Although being a very vigorous creature, bearded dragons also suffer from health issues. An unhealthy bearded dragon, instead of telling us what is the matter, may show signs or symptoms of an unsound condition.
Therefore, as their caregiver, you had better pay great attention to any signs of an unhealthy bearded dragon as these signs could give clues or evidence about any possible illness or a disease that an unhealthy bearded dragon is going through so that you can find a good solution for these issues such changing its habitat or diet, visiting a reptile veterinarian and so on.
Below are signs of an unhealthy bearded dragon as well as some recommendations that you should know.
- Food List And Feeding Tips
- Bearded Dragon Fat
- Two Bearded Dragons Live Together
- Best Enclosure for Bearded Dragon
- #1 Lethargic
- #2 Damaged Snout/Bloody
- #3 Malnourished Appearance/Bony
- #4 Discolored Stomach
- #5 Disfigured Tail or Limbs / Brittle Bones
- #6 Eyes Look Cloudy (or Filmy)
- #7 Mouth rot treatment(or Discolored)
- #8 Shaking head/Jerky
- #9 Loss of Appetite
- #10 Mouth Hanging Open
- #11 Obesity
- #12 Runny, Soft or Foul Stool
- #13 Sunken Eyes
- #14 Swollen Limbs and Tail
An unhealthy bearded dragon may look quite sluggish or lethargic due to several common reasons such as a deficient diet, uncomfortable environment, or internal parasites.
Also, low environment temperatures can be considered as a common cause as this can result in loss of appetite. Regarding a young bearded dragon, a basking area temperature of between 95°F to 110°F with a cooler region of around 80°F to 90°F is recommended.
One circumstance you don’t need to worry about is that many bearded dragons may bromate or hibernate when the season changes from summer into fall and then into winter.
This will reduce the bearded dragon’s appetite as well as it’s activity levels. Therefore, you had better keep offering food and water as well as maintaining proper temperatures and light cycles.
To monitor temperatures within the terrarium, a high-quality thermometer like a Zoo Med Thermometer/Hygrometer Dual Gauge is highly recommended.
You had better use two measuring tools- one put in the basking area and the other located in the cooler area in order that you can check and control the complete temperature gradient in the habitat.
If you need to modify temperatures, you can have a larger or smaller wattage basking bulb added while a mercury vapor bulb is quite ideal as it can provide both radiant heat and UV radiation.
If there is nothing wrong with the temperature or your dragon is not in the period of brumation time, and he is still acting lethargic, it’s time for you to consult a reptile veterinarian.
#2 Damaged Snout/Bloody
The common reason for a bloody damaged-looking snout is snout rubbing as a bearded dragon is kept in a too-small enclosure for its size.
Also, a bearded dragon can try to find a way out of the enclosure, which can hurt its snout and make it bloody and raw. You can remedy this by giving the bearded dragon an adequate enclosure, a well-balanced and varied diet.
You can interact with the bearded dragon by taking him out of the habitat occasionally for entertaining activities. In specific, you can take him for a walk with a special lizard leash or allow the bearded dragon to sit in your lap to explore a safe room for 30 minutes to an hour a couple of times per week.
Snout rubbing may be an indication of stress so you should give him an appropriate hide box, and monitor terrarium temperatures.
#3 Malnourished Appearance/Bony
There are many reasons for a bony, malnourished appearance of an unhealthy bearded dragon. The first reason is that the bearded dragon is not eating correctly due to stress, improper temperatures, a lack of adequate UV lighting, or a sign of a more serious health condition.
You should monitor terrarium temperatures by using a quality reptile thermometer. In addition, you can encourage or stimulate your bearded dragon to eat well by varying its diet as much as possible as well as providing enough food items with calcium powder.
In order for your bearded dragon to get exposed to adequate UV radiation, you can use a Repti Glo 10.0 fluorescent bulb or equivalent products that are suitable for desert-dwelling reptiles.
Last but not least, ask a qualified reptile veterinarian for advice.
