Prevention is always better than being cured. If you own a beardie, it is your job to protect and prevent them from common bearded dragon diseases, such as impactions, parasitic infections, metabolic bone disease, dehydration, thermal burns, and calcium deficiency. The human caregiver must provide the pet with adequate attention and proper care.
Whether its an adult or a baby pogona, the ability to identify common diseases will help extend your dragons lifespan. Although some ailments are unpreventable. Knowledge, a well setup and maintained dragon cage can keep your baby bearded dragon in good health.
In this post, we are going to go over a few common diseases, their cause and how to prevent them.
Metabolic Bone Disease or MBD
Metabolic bone disease is very common for reptiles in captivity. Awareness of MBD is an important part of pogona Care. This disease is similar to MBD in humans. You may be more familiar to the human counterparts known as Rickets or osteoporosis. Causes of Metabolic Bone Disease in Reptiles is low or improper calcium nutrition.
Your dragon is at risk If it’s diet does not provide enough calcium, the calcium to phosphate ratio is off or you are not providing UVB. If a reptile or human does not get its required calcium, it will start taking it from the bones. This can lead to bone problems including brittle bones which is soft or easily fractured bones. It can also cause heart and muscle problems.
Supplementing more calcium might not be the answer. If your Dragon is not getting enough UVB lighting, It will not be able to produce Vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 is crucial to Calcium metabolizing. A good UVB bulb is need to Raise your baby beardie. Also keep in mind that your UVB bulb must be replaced every 6 months.
When searching for calcium check to be sure its specificity a bearded dragon care supplement.
A Diet in high Fiber will bind to calcium. This is why its important to keep your beardie away from Lettuce. Lettuce will bind to calcium, leaving it indigestible.
Low temps can also be the culprit. Bearded’s need the right temps to digest. Make sure to check basking temps from time to time. 100-105 for babies and 105-110 for adults but staying with in the 100-110 range should be fine baby bearded dragon care.
Most MBD problems can be reversed when problems are corrected.
- Keep basking temps above 95 degrees minimum
- Calcium coat feeder insects once a day for babies, about 2x a week for adults
- Provide Calcium supplement
- Never give your beardie lettuce or other high fiber greens
The symptoms of impaction can be tricky. Often confused with Brumation in older adults. It should be fairly obvious with babies. Impaction is caused when your Dragon takes in something that can not be digested resulting in a block of intestinal track. Untreated, Impaction will result in death.
Symptoms that may be signs of impaction. No bowel movements, Bloated on hard belly, lethargy, loss in appetite and inability to move back legs.
Setting up your Baby Bearded Dragon Cage is key to preventing, not just impaction but almost all diseases. Most impaction cases are caused by bad Substrate, Especially with babies. Never use anything other than Paper towels, Newspaper, Reptile Carpet as liner for your cage. Sand, chips, pebbles, small rock, I have even seen people use smashed sea shells as substratum before. Terrible idea!, your dragon may intentionally, or unintentionally ingest pieces of substrate causing impaction. Keep it simple and safe!
Large and indigestible food. Remember, never feed your beardie anything longer than the space between its eyes. Use common sense, If it looks to big for your baby pogona, it probably is.
Cold temps or bad basking temps. You may notice that once your dragon fills his or her belly it goes right to basking. Dragons need to bask and keep body heat up in order to digest its food. Low basking temperature will lead to impaction. Your bearded dragon will be unable to digest.
Sometimes you can treat impaction at home. If needed correct basking temps. Gently message belly from top to the beardies bottom, slowly working undigested out of system. Frequent warm baths and a massage. A couple of drops of olive oil works as a safe laxative.
If you have been noticing signs impaction for a while. Or if you have been using an unsafe material, such as pebble for substrate and suspect ingestion, see a Vet. Sometimes surgery is the only answer.
More on bearded dragon impaction
- Use safe substratum only!
- Mind the size of the food you feed your beardie
- Basking temps should be 100-110 in order to digest
If you notice runny Feces. A particularly smelly and out of normal oder to the feces. If your dragon loses its appetite and has out of ordinary bowel movements. These could be signs of parasites.
