Prevention is always better than being cured. If you own a bearded dragon, it is your responsibility to protect and prevent them from diseases, such as impactions, parasitic infections, MBD, dehydration, and calcium deficiency, etc.
In this post, we going to be talking about 11 common health issues you have to watch for when caring for a bearded dragon.
Stress is very common when it comes to dragons whether it has to do with first-time relocation or just a small change in the enclosure. If you make a change in the tank whether it’s just taking a rock out, changing where the basking spots are, or switching to a new cage, bearded dragons tend to lose their appetite when this happens simply because it stresses them out.
Dark markings can appear on its belly and chin when a bearded dragon is stressed out as you can see in the picture below. Those marks are a very common sign of stress but they can also appear for other reasons unrelated to stress.
Symptoms of Stress in Bearded Dragons
- Behavioral Changes: Bearded dragons that are stressed may become more aggressive, withdrawn, or lethargic. They may also become more vocal or stop eating and drinking.
- Physiological Changes: Stress can also manifest in physiological changes such as decreased appetite, weight loss, and decreased activity levels.
- Respiratory Changes: Stress can also lead to respiratory changes such as fast breathing, open-mouthed breathing, and nasal discharge.
- Skin Changes: Stress can also cause skin changes such as loss of color or dull skin, as well as excessive shedding.
- Gastrointestinal Changes: Stress can also cause gastrointestinal changes such as diarrhea, constipation, and bloating.
Provide a hiding spot if you don’t already have one in there so they can hide out and relax
Also, try feeding them by hand giving them treats because that usually helps them become comfortable again and you end up bonding this way too.
Read more on >> Bearded Dragon Stress
Impaction is caused by prey that is too large for them to chew it properly and it ends up not being able to digest through their digestive system quite so easily. It can also be caused by eating substrate whether it is paper or loose substrates such as sand bark and stuff like that because they can accidentally eat this and it will slowly build up in their digestive system over time.
Symptoms of Impaction
If your bearded dragon is suffering from impaction, there are several symptoms that you may notice. These include:
- Loss of appetite: Your bearded dragon may stop eating or may only eat small amounts of food.
- Constipation: Your bearded dragon may have difficulty defecating or may only pass small, hard feces.
- Abdominal swelling: Your bearded dragon’s belly may appear distended and may be uncomfortable to the touch.
- Lethargy: Your bearded dragon may become lethargic and may not be as active as usual.
- Vomiting: Your bearded dragon may vomit or regurgitate food.
- Dehydration: Your bearded dragon may become dehydrated, and its skin may appear dry and wrinkled.
- Weight loss: Your bearded dragon may lose weight rapidly.
- Loss of muscle tone: Your bearded dragon may lose muscle tone, and its spine may appear more prominent.
- Weakness: Your bearded dragon may become weak and may have difficulty standing or moving around.
Cure for food impaction is relatively easy. If it is food impaction these are more easily passed because you can do this easily through massages on the stomach and then giving them warm baths.
Unfortunately, if it is a debris impaction then this has to be secured by a vet with them flushing it out. If it’s really bad then they will have to give your bearded dragon surgery.
Read more on >> Bearded Dragon Impaction
Dehydration is very common in juveniles because they’re a lot smaller and they tend to like the warmer temperatures so they tend to dehydrate quicker.
The main signs of a dehydrated dragon are that their eyes will start to sink in and if it’s really bad their fat pads will also start to sink in and their skin and scales tend to start to stick together after a while.
Symptoms of Dehydration in Bearded Dragons
Dehydration in bearded dragons can manifest in a variety of symptoms. Here are some of the most common signs of dehydration:
- Sunken eyes: A dehydrated bearded dragon’s eyes will appear sunken and dull, rather than bright and alert.
- Skin tenting: When you gently pinch the skin on the back of a bearded dragon’s neck, it should immediately return to its normal position. If the skin stays tented, this is a sign of dehydration.
- Lack of appetite: A dehydrated bearded dragon may have a decreased appetite and may not want to eat.
- Fatigue: Dehydrated bearded dragons may appear lethargic and may have trouble moving around.
- Constipation: Dehydration can lead to constipation, which can be a sign of poor overall health.
- Reduced urination: Dehydration can lead to decreased urination, which is a sign of poor kidney function.
You should be giving them baths twice a week and if they’re really dehydrated give them one every single day.
You can also use a dropper and drop them on the nose, they tend to really love the water that way.
For severely dehydrated dragons giving them Pedialyte or another type of electrolyte will help them replenish their fluids and give them those essential electrolytes.
