Bearded dragons are naturally healthy. As a result, they rarely get sick.
If you also avoid the classic husbandry mistakes such as the wrong climate in the terrarium or the wrong diet, the little dragons usually stay healthy. Nevertheless, it can happen that they catch a disease.
Because of that, we decided to write this extensive guide on bearded dragons diseases. It should help you to identify symptoms and possible causes.
You can also treat minor diseases without a vet after reading this article. Nevertheless, when in doubt, you should consult an expert reptile vet. Better be safe than sorry.
What are the signs of a sick bearded dragon?
The first signs are usually a reduced appetite or a change in activity, motor skills or the appearance of the dragon. Sick bearded dragons often lie flat on the ground or crawl into the furthest corner of the terrarium.
However, this can also be a sign that hibernation is imminent. But if that is not the case, you should act. It is best to consult a veterinarian. After all, animals often hide their declining state of health for a long time. Mostly to avoid attracting potential predators.
If there is even the slightest doubt about the health of your pet, you should carefully monitor their behavior and see if there are any signs of bearded dragon diseases. This is the only way you will be able to act quickly and ensure a successful treatment.
When should I worry about my bearded dragon?
If you observe the following symptoms, you should see a vet immediately:
- Drawn in or bloated stomach
- Sunken eyes
- Food refusal
- Unstable jaws, movable, soft
- Body tremors, uncoordinated movements
- Coordination problems, espcially when catching prey
- Permanently open mouth with wheezing
- darkening of the skin
- unexplained inactivity
- Thick lips (yellow plaque)
- Emaciated condition, tail has longitudinal grooves
- strong smelling feces
- Moving dots (red, black, yellow, orange) on the body (mites)
- Curved spine
- Unusually smelly feces
- Female bearded dragons with deep-set-eyes, nervousness in the female and clear balls in the abdomen indicate egg failure, i.e. the animal cannot lay the eggs for physical or psychological reasons
Inbreeding, poisoning, vitamin deficiencies, malnutrition often lead to deformities in bearded dragons. As long as these are minor disabilities that do not hinder your beardie, you can rest at ease. Otherwise, euthanasia is essential.
Bearded Dragons Diseases: Causes and Treatments
Healthy bearded dragons are agile, their skin and eyes shine, they react lively to environmental stimuli, climb and run happily through the terrarium and their behavior towards one another is extremely interesting to observe.
A watchful owner’s eye therefore recognizes immediately when an animal has injured itself. But also, a lack of appetite, increased water intake, constant bathing in the drinking trough or sluggish, uncoordinated movements are noticeable.
Likewise, dull eyes and emaciation are a sign that something is wrong with the animal. At this point at the latest, you should go to a vet who knows reptiles, because anything else would be unnecessary torture, since the bearded dragon is obviously not doing well.
Here are some commons beardies health issues with suggested treatments. When in doubt about your pet’s overall health, consult with a professional vet.
With reptiles in the terrarium, such as bearded dragons, abscesses can occasionally occur.
Abscesses are identified as lumps, swellings, or capsule-like bumps under the skin. In the pharynx they are recognizable as pus bumps.
Some animals have a genetic predisposition to abscesses. This is usually caused by a weak immune system and stress, more often still untreated or undetected bites, burns or injuries. Calcium oversupply can also promote the development of abscesses.
Don’t try to treat this yourself. Rather, you should contact a specialist reptile doctor. The vet will open the abscess and then treat it.
Injuries often occur during turf wars. Even the tip of the tail can be bitten off by an opponent. Usually there are deep flesh wounds or large skin injuries.
As a rule, bite injuries are caused by errors in the group structure. In females, this disease can be caused by a failed mating attempt. This type of bite injury can be recognized by the fact that it occurs in the neck area.
However, the nocturnal house crickets are often to blame. They literally bite the bearded dragons. In the future, simply feed less of them.
First you should disinfect the wounds thoroughly. Sage tincture or calendula essence are ideal for this. However, if it is a major injury such as the loss of body parts, a visit to the veterinarian may be advisable.