#4 Discolored Stomach
An unhealthy bearded dragon suffering from stress will have a darkened or black stomach. Regarding bearded dragons that have been brought to a new home or experienced environment changes.
Also, it is the feeder insect left in the habitat overnight or the incorrect temperature that causes your bearded dragon stressed.
When being in a new home, a bearded dragon is more likely to feel unsafe, strange, and scared. Therefore, you had better give it time to get accustomed to the new surroundings by providing it a good hiding place in an attempt to reduce stress as much as possible.
Also, you should avoid annoying your bearded dragon except for regular feedings and cleaning, and gradually increase contact at a slow pace to avoid stressing the bearded dragon.
Monitoring temperatures regularly to make sure that they are not too low or too high. Otherwise, temperatures can cause undue stress for the reptile.
Regarding feeder insects, you do not want your bearded dragon to be crawled on and bitten by them, which makes your pet stressful. Therefore, you had better remove uneaten feeders after 15 – 20 minutes after feeding.
#5 Disfigured Tail or Limbs / Brittle Bones
A drop or other impacts can lead to tail, or limb disfigurement among bearded dragons while weak or brittle bones can indicate a sign of Metabolic Bone Disease.
In case the end of the tail becomes black and dead-looking, it must be a bacterial infection called tail rot.
In case of a broken bone, you had better seek a veterinarian immediately for x-rays and diagnosis as a blood test will be performed to check calcium levels.
Before visiting the veterinarian, you should use ice and gently massage the area of the suspected broken bone to help reduce swelling.
Tail rot is extremely dangerous as it causes the section of the tail to turn black and fall off, and it even gradually moves up the tail and enters the body, which leads to death. The only way is to seek a veterinarian for antibiotic treatment as soon as possible.
You can minimize the opportunities of possible tail rot by taking these steps. Firstly, keep husbandry conditions sanitary by having the terrarium cleaned regularly with an anti-microbial cleaner safe for pets such as Healthy Habitat.
Secondly, leaving feeder insects in the terrarium for long periods of time or at night should be avoided as crickets will chew on the bearded dragon’s tail. Last but not least, provide the bearded dragon with a warm bath at least once per week to keep the skin clean and supple.
#6 Eyes Look Cloudy (or Filmy)
A strong and healthy bearded dragon will have transparent, bright, and active eyes while an unhealthy bearded dragon may have dull or dark eyes, which may simply relate to a shedding issue.
However, it would be more serious like an infection or a disease if you notice any discharge coming from their eyes. That is also the reason why you should buy a bearded dragon having clear, bright, and alert eyes.
In case of a shedding issue, you should follow some steps for your bearded dragon to shed his skin easily. You should prepare warm water for your bearded dragon to bath in and relax for about 15 – 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, you can make his head and face wet by using a small cup to gently pour water over without getting water in his eyes or nostrils.
For the better process of loosing the skin and promoting healthy shedding, we recommend you use Zoo Med Repti Shedding Aid or Zilla Bath Shed Ease and remember to keep their eyes away from any bath solution.
On the other hand, if the signs mentioned before don’t come from a shedding issue, you had better visit a reptile veterinarian as soon as possible.
#7 Mouth rot treatment(or Discolored)
A bacterial infection can have an impact on the mouth and gums of a bearded dragon, which results in mouth rot or decay. That is the reason why you can see the symptom of a faded, or blackened mouth of an unhealthy bearded dragon.
Two main culprits to blame for this are unsanitary conditions and low temperatures, and only a reptile veterinarian can have ways to treat mouth rot.
To prevent this issue, you should have a routine cleaning schedule and follow it strictly. In specific, you should have the terrarium, all decor items, and food/water dishes cleaned and tidied regularly.
Make sure that you use a cleaning solution without any toxic chemicals for reptiles such as Healthy Habitat.
Monitoring the temperature and humidity levels within the terrarium is also very important, and you can try using a good thermometer/humidity gauge.
