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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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!
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.
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.
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.