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Bearded Dragon Skin Conditions, Infections, Scale Problems

Do you know about bearded dragon skin conditions?

Do you want to know what preventative measures to take to ensure your dragon receives the best care? 

Part of pet ownership is giving your pet the best chance at a happy and healthy life. 

You need to know what is expected and safe and warrants a veterinarian trip. 

One of the most important things to watch for with these reptile pets is bearded dragon skin conditions.

You’ll probably come across a skin condition or two in your time owning beardies, so you need to know what to look for and what to do. 

In this article, we’ll help with this. 

Let’s get started.

bearded dragon skin conditions

Bearded Dragon Skin Conditions To Watch For

Skin conditions bearded dragons (scientifically known as Pogona Vitticeps) may suffer from include yellow fungus, mouth rot, tail rot, sunken fat pads, retained shed, skin burns, and wrinkly skin. Look for signs of change in your bearded dragon’s skin out of the ordinary and educate yourself on the specifics. 

Skin ConditionWhat To Look For
Yellow feverYellowing and pus on the scales
Mouth rotDiscoloration and discharge in the mouth
Tail rotDiscoloration and wasting on the tail
Sunken fat padsSmall or non-existent pads behind the eyes where they store fat
Retained shedBits of dead skin stuck to the body
Skin burnsInjury on the skin from heating elements too close
Wrinkly skinBunched up skin resulting from dehydration

What Is Yellow Fungus? 

bearded dragon yellow fungus

Yellow fungus (also known as Chrysosporium Anamorph of Nanniziopsis vriesii or CANV) is a fungal infection. 

It attacks a bearded dragon’s superficial and deep tissues. 

It can attack their organs in severe cases. 

The scales will become discolored and appear yellow. 

The scales may break off as the infection worsens and reveal raw and sensitive tissue. 

In this case, drugs will need to be prescribed by a vet. 

Because this infection goes deeper than just the skin, your vet may need to provide systemic antifungal drugs, given orally or by injection. 

The vet may also suggest bloodwork, an x-ray, or an ultrasound to rule out other serious internal illnesses. 

What Is Mouth Rot? 

bearded dragon mouth rot

Mouth rot (Infectious Stomatitis) is when the inside of a bearded dragon’s mouth becomes inflamed to the point of severity where the inside of the mouth is rotting. 

It is often a symptom of a fungal, bacterial, or viral infection. 

Like most other ailments, mouth rot occurs when the bearded dragon’s immune system is compromised, making them more vulnerable to infection. 

To catch mouth rot in its early stages, regularly check the appearance of your bearded dragon’s mouth. 

If your bearded dragon has mouth rot, you must immediately make an appointment with your veterinarian. 

Diagnosis in the early stages gives your pet the best chance at a speedy recovery instead of a long, expensive, and potentially painful treatment. 

What Is Tail Rot?

Caused by an internal infection, tail rot is a condition where a bearded dragon’s tail begins to rot. 

It is caused by poor husbandry conditions, insufficient calcium, or a tail injury. 

Poor husbandry conditions, in this case, refer to inadequate UVB exposure.

Without enough UVB, bearded dragons can’t absorb vitamin D3 from calcium, which causes their bones to weaken. 

If unable to take them to the vet for some reason, there is a home remedy for tail rot called a betadine and water soak. 

The vet will perform a physical examination and either provide antibiotics or surgery if it has become too serious.

If caught early on, antibiotics will usually suffice for treating tail rot. 

If left untreated, it can lead to the tail falling off or, more devastatingly, organ failure. 

Act fast to ensure your dragon gets effective treatment. 

What Are Sunken Fat Pads? 

bearded dragon sunken fat pads

Sunken fat pads are the area behind a bearded dragon’s eyes where they store extra fat. 

They are typically soft and squishy. 

When sunken in, this is a sign your dragon is underweight and, therefore, malnourished. 

The fat pads are located behind the dragon’s eyes and are raised and soft. 

Fat pads will be noticeable in healthy dragons, whereas unhealthy dragons will have fat pads that are flat or sunken. 

Sunken fat pads are a sign your dragon is malnourished or dehydrated

You can learn more about bearded dragon fat pads in this post.

What Is a Retained Shed?

bearded dragon sheds

Medically referred to as Dysecdysis, a retained shed is when the outer layer of a reptile’s skin does not shed in a usual manner.

If this is the case, the skin will look dead and dull. 

It will be less shiny than the surrounding skin, and there may be raised patches of skin. 

Your dragon’s behavior may be skittish, and it may not want to be handled. 

It is especially critical to check the toes, limbs, and tail since these areas lose circulation easily. 

A retained shed may lead to a lack of nutrients because the skin has a lot of nutrients. 

What Are Skin Burns? 

If the lamps in a dragon’s tank are not set up correctly, the dragon may be overexposed to heat, which will result in skin burns. 

Bearded dragons are especially sensitive to this as they don’t require as much heat as other lizards. 

Heat lamps should be turned on for no more than 12 hours a day, and their tanks should have dual temperatures. 

One thermometer should be placed on either side of the tank, so there is two total. 

You should place the thermometers in the middle of the tank’s height to give an accurate reading. 

The hottest part of the tank should be 90-100° degrees Fahrenheit (38° C) for adults and up to 110° degrees Fahrenheit (43° C) for dragons under six months old. 

The hot spot should go up to 105° degrees Fahrenheit (41° C) for beardies under one year old. 

At night, the tank should cool down between 72-80° degrees Fahrenheit (27 C)°. 

If the temperature falls below the recommended night temperature, a ceramic heat emitter may be necessary. 

