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8 Signs Your Bearded Dragon Is Dying

is my bearded dragon dying?

It’s always heart-wrenching to read about the signs of your pet beardie dying. However, no matter how difficult it can get, it is imperative that you remain aware of all the signs. This way, you’ll know when to get immediate vet care, and how to make the process easier for them. 

Some of the most common signs that show your bearded dragon is dying include – refusal to eat, movement issues, lethargy, stool problems, abnormal or wrinkly skin, and breathing difficulties.

If you want to know more about these signs, and what you need to do later, read on!

8 Signs Your Bearded Dragon Is Dying

The signs below signify that your beardie might be dying. However, keep in mind that it also depends on the severity and duration of the sign.

For instance, if your beardie is refusing to eat, do consider other reasons for it too, instead of concluding that they’re dying.

Note: If you think your beardie might be dying, it is best to bring it to a vet immediately. If you don’t have a reptile vet in your area, we recommend to book an appointment with an online vet at Vetster here! They offer 24/7 appointments and work with thousands of licensed vets.

1. Refusal to Eat

According to VCA hospitals, most young bearded dragons consume food once or twice a day, whereas, for adults, it is just once a day. Now, if your beardie has stopped eating all of a sudden, you need to stay alert. 

There are several reasons why a beardie stops eating all of a sudden. You need to rule out these causes first, to find a suitable solution. 

  • Stress 

Just like humans, most beardies can get stressed too due to both behavioral and environmental reasons.

For instance, if you’re not providing appropriate temperature, humidity, and light to your beardie, they can get stressed and refuse to eat. 

Bearded dragons can also get stressed if there’s a sudden change in their routine, like a change in their dietary plan, or changing their tank itself.

You should also check for any stress-stimulating objects (like tank decorations) or noises (like dogs barking or kids crying) that could be scaring your beardie.

Other causes of stress include health-related problems or infections in your beardie. Research published by PubMed has also stated that handling your beardie too often can increase their stress levels.

  • Shedding Period

The whole shedding period can get pretty tiresome for both bearded dragons and their owners. During this period, their behavior can change drastically, and, they might eat less or stop eating completely. 

You don’t have to worry about them during the shedding period, as once they’ve shed their skin, they will most likely go back to being normal. 

Some signs of a shedding bearded dragon include – milky white skin, sudden irritability, rubbing against hard surfaces, and lethargy.

  • Brumation Period

Brumation is a period where your beardie drifts off to deep sleep. This mostly happens once a year between October and November (before winter). 

When your beardie is entering their brumation stage, they’ll become less responsive to any kind of stimulus.

They might refuse to eat or engage in any kind of activity. Moreover, you’ll find them looking out for dark places to hide or digging for a spot themselves!

  • Illnesses 

If your bearded dragon is ill, they might refuse to eat anything. You should also look for other symptoms such as vomiting, sudden weight loss, irritable behavior, breathing problems, and many more. 

Note that some common illnesses include metabolic bone disease, parasitic infections, mouth rot, or gut impaction. You can also check out this article by VCA hospitals to get an in-depth idea about common diseases.

So, you need to identify why your beardie isn’t eating and look out for possible solutions. Even after applying all solutions, if they don’t continue to eat for days, sadly, they might be dying. 

2. Movement Issues

bearded dragon dying signs
This bearded dragon is suffering from metabolic bone disease.

Movement issues in bearded dragons are a major indication that something is wrong with them. Generally, beardies love gliding and crawling across their tank, using all four legs. 

But, if you notice that your beardie is having difficulty moving around, check for these signs as they indicate Metabolic Bone Disease or MBD.

  • Continuous twitching and tremors across the legs and fingers.
  • Moving around with front legs only (no involvement of hind legs).
  • Hardness along the spine area.
  • Signs of weakness and fatigue
  • Swelling across the body (face, mouth, hind legs)

Bearded dragons suffer from Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD) due to the lack of sufficient nutrients like Calcium or D3. Poor lighting and over-consumption of phosphates may also trigger MBD in beardies.

Metabolic Bone Disease is a grave concern amongst pet owners, as not taking immediate action can lead to the paralysis or death of the bearded dragon.

 A common treatment plan by most veterinarians involves dietary changes, oral calcium supplementation, and using Vitamin D3 injectables

3. Increased Lethargy

Lethargy and loss of appetite pretty much go hand-in-hand. If your bearded dragon acts lethargic for one day, it isn’t a cause for worry.

However, if they stay the same for an extended period, you need to check on them as they might be dying. 

Increased lethargy often stems from poor lighting, as beardies require UVB lighting.

According to the Avonvale Veterinary Center based in the UK, UVB lighting helps in synthesizing Vitamin D, which further helps in absorbing calcium. 

Tip: If you need to get a new UVB bulb for your bearded dragon or if you are not sure if you current UVB bulb is good, have a look at our guide on the best UVB lamps for bearded dragons here.

