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Why Your Bearded Dragon Is Not Using Its Back Legs

Is your bearded dragon struggling or unable to move its hind legs?

Have you noticed any mobility changes in your beardie lately?

When a bearded dragon is unable or unwilling to move its back legs, it is a warning sign of a severe problem that needs to be attended to immediately.

Think about it. 

If you were all of a sudden unable to move your legs, you would know there is something urgently wrong that requires immediate medical attention. 

This holds for your pet lizards as well.

Let’s discuss the leading causes of hind leg immobility, what this condition suggests about a bearded dragon’s health, the necessary treatments for this situation, and the consequences and side effects associated with it.

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Why Is My Bearded Dragon Not Using Its Back Legs?

If your bearded dragon cannot move its hind legs and tail, it needs immediate medical attention. This lower-body paralysis is a dangerous side effect of impaction and is fatal if left untreated.

When a bearded dragon suffers from lower body paralysis, it has most likely suffered from impaction. 

It has likely exhibited several other warning signs leading up to this point.

Impaction is a blockage in the digestive system that regularly affects bearded dragons. 

This condition results from the animal’s inability to digest food, which may happen for several reasons.

Overfeeding your beardie is another potential cause of hind leg paralysis. 

Feeding your pet lizard too often or feeding it an unhealthy diet will cause issues for the animal. 

Overfeeding has several symptoms, including the affected reptile losing its ability to move its lower body.

Improper levels of calcium and vitamin D may also cause paralysis. 

Calcium deficiency occurs when the bearded dragon lacks calcium or its body struggles with calcium absorption. 

This bearded dragon calcium issue leads to metabolic bone disease, also known as MBD.

Too much calcium and vitamin D supplementation poses the risk of over calcification, commonly referred to as vitamin D toxicity or hypervitaminosis D. 

While this condition is uncommon in bearded dragons, over-supplementation of these nutrients may lead to mobility issues.

A female bearded dragon who is egg-bound or suffering from dystocia is at risk of paralysis. 

While this condition is not regularly seen in lizards like turtles and snakes, it is still possible. 

This condition occurs when the animal cannot pass fully formed mature eggs from its reproductive system.

Trauma is also a possible cause of back leg immobility. 

If your pet beardie recently suffered from a spinal injury or some other bodily trauma, it may be the cause of your animal’s paralysis. 

These conditions are severe, and immediate proper care is required from a medical professional.

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Reasons A Bearded Dragon Can’t Move Its Hind Legs

Bearded Dragon Impaction

Impaction results from the inability to pass food through the digestive system. 

This blockage is another way of saying your lizard is constipated and is often easily treatable.

While impaction commonly affects these lizards and owners can usually alleviate the situation with home remedies, some severe or unattended impaction cases require veterinary care.

The condition can turn fatal when impaction is unnoticed in a bearded dragon, and no treatment plan is prescribed.

Causes of Impaction

An improper diet causes impaction, food pieces too large to pass, feeding the animal too often or too much, and improper lighting and temperature within the tank

This condition may also occur if the dragon consumes foreign objects, such as its substrate.

Feeding a beardie a diet high in fats and sugars but low in fiber may lead to impaction. 

If your bearded dragon lacks essential vitamins and minerals and is fed an unhealthy diet, it may be unable to digest its food.

This is also true for humans. 

Diets higher in fiber and essential nutrients allow you to have a higher metabolism and digest food easier than diets high in fat, sugar, and cholesterol.

If you feed these animals food pieces too large to digest, they are also at risk of impaction. 

This issue is often caused by providing insects that are too large during meals. 

The chances of impaction caused by pieces of food that are too large are higher in babies and juveniles than in adults.

The insects you feed your beardie should be no larger than the space between its eyes. 

This rule of thumb is a way of telling the maximum-sized insect your pet can digest, and it holds for baby bearded dragons as well as adults.

The inability to digest food and pass it through the body is also a side effect of overfeeding your dragon. 

If the dragon is not given enough time between meals to successfully digest its food, a mass of food may form in the stomach. 

This bulb of food is responsible for impaction and may also cause paralysis.

