Medically, lethargy is a disease state of sleepiness, unresponsiveness, and inactivity. Generally, lethargy is a lack of energy and enthusiasm. Irrespective of the reason, lethargy in pet bearded dragons is an indication that something is wrong.
A healthy Bearded dragon is bright, alert, and almost always willing to eat. Here are the four signs of a lethargic Bearded dragon:
Signs of a Lethargic Bearded Dragon
- Unwillingness to eat
- Lying down and unable to use the legs
- Staying in one place most of the time
- Closed eyes and unaware of the surroundings
Greater concerns should be raised when a combination of the above-mentioned signs are observed.
Unwillingness to eat
Bearded dragons are good eaters and should be interested in at least one meal a day on average. Although a little bit more tricky to judge in babies and newcomers, it becomes obvious when a strong bearded dragon suddenly stops eating. If this behavior continues for a period of days then your beardie is more likely lethargic.
Lying down and unable to use the legs
Healthy Bearded dragons are able to use their legs to lift their bodies off the ground. Their heads are also easily lifted into the air. A lethargic Bearded dragon is too weak to support its head and body.
Staying in one place most of the time
It is very often a sign of weakness when a Bearded dragon is not moving around much or is staying in the same place for long periods. Most Bearded dragons should respond by moving away when given a gentle push. Refusing to, or not being able to, should cause great concern.
Closed eyes and unaware of the surroundings
It is natural for Bearded dragons to sleep at night and in colder temperatures. Sleepiness is also less of a concern after a meal or activity. It is abnormal when a Bearded dragon is asleep most of the time.
Causes of a Lethargic Bearded Dragon
Here are the four important causes why a bearded dragon might be lethargic.
One of the main reasons why Bearded dragons become lethargic is that their husbandry needs are not fulfilled. Both temperature and ultraviolet (UV) lighting play a vital role in the activity of bearded dragons. If the temperature is too cold, or there is not enough or adequate UV lighting available to see, a bearded dragon will become dull and lethargic.
I have very often confirmed husbandry by placing a lethargic bearded dragon outside in full sunlight. If it perks up and becomes interested in food again, then the keeper needs to inspect/rectify the enclosure as soon as possible.
Being sick is probably the most concerning cause for a bearded dragon to be lethargic. Because lethargy is such a general clinical sign in a sick bearded dragon, there can literally be anything wrong. Lethargy is a very unspecific and only one of the possible clinical signs of disease.
Sick bearded dragons are often lethargic for a couple of consecutive days. If one suspects a disease being the cause of a lethargic bearded dragon, be on the lookout for any other signs of ill health. Abnormalities to look out for are any physical abnormalities, diarrhea, anorexia (refusal to eat), skin thickenings or color changes, and exudates from the eyes, nose, and mouth. Falling and complicated injuries without any visible signs can also cause Bearded dragon lethargy.
Physical abnormalities and diseases are best treated by an experienced reptile-friendly veterinarian. In most cases, making a specific diagnosis before treatment is initiated will be beneficial. Unfortunately, some lethargic bearded dragons will get worse no matter what the treatment is going to be.
When seeing a veterinarian, always accommodate a lethargic bearded dragon with a fresh stool sample sealed in a ziplock or similar plastic bag. Additional tests such as fecal flotation and wet preparations, radiography, and ultrasonography might be necessary to diagnose some of these cases. Treatment will include a combination of parenteral fluids (a drip), antiparasitics, and antibiotics.
Brumation is a period where bearded dragons go into a semi-slumber state because of colder weather. This is often, but not always, the case with adult bearded dragons during the colder months of winter. If this is the case, bearded dragons will spend a lot of their time sleeping and even hiding. Their appetites will be reduced, and food is often refused for more than half the week at a time.
Brumation behavior in bearded dragons is normal. In my opinion, nothing should be changed from a husbandry point of view, except that the amount and frequency of insect feeding should be adapted to the needs of the bearded dragon. Normal activity should return during the late winter to spring.
A full or satiated bearded dragon will often be lethargic while spending the most time in the basking area in order to digest its food. This behavior is often observed after a normal or large meal. Full activity should return in a day.
Skin shedding is another reason why a bearded dragon might be lethargic. Even normal shedding might reduce activity and even cause periods where a bearded dragon refuses to eat. Shedding will be evident by the sudden dark coloration of the majority of the body and by pieces of dry, dead skin starting to peel at places.
Lethargy in bearded dragons is not always a cause for concern, but you need to be able to tell what causes your beardie to act that way. Because lethargy can sometimes mean that there is something wrong with your beardie.