a hiding place where they will go through brumation. They will not stay out in the open.
- Only beardies that are nine months of age or older will brumate.
Bearded dragons are normally alert and curious animals. If your bearded dragon is unresponsive and sluggish, there may be a serious problem. If your bearded dragon is lethargic, consider the following:
- Is the enclosure’s temperature and lighting set up correctly?
- Is it the case that you are not experiencing seasonal changes with cooler temperatures, and your pet is not hiding.
If you can say yes to both statements, your bearded dragon may be ill.
Temperature and Lighting
As I pointed out earlier, check that your pet’s enclosure is at the proper temperature and has UVB lighting. Without the proper lighting and temperature, bearded dragons refuse food, are lethargic, and experience metabolism problems.
Also, I recommend establishing a temperature gradient in your pet’s enclosure where your lizard can choose hot or cooler temperatures. Details for this can be found in the next section, What are the Causes of Death for Bearded Dragons?
Sunken eyes may indicate dehydration. For more information on this, see the next section, What are the Causes of Death for Bearded Dragons?
What are the Causes of Death for Bearded Dragons?
One of the most common causes of death is not providing the proper lighting and temperature. The warmest part of the enclosure should be between 92-110 degrees Fahrenheit, while the coolest part should be between 75-85 degrees Fahrenheit.
Also, bearded dragons need UVB lightening to synthesize Vitamin D and prevent metabolic disease. UVB bulbs need to be replaced every six months as the UVB output declines with time.
There are a variety of other causes why your pet’s health may be declining. They include the following:
Infectious stomatitis, known as mouth rot, is commonly found in reptiles. The disease shows up as white or yellow-gray patched inside the mouth. There may be swelling in the mouth and drooling.
Bearded dragons with this disease will stop eating and become lethargic. There may also be gastrointestinal, neurological, skeletal, or respiratory issues. If your pet has mouth rot, it needs to be seen by a veterinarian.
Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD)
MBD is like osteoporosis in humans, and it is caused by inadequate UVB exposure. When reptiles do not have adequate UVB exposure, they cannot form healthy bones. Since there’s a shortage of calcium, the body draws calcium from the bones. Symptoms of MBD include:
- Muscle tremors
- A weak and unhealthy appearance
- The spine or legs have a distorted appearance.
- The lizard cannot close their mouth.
- The dragon has trouble controlling their hind legs.
If your bearded dragon has MBD, it needs to be seen by a veterinarian. MBD can be prevented by providing adequate UVB lighting and providing calcium supplements.
Bearded dragons are susceptible to respiratory infections, such as pneumonia. In most cases, respiratory problems are the result of improper husbandry. The following are symptoms of respiratory illness:
- Discharge from the nostrils or eyes.
- Breathing through an open mouth or gasping for air.
- Loss of appetite
- Problems with shedding its skin.
If you suspect that your bearded dragon has a respiratory illness, check for the following:
The humidity level for bearded dragons should be between 30 and 40 percent. Anything above that is too high.
The enclosure should have a temperature gradient where the warmest part of the enclosure is between 92-110 degrees Fahrenheit and the coolest part is between 75-85 degrees Fahrenheit.
Have your dragon seen by a veterinarian and make the needed changes to your pet’s husbandry. You can help prevent dehydration by ensuring that your pet has clean water available to it at all times, giving it baths regularly, and ensuring your pet is getting balanced meals with vitamins and supplements.
This one is the rarest of all the potential causes of death in bearded dragons. The adenovirus is most commonly found in young, bearded dragons sold at pet stores. The signs that your baby beardie may have this virus are the following:
- Loss of weight
- Rolling over on their back.
- Stretching their neck and staring upward.
Both the rolling on the back and stretching of the neck are due to impairments of the nervous system. I recommend you get your pet to a veterinarian; however, there is no cure for this disease.
Though bearded dragons come from a desert climate, they still need water. Unfortunately, one of the causes of death in captive bearded dragons is dehydration. Signs that your bearded dragon is dehydrated include sunken eyes and the loss of skin elasticity. You can determine this by gently pinching your pet’s skin. If the skin immediately snaps back when you release it, that is a sign that your beardie is dehydrated.
If you suspect dehydration, you need to get your beardie to drink. If there is already a water dish in the enclosure, but they are not drinking from it, use an eye dropper to wet your pet’s snout and see if they lick it up. You can also use Gatorade or Pedialyte to replenish your dragon’s electrolytes.
Impaction is a blockage in the digestive tract, and it is caused by ingesting certain food items or certain substrates. Certain feeders, such as mealworms and large crickets, have chitin, which is a tough outer coating.
The accumulation of chitin can cause impaction, so you should feed mealworms sparingly. Not keeping the enclosure at the proper temperature can also be a cause. Signs of impaction may include:
- Lack of bowel movements.
- Difficulty in movement.
- The hind legs appear not to be functioning.
- The inability to eliminate waste.
- Trembling of the legs.
- Dragging of the legs.
If you suspect your lizard has an impaction, you must get it to a veterinarian as soon as possible.
Can You Treat a Sick Bearded Dragon?
Most diseases are curable if they are caught early enough. If your bearded dragon appears to be sick, the best thing to do is to confirm that you are providing it with the correct husbandry, which includes temperature, lighting, and water. If the needed changes do not improve your dragon’s health, then I recommend that you have it seen by a veterinarian.
What Is the Lifespan of a Bearded Dragon?
Bearded dragons live only for three to four years in the wild, mainly due to predators. However, they can live for ten years in captivity. There are claims that some have survived for 13 years.
What Does a Bearded Dragon Look Like When It’s Dead?
This may sound like a ridiculous question, but it justifies a response. This is because some may not know how to tell the difference between a beardie in brumation and one dead. The following are the characteristics of a dead bearded dragon:
- The eyes will be partially closed as opposed to being completely closed.
- The body and jaw will be limp.
- There will be no response when it is touched.
- There is no movement by your pet.
We hope that you enjoyed this article. While many factors result in the death of your bearded dragon, most of them are preventable, given the proper care. Remember, it is our responsibility to give them the best care possible. We would enjoy reading your comments and opinions.