lexi: (pets: beardie love)
[personal profile] lexi posting in [community profile] beardies
This is some information on common health concerns with Bearded Dragons. Please do not hesitate to contact your vet if your Dragon becomes ill.

Brumation is like hibernation, but the Beardie's body doesn't completely shut down. Brumation is largely a result of temperature and light changes when the days get shorter and nights get longer. In captivity, you may keep your Beardie's enclosure fairly consistent as far as temperatures and lights go, and his activity levels may stay the same. However, your Beardie's internal clock might just tell him it's time to brumate, regardless of what you do.

Generally, brumation occurs in the fall or winter. Your Beardie will likely become less active and eat less, or stop eating all together. If your beardie decides to brumate, he may sleep for weeks or months at a time or he may just be lethargic for a while. Also, a brumating dragon may dig under his substrate, hide under something, or just lay around his tank. I continue to provide veggies and occasional mealworms, crickets, or silkworms just in case they want to snack. That's another reason to provide a basking spot, so need to be able to digest food if they decide to eat. Even without eating, a healthy Beardie shouldn't lose much weight while brumating, unless ill or infected with parasites.

There are many theories on what to do when and if your Beardie decides to brumate. Some owners think that forcing brumation by lowering temperatures and light to simulate winter is the way to go while others try to hinder it. Personally, I feel it is best to let your bearded dragon do whatever comes naturally.

If you think your Beardie is about to brumate or is brumating, make sure he is healthy. Have a vet perform a fecal exam to check for parasites. If the dragon is healthy, he will likely brumate for extended periods without any problems. Continue to offer food and water, but don't force it. Continue to offer a basking site in case he wants to bask. If your Beardie decides to eat something he will need the heat for digestion. Monitor your Beardie's weight and check for dehydration during brumation. If you lightly pinch the skin on the back of your Beardie and it goes right back down, your beardie is probably not dehydrated. On the other hand, if the pinched skin stays in place for a few moments and slowly goes back into place, your beardie needs water. Surprisingly, most dragons won't lose much weight or become dehydrated even after brumating for a few months. If you are concerned about dehydration, give your dragon a warm soak once a week.

Above all, use common sense. If your dragon begins to lose a noticeable amount of weight, develops smelly/runny stools, or has dark circles under his eyes, consult a vet immediately, as these are often signs of dehydration, parasites, and illness.

Constipation & Diarrhea


Feeding and heating your Beardie properly and enabling it to engage in a regular daily activity routine will result in an eating-and-pooping machine, with feces deposited regularly.

A Beardie who stops pooping for several days while continuing to eat daily, could have a problem. The longer it goes without defecating, the more serious the situation. As wastes back up in the system, the chances of organ failure and death increase. First, check the enclosure temperatures. Constipation occurring during the winter is generally caused by the ambient enclosure temperatures dropping unnoticed by the owner as the overall temperatures in the home fall in response to colder winter weather. Adjusting the heating sources to provide the proper basking temperatures is generally all that is required to restore regularity.

Bathing and massaging may be required. Bathe the constipated Dragon in warm (about 95-99º F) water for 10-15 minutes and gently massage the belly for several minutes or so while it is still in the water. Be careful not to push too hard. Let the Beardie stay in the warm water (rewarming as necessary to maintain the proper water temp.) for at least another 5-10 minutes. The Beardie should defecate within 24 hours if the blockage is due to being too cool, having a very small piece of ingested substrate, or a very mild case of internal parasites. If the blockage is due to heavy parasite infestation or a larger blockage, then the bathing and increased heat will have little to no effect and the Beardie must be seen by a vet. I do not recommend the use of laxatives, especially without a veterinarian's supervision. Severe MDB and paralysis may also lead to constipation. Again, a vet visit will be required to determine the cause and treatment.


Parasite infections, including worms and protozoans, may cause loosening of the fecal mass to the point where it no longer holds its shape (see photo below). The urates (white part) may be tinged reddish or rusty in the case of some protozoan infections. The feces of such Beardies often smell rank. When infected with Giardia, they may smell quite strongly and very unpleasant. Stress, a change in diet, or eating a food item that does not agree with the Beardies digestive system may also cause temporary diarrhea.

Parasites should never be treated with over-the-counter medications found in pet stores. A fecal test is required to determine what organism is causing the problem. A vet may be needed to prescribe the proper medication. Always do a second fecal test after the meds are over to make sure the parasites have been irradicated. A second round of meds might be needed.

When collecting a fecal sample, make sure that it is not more than a few hours old. To collect a sample, simply turn a small Ziploc baggie inside out and place it over your hand like a glove. Scoop up the poop and turn the baggie right side out. Seal it up and take it to the vet right away. It's also a good idea to write your Beardie's name, age, your name, and phone number on the baggie.

A good poo will hold it's shape. The fecal mass is usually brown or green in color. Beardies that are on diets that are mostly greens and pellets tend to have a greener poo. The white part (urates) should be fairly white. Or it could be slightly discolored if your beardie is on meds.


Beardies need water just like we do. Proper hydration is very important in the health of a beardie and is even more important to a sick beardie. When a beardie becomes ill they are often too weak to drink fluids on their own, and if they are not drinking or eating they become even more lethargic and weak. Severe dehydration may lead to shock and even death.