Furthermore, the animal should be separated from the group and placed in a quarantine terrarium.
Bowel or Prolapsed Hemipenes
This disease manifests itself in bearded dragons as a protuberance in the area of the cloaca. The word cloaca means the opening for excretions. This is used, for example, to lay eggs or to absorb and release sperm.
An intestinal prolapse can be triggered by parasites, dehydration or even a faecal obstruction. Inflammation is often responsible for hemipenes prolapse. These often arise during mating.
If you suspect that your beardie is suffering from a prolapsed intestine or hemipenes, a veterinarian should be consulted immediately.
The injured area should be wrapped with sterile and damp gauze bandages to protect against further drying out.
One of the most common diseases in bearded dragons is diarrhea. You can recognize this by a watery or very thin droppings. Sometimes this is also mushy or slimy. Alarm bells should ring if there is a change in color or bloody or purulent admixtures.
As with people, intestinal inflammation is often to blame for the symptoms. But a change in diet, a parasite infestation and the side effects of medication can also be the cause of this disease.
In rare cases, these are also accompanying symptoms of certain diseases or the after-effects of the intake of toxins such as e.g. B. Plant and animal toxins. Sometimes chemicals are also the cause of the problem.
You don’t have to go to the vet right away. However, if the diarrhea lasts for several days, going there is certainly a good decision. But what you should definitely do immediately is separate the animal from the rest of the group.
In the field of self-medication, an activated charcoal suspension (activated charcoal dissolved in water) is recommended, which is administered orally using a disposable syringe.
It is important to ensure that the process is repeated regularly and that the proportion of coal is steadily reduced.
You should always wash your hands thoroughly, clean and disinfect them. This prevents any transmission of germs. If you want to be on the safe side, you can wear disposable gloves.
In addition to diarrhea, vomiting is also a common disease in bearded dragons. Most of the time, undigested food and mucus or, in the worst case, blood is vomited up.
There are many reasons why a bearded dragon suffers from constant vomiting. An endoparasite infestation is often to blame for the misery. But stress, gastritis or a stomach ulcer can also be the causes.
In rare cases, these are also side effects of medication. When eating, a foreign body (stones, litter) is often ingested, which gets stuck in the intestine and then causes an intestinal obstruction.
You should contact a veterinarian immediately.
According to various studies, up to 85% of bearded dragons kept in terrariums suffer from endoparasites. Young animals in particular are particularly susceptible to severe symptoms.
Therefore, you should have a close look at whether your own dragons are suffering from emaciation, diarrhea or eggs in the feces.
This bearded dragon disease can have various causes. In most cases, suction, tape, pinworms or threadworms are to blame for the misery. But awl tails can also be part of the problem.
In order to confirm the suspicion of endoparasites in bearded dragons, you should carry out a fecal examination.
You can buy suitable sets for this and use them if necessary. If you want, you can also visit a veterinarian.
If a bearded dragon has contracted endoparasites, it should be separated from the rest of the group. This will prevent the transmission of the pathogen from one animal to another.
Furthermore, hygiene measures should be strengthened. All furnishings should be disinfected regularly.
Hygiene is the most important thing here. If you want to be on the safe side, you should treat your terrarium with a steam cleaner.
In addition, when separating the animals, you should make sure that you do not exchange furnishings or other contaminated things between the terrariums.
Not only reptile keepers have a problem with mites. Many other pet owners also have to deal with the ectoparasites. If you want to check your bearded dragon for mites, you should check the skin for red or white spots.
A great deal of focus should be placed on the area between the scales and the areas on the mouth, extremities and cloaca. You can often see dark spots just by looking at them. These also indicate an infestation with mites.
Sometimes even the behavior of the little dinosaurs is striking. They scratch themselves with the help of furnishings or bathe conspicuously a lot and for a long time. Often these two behaviors are seen as indicators of external parasites.
You often get mites from newly bought animals. Bearded dragons, which also enjoy free range farming, often suffer from mites. Contact with poultry such as chickens or ducks should be strictly avoided.
