Having a pet bearded dragon is fun because they have very different care requirements compared to other pets. Reptile pets also have their own health conditions that are interesting to learn about.
Bearded dragon nose plugs are formed from old, dry skin inside and around a bearded dragon’s nostril that was not removed during shedding. Incorrect tank humidity, dehydration, and lack of rubbing objects can contribute to nose plugs forming.
In this article, we’ll explain everything you need to know about nose plugs in bearded dragons, including:
- Why bearded dragons get nose plugs.
- What are nose plugs in bearded dragons.
- How to prevent and remove nose plugs.
Table of Contents
Why Do Bearded Dragons Have Nose Plugs?
Nose plugs in bearded dragons aren’t a big cause for concern, but there are some things that can contribute to them forming. In this section, we’ll go through these factors.
We’ll also provide suggestions about how to modify your beardie’s care routine to decrease the chances of nose plugs forming. But first, let’s take a look at what nose plugs actually are.
Shedding is a physiological process and is affected by a beardie’s environment, health status, diet, and stress. Young beardies shed almost every week as it helps their skin keep up with their growing bodies.
It’s normal for adult beardies who have finished growing to shed only a few times per year. This helps them replace and renew old skin, to maintain its role as a barrier to harmful pathogens in the environment.
Keeping your beardie in the perfect environment helps ensure they shed completely and without any problems. For example, too low humidity or too high temperature can lead to dysecdysis (retained shed).
Since nose plugs are mainly made up of dry, old skin which hasn’t been completely shed, factors that also affect shedding, also affect the formation of nose plugs.
Nose plugs normally form a perfect mold of your beardie’s nose. The part which is visible from the outside looks a bit like a cap.
Once a nose plug is removed, you’ll be able to see that this ‘cap’ extends further up and takes the shape of your pet’s nostril as mucus becomes attached to it.
Now we understand what nose plugs are, let’s take a look at the factors which can contribute to their formation.
Never attempt to remove skin whilst your beardie is shedding by pulling or using tweezers to remove it. Forcefully removing your beardie’s shed, can be both painful and harmful.
If you want to read more about shedding in bearded dragons, read our article ‘7 Reasons Why Your Bearded Dragon Is Shedding So Much‘.
Too Low Tank Humidity
Maintaining the correct humidity in your beardie’s tank is important because it helps them stay comfortable and healthy.
When it comes to humidity and nose plugs, too low humidity can make it harder for your beardie to shed the skin around their nose, resulting in a nose plug.
Too low tank humidity can also lead to other skin manifested problems such as dehydration and femoral pores becoming blocked.
An appropriate humidity level for a bearded dragon tank is between 30% and 40% and should be measured using a hygrometer placed in the middle of its tank.
You can increase the humidity in your beardie’s tank by:
- Adding a water bowl to your beardie’s enclosure.
- Misting frequently (2-3 times per week) or using an automatic mister.
- Adding plants to your beardie’s tank.
- Keeping bearded dragon tanks as far away from air-conditioners as possible.
Don’t forget, humidity is also linked to temperature. Be sure to maintain the correct temperature gradient in your bearded dragon’s enclosure.
You can read more about bearded dragons and humidity in our article ‘Bearded Dragon Humidity: A Quick And Easy Guide’.
You can read more about the correct temperature gradient, along with other care aspects for bearded dragons in our article ‘Bearded Dragon Care Guide: Diet, Housing, Facts.‘
Providing your beardie with a moist hide can also help make sure your beardie sheds properly and decreases the chances of shedding related problems, such as nose plugs.
Adding sphagnum moss to a hollow log is a great way to create a moist hide for your beardie.
Lack Of Objects To Rub Against
Rough or abrasive objects in a beardie’s enclosure help them to remove skin during the shedding process. Rubbing and scratching against these objects helps a bearded dragon detach the old skin from the new skin.
If a beardie doesn’t have access to rough objects in their tank, they may find it hard to remove dry skin (especially around their nose and head) which could lead to nose plugs forming.
Examples of objects you can put in your bearded dragon’s tank to help with shedding include:
Don’t forget, the above objects are not only important for your bearded dragon during shedding, but also provide enrichment activities for your beardie.
Your beardie needs to be adequately hydrated for them to shed properly. This is because water is needed to form moisture which helps separate the old skin from the new.
A dehydrated beardie may have trouble shedding the skin around their nose, which can lead to nose plugs forming.
One way you can assess whether your bearded dragon is dehydrated is by performing the skin fold test. Carefully fold your beardie’s skin, then release it.
If your bearded dragon is adequately hydrated, it should return to place quickly. If your beardie is dehydrated, then the skin will go back to place slowly.