A beardie that is dehydrated will often perk up after given fluids. If the beardie does perk up some, you will often have a better chance of curing the health problem. Of course, if a beardie acts ill, it's often very ill and should be taken to a reptile vet immediately. Also, most medications can be damaging to the kidneys and should be given with plenty of water. Ask your vet to make sure that the fluids will not interfere with the medicine.

Symptoms of dehydration are sunken eyes, wrinkled skin, lack of appetite, and lethargy. A good way of checking to see if your beardie is dehydrated is to gently pinch the skin on the side of their back between your fingers. If the skin rolls back into place almost immediately then the beardie is likely well hydrated. In a dehydrated beardie the skin may stay in a pinched, or tented position. Depending upon the cause of the beardie's illness, fluid should be offered by mouth, or by subcutaneous injection. Ask your vet for details. Remember, dehydration is nothing to mess around with. It can quickly cause an already ill beardie to become much sicker.

Warning: Force feeding a severely dehydrated beardie may result in shock and possibly death. The digestive tract requires fluids to process foods, if there are not enough fluids available they will be taken from other critical systems. When dehydrated, having a loss of appetite may be one way the beardie's body tries to protect itself. However, when the beardie has been properly rehydrated, it may still fail to eat on its own. Force feeding may be necessary, but only after rehydrated. The bottom line is that a beardie must be rehydrated before started on solid foods.

The best fluid to give in my opinion is Pedialyte. If you don't have Pedialyte on hand, don't wait to get some, offer water right away. And bottled water would be best because of all the added chemicals that they treat our tap water with. If you have to, sports drinks like Gatoraid will work, but must be diluted 1:1 with water. Pedialyte is the better choice as it is metabolized quicker and contains less sugar.

Before forcing your beardie to drink, try to coax him to drink from a needleless syringe or eye dropper. I discovered that my beardies will eagerly drink a mixture of 25% all natural juice with no additives, sugar, or preservatives (apple, grape, cranberry, etc) with 75% water. See this page for more info on dehydration.

( How to perform a fecal test at home )

Eye Problems

Known Eye Conditions

Droopy Eyes (Bloodhound Eyes):
This could be a sign of acute or chronic kidney failure. In any case, the beardie would need to be seen by a reptile vet as soon as this is noticed, whether on one side or both.

Hypovitaminosis A:
This disorder has become associated with swollen eyes and all too often some vets assume that swollen eyes mean that the beardie has a vitamin A deficiency. The beardie is given vitamin A without the vet doing anything to investigate the cause of the swelling. Since the health problems associated with hypervitaminosis A (overdose of vitamin A) are as bad in their own way as too little vitamin A, the poor beardie's pain and health problems are just made worse.

Early on, there is some swelling of the eyelid, some mild swelling around the iris, and some tearing of the eye in cases of hypovitaminosis A. In addition, there are changes in the orbital glands. As the condition progresses untreated, the swellings become more pronounced and the conjunctiva becomes visible, swollen and reddened. Reptiles that depend on sight to feed can no longer see well enough to feed, and slowly starvation sets in, further weakening the animal.

Along with the necessary correction of the diet and environment, and the administration of vitamin A, the cellular changes in the cells of the eye cause the already stressed beardie into infection. So, the application of a suitable topical antibiotic ointment is recommended. During recovery, artificial tears may also be useful. (Ciprofloxacin and similar opthalmic drops have been recommended over gentamicin drops because of a reported epitheliotoxic (kills epithelial cells) effect of the latter.)

The problems caused by parasites rarely cause any swelling or tearing. Mites find the area around the eye to be quite hospitable. The overall problems caused by mites lead to shedding problems.

Puffed-Out Eyes - Pre-Shed:
This is common in bearded dragons and considered normal for healthy beardies.. As the skin on the eyelids is undergoing the changes associated with getting ready to shed, the beardie will puff out the eyelids when its eyes are closed. These distensions look frightening to the unknowing beardie owner, but they apparently help loosen the old layer of skin, getting it ready to shed.

Later, once the old skin is ready to break and start coming off, beardies will often rub their closed eyes against something in their enclosure or area. This might be to soothe an itch associated with the coming shed, or might be done to help gently break the skin so that the final step in the shedding process. Mist your beardie during pre-shed and shed times to help keep the skin moist and easy to shed.

Swollen/Distended Eyeball:
Swelling of one eye or both may be associated with an infection inside the eye itself, or behind the eye in or behind the socket. If left untreated, it can lead to retinal detachment, blindness or enucleation (removal of the eyeball). This might be due to an increase in intraocular pressure, which is often a sign of infection, injury, or some other health problem. Since the cause cannot be determined by the herp keeper, and appropriate treatments cannot be purchased over-the-counter, the beardie needs to be seen by a reptile vet as soon as possible.

