6 Different Bearded Dragon Behaviors that Can Indicate Illness

If you want to communicate with your dragon and know what they want? What they are trying to communicate? What do they need? You want to know what is meant by the common behaviors of your dragon and what they are trying to say to you. Understanding these behaviors will bring you more closely to your pet dragon and it will have a very positive effect on its health and mood. Your bearded dragon will remain healthy and happy in your captivity.

Let’s talk about 6 different bearded dragon behaviors along with reasons that indicate your bearded dragon is falling ill and may need medical attention. 

The most common issue is Lethargy. What are the hidden behaviors behind lethargy? Why bearded dragons act lethargic? Have you noticed your dragon is doing the following:

  • To act tired for a few days?
  • Or he is sleeping longer than usual?
  • Or is he walking tiredly?
  • Or not have insects as he usually does?

If you have noticed any above symptoms, it means that your dragon is undergoing some issues. Some of the issues may be completely normal, on the other hand, some may indicate bigger problems.

Possible issues indicated by these behaviors are as under:

  • BrumationIf your dragon is undergoing lethargy as well as hiding under things or trying to burrow, he may be preparing for brumation. Bearded Dragons go to  Brumation when the weather is cold and they want to protect themselves from it. This is a completely normal and natural state and there is nothing to worry about. Keep in mind that if your dragon is ill or it’s too young, like a baby dragon, then you need to consult your Vet for advice.
  • Lack of heat. If your tank is cold or your dragon is not getting enough heat, then he will act tired and fatigued. The guideline for proper heating is already shared in the Tank Setup article but for reference, heat beneath the basking point should be higher than the complete tank, i.e. 95 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit, and heat in the rest of the tank is lower than a basking point, i.e. around 70 degrees. In hours of darkness, the complete tank should have a temperature of around 65 degrees. Installing a small digital thermometer or using a temperature gun is helpful to check and maintain the desired temperature in the tank. 
  • Poor lightingIn their natural environment, especially in deserts, bearded dragons have access to UV rays which helps them to properly absorb and digest the nutrients and meal. The absence of this light can cause illness and laziness in them. For this purpose, exposure to UVB in the tank is necessary and 12 hours of exposure to UVB light is recommended. For best performance, it’s recommended to change UVB Blub every 6 months.
  • Parasites. If you find your dragon lethargic with a foul smell and runny poo, it’s parasites. In this case, you have to run to your vet.
  • Poor diet. A healthy and balanced diet is necessary for your bearded dragons. Bearded dragons are omnivores, they eat plants and animals. Their strong jaws allow them to eat hard-shelled insects, lizards, and rodents and they can also go for leaves, fruits, flowers, etc. But the recommended level is 60% to 70% insects/ proteins and 30% to 40% greens/ plants/ fruits. If they are not provided a healthy, balanced diet, they may become lethargic. It is best to look at the diet of your dragon.

Occasional diarrhea is not a problem but if you notice that it’s happening more often, you may call your vet. Following are some reasons which may cause Diarrhea:

  • Diet. Normally, an unbalanced diet causes diarrhea. If your dragon has consumed too many barriers or rotten food or water-heavy food like cucumbers, watermelon, or lettuce, it may have caused diarrhea and it will be cured automatically once the diet is good and balanced. It will take usually 2 days after a balanced diet.
  • Stress. Bearded dragons can also experience diarrhea if they are stressed. There are several reasons for their stress like you have got a new dog, or another pet, or another bearded dragon, or they are getting too much noise, or you have changed the tank, or you have changed the environment, you have placed a new décor item in the tank, etc. Each step has some effect on your dragon and you have to be careful and make your dragon feel calm and comfortable in his home.
  • Parasites. Longer persistent diarrhea is usually caused by parasites. In that case, you have to take your dragon to the vet and get proper treatment and medical care for him.

Diarrhea is dangerous and can cause dehydration which will affect the overall health of your dragon. So, if you find your dragon fighting with diarrhea for more than 2 days, it is recommended to take him to the vet.

Common signs of dehydration are as under:

  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Wrinkly, dry-looking skin 
  • Sunken eyes

Pro Tip: You can test dehydration at your home by gently pinching the skin at the back of your bearded dragon and then letting it go. If the skin goes back to its normal state quickly, then your dragon is not suffering from dehydration. And if it takes time and slowly goes back to its normal state, then your dragon is suffering from dehydration. Your dragon needs more water and more attention.

If your dragon is panting like a dog then any of the following problems are there:

  • Too Hot tank. Dragons are cold-blooded desert lizards and they want ideal temperatures for their survival. If the temperature is not good, they become too hot or too cold very quickly. If your dragon is panting like a dog, he might be overheated. To overcome this, the following are guidelines:
    • Set the temperature of the basking point around 95 and 110 degrees Fahrenheit during the day.
    • The temperature of other areas of the tank is around 70 Degrees Fahrenheit.
    • The temperature of the entire tank during the night is around 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Mouth infectionIf your bearded dragon leaves his mouth hanging open and looks as if he is panting, he may have mouth rot. Mouth rot is very dangerous for your dragon and he needs vet attention ASAP. It occurs when your dragon’s immune system is weak due to stress inadequate heating lighting poor diet or a combination of all these. To identify the mouth rot, examine the skin of your dragon’s mouth, if it’s yellow or gray, then it’s red light. If his gums are red and inflamed and he’s also refusing to eat, then approach the vet as soon as possible and provide proper medical care. If left untreated, this disease can spread to the lungs.
  • Respiratory problem. If your dragon is sneezing, panting, refusing to eat, breathing quickly in short breaths, and acting tired, fluid leaking from the nose and eye, then this may be a respiratory problem like pneumonia. If you suspect anything like this, take your dragon to the vet for proper medical treatment.