The terrarium should be sprayed with an insecticide that is non-toxic to bearded dragons. In addition, all furnishings should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.
If the infestation doesn’t go away on its own, you should see a veterinarian as soon as possible. Mites can also spread to people and this should be avoided. Especially when there are children in the household.
Mites aren’t the only problem. Free-range farming in particular often causes a tick infestation. These must be removed thoroughly with tick tweezers or by a veterinarian. The smallest residue still in the bite site can cause severe inflammation.
Many do not even know it, but gout is a widespread disease in bearded dragons. This metabolic disease causes uric acid salts to build up in the joints, kidneys and even the intestines.
Bearded dragons often suffer from symptoms of lameness. In addition, they are listless and eat little. A clear indication of gout in bearded dragons are nodular swellings in the joints.
In all likelihood, gout in reptiles is caused by a lack of water. A low-fiber diet combined with too much protein is said to lead to gout.
If you want to check whether gout is present, you should consult a veterinarian. They will then do a uric acid test. It provides information about whether it is gout and to what extent it can be treated.
The diagnosis is easy to make here, even for laypeople. You can recognize skin mycoses by the reddening of the skin or scabby thickening. Weeping wounds are also always suspicious.
Skin mycoses in bearded dragons are almost always promoted by poor posture. The temperature is often too low, the ventilation poor or the humidity in the terrarium too high.
It is advisable to consult a competent veterinarian for this type of bearded dragon disease. After all, the treatment is lengthy.
If you want to lend a hand yourself, you should isolate the affected animal from the group and rub the areas with antifungal ointment. In addition, you should check the terrarium for classic posture errors.
This bearded dragon disease can be recognized by the remains of the skin, which often settle in the area of the toes and tip of the tail.
If you don’t react quickly, these areas can dry up and die off. One should therefore react quickly in order to prevent early necrosis.
Molting difficulties are often due to low humidity or temperature in the terrarium. Sometimes there are no furnishings that the bearded dragon can rub against. A lack of vitamin A can also be the cause of this problem.
Shedding difficulties in bearded dragons can be treated very successfully by bathing in lukewarm water. This way, the remains of the skin can be softened and finally removed with extreme caution. A pair of tweezers can be very effective here.
If the animal often suffers from these symptoms, you should consult a veterinarian to rule out other diseases.
Bearded dragons suffering from this disease usually have the lower eyelid droop slightly. A vitamin deficiency, for example, can be considered as a cause.
However, it is difficult to investigate the cause more precisely. The same applies to the treatment. Here you should consult a veterinarian. Eyes often get inflamed and that’s not something to be trifled with.
Luckily, this doesn’t happen that often with bearded dragons. Broken bones can be recognized by swollen or twisted limbs. Often these are also pulled behind, the beardie limps, so to speak.
A fall from a great height or the broken area being trapped in the door or window can be considered as the cause. Sometimes these injuries also occur during brutal turf wars.
Anyone who dares to do it themselves can splint the injury themselves with the help of sticks. A commercially available plaster can be used to attach the sticks. However, this should really only be done in exceptional cases and if the bone fragments have not been displaced.
Otherwise you should consult a veterinarian to be safe.
Eggs Laying Emergency
Unfortunately, this disease is not so easy to recognize in bearded dragons. You need some finesse. A good sign is that the female has passed the egg-laying date. In addition, the animals often hide in cooler areas of the terrarium.
Many a female bearded dragon spends a long time looking for a place to lay her eggs and even starts digging, but then fails to lay any eggs. But on the contrary. The animal suddenly behaves completely normally.
Laying trouble often occurs due to a lack of calcium or vitamins. Here one can be prepared by administering vitamins regularly. These also help against exhaustion and the associated discarding of the eggs.
It can also be useful to create suitable egg-laying places in the terrarium. It is easy to see whether this is necessary. If the eggs have been randomly distributed in the terrarium, there is almost always a suitable place missing.