Infections Causing Ocular Changes:
There are a variety of organisms that can cause changes in the eye and surrounding structures (lids, glands, ducts). They include:

Viral infections

Pox virus (generally identified by the appearance of small, white papules on the skin; may be seen earlier in the palpebral integument)

Herpesvirus (generally in conjunction with proliferative and ulcerative skin lesions)

Bacterial infections (Aeromonas, Pseudomonas, Pasturella, Salmonella)

Other Diseases of the Eye:
Other conditions which are not diagnosable or treatable by the herp owner are:

Corneal lesions (caused by accidental injury to the eye, such as rubbing against a rough branch, improperly concealed nail or screw in the enclosure, or scratched by a claw or tooth)

Corneal deposits (lipids, often secondary to an underlying eye or general health problem)

Uveitis (may be related to bacterial infection)

Hypopyon (may be related to bacterial infection)


Primary source of information: Melissa Kaplan's website (www.anapsid.org)

Hypervitaminosis (too much Vitamin A)

Caution should be used when giving multi-vitamin supplements because Beardies are very susceptible to vitamin A toxicity. Signs of Vitamin A overdose are: swelling of the throat, bloating of the body, and lethargy. I give my Beardies a small dose of multi-vitamins once a week. This is enough to ensure that they are getting all the vitamins they need, but not enough to cause problems. Watch out for multi-vitamin supplements that are very high in Vitamin A. The proper ratio of vitamin A to vitamin D to vitamin E should be 100:10:1. One popular "reptile vitamin" has an A to D ratio of over 600:1 instead of 100:10! So be careful when picking out your Beardie's vitamins.

Hypothiaminosis (lack of Vitamin B1)

When freezing green vegetables, especially the leafy greens, the thiamine (vitamin B1) will leach out. When pre-frozen greens are fed over a long period of time and no provision is made for adding the thiamine back into the diet, a deficiency, hypothiaminosis, will occur. This causes tremors and twitches. Unfortunately, MBD also causes twitching and tremors of the toes and muscles of the legs. Many vets are not aware of that a thiamine loss is linked to green vegetables and will assume that the Beardie is suffering from a calcium deficiency. The only problem is that no amount of additional calcium is going to make twitches and tremors related to hypothiaminosis go away...only adding thiamine to the diet will. The best way to replace the lost B1 is by buying a vitamin B1 supplement, which is available in most health food stores, drug stores, and vitamin stores.

I have read that some people add brewer's yeast to replace thiamine. However, a thiamine supplement is healthier than the formerly recommended brewer's yeast for your Beardie, as the yeast is very high in phosphorous (1:21 calcium to phosphorus ratio). If you buy B1 in tablet form, you can use a pill crusher to crush it and store the left-over powder as you only need a small pinch of the vitamin for a serving of salad. If you buy the B1 in a powder-filled capsule, you can dump some capsules out into a small container and take your pinches from there. Follow the directions on the bottle of B1 to make sure you store it properly to maximize its shelf-life.

Metabolic Bone Disease
In general, metabolic bone disease is the weakening of the bone caused by an imbalance in vitamin D3, calcium, and phosphorus. Several foods, which have a high calcium content, such as spinach, carrots, collards, chards and other thick leafy greens, also contain oxalates, which bind to calcium. When foods high in oxalates are eaten by a beardie, the oxalates attack the calcium and make it useless in their body.

Vitamin D3, calcium, and phosphorus interact together to perform a number of functions besides bone growth and maintenance, including muscle contractions and blood coagulation. Too much phosphorus can throw this balance off, as can too much or too little vitamin D3 or too little access to UVB light. As the dangers of calcium deficiency become more widely known, there is also the risk of too much calcium (hypercalcemia), which is rare.

Signs of metabolic bone disease include hard knobs in the long bones of the legs, bumps along the vertebral column of the back and tail, and softening or hard swelling of the lower jaw. Regular physical exams are important as these bumps may be felt before they can usually be seen. Visible signs of moderate to severe MBD include jerky movements when walking, repeated tremors, twitches, or spasms in the limbs and muscles of the legs and toes when at rest or after exercise, and shakiness when being held. More advanced cases of MBD include all the above signs plus constipation, anorexia, and fractured bones. Severely deficient Beardies tend to be lethargic and may only be able to drag themselves along the ground.

There are several treatment options available for Beardies suffering from MBD. Moderate to severe cases of MBD require the proper diet, temperatures, and UVB as well as a more powerful calcium supplement than those found in pet stores. Oral administration of calcium glubionate (NeoCalglucon®, 1cc/kg) or injections of calcium lactate (Calphosan, 250 mg/kg) or calcium gluconate (100 mg/kg) are generally prescribed by veterinarians. Studies have shown a faster recovery with calcitonin (Calcimar, Miacalcin, 50 IU/kg in the front leg, repeated once a week for two weeks) when it is administered to Beardies who have a normal serum calcium level. A blood test by your vet will determine your Beardies serum calcium level. The use of calcitonin before normal levels have been established, may cause hypocalcemic tetany and death. In mild cases of MBD, where the signs are felt or just barely visible, can be treated by correcting the diet and environment.

The proper amount of UVB light is important and necessary in treating and preventing MBD. Vets have prescribed the use of self-balasted mercury vapor UVB/heat bulbs as part of the treatment for MBD. These bulbs have a UVB element and a heat element, all rolled into one. I have these bulbs in all of my Beardie enclosures and am astonished with the results. After a few weeks of installing the new bulbs, I noticed a major color enhancement in all of my beardies!

Along with proper day and night temperature gradients and a nighttime dark period, proper diet is essential to recovery. During recovery, your beardie should be fed calcium-rich, nutrient dense foods such as squashes, green beans, mustard greens, dandelions, escarole, and papaya. The food should be supplemented with additional calcium and a multi-vitamin formulated for reptiles.