If you don’t feel comfortable performing the skin fold test you can look for other signs of dehydration in bearded dragons such as:
- Decreased activity
- Decreased appetite
- Wrinkly or dry skin
- Sunken eyes
- Difficulty passing feces or urate
- Black beard or stress marks.
Dehydration in bearded dragons can lead to more serious problems such as impaction and indigestion.
We’ve listed some things you can try at home to re-hydrate a bearded dragon:
- Carefully mist them.
- Ensure they always have access to clean, fresh water.
- Give your beardie a soak.
- Give your beardie some food with a high water content such as watermelon or zucchini.
If your beardie doesn’t seem better after you try the above or if you think they may be severely dehydrated, contact a reptile veterinarian.
When And How To Clean Nose Plugs
Nose plugs in healthy, adult bearded dragons usually don’t require any intervention from a reptile carer. More often than not, beardies remove them by themselves and they don’t cause any problems.
However, there are some special cases when your beardie’s nose plugs may require some extra attention from a reptile carer.
We’ve listed some circumstances in which pet parents might want to help their beardie with their nose plugs below:
- A beardie with a respiratory system disease
- Young bearded dragons
- A beardie who has difficulty breathing.
If your beardie fits within one of the above criteria, or if you’re particularly interested in removing a nose plug, we’ll now describe some things you can try.
We recommend working through the following ideas, starting with the least invasive one.
Mist Your Beardie’s Tank
Increasing the humidity in your bearded dragon’s tank can help moisten and soften un-shed skin around the nose. After that, it may be easier for your beardie to remove the plug by themselves.
Don’t forget to keep an eye on the humidity level in your bearded dragon’s tank. Although it’s okay for it to be a little higher than usual whilst your beardie is shedding, it’s not ideal for it to remain high.
Higher humidity than is needed may contribute to mold developing in your bearded dragon’s tank. Be sure to check the tank and all its components for mold regularly.
After misting the tank, wait a day or so to see if your beardie can remove the nose plug by itself, if not, then you can try giving your beardie a soak as we’ll describe below.
Tip: For more info, read our article on how to mist a bearded dragon tank properly.
Give Your Beardie a Bath
If misting your beardie didn’t help, then you might want to try bathing them. Giving your bearded dragon has benefits such as keeping them hydrated, cleaning them, and is also fun!
Bathing your beardie can help to soften or loosen the nose plug so that it’s easier for your beardie to remove by itself.
Use water with a temperature between 90 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The water level should be no higher than halfway up your beardie’s legs to decrease the chances of them drowning.
Since your beardie may drink their bathwater, it’s best not to put any products such as soap, cleaners, or reptile shampoos inside.
It’s best to have a plastic container that is only used for this purpose, as beardies can be a source of harmful bacteria for humans (especially since they often poop in their bathwater).
Your beardie can stay in the water for around 15 minutes, but be sure to supervise them the whole time.
After the bath, don’t forget to dry your bearded dragon carefully and put them under their heat lamp.
Wash your hands and the bath thoroughly using a reptile-safe disinfectant, as bearded dragons can be a source of harmful bacteria (especially salmonella) for humans.
If after a few days, your beardie still has its nose plug, you might want to try the next step.
Carefully Clean The Area Surrounding The Nostril
If after trying the above, your beardie hasn’t been able to remove its nose plug you might want to try gently cleaning the area surrounding the nostril.
You can do this using a moist cotton bud to loosen or moisten debris from the area surrounding the nostril (don’t insert the cotton bud into your beardie’s nose!).
The aim is to carefully loosen the dried ‘cap’ part of the plug, but not to pull it or forcefully remove it.
If none of the above helps, and you think that your beardie is suffering as a result of the nose plug, then contact your veterinarian for advice.
When attempting to clean the area surrounding the nostril, make sure to do so in a safe and calm environment with good lighting.
Put your beardie on a flat surface with plenty of space and take everything slowly so as not to stress them.
If your beardie is particularly stressed by you attempting to clean its nose plug, it’s best to stop what you’re doing. You can try again another day or contact a reptile veterinarian for advice.
Veterinary treatment of nose plugs includes careful flushing of the nose, and checking for shedding or husbandry-related problems that could have contributed to the formation of the nose plug.
Nose plugs in bearded dragons aren’t a serious problem and beardies are usually able to remove them by themselves. It’s important not to intervene unless absolutely necessary and never to forcefully remove a nose plug.
We hope you’ve enjoyed reading this article and learning about nose plugs in bearded dragons. If you’ve had an interesting experience with a nose plug, tell us about it in the comments below.
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