Bearded dragons are highly recommended for first-time reptile owners due to their friendly nature, ease of care, and hardiness.. Although they are known for enduring many harsh conditions, there are still diseases and other medical issues that, if left unnoticed or untreated, can become lethal to our beloved beardies.
Dragon health problems can range from minor burns and deadly parasites, to digestive and respiratory problems. It is best to have a general understanding of these health problems so that we can recognize issues with our lizards and take the proper actions in a timely manner.
While a lot of dragon health issues can be treated at home, it is best to go to a veterinarian specialized in caring for reptiles. I recommend finding a good vet prior to purchasing your pet. You will want to have a complete check-up on your new lizard as soon as possible.
A fecal exam twice a year by your vet will keep tabs on your dragon’s current health and help in the prevention and the prediction of where, when, why or how the lizard became ill. A physical exam once a year is also recommended.
General symptoms to know if your bearded dragon is sick include the following:
- Sunken Eyes
- Lack of Appetite
- Sudden Weight Loss
- Difficulty in Breathing
- Weariness and Fatigue
- Changes in Stool
These general symptoms can also be signs of other things that are normal to bearded dragons. This is one thing that is frustrating about taking care of these pets. The loss of appetite and lethargy for example can be attributed to the brumation period. This is a part of the reptile’s seasonal cycle where they will hardly eat, and can sleep for days. If your dragon’s skin looks pale and eats less than normal, they could be ready to shed. The best way to know is to see your vet.
The following are some of the most common illness and diseases that can affect your dragon’s health:
Calcium and Vitamin Deficiency
This is a severe problem that can lead to metabolic bone disease and have irreversible effects to your bearded dragon. Too little calcium and vitamins can lead to MBD and too much or over supplementing can cause you problems as well. Calcium with D3 supplements should be added to your bearded dragon’s diet at least twice a week. Be sure to choose a product that contains D3 (cholecalciferol).
Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD)
MBD, or “brittle bone disease” is a common ailment among many types of lizards. It is cause by the lack of calcium that is being absorbed into the bones. The limbs often quake from their weakness and deformities can eventually set in. Minor cases can sometimes be nursed back to full health, but more severe effects are often permanent. Metabolic Bone Disease is very painful for the animal, and just as painful to witness as a animal lover. Always provide the necessary UV lights and nutritional supplements to avoid this.
This is the blockage of the bearded dragon’s intestines due to indigestible items, foods that are too large for your dragon’s size, dehydration, and incorrect feeding times.
- Any food item offered should be smaller than 3/4 of your dragon’s head.
- Feeding times should be at least two hours before the lights go on, or off to allow their body is warm enough to completely process their meal.
- A fresh water dish should be available at all times and veggies should be misted for proper hydration.
- Abscesses – Small wounds that are left untreated and become infected
- Gastrointestinal Parasites – Pin-Worms, Coccidia, and Flagellates are very common in bearded dragons. Regular stool tests will detect any sign of these.
- Mites – Small black external parasites
- Infectious Stomatitis – “Mouth Rot” is a bacterial infection of the mouth usually caused by stress from overcrowding, improper temperatures, poor nutrition and parasites.
- Tail Rot – Caused by improper shedding that cuts off oxygen to the infected portion
- Respiratory Infection – Caused by high humidity and low temperatures
- Hepatic Lipidosis Syndrome – A liver disease cause by obesity
- Egg Binding – This is present in females who produce unfertilized eggs. She will often pace the cage endlessly and constantly dig looking for a place to lay her eggs.
- Yellow Fungus Disease – Antibiotics that treat internal parasites also kill all the good bacteria in our beardies. With no bacteria to keep yeast levels manageable, yellow fungus develops and can spread to other lizards that come in contact. The animal begins have yellow spot/areas on the skin, often starting in the vent area.
The best way to ensure the safety and well-being of your dragon is to go and visit the veterinarian regularly. This is the safest option for your dragon’s health.
Ensure that your reptile has a good ultraviolet light source inside the enclosure. Better yet, give him the chance to bask in the sunlight. Sit with him outside his cage every day, if the weather permits, and just enjoy the sun together. Be sure that your bearded dragon has the proper temperatures inside the habitat.
Many dragons get sick because of the lighting and temperature inside your pet’s cage. Most importantly, wash your hands before and after you hang out with your beardie to prevent the spreading of harmful bacteria and keep a thorough and routine cleaning schedule.