Mites, like ticks, are eight-legged bloodsucking organisms. They carry and transmit diseases from one reptile to another. Mites can usually be found roaming the body, tucked under the edges of scales and congregating around the eyes, ears, and any place on the body where the scales are thinner. If you can see them from about three feet away, or your hand comes away with several mites on it, then you have a severe infestation. Beardies who are moderately to severely debilitated may require fluids and nutrient supplementation to help restore fluid balance and provide energy for rapid recovery.

Mites are difficult to kill because the chemicals that we use to kill mites will also kill the Dragon. Mites can be drowned, but if you are not careful, the mites can just scurry up the Beardie's body and emerge from the water, hanging out around the eyes and nose. Favorite hiding places of mites include the neck folds, head, armpits and ears. Some Beardies will let you fully submerge them in water and some may have to have water poured heavily or sprayed over their heads and necks to flush away the mites.

In my opinion, the mite treatment products available at pet stores are ineffective. There is no easy way to get rid of mites. It requires a two-phase attack: you must aggressively treat the environment as well as the reptile. Another problem with eradication attempts is that many people think that simply cleaning and disinfecting the environment will eradicate the mites. It won't. It will get rid of the loose feces and may wash away many of the exposed mites. It will disinfect the bacteria left behind where the mites were squashed or defecated. It will likely not kill the nonfeeding morphs, larvae, and laying females hidden away in deep crevices.

To treat an infected Dragon, first place him in a warm, shoulder-deep bath of diluted Betadine (povidone-iodine): add enough Betadine to water to make it the color of medium tea. Pour the bath water over the lizard, being careful around the eyes. The water will flush most of the mites off and drown them while the Betadine, a topical antiseptic, helps treat all the mites' bites. You may wish to bathe the lizard in a plain water bath first to allow it to drink first, adding the Betadine after it has done so. If the Beardie defecates in the water, drain the tub, clean it, and draw a fresh Betadine bath.

While the enclosure is being fumigated, remove the soaking Beardie from the tub or holding area. Saturate a clean soft cloth in diluted Betadine and run it around the joints between their legs and body, through the folds of skin around the neck, jowls, and dewlap. Use a cotton-tipped swab to apply the diluted Betadine around the eyes and nose. Do not put the medication into the Beardie's eyes.

Let the Beardoe soak again in a fresh, warm water, or rinse it off and keep it in a warm place until the tank is done. If the reptile is badly chewed up by the mites, more Betadine should be added to the water and these medicated baths should be repeated at least every couple of days while the bites heal. Watch the Beardie and check the tank carefully for the next two months. If there is any reappearance of the mites or traces of mites (such as their ashy feces), repeat the above procedure. If you don't see a reappearance, you may wish to repeat the procedure in 6 weeks just to make sure that you have caught all the eggs, especially in a wooden tank.

To clean the tank: remove and dispose of all the substrate in the beardies enclosure (bag it in a plastic garbage bag and get it out of your house). Vacuum the inside of the enclosure thoroughly, especially in the angles of the walls. If the tank is made of wood or ungrouted melamine, lightly scrape the inside angles with the edge of a blunt knife, then vacuum again. You are trying to get up all the loose eggs, mites and mite feces (the white dust in the bottom of the tank).
If you have a glass or Plexiglas tank, wipe all surfaces down with hot soapy water. Wooden enclosures may be sprayed with soapy water. Remove all soap residue. For good measure, take the time to thoroughly disinfect glass tanks by swabbing them down with a bleach-water solution (1/2 cup bleach per gallon of water), let the solution sit for ten minutes, then thoroughly rinse out the bleach residue. Disinfecting does not kill the mites, it's purpose is to kill potentially harmful organisms that may be spread around by the mites.

If you have wooden cage furnishings such as branches, caves, or rocks, bake them in the oven, set at 200-250º F for 2-3 hours (depending on thickness, and longer at the lower temperature); check on them during this time to make sure they do not start to scorch or burn. Rocks may be boiled, completely submerged, for 20-30 minutes. If the wood or rock furnishings are too big to place in the oven or in a pot, soak them in a bucket or bath tub in a solution of bleach and water (use one half cup bleach for each gallon of water) for eight hours or so, to thoroughly saturate into crevices. Rinse thoroughly, spraying fresh water into all the crevices, until they are well saturated and flushed free of any bleach residue. Let dry thoroughly, preferably in the sun, for at least 24 hours. Wash all bowls with the bleach-water solution, rinse well and let air dry. If you have heating pads inside the tank, unplug and remove them. Clean with soapy water, rinse off the soap, then spray them down with the bleach-water. Let them sit for at least ten minutes, then rinse clean and set aside.
Disconnect all light fixtures and wipe them down with a damp cloth to remove any adventuresome mites and their feces.
Take a "No-Pest" strip (Vapona strip) or cat flea collar out of the package and place onto a piece of foil on the floor of the enclosure. Leave a bit still inside the packaging so that you can slide it back in when done. If the enclosure is a large one, you may need to set out several such strips or collars. If using a flea collar, stretch it out. You may need to cut them into pieces to prevent it from curling up again when you let go of the ends. Close the tank and seal it up as air-tight as possible to keep the toxic pesticide fumes inside the tank where they are needed. Cover large, screened areas and ventilation panels or holes with waste paper or plastic, taping it in place. Tape over the seams and any gaps between the doors and tank. Leave in place for three hours, longer for large enclosures. Vacuum all around the enclosure and wipe down any cabinets, etc. If there are any curtains on windows near the tank, check them carefully for mites, too. Either vacuum or, if heavily infested, take them down and place immediately into large plastic garbage bags, seal the bags, and take to the cleaners. When done vacuuming, immediately dispose of the vacuum's bag in the garbage outside your house. When the time is up, unseal the tank, dispose of all the paper, tape, and strips or collars into a plastic bag for immediate disposal into the trash. Leave the tank open and air it out for several hours. If possible, open a window in the room and turn on a fan to help air out the fumes. The fumes may be undetectable to you but not to your Beardie, so you want them flushed out of the environment.

