In bearded dragons, respiratory infection (RI) is caused by a bacterial infection in the lungs. It is a common disease that every bearded dragon experiences at least once in their life.
Bearded dragons develop a respiratory infection due to a number of reasons such as incorrect lightning and temperature, incorrect basking temperatures, wrong substrate, high humidity, prolonged psychological stress, and poor habitat conditions.
Infections in beardies can be very tricky to treat and require supportive care during treatment. It’s tough for the owners to notice any signs in the initial stages because bearded dragons are very good at hiding illnesses.
In the wild, bearded dragons try their best to hide any symptoms of weakness. If a beardie shows any symptom of illness, it will be perceived as a weakness by a predator.
Symptoms and Diagnosis of RI in Bearded Dragons
Common signs of respiratory infection in bearded dragons:
- Weight loss due to decreased appetite.
- Gaping of the mouth
- Bubbly, stringy or sheeting mucous appearing on the sides of the mouth.
- swollen or bloated body
- Breathing difficulties (open mouth breathing).
- Wheezing or clicking noise when breathing.
- Sneezing or snorting.
- Puffing up their throat constantly.
- Lack of energy.
- Black beard for more than 6 hours.
Your immediate action should be to take your pet to a vet and correct the environmental problems if your bearded dragon is showing signs discussed above.
Note: Respiratory infection in its early stages is fairly easy to cure but can be fatal if fully developed.
Causes of URI in Bearded Dragons
Knowing the causes of bearded dragon respiratory infection is very important. It will help you in making the necessary adjustments in case something bad happens. Below are the main causes of upper respiratory infection in bearded dragons.
Wrong Temperatures & Humidity Levels
Too high or too low temperature and humidity levels are probably the most common causes of respiratory infections in bearded dragons.
A drop in temperature and rise in humidity can lead to many health issues including RI. Make sure you do your research in understanding heating and lighting.
Certain substrates should never be used with a bearded dragon. For example, mulch or bark that not only causes impaction but can also lead to respiratory impaction due to the fact that they retain humidity.
Poor Bathing Practices
When bathing your dragon if the water level is too high your beardie can breathe it in and aspirate it in their lungs leading to respiratory infection.
You’ll need to keep an eye on your bath level to make sure it doesn’t get too high and block your bearded dragon’s vents.
Bearded Dragon RI Treatment
Take your bearded dragon to a vet immediately if you suspect any signs of upper respiratory infection. The vet will evaluate your dragon for systematic antibiotic therapy. If the antibiotics and environmental corrections don’t work, the vet may suggest doing a culture and sensitivity. Depending on the conditions of the bearded dragon, the vet may also perform a trans-tracheal wash.
If you can’t get to the vet right away then at least do the following. Below are a few suggestions you can do to hopefully mitigate (or potentially cure) the infection.
Raise Cage Temperatures
Raise cage temps by 3-5 degrees. It will help dry up the excess moisture in their lungs.
Give Them a Slurry with Serrapeptase
A slurry with serrapeptase is extremely helpful in treating respiratory infections. Serrapeptase is a silkworm enzyme that thins mucus and prevents/fights bacterial infections in the lungs.
Help Drain Mucous
If your bearded dragon appears to be congested, put them up on a towel or folded blanket with its face angled downwards to allow mucus to flow from its neck.
Use a Dehumidifier
High humidity is one of the main causes of respiratory infections in bearded dragons. We recommend using a dehumidifier If you struggle to maintain humidity levels under 40% then. The dehumidifier will help in absorbing the extra moisture from the tank.
Use a Fogger
A fogger transforms liquids into a vapor that can be inhaled directly into the lungs. It can help buy you time and cure bearded dragon who has very weak URIs however, it shouldn’t be used as an alternative to seeking medical attention.
How to Prevent Respiratory Infections
You should follow the recommendations below whether or not your bearded dragon has had a RI.
Of course, if you feel your bearded dragon is suffering from RI, take them to a certified veterinary professional right away. Otherwise, follow my suggestions for keeping them healthy below.
Ensure Humidity is Correct
Make sure humidity levels never exceed 40%. Bearded dragons are used to a dry climate as arid desert dwellers, and too much moisture can prove deadly to their inept lungs.
Keep an eye on the humidity levels in your pet’s vivarium at all times. The ideal humidity level for beardies is between 30 and 40 percent, but never higher.
This level will most closely resemble their natural environment in Australia.
We recommend investing in a reliable hygrometer to ensure that the humidity in your dragon’s setup is appropriate.
Constant stress weakens your beardie’s immune system. Whether you’ve recently adopted them, relocated them to a new tank, or exposed them to any other major life changes, it’s crucial to be aware of the stress they may be experiencing. Constant stress can eventually lead to respiratory infections in bearded dragons.
Clean & Disinfect the Tank
Because moisture, mold, and other nasties can accumulate over time, I strongly recommend you to deep clean your bearded dragon’s tank at least once every three months, preferably once a month if possible.
Maintain Correct Temperatures
Your bearded dragon’s cage needs to have two sides in its enclosure. One warmer and the other cool side. The hot side should be between 95 and 105 degrees for adults and 100 to 110 degrees for baby dragons. Anything warmer or colder than that could prove fatal to your beardie’s health.
Bearded dragon respiratory infection is a serious disease. It can be fatal if left untreated. However, there is no need to worry if your dragon’s tank is set up correctly and the diet is right. Also, make sure you at least understand the symptoms and causes of respiratory infection in bearded dragons so you could take necessary actions on time if anything bad happens.