DRAGONS’ DISEASES AND DISORDERS
I’m not a vet and don’t claim to be an expert. The following information is here to help you identify problems and should not be used to replace a visit to the vet for treatment options. Bearded dragons are hardy animals and if you follow the instructions in these Care Sheets, you should be able to avoid most health issues. Be sure if you acquire more than one dragon, that you house any new ones separately for at least 30 days. Then take the new pet to the vet for a fecal check before you house it with others.
Calcium and Vitamin deficiencies
Not enough calcium and vitamin D-3 will cause a slow growth rate in your dragon at a minimum. It can also cause metabolic bone disease. One of the first signs of this will be seeing your dragon’s hind legs twitch. This disease is fatal if not treated immediately. Caught early, enough extra supplements and natural sunlight can help. This condition is seen mostly in older dragons or young ones not receiving the supplements they need.
Vitamin A Toxicity
This is a common problem in dragons that are over supplemented. Many multi vitamins contain vitamin A, so watch the amounts carefully. Some veggies contain vitamin A, so check the chart and be careful about feeding with these too often. Symptoms start with the swelling of the throat and eyes, then continue with the bloating of the body and lethargy. Read and learn about supplements so you are certain your dragon is getting the right amounts. Be aware of your dragon’s behavior as this will let you know if things are not right, so that you can correct them quickly before causing irreversible harm.
Mites are not very common in captive-bred bearded dragons. Some pet stores don’t have the best sanitary conditions, so be careful if you purchase there. Mites are small bugs you’ll normally find around the eyes first, then the mouth. There are commercial products to treat them with, but I suggest checking with your vet before using any of them.
Parasites and Bacteria
Your dragon can get parasites from several sources. Unclean enclosures, dirty insect and worm tubs and un-washed greens will create ways for your dragon to get parasites. So carefully follow the cleaning instructions. Low levels of bacteria and parasites are normal in your dragon; the key is keeping the levels low and acceptable. Some of the things that increase the levels in your dragon include: change of habitat, breeding, brumation and adding another dragon to the enclosure. Anything that stresses your dragon will possibly raise the natural levels.
I suggest not using over the counter remedies without consulting your vet first. I’m one who believes in preventive measures and take fecal samples for each dragon to the vet every three months for testing. This way if levels are high I can treat them immediately, to prevent my dragons from becoming ill.
Some signs of high levels include: weight loss, lack of appetite, runny feces and feces with a fouler than normal smell. If you notice any of these signs, take your dragon to the vet for testing and treatment. Some feel the medications can be as damaging as the parasites or bacteria. I don’t treat for low levels, but I do if high levels are detected. I try my best to keep my dragons as stress free as possible to avoid having to treat them. Remedies are simple and work well. You’ll need to decide for yourself what is best for you and your dragon.
Feeding dragons food too large or feeding too many hard-shelled worms at a time can contribute to impaction. The food lodges in their digestive track and does not pass as it should. This can cause death if not corrected quickly. Signs are tight, hard-bloated stomachs and can lead to hind legs extending straight back as though in extreme pain. They’ll look paralyzed and not move. They normally will not take food often either. Watch to be sure you are seeing regular bowel movements in the enclosure. Some dragons will leave a “present” every day, others every other day. If it has been more than two days and your dragon is not brumating, then you might have a beginning problem. If your dragon changes its eating habits, or stops eating, this is also a sign. I suggest soaking the dragon in lukewarm water, this makes them relax and can help them pass large bowel movements easier. One dragon, I had to soak three times one day. My vet suggested every two hours seeing if he would have a movement without medication. The third time was the charm. Things could have been much worse if I had not been watching daily to notice he had not left feces in his home, as he had no other signs at that time. Maybe I was being overly careful, but I would prefer to be safe than sorry. If soaking does not work, contact your vet. They have medication that can help your dragon.
If you are careful about the size of your dragon’s food and watch how many worms you feed at once, this should not happen often or at all. I feel giving my dragons weekly baths helps to keep them from becoming impacted or obstructed. Remember that your dragon will bask under the lights with its hind legs stretched out behind them. This does not mean they are impacted, if your dragon can move freely then it is fine.
Bearded dragons are hardy animals and resistant to respiratory infections, however improper living conditions can cause them. Temperatures too low for long periods of time, improper humidity or poor enclosure conditions will all contribute to respiratory infections. Make sure you are checking the enclosure regularly for correct temperatures. Be sure the enclosure is well ventilated so the humidity does not climb too high. Signs of the infection include gaping mouths (don’t confuse this with your dragon gaping its mouth open as it basks to release heat), forced exhaling of air, lack of appetite, puffed up or bloated body and throat. If the infection progresses, mucus will show around the nostrils and mouth. The means you need to get your dragon to the vet immediately. Antibiotics are normally used to treat this infection successfully, however you’ll need to determine what caused the infection and correct it.
This comes from your dragon coming into direct contact with a hot lamp or heat source. Read the Lighting and Heating section for directions on how to prevent this from happening. If it happens, most likely your dragon will get blisters. If these break open, a bigger threat than the blister itself occurs. Bacteria in the open sore will cause an infection. This will make treatment harder to accomplish and can be fatal to your dragon. If your dragon gets burns, please take it to the vet as soon as you possibly can. They’ll give you the proper medications for treatment. During the time your dragon is healing, you must take extra care to keep the enclosure very clean to prevent additional bacteria from infecting the wounds.
This condition is attributed to several different things. It can be biological, a malformity which does not allow enough room for the eggs to pass though. Sometimes it can be caused by eggs that are overly large or malformed making them unable to pass though the oviduct.
Improper care of your dragon will also cause egg binding. Not having a properly prepared spot with the right temperatures contributes to egg binding. Your dragon will not lay if they’re not happy with the conditions. Malnutrition or dehydration can also cause egg binding. Gravid females will stop eating very well as their eggs grow. The eggs compress their stomachs so that the dragon does not feel hungry. Ask your vet about supplementing with liquid calcium to ensure your dragon is remaining healthy during this time. Also be sure you are misting your dragon daily and giving weekly soaks to help with hydration. If your dragon struggles and cannot lay its eggs, contact your vet.