So, if you don’t provide them with the same, low calcium levels may lead to lethargy and a bunch of other dangerous diseases too!

Keep in mind that lethargy is also a common sign that your bearded dragon is either going to start shedding or brumating. Therefore, if you notice other such signs of shedding or brumation, too, you need not worry!

4. Stool-Related Issues

is my bearded dragon dying or brumating?

Most adult bearded dragons can poop once a day or sometimes, even once a week. However, if they’re sick or stressed due to some reason, they might suffer from constipation, abnormal stools, or even diarrhea. 

Moreover, impaction is another cause of stool-related issues, which can lead to death if not treated immediately.

In impaction, the bearded dragon’s intestines get blocked either due to consuming too much substrate, feeder insects that are too big, or due to improper environmental factors.

Some common symptoms of impaction in bearded dragons include sudden constipation, shaky legs, stiff gait, bulging belly, regurgitation, and paralysis of the front legs (in extreme cases).

If you notice them, take your beardie to a vet immediately for the best treatment option. If you don’t have access to an exotic vet in your area, book an online vet at Vetster here!

Apart from impaction, stool-related issues can also be caused due to other reasons. The table below covers some of the abnormal stool colors and textures and their causes.

Black Black poop might be due to constipation or impaction. 
WhiteWhite stools indicate dehydration. So, you need to mist or bathe your beardie and provide them with hydrating food.
Red (or bloody) Red stools can be due to feeding red-colored fruits and vegetables, like beet. However, bloody stools are mainly due to parasitic infections or internal bleeding. 
YellowIncreased calcium levels in the body. Treatment includes a reduction in calcium-rich foods and improving UV-B lighting. 
Runny or WateryIt is mostly caused due to parasitic infection. If the stool also smells bad, take your beardie to a vet immediately.

5. Abnormal or Wrinkly Skin

Skin problems are quite common in bearded dragons. They might cause the skin to look abnormal, depending on the type of problem. If left untreated, they can harm your beardie and cause them to die. 

Some common skin problems in bearded dragons include:

  • Mouth Rot: It is a type of bacterial infection spread across the mouth and jaw bone of a bearded dragon. Typical symptoms include the secretion of pus from the mouth, sudden loss of appetite, and inflamed mouth tissue. (We explain this in more detail here)
  • Tail Rot: This condition takes place when the blood flow to the tail is constricted. It can be due to a variety of reasons. Typical symptoms include brittle or dry tail/toes and darkening of the tail. 
  • Yellow Fungus Disease: As the name suggests, yellow fungus disease is a fungal infection that affects the entire skin of beardies. The body scales develop crusty yellow or brown legions that keep getting larger.

Each of the above-mentioned problems requires immediate veterinarian attention.

Apart from these skin diseases, bearded dragons may also develop wrinkly skin. This is mainly due to dehydration.

If you’re unsure about whether they’re dehydrated or not, look for other signs too, such as – sunken eyes, loose skin, skinny tail, and sticky/thick saliva.

6. Breathing Difficulties

Breathing or respiratory difficulties can indicate several health concerns in your bearded dragon. As they directly affect your pet’s respiratory system, not treating them quickly might increase their severity. 

Therefore, if you notice that your bearded dragon is breathing heavily, it might be because of stress. As we had mentioned earlier, several factors like environmental and physiological ones can induce stress in beardies

Also, if your beardie is breathing with its mouth open, then the basking spot temperature might be too high. Hence, they’ll breathe with their mouth open to cool their body. 

Note: Keep in mind that breathing difficulties might also be due to underlying respiratory infections. So, check for other symptoms of respiratory infections like coughing, mucus secretion in the nose and mouth area, gaping/choking, and loss of appetite. 

7. Droopy Eyes

If you look at your bearded dragon closely, you’ll find that they’ve vivid, round, and sharp eyes. Yet, when something is wrong with them, their eyes look sunken and droopy. In such a situation, you need to find out the cause. 

One of the primary reasons for droopy/sunken eyes is dehydration. So, if you’re not providing your beardie with sufficient drinking water, or enough humidity, they might get dehydrated. 

Now, what if you have provided all the means for hydration and they still have droopy eyes? Well, get them checked for external parasitic infections, like mite infestation.

You should also get them checked for other physical illnesses like impaction or mouth rot. 

8. No Basking

Bearded dragons are cold-blooded, so they rely on external heat sources to maintain their internal body temperatures. This is why you need to provide them with a basking spot where they can get enough heat. 

However, if you notice that your bearded dragon isn’t going to its usual basking spot, then you need to figure out the reason. It might be due to some physical illness (causing lethargy) or due to an improper basking area setup. 

Note that if your beardie continues to stay on the cold side and refuses to move to the basking spot, they might even die within 24 hours.   

