If you have ever tried to hold your bearded dragon upside down, you will notice she rolls back up-right in your hands.
Meaning she neither likes the experience nor tolerates it. Reptiles lack a diaphragm, so when held upside down, their stomach/abdomen weigh down on the lungs making it uncomfortable and difficult to breathe.
Therefore, its stomach constricts their breathing, and they can even die from suffocation which is why it is extremely difficult to breathe while on their back.
However, if you find your beardie lying on their back, it would be helpful to find the cause.
This is because there could be reasons why it lies on its back if you did not put it in this position. Below are some of the reasons you can find your beardie upside down; they Include;
Metabolic Bone Disease or Calcium Deficiency
Calcium is an essential mineral for your beardie as it supports healthy growth and development of bones and muscle contraction. Nonetheless, Calcium also helps in bone matrix mineralization and blood clotting.
Hence, they cannot function properly without calcium. A beardie lacking calcium has fragile bones, decreased appetite and frequent muscle twitching.
Long term lack of calcium and Vitamin D3 in your beardie can also cause metabolic bone disease, which is the most common disease for bearded dragons.
Therefore, if you find your beardie in its upside-down position, it is possibly caused by either lack of calcium or metabolic bone disease. Common symptoms of MBD to look out for include;
- Swollen legs
- Lack of appetite
- Deformities in spine, tail, limbs and jaws.
- Muscle twitching
- Weak or fragile bones.
- Softening and swelling of the jaw ( “rubber jaw”)
- Partial paralysis
High and Narrow Basking Area
Aside from lack of calcium and MBD, the basking area could also be the reason why you found your beardie in the upside-down position.
A beardie can easily and accidentally fall off its basking platform and land on its back if it is too high and narrow.
A high basking area provides a greater distance and more time for your beardie to twitch and turn upside down when it falls off from its basking platform. Contrarily, a narrow basking platform also increases the chances of your beardy falling off and landing on its back.
What to If you find your Bearded Dragon Upside Down
If you find your beardie lying on its back, you should immediately put your beardie back on its stomach and find the cause. In case it is caused by the reasons mentioned above, it is advisable to take the following measures. They include;
Provide Enough Calcium
Bearded Dragons need a lot of calcium because it is vital for bone and muscle health and development. If you notice your beardy is suffering from calcium deficiency, we strongly advise you to up or increase calcium intake.
Therefore, provide plenty of leafy greens and vegetables and sprinkle calcium mineral powder over the food, especially when feeding insects, fruits and vegetables.
In addition, gut loading insects is also the best way of providing calcium to your beardie. However, you should avoid feeding your beardie spinach or a diet that is rich in phosphorus and oxalate compounds because they prevent calcium absorption.
Or, more to the point, your beardie also needs to absorb UV-rays to help them absorb calcium properly. For that benefit, you can take them out to bask like in the wild or install a fluorescent strip that emits 10-12% UVB light. Furthermore, ensure the UV light covers about 60-70% of the tank.
Treat Metabolic Bone Disease
When the calcium level is relatively low, the body compensates by taking calcium from wherever it can, including the bones.
Since there is not enough, the bones will soften and limit muscle contraction, making them highly susceptible to fractures and pain whenever they try to move around.
To prevent or treat metabolic bone disease, ensure you provide your beardie with enough calcium, and in case the food has phosphorus ensure the ratio of calcium to phosphorus is 2:1.
Don’t also forget to include protein, Vitamin D3, proper heat gradient and light/dark cycle and adequate exercise. Besides a proper balanced diet, light and exercise, good husbandry is vital for breeding.
Correct High and Narrow Basking Platform
Your beardie falls on its back because either the basking platform is high or narrow.
Therefore, correct the platform by purchasing a new basking platform that is a bit wide and lower than the previous one. This will limit the probability of falling on its back because the distance is shorter, and it has a wide area that allows it to move easily.
Apart from felling off of his basking platform, it is advisable to take your beardie to exotic veterinarians. They can help you identify the reason behind the behaviour.
Exotic veterinary care is distinct and well equipped to conduct proper examination. He or she can confirm diagnosis based on symptoms.
Finally, it is also vital to monitor your beardie while basking. It should not fall on its back. This can cause severe injury or death due to suffocation.
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