Read more on >> Dehydration in Bearded Dragons
4. Calcium Deficiency
This is caused by improper UV light, insufficient supplementation, and improper care and diet. Not getting sufficient UVB light is the single most common reason for calcium deficiency in bearded dragons.
If you want to know more about lighting please read our post on bearded dragon lighting and temperature.
Bearded dragons need a proper UVB light a heating lamp and proper supplementation to live a healthy life. If a bearded dragon is not getting enough UV light then it’s likely to develop a disease called MBD (Metabolic Bone Disease).
Symptoms of Calcium Deficiency in Bearded Dragons
- Weakness and lethargy: Calcium is essential for muscle function, and a deficiency can lead to weakness and a lack of energy in your bearded dragon. They may appear sluggish and unresponsive.
- Twitching or tremors: Calcium is also crucial for nerve function, and a deficiency can cause twitching or tremors in the muscles. These symptoms may be more pronounced when your bearded dragon is trying to move or walk.
- Softening of the jaw: Calcium is important for maintaining strong bones, and a deficiency can cause the jaw bone to soften. This can make it difficult for your bearded dragon to eat or chew food.
- Poor appetite: A calcium deficiency can also affect your bearded dragon’s appetite, making them less interested in food.
- Metabolic bone disease: This is a serious condition that can develop as a result of prolonged calcium deficiency. It is characterized by deformities in the bones, such as curved spine, and can lead to serious health problems.
- Reproductive problems: Calcium is essential for the proper functioning of the reproductive system. A deficiency can lead to egg binding in female bearded dragons, and reduced fertility in males.
Make sure you change the UVB light and heating light every six months to a year depending on what brand you have.
Make sure to dust food with d3 supplements regularly.
Parasites are really common in bearded dragons, especially those that are with new-time owners because they are not sure about the care.
The two most common worms that a bearded dragon can get are pinworms and coccidia worms. These are caused by unsanitary feeders, enclosures, and foods in general. These worms tend to overcome the digestive system and make the stool really loose and smelly.
If the stool has a foul smell that you’re not used to smelling from your dragon and the poo is loose I would go and get a fecal sample right away.
Worms tend to also cause them to be super lethargic and have a loss of appetite so these are other things you need to watch for.
Symptoms of Parasites in Bearded Dragons
- Loss of appetite: If your bearded dragon suddenly stops eating, it may be a sign of a parasitic infection.
- Diarrhea: Parasites can cause inflammation and irritation in the digestive tract, leading to diarrhea.
- Weight loss: If your bearded dragon is losing weight, it could be due to a parasitic infection that is preventing them from absorbing nutrients properly.
- Lethargy: Parasites can cause your bearded dragon to feel weak and tired, making them less active than usual.
- Abdominal swelling: Some types of parasites can cause swelling in the belly, making your bearded dragon appear bloated.
- Anemia: Parasites can cause anemia by draining the blood of essential nutrients and oxygen. This can lead to pale gums and weakness.
- Skin issues: Parasites can cause itching, redness, and scaly skin.
- Respiratory problems: Some types of parasites can infect the lungs, leading to coughing, sneezing, and difficulty breathing.
To prevent parasites from infecting your beardie, make sure you’re bathing them and cleaning their substrates and their tank accessories with disinfectant spray.
Read more on >> Bearded Dragon Parasites
6. Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD)
Metabolic bone disease in bearded dragons is caused by calcium deficiency, improper diet, or improper care in general like lighting and environment.
What Happened if the MBD gets really bad….
If the MBD gets bad enough bearded dragons can lose the ability to move completely and they tend to look really deformed as you can see in the picture below.
They’ll have really curvy tails, arms that sometimes come in, sometimes their jaws will be rubbery and easily movable.
Symptoms of MBD in Bearded Dragons
- Weakness: One of the first signs of MBD is that your bearded dragon may appear weak and lethargic. They may not move around as much as they normally do, or they may struggle to climb or walk.
- Swelling in the limbs: Another symptom of MBD is swelling in the limbs, particularly the legs and tail. This is caused by the bones becoming weak and brittle, which can lead to fractures and other injuries.
- Twitching or tremors: Bearded dragons with MBD may also experience twitching or tremors, particularly in the limbs. This is a sign that the muscles are not getting enough calcium to function properly.
- Curled or twisted tail: A curled or twisted tail is another symptom of MBD. This is caused by the bones in the tail becoming weak and deformed, which can lead to difficulty moving or even paralysis.
- Loss of appetite: Bearded dragons with MBD may also lose their appetite, which can lead to weight loss and malnutrition.
- Soft jaw: If a bearded dragon’s jaw becomes soft or malformed, this can be a sign of MBD as well. This can make it difficult for the dragon to eat or even open its mouth.
