Like all animals, bearded dragons can also get sick. One of the most common signs of illness in bearded dragons is lethargy.
A healthy Bearded dragon is bright, alert, and almost always willing to eat.
In this post, we will explore the causes of lethargy in bearded dragons, the symptoms to look out for, and how to treat them.
What is Lethargy in Bearded Dragons?
Lethargy is a condition where your bearded dragon becomes inactive and sluggish. It is a sign that something is wrong with your pet. Lethargy can be caused by a variety of factors, including sickness, faulty housing conditions, low temperatures, overfeeding or feeding the wrong food, parasites, and dehydration.
Irrespective of the reason, lethargy in pet bearded dragons is an indication that something is wrong.
Differences Between Being Lazy and Lethargic
Sometimes bearded dragons simply act lazy during certain times of the year which is totally normal behavior. On the other hand, being lethargic is a whole other story.
There is usually a huge difference between a bearded dragon that is acting lazy and the one that is lethargic.
A lazy bearded dragon is one that lounges around for a day or two, and then suddenly becomes active and lively. This is quite normal, as these reptiles, like humans, can have their off days. Have you ever woken up feeling sluggish and uninterested in going to work or school? Well, bearded dragons can have those days too.
On the other hand, lethargic behavior in a bearded dragon can be a sign of a more serious issue. A lethargic bearded dragon may barely move, remain in one spot for several days, and appear weak and unresponsive. Such behavior could be a red flag that something is wrong with your pet’s health.
If your bearded dragon is simply being lazy, don’t panic, but it’s important to monitor its behavior closely for the next few days. However, if you observe lethargy, it’s imperative to seek help from a qualified veterinarian as soon as possible.
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 is observed.
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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 Lethargy in Bearded Dragonz
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.
Lack of UVA Radiation: Why is UVA radiation so important? Well, for one thing, it helps to stimulate your bearded dragon’s appetite and promote lots of activity. So if you notice your dragon feeling a little lethargic, you might want to check its lighting situation.
To provide your bearded dragon with the best possible environment, you should aim to give them at least 12 hours of full-spectrum lighting per day. You can do this with a fluorescent tube, compact fluorescent, or Mercury Vapor bulb, depending on your preference.
Make sure the bulb is no more than 12 inches away from your dragon (unless you’re using Mercury Vapor, in which case it can be a bit farther).
And don’t forget to replace your fluorescent bulbs every six months or so, as they start to lose their effectiveness over time. With a little attention to detail and some high-quality lighting, your bearded dragon will be living their best life in no time!
Lack of Proper Heat: If the temperature in their habitat is too low, your bearded dragon may become lazy or lethargic. This can lead to a loss of appetite, and their activity levels may drop significantly. To prevent this from happening, it is crucial to use high-quality thermometers at both ends of their terrarium, one in the basking area and one in the cooler area. This way, you can monitor and adjust the temperature as needed to ensure their comfort and well-being.
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.
Dehydration: Bearded dragons are used to being dehydrated based on living in the wild. However, if they are kept in captivity, they need to be provided with fresh water regularly.
Malnutrition: Bearded dragons require a balanced diet that includes vegetables, fruits, and insects. If they are not provided with a balanced diet, they can become malnourished.
Infection: Bearded dragons can become infected with bacteria, viruses, and parasites. These infections can cause lethargy, as well as other symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, and loss of appetite.
Parasites: Parasites such as mites and ticks can cause lethargy in bearded dragons. These parasites can be prevented by keeping the bearded dragon’s enclosure clean and free of debris.
Impaction: Impaction is a condition where a bearded dragon’s digestive tract becomes blocked. This can be caused by ingesting substrate or other foreign objects. Impaction can cause lethargy, as well as other symptoms such as loss of appetite and constipation.
Metabolic bone disease: Metabolic bone disease is a condition where a bearded dragon’s bones become weak and brittle. This can be caused by a lack of calcium and vitamin D3 in their diet. Metabolic bone disease can cause lethargy, as well as other symptoms such as tremors and seizures.
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.
While some behaviors might be seen as hyperactivity, others are seen as lethargy. Behavioral reasons a bearded dragon might be lethargic are brumation and being full or part of the shedding process.
Brumation: It’s the 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.
Shedding: 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 in 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.