What to look for in a healthy pet Bearded dragon
It is important to be able to tell whether a Bearded dragon is healthy or not. Although sick or diseased individuals might have less visible signs, a healthy Bearded dragon will always have the following characteristics:
- Alert attitude
- Willingness to eat
- Show basking behaviour
- No excretions to the eyes, nose and mouth
- Clean vent
- Upright posture
- Filled out belly
- Absence of swollen toes and tails
Remember that Bearded dragons are diurnal creatures, meaning that they are mostly active during the day. As soon as it gets dark, most Bearded dragons will fall asleep and it is normal for them not to show daytime behaviours.
When there is sound and/or movement around, a healthy Bearded dragon should always be alert and bright. They should be curious to see what is going on. In most cases moving objects (e.g. a person, a hand, etc.) should be followed, even if it is only by moving the head towards the object.
Willingness to eat
A healthy Bearded dragon should almost always be willing to eat what is to offer, especially moving prey. If the prey is large enough, most Bearded dragons will dash towards it to show its interest. Healthy Bearded dragons should also be willing to eat greens.
Show basking behaviour
Basking behaviour is essential for Bearded dragons to metabolise their food and absorb heat and ultraviolet. This is often seen after a meal or during the times where there is not a lot to do. Healthy Bearded dragons should also spend most of the day basking in the basking area. Also see creating a basking area for Bearded dragons for more information.
No excretions from eyes, nose and mouth
Many Bearded dragon diseases are indicated by an excretion from the eyes, nose and/or mouth. Excretions will usually be in the form of a fluid substance collecting around the affected area, but can also be seen as a sore, a crust or the collection of dirt. Affected eyes can be closed up and nostrils can be blocked up. Excretions are often indicative of infections and/or injuries in those areas. A healthy Bearded dragons should be free of any type of abnormality around these areas. Also see ‘mouth rot’ in Bearded dragons for more information.
The vent area of Bearded dragons are the combined opening for defecating and expel eggs. It is also the opening through which the sexual organs are extruded for copulation. In healthy Bearded dragons, the vent area should be clean and dry. It should be without swellings and colouration. A dirty vent is usually an indication of diarrhoea and swellings are an indication of injury or that something might be stuck in that area. Also see Bearded dragon breeding for more information.
Healthy Bearded dragons with a well-maintained muscle and bone structure should be able to sit upright. By doing so, they are able to perform normal behaviours (such as courting, head bobbing and threatening behaviour) indicating that they are healthy. When the body and front legs are weak, it is usually an indication that something is wrong.
Filled out belly
A filled belly is an indication that a Bearded dragon is well-fed (and is eating). The opposite is true in the case where Bearded dragons are eating too little. Anorexia (not eating or eating less) is a common sign that a Bearded dragon is not healthy. Apart from the belly, a good body condition score is indicated by a fleshy tail and legs, well-developed muscles on the head and the absence of a visible spine and ribs.
Absence of swellings in/on toes and tail
Swellings on the toes and tail is very often an indication of shedding problems. Healthy Bearded dragons in the correct environment should shed without problems. Common reasons include incorrect humidity, bacterial infections, skin parasites and almost everything that can cause stunted growth. Also see safe and effective ways to help a shedding Bearded dragon for more information. Swellings on the tail and toes can also be an indication that a Bearded dragon is bitten by other Bearded dragons.