bearded dragon handbook

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Why Is Your Bearded Dragon Shaking?

Regularly monitoring your bearded dragon’s behavior is an important part of your pet’s care.

When you are familiar with your reptile’s behavior, you will be more likely to notice when something is not right.

Most illnesses in bearded dragons will affect your pet’s behavior in one way or another, and there may even be physical symptoms present.

So what does it mean when your bearded dragon is shaking?

On the whole, a shaking bearded dragon is usually the result of a severe vitamin deficiency. A lack of calcium or vitamin D3 in your bearded dragon’s diet will lead to a host of health problems, and it puts your reptile at risk for the deadly metabolic bone disease.

Because a vitamin deficiency causes it, it is easy to prevent shaking in your bearded dragon. 

Read on to learn more information about the causes of shaking in your bearded dragon and how you may prevent it.

why is my bearded dragon shaking

Reasons Why Your Bearded Dragon Is Shaking

If your bearded dragon is shaking, it is treatable with calcium and vitamin supplements. 

However, you should be careful when giving your bearded dragon any supplements because a vitamin overdose will also cause your lizard to shake.

If the vitamin deficiency has progressed to metabolic bone disease, your treatment options are very slim as there is no known cure for the disease, and it will ultimately lead to your bearded dragon’s death.

Let’s talk about the different concerns, how to handle bearded dragons, and what to watch for. 

Calcium Deficiency In Bearded Dragons

A calcium deficiency is not always the cause behind your bearded dragon shaking, but it is the most common.

A calcium deficiency is caused by a poor diet and a lack of supplementation. 

Shaking is the first sign of calcium deficiency, and symptoms may progress to seizures if left untreated.

Insects generally do not have much calcium, and they tend to be high in phosphorus. 

Too much phosphorus will cause your beardie to have problems metabolizing calcium in its body.

When a bearded dragon has low calcium levels, its body will begin to leech the mineral from the bones. 

Over time, this will cause the bones to soften and deform, and you will see your bearded dragon shaking a lot.

To counteract this issue, your live insect feeders should be properly gut loaded before feeding them to your beardie, and you should lightly dust them with a calcium powder supplement as well.

Gut loading your feeder insects is a simple process in which you feed the insects nutritious vegetables. 

Special foods are also available for feeder insects, and they offer a variety of vitamins and minerals.

Once the insects have been fed, you will need to wait between 12-24 hours before feeding them to your beardie. 

This gives the insects enough time to properly digest the food so they will be able to pass the nutrients on to your lizard. 

Waiting any longer than 24 hours runs the risk of the insects completely digesting the food and passing it from their body, leaving them empty without nutrients to offer to your beardie.

To dust your feeder insects with a calcium powder, you will first place the insects in a plastic bag or container. 

Then, you will add a light sprinkling of calcium powder and shake the container to coat the insects thoroughly. 

Be careful not to use too much calcium supplement because if it is caked too thickly on the insects, your bearded dragon will not find them very tasty, and it may refuse to eat.

Calcium powders are also effective to lightly dust your beardie’s vegetables as well.

If you do not offer UVB lighting in your beardie’s enclosure, you will need to choose a calcium supplement with vitamin D3 included. 

D3 helps a bearded dragon absorb and metabolize the calcium correctly.

Check out our complete calcium guide for bearded dragons for a great resource on ensuring your pet has the right amount of calcium.

Wrong Lighting In Bearded Dragon Tanks

As stated above, if you do not have proper lighting above your beardie’s tank, your reptile is probably not getting enough vitamin D3. 

Without D3, calcium is not properly absorbed, and a deficiency will cause your beardie to shake.

While vitamin D3 may be given as a supplement along with calcium, bearded dragons can synthesize the vitamin through UVB rays.

UVB rays are absorbed through a beardie’s skin, where it is transformed into vitamin D. 

The liver then converts this vitamin D into D3, where it is stored in the body.

If you provide your bearded dragon with adequate UVB lighting for at least 12 hours per day, a vitamin D3 supplement is unnecessary. 

It may even be harmful due to a D3 overdose. 

Since beardies store vitamin D3 in their bodies, adding more will lead to vitamin toxicity.

Using a timer on your UVB lights ensures a steady light cycle and prevents you from forgetting to turn it off at night.

UVB bulbs lose their effectiveness over time, so to ensure your bearded dragon receives the right amount of UVB rays, you should replace the bulb at least once a year. 

Changing the UVB bulb every six months is even better if you have any uncertainty about the amount of UVB rays your beardie is getting.

Bearded Dragon Metabolic Bone Disease

Metabolic bone disease is the result of a severe calcium deficiency in reptiles.

One of the earliest signs of this disease is trembling in your bearded dragon. 

As the disease progresses, your lizard may even begin to have seizures.

Other symptoms of metabolic bone disease include:

  • Softening of the bones
  • Bone deformities
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • The inability for the bearded dragon to lift its body from the ground

When the spine becomes deformed, it may even cause paralysis in the rear limbs.

Metabolic bone disease is extremely painful for a bearded dragon, and there is no cure for the crippling disease. 

Since the symptoms are not reversed with treatment, the disease will ultimately cause death.

Luckily, the disease is preventable, and with a proper diet and a calcium powder supplement, your beardie will have healthy bones.

Vitamin Toxicity As A Cause For Bearded Dragon Shaking

It is quite possible for your beardie to be shaking because of a vitamin overdose. 

While vitamins are usually helpful at preventing disease and promoting healthy growth in your reptile, too much of a good thing is bad for its body.

The most common vitamin causing overdoses in bearded dragons is vitamin D3. 

This is likely because many owners are worried about metabolic bone disease, so they supplement vitamin D3 more than is necessary. 

A D3 overdose is also more likely to happen if your beardie is receiving plenty of UVB light and getting a lot of D3 supplements at the same time.

In addition to shaking, a vitamin D3 overdose will cause pain in your beardie’s joints. 

Since vitamin D3 aids in the body’s calcium absorption, too much D3 will cause excess calcium to be deposited into the bones. 

Calcium may also be deposited into the heart and kidneys, causing both to malfunction.

The best way to avoid vitamin D3 toxicity is to limit D3 supplementation to a small amount once per week. 

A UVB bulb in your beardie’s enclosure will ensure the animal gets the vitamin D3 its body needs.

Parasites and Other Diseases In Bearded Dragons

While calcium deficiency is the most common cause of shaking in bearded dragons, it is also possible to be caused by parasites or other diseases.

Parasites and diseases will cause your bearded dragon to become weak, and this may cause your reptile to shake. 

However, this may be difficult to tell without a veterinarian’s diagnosis.

If your bearded dragon is shaking, you should seek a reptile vet right away for proper diagnosis and treatment. 

The shaking could be a sign of a life-threatening illness, and you should not delay treatment.

One of the most common parasites are pinworms.

Read our post on bearded dragon pinworms for the signs, symptoms, and treatment of this parasite.

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