Sick Bearded dragon
Although words such as ‘bulletproof’ has been used to describe Bearded dragons, it is known that, like with any other pet, they can also get sick.
Bearded dragons are considered hardy and adaptable, but they are very dependent on the correct husbandry to thrive. It is said that more than 80% of sick Bearded dragons are the result of keeping them incorrectly. Bad hygiene practices increases the risk for pet Bearded dragons to contract contagious diseases.
A healthy Bearded dragon should always be strong, bright, alert and almost always willing to eat. Sick Bearded dragons will hide away under obstacles for long periods of time and do not spend most of the day actively basking. Some sick Bearded dragons can also have poorly fleshed bodies with visible wrinkles on the skin, while others will have gunky or dull eyes and discharges coming from the mouth and nose. Most Bearded dragons that are sick are weak and will eat less or will not eat at all.
A sick Bearded dragon will often present with diarrhoea. In a healthy Bearded dragon, faecal matter (poop), which should mainly consist of two parts, should be semi-solid and never too watery or runny. The darker part of the faeces should be firm and free from excessive slime, blood and should not contain large amounts of undigested particles.
Symptoms of a sick Bearded dragon
- Partial or complete anorexia (lack of appetite)
- Weight loss & poor body condition
- Diarrhoea (abnormal or runny faeces and/or cloacal soiling)
- Lumps, bumps, sores & abrasions on the skin
- Dehydration (wrinkled skin & sunken eyes)
- Paralysis or lameness of the limbs or tail
- Weakness (lying flat)
- Sudden or regular abnormal (jerky) movements of head & extremities
- Head tilting & circling
- Walking into things
- Mucous secretions from the mouth or nose
- Lethargy or dullness (unaware of its surroundings)
- Laboured breathing
- Abnormal basking behaviour
Sick Bearded dragons can suffer from the following diseases
Not all animals get the same diseases. Some diseases can be seen in a variety of animal species, but differs with regard to their visibility, severity and/or frequency. Some diseases might look exactly the same, but they are caused by different disease processes.
Common Bearded dragon diseases include the following:
- Internal parasites (e.g. coccidiosis and worm infections)
- External parasites (e.g. mite infections)
- Metabolic bone disease (MBD)
- Mico-organism infections (e.g. yellow fungus disease and mouth rot)
Taking a sick Bearded dragon to a veterinarian
It’ better to have a sick Bearded dragon evaluated and treated by a reptile friendly veterinarian. Early treatment has often proven to be life-saving. The vet will take a history on how the Bearded dragon is kept. Be honest and do not answer what you think he/she wants to hear. This will aid in making a proper diagnosis after which better treatment can be offered. When going to the veterinarian, remember to accompany the Bearded dragon with a fresh/wet stool sample sealed in an airtight sealable bag.
Bearded dragon owner hygiene practices
As a summary, these are good hygiene principles for Bearded dragon owners:
- Do not touch your face while, or directly after, handling a Bearded dragon, the inside of their enclosure, feeder insects or their substrate.
- Protect any open sores or wounds you might have on your hands before touching or handling a Bearded dragon.
- Wash and disinfect your hands (or in-contact skin) directly after handling a Bearded dragon, the inside of their enclosure, their food or their substrate.
- Do not kiss a Bearded dragon or bring it close to your face.
- Do not eat while handling or even close in close proximity with Bearded dragons.
- Use safe, but proven disinfectants to wash, wipe or spray your hands.
For more information, also see our Bearded dragon owner hygiene article.