How to Tell If Your Bearded Dragon is Sick: 8 Warning Signs You CAN’T Ignore

One day your bearded dragon is just chilling, basking under his or her heat lamp soaking up the much-needed warmth. Then the next, you’re hit with total panic as you notice your little guy or gal isn’t looking quite like themselves.

So, how exactly do you tell if you’re dealing with a bearded dragon illness or unhealthy bearded dragon? 

To cut to the chase, if you want to learn how to tell if your bearded dragon is sick, look for these telling signs that most commonly indicate an illness or issue of some sort: Not going to the bathroom, lack of appetite, diarrhea, lethargy, sunken eyes, wrinkly skin, paralysis, twitching, jerky movements, rotting skin, excess mucus, or a mouth that hangs open.

If you’ve been asking yourself, “How do I know if my bearded dragon is healthy?” just keep reading to find out!

Common Signs of Bearded Dragon Illnesses & Unhealthy Bearded Dragons 

Below, you will find the most common symptoms associated with an unhealthy bearded dragon or one that is suffering from an illness. However, you’ll soon find that many of these symptoms don’t always indicate an illness at play…

On a side note, it is important to note that the advice below is NOT meant to replace that of a professional. So, if you believe your bearded dragon might be sick, please consult a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Constipation And/Or Impaction 

If your bearded dragon hasn’t had a bowel movement in a couple days or a week, you’ll definitely want to start considering what could be backing them up…

Hopefully, it is not impaction as this can be a very serious and life-threatening problem if left untreated. Bearded dragon impaction occurs when your bearded dragon is not able to “pass” something they’ve eaten.

The most common causes of impaction are:

Pro Tip: If your bearded dragon hasn’t had a bowel movement in what feels like a long time for them and/or isn’t acting like their normal self, then they could be impacted, meaning you’ll need to take matters into your own hands right away to help them!

You Witness Your Bearded Dragon Not Eating 

A bearded dragon that stops eating can be due to several reasons. This unfortunately makes it harder for us to pinpoint exactly what is causing the lack of appetite!

Read on to discover the 3 most common reasons why a bearded dragon will stop eating.

Reason Your Beardie Isn’t Eating #1: Stress

bearded dragon with stress marks
A telltale sign of a stressed bearded dragon? Stress marks! Pay particular attention to these markings on the underside of your bearded dragon’s neck and throat to discover their stress level.

In regard to stress, there could be several triggers

First, if you’ve recently adopted your pet or switched them to a new cage, it could just be that they’re stressed out adjusting to a new environment.

If neither of these situations apply, your dragon could also be stressed if you’ve brought home a new pet that they can see, be it another reptile, cat, whatever! 

Bottom line? You’ll want to make sure there is NOTHING that could be intimidating them. Even feeders hopping around at night in a cage can lead to stress!

As such, destressing a bearded dragon is essential to ensuring they stay healthy and happy. Do NOT overlook the importance of managing their stress level.

Reason Your Beardie Isn’t Eating #2: Inadequate Tank Temps

In regard to your bearded dragon being stressed due to temps, if their tank isn’t hot enough or is too hot, this can also lead to a lack of appetite.

You see, bearded dragons NEED heat to keep their metabolisms functioning properly. This is why during the cooler months of Winter, bearded dragons brumate in response to a slowed metabolism due to the cooler temps and subsequent decrease in food sources.

Buyer’s Tip: To ensure your temps are where they should be, make sure you have invested in an accurate thermometer – not those cheap stick-on kinds that are notoriously unreliable!

Reason Your Beardie Isn’t Eating #3: Improper UVB Setup

Lastly, your dragon could be refusing to eat due to a lack of UVB exposure. If the bulb you’re using is too weak and not emitting enough UVB, your pet will likely not want to eat.

Unfortunately, in the world of reptile UVB lamps, there are more duds than rock stars. As such, do yourself and beardie a favor, and make sure you’re using the RIGHT UVB bulb and not just any old one you found in the pet store. 

All of the above check out?