If your pet reptile is kept in a tank with improper UVB lighting or inadequate temperature regulation, it may have difficulty performing regular bodily functions, including food digestion. 

Since reptiles are cold-blooded, they rely on their external environment to regulate their body temperature.

UVB lighting for reptiles is essential to their health and wellbeing. 

Without the proper lighting for reptiles such as bearded dragons, the animal will suffer various medical conditions. 

If the reptile does not get any form of UVB lighting, the animal will become very ill and not survive.

Symptoms & Remedies

Common symptoms of impaction include:

  • Irregular bowel movements.
  • Bloating and discomfort when trying to walk.
  • Lethargy.
  • The inability to pass food or move its hind legs.

If your beardie appears to be bloated and has not passed food recently, you will want to treat it for impaction. 

When a sign of impaction is caught early, this condition is easily alleviated at home.

Extreme exhaustion and obvious discomfort while walking or moving are also warning signs of a blockage.

Some impaction remedies include gently massaging the animal’s body and placing it in a warm bath with the opportunity to swim. 

The warm water will help loosen the food and encourage digestion. 

Swimming and massaging the body are movements that will help alleviate minor impaction.

Paralysis from impaction in the lower body is a severe side effect of this condition. 

In cases where a bearded dragon loses its ability to move its back legs and tail, immediate medical attention is required.

If this is the case, the animal has been suffering from impaction for some time. 

It has most likely shown some sign of impaction; however, the previous, less severe symptoms have been neglected or gone unnoticed.


Overfeeding your bearded dragon is also a common cause of blockage in the digestive system. 

Feeding your pet a poor diet, too much food, or too often may lead to obesity and other severe medical conditions.

overweight bearded dragon

The symptoms of overfeeding are similar to those of impaction and include:

  • Drastic weight gain
  • Bloating
  • Lethargy
  • Lack of appetite
  • Inability to move back legs and tail

The best way to prevent overfeeding is by following a three-day feeding cycle, in which an adult bearded dragon is fed salad one day, insects the next day, and fasts on the third day. 

This feeding schedule will allow ample digestion time and help with portion control.

To ensure you are not feeding your pet too much protein at once, only provide it one insect per inch (4 cm) long per meal.

If your beardie is exhibiting any of these symptoms and you have deduced it is overfed, change your feeding habits right away. 

Hopefully, you will have noticed this problem early when it is easily corrected.

When the condition has escalated to the lower body’s point of immobility, a reptile vet specializing in bearded dragons should be consulted immediately.

Paralysis occurs due to overfeeding when a food bulbous is formed in the stomach. 

This is a mass of food that the animal cannot digest and pass through its system.

If this mass grows large enough, it will put pressure on the spine’s nerves. 

Pressure on the spinal nerves, such as the sciatic nerves, will need to be relieved as soon as possible to prevent permanent damage to the spine.

Sciatic nerves are located at the base of the spine just above the legs. 

Severe damage to these nerves may be life-altering.

Treatment options for a severe case may vary, and you should consult a reptile vet for proper care.

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Metabolic Bone Disease In Bearded Dragons

Metabolic bone disease (MBD) is a severe health condition most reptiles are at risk of developing. 

This common disease occurs when the animal receives insufficient amounts of UVB light and is fed a diet lacking in calcium & vitamin D.

When a reptile lacks calcium in its diet, the body will take the necessary calcium from bones. 

Long-term nutritional deficiency such as a lack of calcium will lead to advanced stages of MBD. 

An animal may suffer from this disease for an extended period and has likely been suffering for years if the condition develops to the stage of paralysis.

bearded dragon with mbd

A reptile exhibiting a sign of calcium deficiency is either not getting enough calcium in its meals, is unable to absorb calcium, or consumes too many foods with a poor phosphorous to calcium ratio.

For most reptiles, the phosphorous to calcium ratio (P: Ca) must be at least 1:2. 

This is because their bodies require the use of calcium to process phosphorous.

Their bodies may struggle with absorbing calcium if its phosphorous or oxalate levels are too high.

Whatever the reason for calcium deficiency, adding a calcium supplement to the affected dragon’s diet will help alleviate the problem.