If you suspect that a bearded dragon is suffering from laying difficulties, you should consult a veterinarian immediately.
Otherwise the eggs could be resorbed. In addition, an operation is usually unavoidable to save the pregnant female.
Of course, every owner hopes that their pets will never have to suffer from pneumonia. Nevertheless, this bearded dragon disease is quite common. You can tell very well whether an animal is suffering from a respiratory disease.
The affected bearded dragons wheeze for air. In addition, foam often forms at the nostrils and the mouth is suddenly opened to gasp for air. Often the animals no longer eat at all and suffer from apathy (apathy).
This is usually one of the classic posture errors. The humidity is too high, the temperature too low or the surface too dusty. Drafts can also be a problem and promote the onset of pneumonia.
If you suspect pneumonia, you should see a veterinarian immediately. Essential oil inhalation is also a great way to help bearded dragons recover. If you want to take preventive action, you should give them vitamins regularly.
You should also check the humidity in the terrarium and reduce it if necessary. It is also advisable to check the temperature. And while you’re at it, you can clear the terrarium of dust and see if drafts could be a problem.
Tremors in bearded dragons are easy to spot. The animals are not very active and the whole body trembles. This symptom can be recognized particularly well by observing the toes.
Usually there is a lack of calcium or vitamin B or D. As a preventive measure, bearded dragons can be given vitamin supplements on a regular basis. These also prevent diseases such as rickets or osteomalacia.
It is best to separate the bearded dragon from the rest of the group and then take it to a veterinarian for an assessment.
Necrosis (Dying Tissue)
This disease is usually noticeable in bearded dragons by the drying up and dying of toes or the end of the tail.
It often all starts with a limited desire to climb and ends in dark toes and tips of the tail. Due to the circulatory disorders, these can eventually die off.
The classic is molting problems or injuries leading to necrosis in bearded dragons. But metabolic diseases also often lead to these symptoms. The same applies to the fungal disease mycosis.
It often helps to give the beardie a warm bath in order to soften and then remove the remains of the molt. After that, the blood should be able to flow freely through the veins again.
In advanced studies, the only thing that often helps is amputating the end of the swan or the toes. This is often the case with metabolic diseases such as gout or a fungal infection such as mycosis.
Rickets / Osteomalacia aka metabolic bone disease (MBD)
Rickets or osteomalacia is one of the most common and most threatening diseases of reptiles in the terrarium.
For proper bones development in young animals and to keep adults healthy, you need a combination of UV radiation with sufficient calcium and vitamin D3.
If one or more of these factors are missing, the bones will not develop properly and, as a result, their substance will also deteriorate.
Sometimes there is liver or kidney damage first, which prevents the conversion of vitamin D3 to calcitriol. In many cases, however, persistent diarrhea also blocks the absorption of calcium and phosphorus in the intestine.
What does metabolic bone disease look like in bearded dragons?
If calcium and phosphorus cannot be sufficiently incorporated into the bone substance due to a deficiency or various metabolic disorders, bone growth stagnates.
In older animals, the bones then bend as they lose hardness. Severe curvatures are particularly noticeable on the limbs, spine and jaw.
Young animals, on the other hand, stop growing, the skull bones remain soft, and there is a risk of fractures.
By the time these deformities appear, the disease is already well advanced and the animals are also suffering considerable pain.
A responsible animal owner intervenes at earliest signs. For example, when you notice that your beardie can grab live food but can’t chew with its soft jaws. You may also notice your pet limp when walking, move sluggishly and reluctantly.
How to treat metabolic bone disease in bearded dragons
If the disease is caught in the early stage, the veterinarian will first eliminate the deficiencies by administering a multivitamin preparation and irradiating with UV light.
At the same time, he (she) will check whether there is another metabolic disease that can be treated.
Massive bone deformations or lack of growth can no longer be reversed, at best they can be stopped, but the animals are viable.
As a preventive measure against rickets, you should always give your beardies special reptile vitamins, along with some grated cuttlebone. A UV lamp can’t hurt either.