Tip: Have a look at our guide on the best heat bulbs for bearded dragons tanks here in case you need guidance on how to set them up, what wattage you need, what bulb and fixture you need, etc.

What to Do If Your Bearded Dragon Is Dying?

common causes of death in bearded dragons

Now that you know the signs that your beardie is dying, what can you do to stop it? Well, given below are a few steps that you can follow. 

1. Consult a Veterinarian

You can always diagnose your beardie’s illnesses or problems by yourself. 

But, we recommend consulting a veterinarian as two diseases can have similar symptoms (like refusal to eat or lethargy), and you can easily get confused.

Consequently, you might come up with the wrong treatment plan, and put your beardie at more risk. 

Therefore, just reach out to a licensed veterinarian and let them know of the abnormal signs you’ve noticed in your beardie.

If you want to avoid unnecessary trips to a veterinarian, we highly recommend booking an online vet. We prefer Vetster as they are affordable and offer 24/7 appointments. Check them out here!

2. Provide Proper Tank Conditions

Once you have consulted the veterinarian, strive to provide the best tank conditions for your bearded dragon. 

Ensure that the tank has two proper zones (cold and warm) with the right temperatures and humidity. Also, pay special attention to lighting as UV-B is essential for calcium synthesis in bearded dragons. 

The table provides a quick overview of the tank settings to follow for bearded dragons.

CategoryIdeal Settings
TemperatureBasking Area – 100°F to 107°F – Cool Area -71°F to 79°F
HumidityAround 35% to 40%
SubstrateArcadia Earthmix Arid, JurassicNatural Australian Desert Dragon Habitat
LightingExo Terra Solar Glo, Zoo Med Powersun, Reptisun 10.0 + 100-150W heat bulb

3. Adjust the Diet Accordingly 

Lastly, you need to adjust the diet as per what the veterinarian suggests. 

For instance, if your beardie has impaction, you should avoid feeding them with live insects. Instead, you should just feed them soft foods like pumpkin puree and apples.

Whereas, in the case of calcium deficiency, you’ll have to give your beardie oral supplementation and calcium-rich foods.  

So, the whole diet plan should be customized as per the illness that you’re treating in your bearded dragon. 

Is Your Bearded Dragon Dying or Brumating?

Many owners confuse a brumating bearded dragon with a sick/dying bearded dragon. So, here are a few differences between a sick/dying and a brumating bearded dragon that might help and relieve you a bit. 

CategorySick Bearded DragonBrumating Bearded Dragon
Time It can happen at any time.Most beardies brumate around October and November, or around June (in Australia)
Body WeightRapid or drastic weight lossLittle weight loss.
MovementNo proper response to touch.They’ll give a proper response to touch.
Physical SymptomsPhysical symptoms like wrinkly/abnormal skin, dark-colored beard, and sunken eyes are present.No physical symptoms as such. There are mostly behavioral changes only.

Common Causes of Death In Bearded Dragons

Knowing the common causes of death in bearded dragons can help you protect your little beardie. Let’s take a quick look at them.

  • Metabolic Bone Disease or MBD
  • Parasitic Infections like Mouth Rot
  • Impaction 
  • Vitamin Toxicity (especially Vitamin-A toxicity)
  • Dystocia or egg-binding (observed in female bearded dragons)

These problems require special medical attention, or they can get fatal and cause your bearded dragon to die. 

Tips to Extend Your Bearded Dragon’s Life Expectancy

Most bearded dragons can live up to 15 years of age if you take care of them properly. However, improper tank conditions and poor diet can shorten their lifespan easily.

Given below are some tips that might help in extending your bearded dragon’s lifespan.  

  1. Choose the right kind of substrate. Use substrates that allows them to show their natural digging behaviors.
  2. Provide your beardie with calcium supplements at least twice or thrice a week. You just need to sprinkle their food with some calcium powder.
  3. Keep the enclosure clean and hygienic to prevent parasitic infestation. 
  4. Offer clean water daily for both drinking and bathing purposes to your beardie to avoid dehydration.
  5. Follow the 80-20 rule in feeding your beardie. Hence, you should offer an 80% plant-based diet and a 20% insect-based diet. The best insects for bearded dragons include crickets and dubia roaches.
  6. Consider visiting the vet at least once a year for regular checkups of your beardie.
  7. Keep your beardie away from loud noises, pets, or kids to prevent stress. 
  8. Don’t keep two bearded dragons (cohabitation) in the same tank.

Final Thoughts

A dying bearded dragon doesn’t mean that they cannot be saved! You just need to pay special attention, love, and care to them. 

Moreover, once you have identified the root cause of the problem, you can come up with the best treatment plan to save your pet!

Again, if you can’t bring your bearded dragon to a vet, book an online vet instead. We highly recommend this platform for that as they are affordable and offer 24/7 appointments.

Pierre And The ReptileCraze Team
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