Put new substrate and any new furnishings into the enclosure. Simple substrates, such as paper towels, are best used for the next couple of weeks. This will enable you to easily see if additional mites have hatched or migrated into the tank from the surrounding area. Drapes and upholstered furnishings near heavily infested reptile tanks should be checked and, if necessary, removed for thorough cleaning. Replace the water bowl, hide box, into the tank. Reinstall and turn on the heating and lighting, warm the tank back up, and place the beardie back inside.

Mouth Rot (stomatitis)

Mouth rot is a systemic infection that often shows up as a whitish, or yellow-gray cheesy substance in the soft tissues of the mouth. In advanced cases, the head may be quite swollen, and teeth may be loose. You need to take your dragon to a vet for a proper diagnosis and antibiotic treatment if you suspect he has mouth rot.

Treatment usually consists of treating the mouth with diluted solutions of Betadine and Nolvasan. The plaques that form along the teeth and gums must be dislodged - preferrably by a vet. It is important that the plaques not be injested by the Beardie. After the debris is cleaned out of the mouth, antibiotic treatment can begin. During the course of the antibiotic therapy, the mouth should be checked daily to watch for any regrowth of plaques. It is not unusual for this process to be repeated two or more times during recovery. Particularly severe cases may require more than a single treatment.

If there is any bleeding upon the removal of the first plaque, the Beardie may be started on a 10 day course of antibiotics.

Beardies can carry a variety of negative bacteria. The bacteria may not be the underlying cause of the stomatitis, their existence may slow the recovery. The presence of negative bacteria may require that two antibiotics be administered simultaneously. Most veterinarians use a broad-spectrum antibiotic, but these may not be effective. The standard culture sampling techniques of swabbing or washes may a yield a confusing mixture of natural and opportunistic buccal and environmental flora. A better method for obtaining a sample for culturing in resistant stomatitis cases is to make an incision into the infected gum and take a small sample of the infected tissue.

Reptiles suffering from stomatitis often cease or greatly reduce voluntary intake of food and water. Supportive therapy should include replacement of fluids and administration of vitamin B-complex and vitamin C . Vitamin A may also be supplemented with care given to administer only very small doses due to potential toxicity. If the patient is going to be tube-fed, vitamin A should be given orally, mixed in with the food.

If the Beardie has not eaten in some time, solid food should not be given. Force feeding whole prey is stressful under the best of conditions, additional stress should be minimized as much as possible. Instead, offer a nutritional slurry orally. Baby food makes a great base for a slurry. Add in calcium and vitamins as needed.

Beardies should be kept near the upper end of their required temperature gradient to ensure maximum benefit from the antibiotics and to boost their immune system function. Reptiles who would otherwise have temperatures dropped at night should be kept near their normal daytime temps. (Remember, never use bright light to heat an enclosure at night time.) Water should be supplied either by dripping droplets onto the Beardie's nose to lap up or by misting or bathing.

Paralysis (food size related)

Unfortunately, young dragons can swallow food items that are too large, and they can die. The large food items put pressure on the spinal cord as they pass through the digestive system. If the pressure lasts too long, permanent damage can occur. That's why you should be very careful of what you feed your Dragon, and if your Beardie accidentally ingests a large food item, you need to get him to a position where the stomach is hanging down and not pressing on the spine. I have heard that shaping a washcloth into a donut shape and sitting the dragon on it so his stomach is hanging in the hole is a good thing to do while you are contacting your vet. Also, warm baths and giving small amounts of mineral oil orally can help dislodge the item. If your Beardie extends his hind limbs straight back as though paralyzed or in excruciating pain, he could be paralyzed. (Note: Beardies often extend their hind legs while basking. Don't confuse this posture with paralysis. Just tickle his toes to see if he moves.) If you believe that your Beardie is paralyzed, get to the vet right away. The condition can be reversed if action is taken in time and if the impaction is removed.

Parasites & Feces

Parasites are like weeds ... while a weed is just a plant you don't want where it is, a parasite is just an organism that, for the most part, you don't want too many of them where they are. Our bodies, and those of our beardie's, are teeming with microscopic organisms. The digestive tract hosts an enormous range of organisms. Fortunately, most of them happily live out their lives without affecting us. It's those that do affect our beardies that we are most concerned about.

A healthy beardie has a number of these organisms, all kept in check by a healthy immune system and beneficial gut flora (the good bacteria). When a beardie is highly stressed, or under prolonged moderate to severe stress, the immune system falters. In cases of improper environmental temperatures, starvation, or prolonged dehydration, the beneficial gut flora die off. This allows the more opportunistic of the organisms (the bad guys) to reproduce and start to become problems.

