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:
- Using the WRONG substrate in your beardie’s enclosure
- Providing feeders that are too large or contain hard shells
- Having inadequate tank temps.
✅ 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
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
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.
Your Bearded Dragon has Rotting or Discolored Skin
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.
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.