One of the strangest things beardies do is pooping in food and water bowls, often leaving their owners bewildered and wondering why. Turns out, there are quite a few reasons behind this.
Bearded dragons may defecate in water bowls as water acts as a muscle relaxant. The swimming moves can also stimulate them, or they may do it out of habit. Defecating in food bowls could be because the rest of their tank is unclean or because things are moving along the digestive tract as they eat.
This post discusses in detail all the possible reasons behind beardies pooping in their bowls, how it can affect your pet, some cleaning tips, and what you can do to prevent it. Read on!
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Reasons Why Your Beardie Poops in its Water Bowl
As much as it may seem like your beardie is just trying to mess with you by choosing to poop in a perfectly clean water bowl, here’s why it might happen:
Water Relaxes the Muscles
As a beardie owner, you must have heard of poop baths. When a bearded dragon is constipated, it’s recommended to give it a warm bath to help it poop, and 9 out of 10 times this works like a charm.
Water acts as a muscle relaxant in this case, so it naturally eases things along the digestive tract. For this very reason, your bearded dragon might feel very comfortable pooping in its water bowl.
It Has Become a Habit
Bearded dragons are creatures of habit. If they find a spot they like, they will choose to do their business in that exact spot every time.
So either they’ve developed a habit of pooping in the water bowl, or you’re just placing the water bowl over its favorite spot to poop.
In the wild, many lizards, such as iguanas, soak their bodies in water to help themselves poop. So you can call it a bearded dragon’s reptilian instinct to poop in its water bowl.
Movement Help Beardies Poop
If your beardie happens to love water, you’ll find it pooping in its water bowl more often.
They will splash about and do all these fun moves when trying to swim, and these movements can get things moving inside the digestive tract, stimulating it to poop.
If the water bowl is large enough for it to do this, chances are that your pet is just hanging out in the water and getting stimulated to poop at the same time.
Why Your Beardie Poops in its Food Bowl
Nasty as it is, it’s only because babies digest food much faster and may evacuate their bowels up to 3 times a day, which can lead them to poop out their previous meal during or right after consuming food.
As far as an adult pooping in food bowls is concerned, it may happen because the rest of its tank is dirty.
Bearded dragons can’t stand the stench of their own poop, and will try to stay as far away from it as possible. For this reason, it may choose a nice, clean bunch of salad to be its toilet.
If the tank is clean but it’s still pooping in its food bowl, it’s simply because it’s the chosen ‘poop spot’. Call it an annoying or amusing habit!
How Pooping in Bowls Can Affect Bearded Dragons
It’s best to clean bowls with poop in them as soon as possible. Your pet might drink the contaminated water or accidentally ingest poop, which can have many negative impacts:
If your pet has any abrasions or small cuts in its mouth after eating insects with hard exoskeletons, bacteria from the poop might infect these cuts. This can result in painful symptoms similar to mouth rot.
Despite the ability of many lizards to practice coprophagia i.e eating feces without getting sick, it’s not safe for captive bearded dragons to be ingesting poop.
For one, parasites that have been safely pooped out can re-enter their system and cause trouble in the upper GI tract.
Moreover, if your beardie is housed with a tank mate, then these parasites can easily spread from one pet to another by ingesting infected poop.
You should also be cleaning bowls with poop for your own safety. Bearded dragons are known to carry salmonella in their poop – a very contagious bacteria easily contracted by humans.
Being in poop-contaminated water means the bacteria is spreading all over its body, which can be easily transferred onto your hands if you handle your pet afterward.
Tip: Bacteria can spread within the substrate too, which is why spot cleaning poop as soon as possible is equally important.
How to Clean Your Beardie’s Poop from Bowls
Cleaning food and water bowls should be done regularly, even if it’s not contaminated with poop. Using the right kind of cleaning solution is also important, so here’s a quick guide on what to use when:
|Dish soap||Removing slime and sticky food|
|F10 SC veterinary solution||Disinfecting and deep cleaning|
|Hot Water||Daily rinsing|
Using something strong like the EPA-approved F10 SC veterinary solution is essential to kill off any bacteria and viruses lurking within the poop-contaminated bowls.
Alternatively, you can make a 10% bleach solution by mixing 1 part bleach with 9 parts water to clean the bowls.
Simply scrub off the poop with a brush and some water, wipe it with the disinfectant, rinse thoroughly, and air dry it long enough for any strong odors to wear off.
Tip: Due to its antibacterial properties, adding an object made of pure copper to the water bowl, like an old penny or coiled-up copper wires, can keep the water clean and germ-free. The copper will also change the water’s color to blue if your pet pees in it!
Preventing Beardies From Pooping in Bowls
Potty training a bearded dragon isn’t easy, but you can certainly take some steps to avoid water and food bowls from being used as toilets.
The easiest solution is to let your beardie do its business in its favorite bowl. Meanwhile, you can provide a separate bowl at the other end of the tank for drinking or eating.
Just make sure you place the poop bowl at the same spot every time and clean it out as soon as possible.
This way, your beardie will have a designated ‘litter box’ i.e the bowl, and cleaning becomes much easier for you.
Alternatively, you can bath it every time it’s time for pooping. This allows your beardie to become habitual of pooping while bathing – many beardies have been known to wait for their owners to give them a bath so they can relieve themselves.
You could also eliminate the bowls from the equation altogether and hydrate your pet using a dropper or a syringe, and hand feed it or place food on a paper towel for easy dispensing.
Bearded dragons certainly have their reasons to poop in water and food bowls. As you take your time to resolve the issue, ensure that you clean the bowls thoroughly every time it’s been pooped in.
And remember to be patient with the whole process!