Since the vast majority of reptile parasites and protozoans are too small to see without a microscope, you cannot tell if your beardie has a problem (other than changes that may occur in the color, consistency, and odor of the feces). The only way to know is to properly collect a specimen of fresh feces and have it examined by a reptile vet. Reptile vets are the most familiar with the varieties of reptile-related organisms, and have a better feel for what is considered the normal level of parasites vs. requiring immediate treatment. Or you can do like I have ... get a microscope, some supplies, and start doing your own fecal testing. See the link above for more info on doing your own fecal tests.

Signs of Parasite and Protozoan Problems:
The most common signs are:

* Change in color and/or consistency of feces, not related to diet, breeding season, or shedding. (Pelleted diets that have artificial coloring can change the color of your beardies feces.)
* Rusty or orange tinge to the urates, not related to diet, breeding season, or shedding.
* Appearance of poorly digested food in the feces, not related to environmental heat problems.
* Near-normal appearing feces with a very strong, unpleasant odor. (Some people find the odor of healthy bearded dragon feces to be slightly unpleasant. But the odor associated with a Giardia infection is nothing like the smell of healthy feces. It could be so bad that you'll want to turn and run out of the room!)

Since stress can cause problems in the normal gut flora, it makes sense to have your beardie checked out after they have had a couple of weeks or a month to recover from a major stress event (all newly acquired hatchling and juvenile beardies should be fecal tested within the first month of acquisition). Events such as moving from one home to another, even if the move doesn't involve a change in the humans they belong to, it's always a good idea, as moving is highly stressful to them. Significant changes in the household can also cause enough stress to result in gut flora imbalance.

Collecting Samples for Testing:
Whenever possible, fecal samples should be obtained as fresh as possible. Refrigeration might be necessary if you have to wait overnight to get your sample to the vet. Make sure that the sample is in an airtight plastic bag. Lack of oxygen and refrigeration will prevent the rapid development of eggs into larvae. Keep in mind that some parasites such as protozoans and coccidia oocysts will perish if exposed to drying or extreme temperatures.

Isospora and Eimeria are common types of coccidia that are found in bearded dragons. These parasites are so common that a very small amount of these parasites are considered normal, and generally don't cause any harm to beardies. In times of stress or illness a beardie can quickly become overrun with high levels of coccidia. These heavy loads can cause stomach pain, diarrhea, malnutrition, and dehydration.

During treatment with sulfa type drugs (Albon), you should make sure to keep your beardie hydrated. Also during treatment, you should minimize the cage furnishings to an absolute bare minimum. Remove any wooden or porus objects and throw them away. The best way is to keep 2 enclosures and clean one while the other is in use. This will allow for the enclosure to properly air dry, which will keep potentially damaging or deadly odors to a minimum. Soak all cage furnishings with an ammonia solution for 30 minutes. Rinse well. Steam cleaners work great as they don't use any chemicals and the steam (over 165 degrees F) kills coccidia oocysts. You'd be surprised to hear that most disinfectants will not kill coccidia oocysts. The best methods for killing coccidia oocysts are: bleach water solution, steam cleaning (temp above 165 degrees F), and a 10% ammonia solution. Also, boiling or baking cage furniture will kill oocysts. They can not withstand high temps or drying.

Please note that I have removed Nolvasan from the above paragraph as an effective disinfectant. I have been informed that Nolvasan will not kill coccidia oocysts. This info came directly from the manufacturer.

Coccidia Lifecycle:
A beardie becomes infected with coccidia when it ingests oocysts that have been passed in the feces of another host. The oocysts find their way to the small intestine where the sporozoites are released from the oocyst. The sporozoites penetrate the cells of the small intestine and reproduce asexually. Each sporozoite is capable of making between 1 and 7 asexual generations. At this stage of the infection, massive numbers of cells are being destroyed in the small intestine.

Oocysts develop and escape from the cells and are passed in the feces. This starts the cycle all over again. Typically, when an oocyst is passed in the feces it is not infectious yet because it does not contain the infection causing sporozoites. In 2 or 3 days, after being deposited with the feces, the oocysts develop sporozoites and become infectious. The lifecycle of coccidia is only 14 days. But infectious oocysts can live and survive in your beardies environment for months, even years! Proper cage hygiene is very important!

Note: Flies can carry oocysts from one place to another and spread the parasite to other areas of your house, even to other beardies. Watch out for those pesky flies!

Primary source of information: Melissa Kaplan's website (www.anapsid.org) and "Understand Reptile Parasites" by Roger Klingenberg D.V.M.

Respiratory Infections

Beardies are very resistant to respiratory infections. However, prolonged exposure to low temperatures, improper humidity, and poor cage conditions could result in respiratory problems. Treatment for this type of infection usually involves administering antibiotics and raising the ambient temperature of the environment. Symptoms include gaping, forced exhalation of air, puffing of the throat, a puffed up appearance of the body, and lack of appetite. In some cases, the mucus may accumulate in the mouth and/or emerge from the nostrils. If these symptoms are present the illness is usually well progressed and an immediate visit to the vet is necessary for treatment. Respiratory infections are nothing to something to take lightly. I have seen many reptiles die as a result of RI's and all of them could've been saved if their owner would've taken them to the vet sooner. At the first sign of trouble - take your beardie to the vet.