If your bearded dragon is unable to walk, walk slowly, or have some difficulty in walking, there may be a severe problem. In this case, you should get in touch with your dragon’s vet. Some reasons for difficulty in walking of bearded dragon are as under:

  • Metabolic bone disease (MBD)If your dragon suffers from Metabolic bone disease or MBD, his bones, tissues, and muscles will deteriorate. This will cause deformity, fractures, paralysis, tissue loss damage, or even death. MBD is caused when your dragon is not getting enough calcium or is unable to absorb calcium due to a lack of Vitamin D3 or an excess of phosphorus intake.
  • Severe gut impactionA large object i.e. a piece of substrate or bigger insects, stuck in a dragon’s digestive tract or stomach can cause severe gut impaction. It can cause trouble walking or paralysis of the back legs. An X-ray is recommended to check the severity of gut impaction and its proper treatment.
  • Broken bone or fracture. You can observe the broken limb or another part by observing the dragon’s way of walking, i.e. if he is struggling with one limb and compensating with other limbs, it might be broken or hurt.
  • Vision problem or ear infection. If your dragon’s limbs are fine but still you feel him disoriented or struggling to walk, he might be suffering from a vision problem or ear infection. Crashing into things or walking with jerks or uneven movements are the indicators.
  • Head or spine injury or neurological problem. If libs, vision, and ears are fine and still your dragon is stunted walking, he might have a head or spine injury or neurological problem. These are caused by trauma or illness affecting the brain and in that case, you have to rush to your vet.
  • Overheating. If you observe your dragon to be dizzy, lose his balance, or stumble around, he might be overheated. Overheating can be dangerous and can severely affect your dragon. You need to check and set the temperature accordingly. To overcome this, the following are guidelines:
    • Set the temperature of the basking point around 95 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit during the day.
    • The temperature of other areas of the tank is around 70 Degrees Fahrenheit.
    • The temperature of the entire tank during the night is around 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Gout. If your dragons’ kidneys are unable to filter waste (uric acid), then they will suffer from gout. It is caused by prolonged dehydration, aging, high protein consumption, etc. This uric acid can build up and crystalize in the dragon or on the dragon’s organs, can press the spinal cord, and constrain walking.

Vomiting can be a normal case, i.e. due to overeating or overeating, or it can be an indication of some more serious problem. In any case, call your vet and provide medical treatment to your vet. Some of the causes of vomiting are as under:

  • Overeating. Dragons, especially baby dragons usually overeat, which causes vomiting. If this is the case, you need not to worry. Just increase the gap between their meal times or decrease the quantity of their food.
  • Overhydrating. If your dragon moves a lot after drinking water or drinks too much water, he may vomit. It’s common and you can prevent it from happening by decreasing the quantity of water. Bearded Dragons also tend to drink water during their bath time, in that case, you need to shorten their bath time.
  • Gut impactionVomiting can also occur due to gut impaction. If they eat a bigger piece of substrate or a bigger insect, this will cause gut impaction and resultantly vomiting.
  • Parasites. If your bearded dragon is acting lethargic, as well as throwing up, and has loose poop, he might be suffering from diarrhea caused by parasites. This is a common issue among bearded dragons and must be treated in time.
  • High humidity. The Bearded Dragon’s natural environment in the desert is hot and dry. If they get too much humidity, they can suffer from respiratory illness which can also harm your dragon’s immune system. Besides this, high humidity can cause bacteria and molds to grow. As a general thumb rule:
    • Humidity in your dragon’s tank should be around 30 to 40%.
    • Humidity over 50% can cause problems.

To prevent this, do the following:

  • Remove your water dish from the basking spot.
  • Arrange better ventilation of the tank.

Your dragon’s eyes can be bulging, swollen, and protruding from the head due to the following reasons:

  • SheddingShedding is the process in which the skin of a bearded dragon peels off. In this process, they get very upset and you can facilitate them by providing them warm bath. Sometimes they bulge their eyes to remove the skin around their face, it’s normal and there is nothing to worry about. Just keep in mind that never peel off the skin by yourself, give it time and it will fall when it’s ready.
  • Vitamin A overdose. Bulging eyes is also an indication of vitamin A toxicity. Bearded Dragons usually don’t go through vitamin A toxicity from their diet, it’s usually caused by supplements rich in vitamin A. If you notice this, replace supplements with beta-carotene instead of Vitamin A. Other indications of vitamin A toxicity are lethargy and swelling.
  • Parasites. If you notice loose stool, running nose or swelling eyes, it might be parasites. In that case, take your pet to the vet and provide him with medical attention. 
  • Loose substrateSometimes loose substrate can stuck in the eyes of dragons which can cause them to bulge or swelling. As a natural habitat of the desert, your dragon can blink it off but if the eye bulge persists, give your vet a call and provide medical care. Also, change the flooring in the tank.
  • Eye infection. Dragon eyes can also have eye infections. It can be caused by many reasons, i.e. particles of substrate stuck in the eyes, etc. If you notice your dragon’s eyes are bulging or he is unable to open them, call your vet and get the treatment.

As a bearded dragon guardian, it’s your responsibility to take care of him, understand him, understand his behavior, and try to learn what they want to communicate. To provide them good home and to take care of their health. I hope this article helps you do your job in a much better manner. If you have any questions, please get in touch with us

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