Although the 3 reasons above most commonly contribute to a change in appetite, there of course can be other factors at play as well…

In the meantime as you try and get to the bottom of things, be prepared to adjust your feeding strategy to ensure your bearded dragon gets the nutrients they need.

Your Bearded Dragon Has Diarrhea 

Believe it or not… you can learn A LOT about the health of your bearded dragon by examining their poop. Knowing what to look for, in terms of what’s normal and what’s not, can give you major insight. 

Diarrhea often signifies the presence of parasites in bearded dragon. 

Unfortunately, parasites in bearded dragons is not at all uncommon…

In fact, ALL bearded dragons have parasites within their system to some extent. These parasites only become a problem for beardies when their count gets too high.

If the urates (the end piece of poop that is usually white) on your bearded dragon’s stool are red or orangeish in color, this essentially confirms the presence of a parasite.

Pro Tip: If you believe your bearded dragon has a high or aggressive parasite count, it is important you take him or her to the vet for antibiotics. In the meantime, collect a stool sample and keep it in the fridge to bring into the vet as well.

Your Bearded Dragon is Not Moving Or is Acting Lethargic 

If you notice your bearded dragon not moving or acting lethargic, then it could be due to several things…

First and perhaps the least serious of issues could be due to inadequate tank temperatures. When bearded dragons don’t get enough heat, their metabolisms can slow down and lead to them having little energy or appetite. 

If you witness your bearded dragon not moving much, chances are their cage is a little too cool. It is imperative that you provide the proper temperature gradient within their vivarium to keep them happy and healthy.

If you can discern that your temperatures are spot-on, then it could simply be that your bearded dragon’s lethargy could actually be a sign that he or she is getting ready to brumate.

Fortunately, if you believe your bearded dragon is getting ready to brumate, there are things you can do to make brumation successful for them. 

Your Bearded Dragon’s Eyes Are Sunken

Powerade reptile bath
Did you know? Electrolyte rich drinks such as Powerade and Pedialyte are GREAT for dehydrated and sick reptiles, such as the Savannah Monitor above. You can even mix them with water in a 1:1 ratio to create a bath!

Much like people, you can tell A LOT about the overall health of your pet simply by examining your bearded dragon’s eyes.

For instance, if your bearded dragon has sunken eyes it could be due to them being dehydrated. 

If you discover that your bearded dragon is dehydrated, try coaxing them to drink fresh water by placing a bowel in their tank. If this doesn’t work, you can offer them some water through a dropper as well. 

Also, you can mix Powerade by a ratio of 1:1 with water to give them some electrolytes and perk them up sooner. A Pedialyte mixture also works.

Pro Tip: Besides looking at your bearded dragon’s eyes, another quick way you can tell if your your bearded dragon is dehydrated is to gently pinch your bearded dragon’s skin if it looks loose. If the skin doesn’t settle back into place immediately after you release, chances are they’re in need of some water.

Your Bearded Dragon’s Skin is Wrinkly

It is important to understand that many bearded dragons have wrinkles because their skin simply doesn’t stretch as much as other animals.

If your dragon’s tail is a good size and their fat pads aren’t indented, chances are a little wrinkly skin isn’t something to worry over.

Now, if the tail is scrawny and the fat pads are indented… wrinkly skin could be a sign that your bearded dragon is underweight.

In this case, you’ll need to fatten them up! I recommend incorporating more protein into their diet (feeders) and also giving them a little Repta + Boost to promote their appetite

If you don’t believe your bearded dragon is underweight but they still have wrinkly skin, it could mean that they’re dehydrated. If so, simply follow the recommendations above under “Sunken Eyes” to hydrate them.

Your Bearded Dragon is Demonstrating Jerky Movements

If your bearded dragon is shaking or displaying jerky body movements, chances are they could have a calcium deficiency, which can lead to Metabolic Bone Disease, a very serious affliction.

The good news about this? If caught early enough, you can basically reverse MBD and save your dragon from serious complications.

Dragons can develop a calcium deficiency from typically one or two things: Not enough proper UVB exposure or not enough calcium (duh).