If your safe and keep a clean cage you may never have this problem. I know a lot of people might tell you that its unavoidable. All beardies will run into some kind of bug one day. If you follow these cautionary steps, I promise you at the least chances of catching your beardie catching a parasite will be slim to none.
Keep your hand clean!, wash your hands before and after you handle your bearded dragon. You can easily transmit a disease to your beardie. On the flip side, it can also transmit a bug to you! Reptiles can carry salmonella without displaying symptoms. Maintain a clean bearded dragon cage.
Never Feed baby pogon insects you caught in the wild. It might seem like a good idea but its unsanitary. Who know what a wild insect might be infected with. Don’t take the chance. If you’re thinking about doing it to save a few bucks, Think about the possible Veterinarian fees.
Only get Feeder insects from a trusted source. Most parasites come from Bad feeder insects. There may come a time when you may decide to raise your own crickets. Honestly that’s the best bet. If you have the time, resources and love your baby dragon that much.
Keep the tank or cage clean. Remove or clean any soiled substrate daily. Disinfect your dragon cage weekly. Make sure you know how to disinfect the tank or cage. Disinfect area around your cage.
The only real way to clear your Bearded Dragon of bugs is to see a Vet. The vet will be able to prescribe the right medications. Also, disinfect the cage more frequently, even after symptoms have gone away. For at least a week or two. This will prevent recurrence.
- Clean the cage daily
- Disinfect weekly
- Never catch feeder insects
Stomatitis or Mouth Rot
Mouth rot is common in all reptiles. If untreated mouth rot can cause a wide range of health risks for your bearded dragon. From losing teeth to intestinal tract infections and even respiratory infection. Luckily the early signs of mouth rot are easy to see.
Infectious Stomatitis (mouth rot) will cause the inside of the mouth to become red and slightly puff. After some time the mouth will yellow on the inside and around. This can result in puss leakage from mouth and nose also dead tissue inside mouth.
External stresses can will hurt you dragons immune system. Stresses like improper handling, moving to a new cage, low Cage temps, extreme temp gradient or poor nutrition. Combine that with a mouth injury and Infectious Stomatitis will take hold.
Learn the proper way to handle your pet. Don’t grab , snatch or drop. Don’t let your 2-year-old neighbour play with him/her. Keep your basking temps at about 100-110 and don’t let the cool areas go below 85.
Remember, keep your pogona habitat simple and safe. Use good substrate, simple basking log or rock, just no sharp or jagged edges in the cage. Its possible but rare that your dragon might of hurt its mouth catching its prey. So mind what you feed your dragon. You must take your bearded dragon to the Vet. There are no safe home remedies or treatments.The doc will prescribe penicillin or other oral medication.
- Keep it regular, no dramatic change in your baby bearded dragons environment. They can’t handle the stress.
- The cage/tank must be free of anything that they may bite or chew that can cause damage to mouth.
Yellow fungus is a contagious and potentially deadly disease. Baby Bearded Dragons that have contracted Yellow Fungus are likely to die, especially if not caught immediately. This aggressive fungus can spread throughout the entire clutch with in a few days. Yellow fungus infects the skin and tissue of the dragon, Directly rotting and eating the flesh.
Although the cause of yellow Fungus may not be known. Some believe it’s the by-product of antibiotics.
The first sign of Yellow fungus will be a change of your pogona’s behavior. General Lethargy and loss of appetite will be apparent as he/she becomes ill. Yellow patches may start to appear at random parts of the body. Appendages may become swollen and or necrotic changing color red to green , yellow or black. Blisters may swell with puss. Necrotic tissue turns black indicating a loss. This can quickly spread throughout the limbs.
If Yellow fungus is suspected in your baby pogona vitticeps, remove it from the clutch immediately. Place the Ill Pogona into different cage. Thoroughly clean and disinfect clutch cage or tank and surrounding area. Take Your diseased Dragon to the vet as soon as possible. After an exam your vet may decide to treat your baby dragon with itraconazole and other strong anti-fungal medications.
- Follow antibiotic medications with probiotics. This may prevent the chances of contracting YFD.
- Keep a clean tank, always clear soiled substratum.
- Any sign of YFD, remove your infected baby bearded dragon from clutch. Clean and disinfect everything.