Indications of an upcoming shed:
Prior to a shed, you will notice that the beardie starts to change color. The overall color will get dimmer and duller. At some point your beardie will shed the area around the eyes. You may walk in to find your beardie has suddenly turned into some wild, bug-eyed monster. Lying quietly, its closed eyes are puffed out 2-3 times their normal size. This is quite natural - they are puffing them up with air as a way to loosen the old skin. In a few days you will notice them rubbing their closed eyes against any handy surface as they begin to loosen and rub the skin off.

If you do not regularly bathe or spray your beardie with water, you may wish to do so during pre-shed and shed periods. In the wild, the natural humidity in the air and the free access to water helps the oily fluid build-up between the skin layers and keeps the old skin soft and supple as it peels off. In our much drier captive environments, the loosened pieces may dry out too quickly, resulting in a much slower shed. Spraying with plain tap water is all you need to do; the expensive vitamin and moisturizing sprays are not necessary and not any better than plain water in a spray bottle.

Generally speaking, don't pull the skin off if it isn't ready to come off. Beardies will rub themselves against things to help loosen and rid themselves of skin. Mostly, they just sort of look like they are wearing raggedy clothes, with strips and patches of skin hanging loose and flapping around. If the skin is ready to come off, you can help it do so by gently pulling at it. If the skin is not ready to come off, there will be resistance, and the skin you remove will be damp. Pulling of skin that is not ready to come off can damage the new scales that are still developing.

Sometimes the toes and tip of the tail need help to shed completely. Gently working at them over the course of several days, loosening the skin and spraying them with water will help. If shed is left on, it can constrict the toes and nails, killing the tissue by strangling the nerve and blood supply that feeds it.

Sometimes the skin in and around the nostrils may not come off. After the next bath, work at this area gently to remove any such retained shed. It looks horribly uncomfortable when a beardie has a piece of unshed skin protruding out of its nose.

Pre-Shed Behavioral Changes:
Going into shed is apparently not a real fun thing for beardies. Most get rather cranky during this time, with some becoming hissy or snappy, objecting to being held or touched. The best thing to do is to respect their ill-feeling as much as possible. Some beardies will greatly reduce their food intake during a shed, others stop eating altogether until after they have shed. Offer a nice warm bath to help keep the skin moist and offer fluids for beardies that are off food.

Problem Sheds:
A problem shed is a shed that isn't happening like a normal, healthy shed should. Adult beardies normally shed in pieces, a problem shed would be where it is taking too long, or where skin is retained in problem areas, such as around toes, spikes, and tails. A problem shed is a sign of an even greater, underlying problem. When a problem shed occurs, or one that is too slow to start or finish, you need to figure out why it is happening and correct the problem.

First, analyze the environment, diet, etc. Are their any signs of Pain & Discomfort?

Correct the problem (adjust heat, lighting, photoperiods, diet, etc.).

If the beardie has started, but not properly completed a shed, you can help it along. Soak them in a tub of warm water (95-99 degrees F) for 10-15 minutes, then begin gently rubbing their skin. Make sure the skin is removed from their toes, spikes, and tails.

If there is still retained shed in these problem areas, wrap the wet beardie in a warm damp towel, then wrap that in a dry towel. Sit down with it for 5 minutes or so, then expose a small area of the crest, or a foot, and begin to gently work at the retained skin.

If there are several layers or one very resistant layer, rub some mineral oil into the area while the beardie is still wet from the bath. This will help lock the moisture from the bath into that area. Do this for a couple of days (bath followed by the mineral oil worked into the skin); this should get enough water wicked up between the layers of skin to make them very easy to remove.

Shed Aid Products:
Honestly, they are pretty useless. Well, that is not exactly all true. The primary ingredient, by volume, is water. Water is very useful to humidify and loosen resistant skin and help it shed off appropriately. The water from your sink, tub or garden tap works just as well as the very expensive water and minuscule amount of vitamins, emollients and other nonessential and unhelpful ingredients in the shed aid products. Buying them may make you feel better, but if the shed problem is due to illness or improper environment, the products may be dangerous in that they lull you into thinking you are doing what needs to be done.

If your beardie is having a problem shedding, troubleshoot the environment and the animal's overall health status. Fix the physical and social environment and get the reptile healthy, and problem sheds are simply not an issue.

Where'd it go?
"But wait!" you say. "Where is all that shed?" Some beardies will occasionally eat some of their shed. This is not a problem as long as the beardie is maintained in a clean environment.

Signs of Pain and Discomfort

Since your Beardie can't groan or complain about where it hurts, we must use our observation skills to determine when something is not right. There are times when a healthy Beardie will act differently, but these changes should be seen for what they are by the experienced herper:

Natural changes associated with breeding season:
· Color
· Activity level and daily routines
· Appetite
· Feces and urates
· Behavioral changes

Natural changes associated with skin shedding:
· Color
· Activity level and daily routines
· Appetite

If it is not breeding season or the beginning of a new shed period, the following signs may indicate pain from an injury, abscess, tumor, abdominal mass, or other problem:

· Lethargy
· Lack of usual activity
· Reluctance to move
· Favoring a limb, tail or quadrant
· Limping, lameness
· Slowed reflexes (in the absence of being too cold)

· Unusual aggression to all contact
· Withdrawal or avoidance behavior, especially in a usually sociable or gregarious individual

· Hunching (abdomen tucked up)
· Won't lay down, even in favored places
· Stands holding foot or limb elevated

· Restless
· Depressed
· Anorexic

Skin Problems

Skin Problems and Facts:
Reptiles do not have hair follicles. Not having hair follicles means they don't get complications that hair follicles get - like acne (pimples). Lumps and bumps, although they may be filled with pus, are not to be treated like an occasional pimple, but like the potentially dangerous bacterial or parasitic infection that they really are. Remember, reptile skin heals much more slowly than our skin, often taking about 6 weeks for the defect to be fully restored.