The bulbs should be off at night and changed every 4-6 months. 

Under-tank heaters are not recommended since they emit heat without light. 

This is confusing for beardies because they use light to determine when to move away from the heat. 

In other words, without light as a stimulus, they might not move away from heat caused by the under-tank heater, which can lead to overheating and burns. 

If you’re still considering an under-tank heater for bearded dragons, read our post on all its uses and alternatives.

What Is Wrinkly Skin? 

How wrinkly a bearded dragon’s skin is has nothing to do with age and everything to do with weight and hydration. 

Wrinkly skin indicates that your bearded dragon is dehydrated, underweight, or both. 

A little bit of wrinkly skin is fine, but you need to take action if there’s a lot. 

How do You Know when it’s a problem?

Do the “pinch test.”

If you pinch a loose area of skin and it doesn’t settle back into place immediately upon release, this is a cause for concern. 

If this is the case, your beardie is dehydrated and needs a soak in the tub for 15-20 minutes. 

The water should be just below their shoulders but deep enough to cover their vent. 

If they are underweight, you will need to reassess their diet and ensure they’re eating enough of the right foods. 

What Is Normal For Bearded Dragon Shedding?

A bearded dragon sheds its skin frequently as a baby or juvenile, whereas an adult bearded dragon will shed its skin once or twice a year on average. 

Before shedding, their color will become duller, and the area around the eyes will be more puffed out than usual. 

Puffy skin around the eyes and dull skin is entirely normal and healthy in this case. 

To ensure a dragon is healthy, pay attention to its energy level and appearance. 

A healthy dragon will keep its head perked up while awake and become alert when someone approaches its tank. 

Some dragons will go through brumation, a hibernation period, and may experience a lack of appetite. 

However, a healthy bearded dragon will not experience weight loss. 

This is normal. 

If weight loss occurs during this time, it may signify a parasitic infection. 

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How Do You Prevent Bearded Dragon Skin Problems?

To prevent a bearded dragon from developing a skin condition or any other ailment, you must make sure to keep its immune system strong and healthy. 

Your dragon’s immune system is weakened from inadequate cage temperatures, insufficient humidity levels, stress, and a poor diet. 

Symptoms of this include: 

  • Yellowish or grayish areas of skin around the mouth (yellow fungus)
  • Dead tissue around the mouth (mouth rot)
  • ack of appetite or disinterest in food 
  • Inflamed oral tissues
  • Excessive saliva
  • Swelling of the head. 

Exposure to low temperatures, high humidity, or an incorrect habitat may lead to respiratory infections

Signs of this include: 

  • Visible breathing difficulties
  • Puffing up of the body or throat
  • Excess mucus around the nostrils and mouth
  • Gaping mouth. 

Annual physical and fecal examinations are another highly effective preventative measure to prevent common diseases. 

During a physical exam, vets will discuss lighting, nutrition, and proper housing. 

Fecal examinations will check for intestinal parasites and mites, and routine blood screens can catch disease processes early. 

Parasites common in dragons include Coccidia, Protozoa, and pinworms. 

The most common side effects of these are weight loss and diarrhea. 

Proper hygiene while handling your dragon will help prevent parasites. 

Healthy Diets Help Their Skin 

Leafy greens should make up the majority of a bearded dragon diet, at about 70 %. 

Adult bearded dragons require only 20% of fat in their diet. 

In captivity, it is common for dragons to have closer to 40% fat in their diet, but over 40% can lead to health problems such as obesity. 

The crickets should be gut-loaded, which means they were fed nutritious foods, so the nutrition goes to your pet. 

They should also be dusted with a multivitamin or calcium found at most pet stores.

Many reptile enthusiasts and breeders unanimously agree the best calcium and D3 supplement available is Rep-Cal Reptile Calcium Powder with D3

It is also easy for Bearded Dragons to become malnourished through inadequate UV exposure or improper diet. 

The most common types of malnourishment include Hypervitaminosis A (too much vitamin A) and Hypothiaminosis (Lack of vitamin B1). 

The signs of a vitamin A overdose are swelling of the throat, body, eyes, and lack of energy. 

However, this usually only occurs from artificial vitamin A supplements, which is why it’s essential you only use multivitamins with natural vitamin A. 

Lack of vitamin B occurs when your dragon isn’t getting enough thiamine in its diet, which leads to tremors and muscle twitches. 

These are the same symptoms of Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD), which is why Hypothiaminosis is sometimes misdiagnosed as Metabolic Bone Disease. 

Metabolic Bone Disease occurs when bearded dragons aren’t absorbing calcium properly or aren’t getting enough calcium to begin with. 

If untreated, the lack of calcium will cause the dragon’s bones to deteriorate and be fatal. 

If caught early on, treatments can stop it, but it won’t heal fully.

There may be specific symptoms of this, such as hind limb or jaw swelling in the case of MBD. 

This may also include lethargy, depression, and anorexia, which are found in many diseases. 

Final Thoughts

Bearded dragons are physically sensitive creatures.

Like humans, they need proper care to survive and thrive, and they need it regularly. 

While the long list of skin conditions, illnesses, and other diseases may seem overwhelming, they are a possibility for your dragon. 

With preliminary research and resources, these skin conditions are preventable and highly treatable if caught early on. 

The most common skin conditions you need to look out for are yellow fungus, mouth rot, tail rot, sunken fat pads, retained shed, skin burns, and wrinkly skin. 

Set your pet up for a long and healthy life by learning about these conditions and how proper care can prevent them. 

If you’re interested, there are some great bearded dragon books out there to learn everything you want to know about these pet reptiles.

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