How to Tell If Your Bearded Dragon is Sick: 10 Warning Signs You Must NOT 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 do you tell if your bearded dragon is sick or just in a funk?

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’d like to learn more about each of these signs, just keep reading or use the table of contents below for easy and quick navigation to the symptoms that match your dragon currently.

Signs Your Bearded Dragon Might Be Sick

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/Impaction 

If your bearded dragon hasn’t had a bowel movement in a couple days, you’ll definitely want to start considering what could possibly be causing them to be backed up.

Hopefully, it is not impaction as this can be a very serious and life-threatening problem if left untreated.

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 (such as loose particle substrates), feeders that are too large or contain hard shells, and inadequate tank temps.

How to tell if your bearded dragon is sick 3

If your bearded dragon hasn’t had a bowel movement in several days and/or isn’t acting like their normal self, you’ll definitely want to be proactive in trying to help them pass whatever is stuck in their digestive track.

Click HERE to learn about how you can help an impacted bearded dragon

Lack of Appetite 

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

Typical reasons your bearded dragon can stop eating can include stress, inadequate tank temperatures, and improper UVB setup, to name a few.

Click HERE to read about 4 proven strategies for getting a bearded dragon to eat

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!

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.

Bearded dragon stressed from dog

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

You’ll want to accurately read the temps as this can lead to many issues, not just a lack of appetite.

Click Here to Read About Proper Bearded Dragon Cage Temperatures 

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, which is why it is crucial you don’t test fate by just picking any ‘ole one out.

Click HERE to read about the best UVB bulbs for bearded dragons

Diarrhea

Diarrhea often signifies that your bearded dragon may be afflicted with an internal parasite.

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.

If you believe your bearded dragon has a parasite, it is important you take him or her to the vet for antibiotics.

bearded dragon diarrhea

Lethargy

If your bearded dragon is acting lethargic, meaning they’re kind of just lazing around not moving much, then it could be due to several things.

First and perhaps the least serious of issues could be due to inadequate tank temperatures.

If you can discern that your temperatures are spot-on, then it could simply be that your bearded dragon is getting ready to brumate.

Brumation is a totally normal part of a bearded dragon’s calendar and it happens as they adjust to the changing of the seasons, typically as they prepare for Fall.

How to tell if your bearded dragon is sick

Sunken Eyes

If your bearded dragon has sunken eyes it could be due to them being dehydrated.

A quick way to confirm if this is in fact the case, 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.

Try coaxing them to drink fresh water and if this doesn’t work, you can offer them some water through a dropper.

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.

Wrinkly Skin

Now, before you freak out and think that a little wrinkly skin is a bad thing, you should understand that many bearded dragons have some 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.

How to tell if your bearded dragon is sick 2

Now, if the tail is scrawny and the fat pads are indented… wrinkly skin could be a sign of your bearded dragon being 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 Reptaid to boost 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.

If you believe your bearded dragon is underweight, then you’ll need to fatten them up!

I recommend incorporating more protein into their diet (feeders, ideally Dubia roaches) and also giving them the Reptiaid mentioned above to boost their appetite.

Bearded dragon eating dubia roach

 

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 reverse this deficiency 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 obviously enough… not enough calcium (duh).

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.

Bearded dragon tail rot

First and foremost, if their tail seems to be rotting skin on the tail, it is possible your beardie could be suffering from tail rot, in which I recommend you click below to read more about this serious affliction so you can take action ASAP.

Click HERE to read more about bearded dragon tail rot

If they appear to have rotting skin that reveals inflamed and swollen wounds, it could be due to a 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!

To read more about Yellow Fungus & what you can do to fight it, click HERE

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.

bearded dragon shedding

To help their scales heal, consider 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 apply raw unpasteurized honey

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.

Conclusion

So, there you have it! These are just some of the most common symptoms and afflictions of a sick bearded dragon.

The important thing to remember is that if caught and acted on early, you’ll have the best chances at fighting off any illness, fungus, or whatever.

It’s also important to note that with bearded dragons, things can progress quickly and lead to irreversible consequences.

Because of this, if your bearded dragon doesn’t improve in their condition after a couple days, 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.

Read These Articles Yet?

Definitive Guide to Bearded Dragon Health Insurance

How To Easily Create The Best Habitat For Your Bearded Dragon

The Ultimate Bearded Dragon Care Guide

14 thoughts on “How to Tell If Your Bearded Dragon is Sick: 10 Warning Signs You Must NOT 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
  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
  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

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