Before feeding your beardie, sprinkle a dusting of calcium powder over its food. 

This calcium powder will help supplement the mineral and stop the body from stealing calcium from bones.

Using the wrong UVB bulb in your beardie’s tank is another cause of this common disease. 

The right lighting is an essential part of proper care for all reptiles.

If your lizard struggles with UVB exposure, consider placing a separate UVB bulb along with a heat bulb in the cage. 

This supportive care will also help regulate its vitamin D3 levels. 

UVB rays are required for the body to synthesize vitamin D3.

Along with MBD, the wrong lighting may lead to hypervitaminosis D or vitamin D toxicity. 

This would occur if the animal is fed high amounts of a vitamin D supplement, but the body is not synthesizing the vitamin as it is consumed.

Warning signs of the metabolic bone disease include body twitching, broken bones, soft bones, significant deformities of bone structure, and paralysis.

Soft bones will occur when the body makes too much calcium from bones to supplement the deficiency. 

This condition will leave the animal more likely to suffer from a broken bone.

Bone deformities and paralysis occur in the more advanced stages of this disease. 

If MBD has progressed to this level of severity, the damage may be irreversible.


When a female reptile is suffering from dystocia, she is egg-bound. 

The female has developed fully mature eggs in her reproductive system but cannot pass the eggs.

Although this condition is not very common in bearded dragons, it is still possible since these animals lay eggs as a means of reproduction.

If your pet is egg-bound, it may refuse to move or lose its ability to move due to pressure on the spinal discs. 

The treatment options for this condition vary depending on the lizard’s age and overall health.

In cases where the eggs will not pass, surgery will be performed to remove the eggs if the animal is young and healthy enough for the procedure.

Dystocia is occasionally fatal if the condition is too advanced and all treatment options have been exhausted.


Trauma to the spinal cord is another possible cause of paralysis in your pet beardie.

Injuries that seem minor but ultimately cause paralysis may result from an underlying health condition such as vitamin D deficiency.

A bearded dragon suffering from the metabolic bone disease has a higher risk of sustaining severe injuries from any trauma it experiences. 

If the animal has developed such a condition, it lacks calcium and vitamin D.

As stated in the previous section regarding MBD, animals suffering from this condition may have soft bones and are at a higher risk of breaking their bones.

These health issues may magnify the effects of a minor fall or other injury sustained by the reptile.

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How to Treat Paralysis

If your pet dragon is experiencing paralysis in its lower body or struggles to move its hind legs and tail, a severe health condition is present.

To find the appropriate treatment for this inability to move, we must first discover the condition’s cause.

If you have no inclination as to why your pet is suddenly struggling to move, consider looking for signs of impaction or overfeeding. 

If either of these conditions is present, the animal has likely shown previous warning signs.

Do your best to think of your dragon’s recent behaviors. 

Rapid weight gain, a protruding mass in the stomach or around the spine, lethargy, and irregular bowel movements are all early signs of impaction and overfeeding.

If your bearded dragon has bone deformities and its legs are twitching or growing in odd directions, it most likely suffers from metabolic bone disease. 

Since we know how serious this condition is for reptiles, catching the early warning signs is essential.

If the suffering animal has not experienced any recent trauma and is not possible, it is egg bound

One of these underlying medical conditions is causing paralysis, and you must address it immediately.

No matter the cause of the paralysis, you must immediately take the animal to a vet specialist. 

Once blood tests are done and the vet has examined the bearded dragon, they will prescribe an appropriate treatment plan if one is available.

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Understanding the Causes Of Bearded Dragons Hind Leg Paralysis

Like most animals, using a bearded dragon’s hind legs is critical for the animal to have a comfortable life.

If paralysis of the lower body develops in your pet beardie, you need to take it to receive medical attention immediately. 

Hopefully, the condition is temporary and can be relieved.

In severe cases, permanent damage may be done to the nerves and spine, leaving your animal paralyzed. 

The most severe cases of paralysis are fatal.

To avoid the loss of movement in the back legs, do your best to monitor your beardie’s health and provide it with the essential environmental and dietary factors it needs to survive.

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