In case temperatures are cooler than normal, you can use a basking bulb or heat lamp with a higher wattage.
#8 Shaking head/Jerky
When your bearded dragon is showing jerky or shaky behavior, this may be commonly due to calcium and vitamin D3 deficiencies as they need calcium for strong bones and vitamin D3 so as to absorb calcium.
Besides, A possible culprit resulting in jerky, shaky behavior may be a neurological disorder.
You had better give your bearded dragon adequate UV lighting as UV radiation plays an important role in producing vitamin D3 that back up the absorption of calcium in the bloodstream to boost good skeletal development. Besides, UV radiation also functions to promote a healthy appetite and brain function.
If your bearded dragon keeps showing shaky, jerky behavior, you had better perform further examination from a veterinarian for a complete diagnosis.
#9 Loss of Appetite
Among signs of an unhealthy bearded dragon, loss of appetite is the most common symptom and it is hard to find out the reason as it varies from inadequate temperatures to stress. Therefore, we must make use of our best observation and judgment according to conditions.
Firstly, you should have the habitat temperatures checked to wonder whether they are in the proper ranges for the age of bearded dragon you have. If nothing wrong with the temperatures, the amount of UV radiation provided should be considered.
Bearded dragons can get stressed due to some reasons. The first reason is the radical terrarium setting changes, which can cause the most stressful times for the pet to adapt to the new home.
And the reactions will vary following different personalities of bearded dragons as some bearded dragons are not worried about the change while others may freak out. Therefore, in this situation, you had better give him/her time to adjust and only disturb him/her when absolutely necessary.
Another reason causing some stress is leaving live feeders in the terrarium overnight for a long period of time.
If you have tried all ways mentioned before and your bearded dragon is still not eating well, the only way is finding the advice of a reptile veterinarian for other possible health issues such as impaction or Metabolic Bone Disease.
#10 Mouth Hanging Open
A slack jaw is the most common symptom of Metabolic Bone Disease, which means the bearded dragon’s mouth keeps opening and it has difficulties taking the food.
The best way is to seek a reptile veterinarian immediately to have your bearded dragon tested for Metabolic Bone Disease. In specific, a blood test may be performed to evaluate calcium levels in the blood.
However, in case the bearded dragon opens its mouth while being on the basking perch for short periods of time, it will be normal as this allow your bearded dragon to cool off while directly under the basking bulb. And you can easily see this similar behavior in dogs as their pants to cool off.
Besides seeking a reptile veterinarian, you should offer soft foods that are easy to be swallowed to the bearded dragon such as baby food or soft wax worms.
Providing adequate UV radiation regularly will help prevent slack jaw or Metabolic Bone Disease. Some products specially designed for desert-dwelling reptiles are mercury vapor bulb or fluorescent bulb, and you also need dust food items with calcium powder before feeding.
In the wild, being a very active creature, bearded dragons love having physical activities while bearded dragons raised in captivity have little room to be active like their wild counterparts, which coupled with a poor diet can eventually lead to obesity, one of the signs of an unhealthy bearded dragon.
To minimize the chances of obesity of adult bearded dragons, you should provide a balanced diet of nutritious feeder insects and wholesome fruits and vegetables, such as gut-load feeder insects. Additionally, you should have all the food items dusted with good calcium powder before feeding your bearded dragon.
However, make sure that you don’t feed your bearded dragon insects high in fat content such as wax worms. Besides a good diet, it is important to encourage your bearded dragon to do a little exercise at least once per week.
For example, you can take the bearded dragon out of the terrarium for a short walk during warm weather and let him/her explore the room.
#12 Runny, Soft or Foul Stool
A soft or runny stool is also one of the signs of an unhealthy bearded dragon, which happens when your bearded dragon has a possible internal parasite or an insufficient diet. Another reason is feeding your bearded dragon lettuce, which results in runny stool and causes malnutrition.