Very common and usually a sign of bad habitat set up or improper care of your bearded dragon, or in other words bad husbandry. Failed equipment such as bad basking bulb, broken thermometer of heater may also be the cause. Remember in order to keep your baby Pogona healthy it will need the right habitat. The temperature gradient in must be within the range of 75-110. Basking temps need to be 100-110. The humidity levels should never go above 50%.
Air in the tank must be free-flowing. Never seal the top of your beardies tank or cage. You must allow air to enter and leave the cage.
Symptoms of Respiratory Tract Infections can be, change in behavior, gasping or rattling sound when breathing and mucus leaking from nose and mouth.
If caught early it can be treated at home. Temporarily raise the temps a little higher than usual. Keep your bearded dragon well feed and add a little more calcium to their diet.
If the symptoms have lasted a week or longer take to a Vet for treatment. A simple antibiotic regimen may be prescribed. Properly caring for your pogona vitticeps may prevent every contracting the disease.
More on bearded dragon respiratory infection
- Regularly check temps in cage or tank.
- Maintain the right humidity for your bearded dragon habitat.
- Never air seal your dragon tank.
Baby bearded dragons contract mites from other lizards or infected areas. Mites are common if breeders or pet shops don’t keep a sanitary cage. Mites are small near microscopic in size bugs that attach and feed off your Pogona. They lay sticky clusters of eggs, usually in between or at the edge of the scale. Although they are very small you should be able to see them with your bare eyes. Often bright red or brown in color.
Mites are contracted When your beardie is allowed to stay with other infected lizards or beardies. Or using a shared space with other infected lizard. You also may have brought home a new beardie that may already be infected.
Bearded dragons will often stay near water dish and ich when infected. Your Beardie may not show any signs of infection. Inspect your bearded dragon when handling.
Mites are easily avoided and treated, Although treatment may be time-consuming. If you identify mites on your bearded dragon, move him/her to a temporary tank. Thoroughly clean, disinfect and treat your tank with Betadine or other mite killer. Clean your beardie in a solution of warm water and Betadine mix. Soak and spot swab your dragons spikes with Betadine or a purchased reptile mite solution. Repeat this for about a week, yes all of it. Clean and treat everything. Replace substrate a few times for that week. You must continue treatment until you are confident no trace of mites is left.
- Inspect new dragons before you put them into the cage
- Don’t use shared cages or tanks
- Don’t assume a newly bought dragon is mite free, Inspect and carefully pick your baby bearded dragon
- Inspect your dragon every now and then. Mites are small but visible
- If infected, clean everything including your bearded dragon until all signs are gone
Tail rot can be common with Baby Bearded Dragons living in groups. When in groups baby pogona may at times nip or bite at each others tails. This behavior may also be symptoms of other diseases or malnutrition. If something falls on or cuts the tail or if your dragon doesn’t completely shed the tail skin, it can cause tail rot. Basicly any trauma or injury can result in tail rot.
You can identify tail rot easily. When circulation is cut or restricted, resulting in tail rot. The tip of the tail may become black signifying dead tissue. This can also work its way up the tail. If untreated your bearded dragon may lose part of its tail.
Treating tail rot is fairly easy and can be prevented when you regularly bathe your Pogona. Once infected you can treat the area with hydrogen peroxide. This will help clear the infection. Regular bath’s will help loosen up dead skin. You may also carefully help your dragon with the shedding process.
- Bathe your dragon regularly when shedding
- Help along with shedding on the tail
- Try to prevent tail injury
- Use hydrogen peroxide on infected areas
A common problem that affects dragons is known as calcium deficiency which can be fixed with proper bearded dragon food. This problem is easily preventable once a rich source of calcium is present in the diet of the bearded dragon. You can purchase gut-loaded crickets that are commonly sold along with food sources that are rich in calcium. Expert keepers will also recommend that a calcium supplement is given to your lizard. Those two tips will almost always ensure that your beardie avoids calcium deficiency.
Bearded dragons will also suffer from a condition known as thermal burns. This is not classified as a bearded dragon disease but is caused by the incorrect setting in lighting conditions in the bearded dragon enclosure. A pet owner that is attentive will solve this problem quite easily by adjusting the light conditions.