Your Bearded Dragon has Rotting or Discolored Skin

Bearded dragon showing yellow fungus with discolored scales
Although bearded dragons can have a warm yellowish tone to their scales naturally… you’ll want to watch out for major changes to their scales’ coloring, specially if they appear much more yellow 24/7.

Rotting or discolored skin on your bearded dragon will be hard to miss and can unfortunately be the result of several different issues.

First and foremost, if their skin seems to be rotting on the tail, it is possible your beardie could be suffering from tail rot, which can lead to the loss of a tail or death in serious instances.

If they appear to have rotting skin that reveals inflamed and swollen wounds, it could be due to Yellow Fungus, which is an aggressive fungal infection that affects both the superficial and deep tissues.

If you suspect your bearded dragon has Yellow Fungus, try to take them to the vet ASAP!

If you don’t believe your bearded dragon has tail rot or yellow fungus… it could just be that they have a little bit of bruising on their scales or are having a rough shed.

Pro Tip: Suspect a rough shed is to blame? Help their scales heal by applying a couple drops of betadine iodine to a dampened cotton pad and applying it the trouble spots once daily, followed by an antibacterial cream. Or, you can simply just apply raw unpasteurized honey once a day.

Please Note: If within 3 days the rot or wound doesn’t appear to be getting better take your bearded dragon in to the vet for a checkup as this could be due to something more serious and require proper antibiotics.

How Can I Tell If My Bearded Dragon is Dying?

Naturally, it isn’t uncommon for pet owners to fear the worst when they notice their pet acting sickly. And this fear only intensifies as our pets get older.

As such, if you’ve found yourself wondering lately “Is my bearded dragon dying?” then simply consider the following telltale signs most commonly associated with death.

Bearded Dragon Dying Signs

There are many signs you can look for that may indicate your bearded dragon is dying. The following 5 are the most common:

  • Your bearded dragon looks pale
  • Your bearded dragon is cold to the touch
  • Your bearded dragon has stopped eating (including treats)
  • Your bearded dragon has zero energy
  • Your bearded dragon has stopped basking

If your bearded dragon is dying of old age or natural causes, the best thing you can do for them is to make them comfortable.

Of course, if you believe they are suffering then the humane thing to do will be to bring them into the vet to be euthanized. I understand this is incredibly hard to do, but letting them suffer in unnecessary pain is not fair to them. On top of ending their suffering, putting them down humanely will help to give you closure as well.

Wrapping Up How to Tell If Your Bearded Dragon is Sick 

So, there you have it! I hope by now you have a better understanding of how to tell if your bearded dragon is sick.

While not all encompassing, the aforementioned signs and symptoms are pretty representative of what you can expect to see with a sick beardie.

Pro Tip: It’s important to note that with bearded dragons, things can progress quickly and lead to irreversible consequences. So, your best bet at helping your pet overcome any illness, fungus, or diseases is early detection. Because of this, if your bearded dragon doesn’t improve in their condition after a couple days, please just take them to the vet.

A lot of the time the vet is your best bet and although the visit might be expensive, you can always ask your vet about doing monthly payments.

If you think your bearded dragon is seriously sick, I recommend you schedule an appointment with a professional herp vet ASAP. In the meantime, you should highly consider brushing up on all things bearded dragon diseases.

 

23 thoughts on “How to Tell If Your Bearded Dragon is Sick: 8 Warning Signs You CAN’T Ignore”

    • Hi. I got a bearded dragon around 4 months ago and he has st eaten any veggies since I adoped him (he is 5 btw) but he did eat locust, waxworms and mealworms. But now he is acting so lethargic. He won’t eat ANYTHING. Not even live food and he is staying on the cool side of his tank. I’ve checked the temp and uvb is correct so everything fine there.. but today he scared me. He has had a poo fir the first time in 2 weeks buy it had blood in it! And he is also not drinking. I’m not sure what’s wrong with him. I’ve had to start force feeding him. Does it sound like impactation? Because I’ve never owned a beardie before and I’m not sure.