Sadly there isn’t a cure for MBD once it gets bad enough but there are ways that you can improve their situation. Such as by giving them proper lighting, proper diet, and proper care in general for example shed control, cleaning their tank when they need it, making sure that there aren’t any feces in their tank, and stuff like that.
Also, make sure that you are giving them proper supplements. Sometimes having liquid calcium is better than just the powdered form so I would look into all of those.
Read more on >> Bearded Dragon MBD
Mites are external parasites that look like tiny little black dots that hide under and in between your dragon’s scales and live off of their blood. They can also be red, orange, or tan in color depending on the type of mite and when they have last fed on the dragon.
You really need to make sure that you remove them and get rid of them quickly if your dragon does end up having mites.
Female mites can lay up to 90 babies at a time and will do so in the cracks and crevices of the enclosure, or on the dragon so remember to clean that.
Symptoms of Mites in Bearded Dragons
- Itchy skin: If your bearded dragon is constantly scratching and rubbing against objects, it could be a sign of mites. These parasites can cause itching and irritation on the skin, making your bearded dragon uncomfortable.
- Loss of appetite: Mites can cause inflammation and discomfort in the mouth and throat, making it difficult for your bearded dragon to eat and drink. If your pet is not eating or drinking as much as usual, it could be a sign of mites.
- Dried scales: Mites can cause skin irritation and dryness, which can lead to scales that are dry and flaky. If you notice that your bearded dragon’s scales are looking dry or brittle, it could be a sign of mites.
- Swelling and redness: Mites can cause inflammation and redness on the skin, especially around the ears and eyes. If you notice that your bearded dragon’s skin is swollen or red, it could be a sign of mites.
- Respiratory issues: In severe cases, mites can cause respiratory issues such as sneezing, coughing, and difficulty breathing. If you notice any of these symptoms in your bearded dragon, it’s important to seek veterinary care immediately.
The way that you can cure bearded dragon mites is by making sure that their surroundings are clean.
Make sure to get rid of any wood or fabric you have in the enclosure.
Use disinfectant spray and mite spray on your dragon that you can buy from any pet store that sells bearded dragons. Also, be sure that you give them frequent baths as well.
If you have two or more dragons then make sure that you are not doing any cross-contamination by holding the dragon that is infected with mites and holding the other one without washing your hands and disinfecting them.
8. Yellow Fungus
The yellow fungus is a very aggressive and contagious fungus to reptiles. This fungus is transmitted through mold spores and often begins inside and works its way to the outer tissue. So once you see it externally on their scale, it means that the internal damage is already done.
This fungal infection can be caused by unsanitary conditions and having way too many lizards in one tank where one ends up getting infected and the infection then passes on to the others.
It can also be caused by a bite from an infected dragon and antibiotics from previous medication. The antibiotics kill all of the good bacteria in the digestive tract allowing the fungus to grow in turn causing infection.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for this disease however there are several treatments and medicines that you can give to your dragon that will help them live longer and not deteriorated quite as quickly.
Sadly after being diagnosed with yellow fungus, bearded dragons usually only live for about 18 months after that diagnosis.
Symptoms of Yellow Fungus in Bearded Dragons
- Discoloration of the skin: One of the most obvious signs of Yellow Fungus is the yellowing of the skin, specifically around the face and feet. This discoloration may also appear as orange or brown patches.
- Scaling or crusting of the skin: Another symptom to look out for is scaling or crusting of the skin, which can appear as thick, flaky patches.
- Loss of appetite: Bearded dragons with Yellow Fungus may lose their appetite and refuse to eat.
- Lethargy and lack of energy: Your bearded dragon may become lethargic and have a lack of energy if they have Yellow Fungus.
- Open sores or wounds: Yellow Fungus can also cause open sores or wounds on the skin, which may be accompanied by a foul odor.
- Breathing difficulties: In some cases, Yellow Fungus can affect the respiratory system and cause breathing difficulties.
Speak with a qualified vet for the best treatment.
Try your best to keep your dragons clean.
Also, make sure your dragons’ substrate is clean and free from any harmful bacteria (This is very important).
Read more on >> Yellow Fungus in Bearded Dragons
9. Upper Respiratory Infection (URI)
URI in bearded dragons can either be a bacterial infection in the lungs or it can be a viral infection from maybe another dragon or something else.
This is caused by being too wet or too cold this is why it is best to make sure you have the right temperatures and they are not wet for long periods of time for any reason.
URI is also passed by high humidity. Remember that you only want to have the humidity at a max of 30%, get this close to 20% if you can.
It can be caused by a weak immune system and also it can be caused by a virus.