While a yellow-tinged urate (the end of the poop that is usually white) can indicate the sign of dehydration, a red or rusty-colored urate could be caused by parasites. A runny stool or temporary diarrhea could also be an indication of stress that a bearded dragon may suffer from.
Preparing a proper diet and avoiding feeding lettuce is recommended as lettuce contains a lot of water instead of nutritional value, which can cause diarrhea and dehydration.
Regarding internal parasites, feeder insects raised in contaminated conditions are the main culprits. Therefore, you had better choose fresh and strong feeders that are nurtured properly and don’t hesitate to search for a trustworthy feeder supplier.
Cleaning and sanitizing your bearded dragon’s habitat regularly plays an important role. In specific, you should have the entire terrarium and any decor uncluttered at least once per month with a quality terrarium cleaner, and to minimize the number of bacteria, you should clean any spills or soiled area.
However, make sure that you do not use any household cleaners containing strong chemicals such as Windex.
As a yellow tint urate indicates a hydration issue, it is very important to keep your bearded dragon hydrated by misting your bearded dragon twice per day with clean, dechlorinated water. In case you use tap water, you should have the water treated with a water conditioner, which helps remove chlorine, ammonia, heavy metals, and other chemicals.
A great product you can consider is Zoo Med ReptiSafe, you just lightly mist the bearded dragon and it will slowly lap the water off the end of the nose.
Another efficient way is to give the bearded dragon a bath in clean, dechlorinated water at least once a week to help keep the bearded dragon hydrated and allows it to shed his skin easily. Also, it works in case of light constipation or small impaction issues.
In case your bearded dragon gets stressed, which leads to temporary diarrhea as he is quite strange to his new home. Therefore, you should give your bearded dragon time to adjust, and prepare a place for him to shelter for security.
If your bearded dragon keeps showing the symptom of abnormal stool or sustained diarrhea, you had better get help from your veterinarian to perform a fecal exam to find out the exact reason as well as check for parasites and possible treatments.
#13 Sunken Eyes
Another sign of an unhealthy bearded dragon is sunken eyes that may be the consequence of a possible infection or dehydration.
In this case, you should give the bearded dragon a bath in warm dechlorinated water which is just shallow to avoid drowning and make sure you keep an eye on him during baths. It is very important to supply fresh, dechlorinated water on a daily basis.
You also can mist bearded dragon a couple of times per day by gently spritzing water onto the bearded dragon’s head and it will lap up drips of water from its nose as you mist.
#14 Swollen Limbs and Tail
There are several reasons for swollen limbs or tail seen in an unhealthy bearded dragon. Firstly, this can be an indication of a cracked or broken limb/tail, which comes from a fall or a battle between some bearded dragons.
Metabolic Bone Disease is also seen as the culprit that leads to fractured or broken limbs or a tail. Another reason for this sign of an unhealthy bearded dragon is a bacterial infection such as tail rot.
If your bearded dragon shows such symptoms, you should immediately visit a qualified veterinarian to perform x-rays and some kind of tests to find out the exact reason and have a proper treatment.
If it is more likely to be Metabolic Bone Disease, only a qualified veterinarian can help to treat this is a life-threatening disease immediately.
You can take some steps below to minimize the risk of Metabolic Bone Disease with your bearded dragon.
First and foremost, give your dragon adequate UV radiation by using reptile-specific bulbs, and the one we highly recommend is Zoo Med ReptiSun 10.0 UVB Fluorescent Bulb or the Exo Terra Solar Glo Mercury Vapor Bulb for superior UV radiation output for bearded dragons.
Secondly, food items with calcium powder such as Repashy Calcium Plus should be used to dust insects and plant matter liberally at each feeding.
In conclusion, there are many signs of an unhealthy bearded dragon that you should know, and it is very important to pay attention to any signs or issues.
If you have any doubts, don’t hesitate to take him to a qualified veterinarian for periodic exams as they are completely capable of examining and treating the most unhealthy symptoms mentioned before.
I hope that you will find it useful and knowledgeable to give your bearded dragons all the best things.