      Reply
      • Blood in the stool, lethargic behavior and lack of appetite all point to either parasites or impaction. There’s definitely something internally wrong, it would be best to get to a vet as soon as you can. Hope everything turns out okay. 💕

        Reply
    • I have a beardie and she looks like she’s dying. We are extremely worried because we love her so much. Can you please give me some tips because our beardie is only 3 months and we are new to reptiles. My daughter asked for one for Christmas. We used to have a chameleon but that’s the only reptile we’ve had. Please give us some tips ASAP.

      Reply
  1. I got a beardie from someone a while ago and said she hasnt had a solid stool in many months. They were slacked on feeding her maybe 2 dozen crickets once a week and greens once a week if not less….. now that I have her she eats anything in sight live and veggies but she still has partially undigested bugs in her smelly runny poops and I dunno what else to do. Any advice? Plenty of energy and seems ok but dang the pop thing is worrying me

    Reply
  2. My Bearded is lethargic and not much movement eyes closed when open, just part way He has always been active but not today Please help me find answers

    Reply
  3. Help my dragon is behaving weird. He is not moving a whole lot, his beard and tail are turning black, he keeps arching his back and shacks and opens his mouth very wide, he is limp and keeps having liquids come out his mouth and sometimes his nose, he also keeps bloating up his stomach. Im worried does anyone know whats wrong and what i do.

    Reply
    • Hi Taylor!

      Sorry to hear about the current condition of your bearded dragon.

      Assuming your lighting and cage temperatures are good (care to share what UVB bulb you’re using and what your temps are?), my initial thought is that perhaps he has a Respiratory Infection due to your mention of the liquids coming out of his nose and mouth as well as him opening his mouth wide. These are all common symptoms of a respiratory infection. I recommend you check out this article on Respiratory Infections which will give you an overview of common symptoms and treatment options.

      However, I’d still advise you to bring him into the vet for an appointment. As far as the bloating of the stomach, this could possibly be from irritation and discomfort but again, I can’t say for certain.

      I hope this information is helpful!

      Reply
  4. My 5 year old dragon has always been very active and eats without issue and loves the hunt but now his spine and hind legs are poking out, it hasn’t stopped him from doing his normal stuff- running around, basking or eating.

    Reply
    • It sounds like he might be either severely dehydrated, not eating enough, or possibly in the early stages of MBD. Make sure he gets enough water, food, calcium supplementation, and adequate UVB lighting.

      Reply
        • Angela,

          My guess is that by jaw dropping your bearded dragon is trying to cool down. Can you let me know the temps of your cage? Specifically, the temperature of their basking spot, warm side, and cool side?

          Opening their mouth/dropping their jaw could also be due to a respiratory infection, but I’d prefer to know some specs on your setup before jumping to conclusions first…

          Thanks!

          Reply
  5. I just got a beardie from my sister, it’s around 5-6 months old we believe. It was eating great when they were here (freezer dried crickets, mealworms, red bell peppers and live cruckets). We spray them with the calcium spray everytime. Recently she has stopped eating, shell eat once in a blue moon, won’t drink from her bowl only in the bath and for the past two days she’s been twitching when we reach in and also jumpy. I’m worried she could be sick but not 100% sure.

    Reply
    • Hi Samantha!

      My guess is that your bearded dragon may be getting ready to brumate, which is basically the reptile equivalent of hibernation, you can read more about it HERE. Brumation isn’t really recommended for beardies under a year old as it can stunt their growth since they do not eat much during this time. After reading the article if you suspect this to be the case, I recommend closely monitoring her weight if she does begin to brumate. A trip to the vet wouldn’t hurt either to make sure she’s not sick.

      Now, there could be other issues at play here as well. I recommend you check out this article on proper lighting setup as this is often the culprit behind lethargic beardies who lose their appetite. You’ll want to ensure she has adequate exposure to UVB and is enjoying the right cage temps (aim for a basking spot of around 100 degrees Fahrenheit with a cool side of around 85).