Symptoms of Upper Respiratory Infection in Bearded Dragons
- Sneezing and coughing: This is one of the most obvious symptoms of a URI. If your bearded dragon is sneezing or coughing frequently, it’s a good indication that something is wrong.
- Discharge from the nose or eyes: Another common symptom of a URI is the presence of discharge from the nose or eyes. This can be clear, cloudy, or even bloody.
- Loss of appetite: If your bearded dragon isn’t eating or is eating less than usual, it could be a sign of a URI.
- Swollen or closed eyes: Sometimes, bearded dragons with a URI will have swollen or closed eyes, which can make it difficult for them to see.
- Breathing difficulties: If your bearded dragon is having trouble breathing, it’s a serious sign that something is wrong. This could be a symptom of a URI or another respiratory problem.
- Lethargy: If your bearded dragon seems tired or lethargic, it could be a sign of a URI or other health issue.
If you’re seeing any mucus that is a sign that they are not okay.
If they are sneezing or coughing, making any wheezing or popping sounds when they’re breathing continuously.
If they are pupping their beard up and down constantly is a sign that they’re not okay. If their beard is black for more than six hours and if they are lethargic or have a loss of appetite those are all signs that they may have a URI.
URI in bearded dragons can be cured by medicine, fluids, warm baths every four hours to try to break up that heavy mucus.
Make sure you use probiotics with antibiotics to make sure you don’t get something like yellow fungus which we talked about before.
Also put your dragon in an incline position (just like in the picture below) so all of that mucus can drain out of them and get out of them because a dragon doesn’t really know how to blow their nose so this will help them if you do that.
Read more on >> Bearded Dragon Respiratory Infection.
10. Stomatitis or Mouth Rot
Mouth rot is a bacterial infection of the gums and jawbones. It makes the inside of the mouth to become red and slightly puff. After some time the mouth will become yellow on the inside and around. This can result in puss leakage from the mouth and nose and also dead tissue inside the mouth.
Mouth rot is common in all reptiles. If left untreated it can cause some serious health issues in bearded dragons such as intestinal tract infection, respiratory infection, and loss of teeth.
Fortunately, the early signs of mouth rot are easy to see and cured.
Symptoms of Mouth Rot in Bearded Dragons
- Swelling and redness in the mouth: The tissue in your dragon’s mouth may appear swollen and red, and there may be a buildup of pus or other discharge.
- Loss of appetite: Bearded dragons with mouth rot often lose their appetite and refuse to eat.
- Difficulty breathing: The swelling in the mouth can make it difficult for your dragon to breathe properly, causing them to open their mouth frequently or pant.
- Drooling: Your dragon may drool excessively due to the pain and discomfort caused by the infection.
- Lesions or ulcers: You may notice sores or ulcers on the inside of your dragon’s mouth, tongue, or on the outside of their jaw.
Make sure your beardie is not under any stress. Try not to change their environment dramatically.
Make sure the enclosure is free from anything that they can chew on and hurt their mouth in the process.
Read more on >> Bearded Dragon Mouth Rot
11. Tail Rot
Tail rot in bearded dragons is caused by an internal infection. It is a serious condition in which the tail begins to actually rot away. If left untreated the tail will fall off completely and can even spread the infection to other parts of the body too.
Tail rot is common in baby bearded dragons living in groups. When living in the same cage, baby bearded dragons at times nip or bite at each other’s tails that in turn causes tail rot.
Tail rot can also be caused by any trauma or injury or if your beardie hasn’t shed completely.
You can identify a tail rot fairly easily. The tip of the tail may become black signifying a dead tissue due to the restricted blood circulation.
Symptoms of Tail Rot in Bearded Dragons
- Discoloration: The first symptom of tail rot is often discoloration of the affected area. The tail may turn black, brown, or gray in color. In severe cases, the tail may also appear slimy or have a foul odor.
- Loss of appetite: If your bearded dragon is experiencing tail rot, it may lose its appetite and stop eating. This can lead to weight loss and weakened overall health.
- Inactivity: Bearded dragons that have tail rot may become less active and may prefer to spend more time hiding or resting. They may also be less responsive to interaction with their owner.
- Swelling: As the infection progresses, the affected area may become swollen and tender to the touch. In some cases, the swelling may extend up the tail and into the body.
- Loss of tail: In severe cases, the tail may become necrotic and may fall off. This can happen quickly, and it’s important to seek veterinary care as soon as possible.
Bathe your dragon regularly when shedding. It helps them in shedding their skins.
Try to prevent tail injury. If infected use hydrogen peroxide on infected areas.
Read more on >> Bearded Dragon Mouth Rot
We will keep this page updated with any new developments.