Abscess are the most common dermatologic problem seen in reptiles; a variety of gram-negative bacteria are involved in these infections. Reptiles do not have the enzymes required to break down these masses, so the mass must be surgically removed (including the use of sterile instruments in a sterile field) and appropriate antibiotics administered. Carbuncles, another condition, is one of multiple abscesses connected by sinuses which may invade deeper into the underlying tissues.

An abrasion is the traumatic removal of the epidermis, such as when a beardie tries to escape through an opening that is too small in his enclosure. Abrasions from repeated trauma, such as rubbing or snout-banging may become infected, turning into abscesses.

Crusts are dried intracellular fluid, blood and other matter that forms on top of a laceration or abrasion. Before these areas dry and become crusty, they will be seen and felt as a thin, wet, clear or yellowish fluid.

Cysts are large, fluid filled structures that are most commonly associated with subcutaneous parasites, such as tapeworm. Other causes include the traumatic separation of the epidermis from the dermis, burns, or other severe trauma.

Discoloration, when not associated with stress, breeding season, bruise or shedding, could be a sign of a bacterial or fungal infection, one that may be affecting just the skin, or may be systemic in nature. Both require immediate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

There are various kinds of parasites, besides ticks and mites, that live part of their life cycle inside the host, and then migrate outwards, through organs and tissues, to form small nodes or bumps under the skin, which may or may not create exudates or crusts. The parasite does cause an irritation; when in its host, will cause the host to rub up against something to 'scratch the itch'. This serves to break open the already inflamed skin, freeing the parasite to move on to its next stage. With the lack of proper quarantine and generally filthy conditions endemic in the pet trade, animals - and humans - are coming into contact with, and playing host to, parasites which don't normally inhabit them. This can result in a parasitic nodule sitting under the skin, causing an inflammatory reaction. If not removed properly, it can cause stress, leading to infection...or infect the human who carelessly picks at it.

Patches of skin color/texture that change may be associated with fungi or bacterial infections, necessitating proper diagnosis to determine the required treatment. Please see my Yellow Fungus Page and you can also read Cheri Smith's Yellow Fungus - Cause and Effects article for more info.

The skin is the body's largest organ and plays an important role in keeping the body healthy. The skin of all vertebrates serves to keep bodily fluids in the body, and keep bacteria, fungi, and parasitic organisms that don't belong in the body out of it. When a problem occurs in the skin, it is important that it be properly evaluated.

Interesting note... Wounds and incisions that are oriented cranially-caudally (lined up in the direction from head to tail) heal faster than transverse (side-to-side) ones.

Thermal Burns

These types of burns are caused when your Beardie comes in direct contact with a heat source. When their skin is burned, blisters will most likely develop. The blisters often break open and create the opportunity for a secondary bacterial infection, which not only complicates treatment, but could possibly be fatal (depending on the severity). Beardies are notorious for walking through their feces, so an immaculately clean cage is a must during treatment. While daily treatment can be taken care of at home, the initial diagnosis and follow-ups should be performed by your vet.

Yellow Fungus Disease

Yellow fungus is a contagious disease. It is thought to be caused by yeast infections in the digestive system, gotten from antibiotics, that then exits with the feces and infects the Bearded Dragon on the outside. Or it can be passed on from an infected dragon to an uninfected one. It is characterized by the appearance of yellow patches of fungus on your Bearded Dragon. Preventive measures include always using a probiotic when you are using an antibiotic. Once this disease is contracted, a vet is a must. They will probably give antifungal treatments. For more information on Yellow Fungus Disease, please see this page

DISCLAIMER: We are not affiliated with the Beautiful Dragons Reptile Rescue (beautifuldragons.com). After detailed research and countless recommendations to their site, we have chosen to feature some articles from their website in this community. We are aware that some experts, breeders and enthusiasts have conflicting opinions on Bearded Dragon care, and we encourage members to use their own best judgment (and/or the recommendations of their own vet) when making decisions regarding their Dragon's care. This information should be used only as a reference tool and should not be used in place of vet assistance. If you have a sick beardie and don't know what to do, take him to the vet immediately.


Date: 2013-09-17 05:31 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] peachypaige
I was wondering if i got B1 for my beardie if it'd be a good idea to give her a small amount about once a month, we've been feeding her green leaf lettuces thinking it was great for them since that's what we were told up until we dug for deeper research when she stopped eating, today is the first day she's eating in about 2 weeks, hopefully she continues to eat since shes been losing a lot of weight, but if she does, would that be a good idea? I'm just looking for some advice since I'm worried if I don't help her soon she may not make it..


beardies: yellow bearded dragon with tongue sticking out (Default)
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