The Herps & Habitats Bearded Dragon Known Health Issues Page!
Known Health Issues Associated with Bearded Dragons
Hereditary/Genetic-these are problems that beardies hatch with, and are generally found in colonies where the parents are closely related. Tail and limb deformities, stunted growth and internal organs not growing properly are a few of the most prominent problems associated with inbreeding dragons.
Calcium and Vitamin Deficiencies- in hatchling and juveniles, this is apparent by the twitching or “shakes” that the dragon exhibits. Soft jaw bones may also accompany this condition, as may other neurological problems. Usually fatal in newly hatched and juvenile dragons. Time and a poor diet can also cause deficiencies that include brittle bones, poor growth, deformities and “rubber jaw” in older specimens, as well as egg production problems, rickets and Metabolic Bone Disease(MBD). Treatment usually includes more supplementation with a calcium/D3 supplement and daily sunlight exposure. Replacing old UV bulbs with new bulbs is also suggested. Remember the following:
Calcium should always be present in the diet,
the ratio of calcium to phosphorus should be at least 1:1, preferably 2:1,
D3 is required for proper calcium absorption.
Change UV bulbs every 6-8 months and be sure that your beardie can get within 6-8 inches from the bulb for maximum UV exposure.
Obesity- providing proper nutrition is often problematic for the captive reptile keeper. A proper beardie diet is varied, and includes different kinds of greens, vegetables, fruits and prey insects. Too many wax worms or mealworms as a dietary staple will lead to obesity and lethargy and create problems like lipidosis later on. Find out more about what to feed your beardie here. Read more about lipidosis as the result of fatty diets.
Limb damage- tail and limb breaks can be all too common in beardies that are allowed to climb too high or are unsupervised when “out and about” the house. All injuries to limbs and tails should be seen immediately by a vet. Do not bend or twist the tail or limb to see if it is broken. Support it carefully and rush to the vet clinic.
Loss of Tail or Digits- hatchling and juvenile dragons often lose tail tips and toes to larger more aggressive tank mates. Missing tails and digits will not grow back.
Hind Leg Extension & Paralysis- often a side effect of feeding prey insects that are too large for the dragon to properly digest. This symptom shows up within a day of eating the wrong size insects. Hind-end paralysis accompanies this leg extension. It is not the same as calcium spasms.
Mouth Rot- an infection of the mouth that includes the gums and mouth lining. Often caused by bacteria or fungus that festers in a small wound. Symptoms include swelling of the jaw, refusal to eat, blood in the mouth or on gums, thick, “cheesy” buildup inside the mouth. Use hydrogen peroxide and a cotton swab to clean the area and see a vet immediately.
Respiratory- fairly rare in dragons, but can be brought on by temperatures that are consistently too cool. Excessive gaping, labored exhalation, and abnormal puffing up of the throat area and an all-round puffy appearance can indicate a respiratory infection. Mucus may accumulate in the mouth and nostrils.
Gastrointestinal- most dragons will exhibit the following symptoms, loss of appetite, lethargy, unexplained weight loss that is usually coupled with runny, smelly stool. A vet exam is a must to diagnose and properly treat the dragon. Most types of dragon gastroenteritis are easily treated, but the sooner you see the vet, the better it is for your dragon.
Viral Infections- include adenoviruses, poxviruses and herpes (papilloma) virus. See a vet immediately for diagnosis and treatment.
Fungal Infections- are not common to beardies as the environment is usually too hot and dry to allow for incubation of fungus diseases. However, substrates like corncob are known to harbor and incubate fungal spores. Also, cuts or abrasions may harbor a fungus. Use of an anti-fungal medication (Lotrimin) is usually prescribed. There is a new "yellow fungus" that has begun popping up around the country. Find out more about it here.
Ectoparasites (external)- ticks, mites, fleas, maggots. From pest strips to Lysterine, there are many ways to deal with external parasites.
Salmonella- caused by an over growth of bacteria in the gut. Symptoms include loss of appetite, weight loss, lethargy and foul smelling diarrhea. These types of infections (E. Coli, Pseudomonas, Salmonella) must be diagnosed and treated by a qualified vet. All gastrointestinal infections are considered an emergency and should be immediately seen to. Delay can be fatal.
Reproductive- the most common being dystocia or egg binding in adult female dragons. There can be many reasons for this occurance that include poor diet and calcium deficiency, low weight, generalized weakness and even obesity. Not being able to find a suitable egg laying spot can also induce this condition. Egg binding can be fatal if not quickly diagnosed and treated. Usually Pitocin or Vastocin is administered to induce contractions. If this does not work, surgery may be the only way to relieve the situation.
Calcium deficiencies-can usually be traced back to a poor diet, and is a good reason to pre-condition your beardies prior to breeding. A female lacking a proper diet and extra calcium prior to breeding will produce sickly babies. Calcium deficiencies cause spasmatic shaking in hatchlings and juvenile dragons.
Inclusion Body Disease-(IBD)- results from an unknown virus that attacks the brain and spinal tissues. Symptoms include “stargazing” and other strange postures that are maintained for extended periods of time. Isolation and disinfection protocol are of utmost importance, as there is no known cure for this disease and limiting the spread of the virus is essential.
Environmental Toxins- include glass cleaners, insecticides, fertilizers and weed killers to name a few. Wash all food and water dishes thoroughly and rinse well to remove all soapy residue. Be careful with all household sprays to read the entire label. Small amounts of certain sprays is enough to kill a small pet. Remember that second hand cigarette smoke is toxic to your pets. It is best to minimize all chances of your pet coming into contact with any volatile sprays or chemicals. Some ornamental houseplants are also toxic. Check the list of plants here for more information.