Extra Long Claws
It happens with beginners that beardies have to suffer from overly long claws. You can recognize this bearded dragon disease relatively quickly.
Most of the time, the pets have no desire to climb and often walk on their toes. A good eye helps here.
Old bearded dragons are often not as active anymore and so the claws do not wear out. The ground is often just too soft.
As with a human being, one grabs the nail scissors and simply shortens the claws. Care must be taken not to injure the blood vessels by cutting off too much.
If you are unsure about this, you can have this done by a competent veterinarian the first time.
Furthermore, the ground should be adjusted. Rough climbing opportunities don’t hurt either. They ensure that the claws wear out on their own and do not become too long as a result.
Skin injuries are not as uncommon among dragons as one might think. If it is not a bite injury, the animal has burned its skin due to an improperly installed radiator or heating system. Such burns occur very often in the area of the back or stomach.
If the bearded dragon’s burn is light, you can treat it with wound ointment. It works very well with liver trans ointment.
You should consult a veterinarian in the case of severe burns. To make transport more comfortable and as a first step in the event of serious injuries, we recommend bandaging the areas with damp, sterile bandages.
Various symptoms can indicate poisoning. These can be things that are not very clear, such as vomiting or diarrhea. Convulsions, breathing difficulties or paralysis often occur with poisoning. Many bearded dragons suffer from coordination difficulties due to the poison.
Poisonous plants are often fed out of ignorance or even used as vegetation in the terrarium. Sometimes the food is just contaminated with pesticides or chemicals.
Unfortunately there is very little you can do here. Because of this, you should contact your trusted veterinarian.
Everyone can imagine constipation and many know how uncomfortable the symptoms can be. After all, not defecating causes the greatest pain even in bearded dragons.
Constipation can have many causes. In addition to stress, lack of water and swallowed foreign bodies are often to blame.
But also, an intestinal blockage, the infestation of parasites and lack of exercise can be to blame for constipation in bearded dragons.
Bathing the dinosaur in lukewarm water has proven to be a small and very effective trick. Relatively often the droppings then come loose a short time later. If this method does not work, do not hesitate and consult a veterinarian.
The topic of diseases in bearded dragons keeps our readers very busy. That’s why we regularly receive questions by email. So that you too can get more information about bearded dragon diseases, we have created a small FAQ here:
How to prevent diseases in bearded dragons?
According to various studies, up to 90% of all diseases in bearded dragons can be traced back to poor posture. It is therefore important to avoid these at all costs. As a beginner in particular, you should read up on their postures thoroughly.
You should avoid overfeeding, too small an enclosure and not enough sunbathing areas. Pay attention to keeping beardies in group.
Can you get diseases from bearded dragons?
Yes. Similar to turtles or pet rats, the dragons can transmit dangerous diseases such as salmonella, tapeworms or cowpox. Don’t keep bearded dragons and reptiles if there are small children in the house. Or the very least don’t let them touch or be near the beardie.
What to do with deformities?
You can ignore minor disabilities that do not impair the quality of life in any way. Otherwise euthanasia is unavoidable. Malformations in bearded dragons often occur due to poisoning, inbreeding, lack of vitamins, malnutrition or improper incubation.
When do I have to do a stool sample and how much does it cost?
Fecal samples are mandatory once a year before the hibernation and also when you acquire a new animal. Always consult a reptile veterinarian. Examination of the stool sample does not cost much and neither does deworming.
How do I transport my bearded dragon to the vet?
Before visiting the vet, you need a polystyrene box, which you can buy in a hardware store or in an online shop.
At temperatures below 10 degrees, you should use a disposable pocket warmer, which you can also buy from relevant specialist shops or online shops.
For transport, it is best to use a transport bag made from a pure cotton pillowcase, for example, which is filled with some newspaper.
Make holes in the side of the transport box itself so that oxygen can get into the transport box and the animal does not slide about.
After the vet visit, you should first let the bearded dragon get used to the room temperature for 30 minutes and only then put it in the terrarium.