Caring For Bearded Dragons




Bearded Dragon care is one of the easiest providing they have a healthy diet, plenty of space, the right heat and lighting you generally won’t get any health issues providing this is followed, but if you are experiencing problems with your Bearded Dragon, stop reading this and please visit your nearest vet.

While reptile vivariums don’t need to be completely cleaned out frequently, other than to remove waste, through day to day handling you should be able to spot any early warning signs.

A very quick way to check the Bearded Dragon’s health is to look at their eyes – they should be bright and alert. Also check their poo to see if they are dehydrated or have parasites. When fresh check the urate, that’s the white part of the poo, if it’s not white e.g. it’s yellow then the dragon is dehydrated, offer water and bath them for a few minutes in warm water. Below you can find a quick summary on what to look out for when caring for a Bearded Dragons health.

Respiratory issues

This happens normally when their habitat doesn’t have the correct temperature range or is too humid but can occur from too much stress. The very early signs of this are sneezing – you can actually hear them sneeze. Then this will be followed with discharge from the nostrils and then after this you’ll see them gape/ vent but this will be frequent unlike when they regulate their body heat. After this you’ll see a lack of appetite and lethargy. If you can catch them at the very early signs you can get them on a course of antibiotics which will help them clear up very quickly. Remember to check the heat, there should be no cause for humidity, but check anyway.

Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD)

This occurs mainly in young dragons, but can develop in older dragons too and is probably one of the biggest signs of owners failing to care for their Bearded Dragons. It results from poor diet, lack of calcium and vitamin D3 along with a lack of UVB which aids the metabolism of calcium and production of vitamin D. Again with regular handling you should be able to spot this, a lack of UVB will produce lethargy which is a very early warning sign and they will have dull eyes. Providing you have been giving a calcium supplement in their diet then the lack of UVB will be the most likely cause. It’s worth noting that UVB bulbs need to be replaced every 12 months roughly as the amount of UVB generated from the bulb will decrease significantly over time. Later symptoms of Metabolic Bone Disease will be spongy/ weak legs and jaws and you may see deformities in the spine and legs and they may also have tremors/ shaking. Once MBD has reached this stage the effects are hard, if not impossible, to reverse.

Tails and Feet

When kept together nipped toes and tails are very common where there is a lack of space or an aggressive cage mate. Common causes also occur when there is a lack of food for all of them, or a lack of hiding places and basking spots. Keep an eye on dominant behaviour, the more aggressive lizard will grow in size quicker and the problem will accelerate. The best option is to always house individually, although if there is enough space provided then you may not ever see any aggressive behaviour but in the longterm more space is a must for the health of a Bearded Dragon. When you do notice a bitten toe or tail then quickly bath the area in warm water and apply an antiseptic such as Tamadine, it is rare that the tail or toe will ever grow back but at least the deterioration is halted, if left unchecked then the infection can spread and they’ll lose a lot more of their bodies. In very young Bearded Dragons, you’ll also sometimes see infections caused from insects that have been left in the vivarium with the babies. Insects get hungry too, and will bite anything to see if it’s edible.

Parasites

The quickest way to see if your reptile has an parasites is to check their excrement, note especially for any reddish/blood coloured poo as this is a fairly sure sign of intestinal issues. The most common parasite in reptiles is Coccidia, evidence suggests that these parasites can come from crickets/ locusts/ worms etc… that have been bred in unsanitary conditions. If you suspect that there is a parasitic infection then be sure to quickly remove any poo as this is normally how your Beardie will transmit the parasite back to itself and to others. Take a sample of this to a vets for them to check. Symptoms of parasite infections will normally show in Dragons as a lack of appetite, lack of energy and anorexia. To avoid this, always clean away a Beardies mess promptly, they’re not adverse to treading through their own mess.

Poisoning

The most common cause of this failure in Bearded Dragon care is feeding your Beardy with anything you’ve caught or picked from the outside world. Normally it’ll be be pesticide that hasn’t been washed off, but also they will eat any vegetation given the chance so if kept outside they may have eaten something toxic and depending upon what they have eaten then it can mean death.

Salmonella

This occurs when you keep your reptiles in filthy conditions and basically from not washing your hands before and after handling them. You can spread Salmonella bacteria to them, just as easily as they can pass it on to you.

Obesity

Fairly obvious symptoms and cause. Overfeeding. Beardies love to eat, but don’t actually need to eat all that often, look out for large bellies, fat legs and tails and reduce feeding. Obesity will create a lack of energy and liver/kidney disease.

Handling

Handling Beardies is easy, just be careful as they love to jump so try to handle them close to the floor rather than standing up. When picking them up, do not lift by the tail or head, instead pick them up with a hand behind the neck and a hand under the belly to support them, then let them rest on your lap or arms. Do not grip them tightly as they will bite and inflate themselves, sometimes they can get a bit cranky and hiss/ inflate their beards but generally you’re quite safe. Regular handling will ease their skittish behaviour and to get a young dragon used to being handled, feed them at the same time as you handle them, gradually stopping feeding them every time you pick them up. I have a Rankins Dragon that loves sitting by the window and you can leave it there for hours on end as it loves to watch the world go by, but I have another that just wants to explore and find the hardest place that it can hide in. So each dragon’s temperament and personality varies as does their like of handling, just keep an eye on their behaviour to give an indication.

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