      Should you determine that the lighting is right and brumation isn’t at play, I highly recommend taking her into the vet for a checkup. Not to scare you or anything, but she may have a neurological issue if she is jerking/twitching. But again, I’m just purely speculating here as it is entirely likely this is NOT the issue. But, better safe than sorry.

      I hope this answer helped!

      Reply
  6. help my bearded dragon has been acting weird she has been opening her mouth and not moving much and she normally has her eyes closed when she is moving she is always head bobbing I have no idea what is wrong with her she has been like this for now 2 weeks and it is making me very worried for her safety

    Reply
    • Hi Kali,

      Sorry to hear about the current state of your bearded dragon. My only guess at this time, would be that perhaps she is suffering from on respiratory infection because the opening of the mouth can often be indicative of this exact ailment. I would love to encourage you at this time to read up on Bearded Dragon Respiratory Infections HERE.

      The article above will help you better determine if this is indeed what your beardie is suffering from, as well as guide you on what to do to help her overcome the infection. The article is a little on the long side, but I promise it’s chock full of helpful information.

      I hope you find this link helpful, please keep me updated on your girl’s condition.

      Best of luck.

      Reply
  7. I need help my bearded dragon has very wrinkled skin, jerky movement, acting lethargy, is twitchy and has a mouth that hangs open what does it mean, my bearded dragon has never been sick before and I don’t know what to do

    Reply
  8. Hi it’s me again, she has gotten worse she still has vert wrinkly skin, jerky movements acting lethargy, is twitchy, has a mouth that hangs open but now she can’t walk properly and now her mouth looks like it’s getting better and I forgot to mention that I have a male who is constantly trying to mate with her. If you have any idea what could be wrong with her please let me know

    Reply
    • Hi Holly,

      Are your male and female living in the same enclosure? If so, you need to separate them ASAP. The stress your male is causing your female can be life threatening. He could also be hogging the basking spot, food, etc. Unfortunately, beardies should never be kept together unless for very brief periods of time for breeding purposes. They are solitary and territorial creatures. I wonder if she is getting enough UVB and calcium? The mouth hanging open makes me instantly think she might have a respiratory infection.

      It would be best to get her to a vet if possible as her condition sounds serious. Until then, make sure she has her own enclosure with proper temperatures + UVB setup, and a balanced diet.

      Reply
  9. Hi! I’m kind of at a loss. I’ve had my bearded for 3 months and things were really good until about a month ago. I suspect he is about 6 months old but I’m not sure as he is a rescue. About a month ago he started blackbearding and hissing at me out of nowhere. Before he would let me and the kids hold him without a problem. His bowel movements are normal, the temps have been within the ranges listed on this site, he’s eating fine, and overall he seems healthy. I’ve been working on handling him everyday and talking with him, and though things are better (he doesn’t try and bite anymore) the past few days he has started hissing and puffing out his beard again when I come around. He is supposed to be a classroom pet, but when the aggression started, I brought him home as I didn’t want to scare the students. He start school on Monday and I want to bring him back as the kids miss him, but I’m nervous since his behavior has been kinda crazy. Any ideas on how to get him back to being kind and less scared would be appreciated.

    Reply
  10. I got two bearded dragon there are 3 month old buy them both together one stop eating and look sick wrinkled skin not eating not drinking laying around all the time and the other one healthy fat eating very playful alive

    Reply
    • Hi Maria,

      I’m very sorry to hear this. Are you housing them in the same enclosure together? If so, you should separate them immediately and set up a new enclosure.

      Bearded dragons are notoriously territorial and known for not sharing food or even the basking spot when living in an enclosure with others. On top of this, they can often times fight with one another which can lead to injuries or even death in some instances. Please see check out our lighting guide post to ensure the new habitat, as well as the current one, are set up with the right bulbs and temperatures. Also, be sure to check out this diet guide to ensure both babies are having their nutritional needs met!

      Again, I cannot stress enough how important it is to provide every bearded dragon with their own enclosure. I hope this information helps!

      Best of luck,
      Stacey

      Reply

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