Many bearded dragon owners have been baffled by the sight of a strange whitish blob stuck to their lizard’s vent.
Most reptile enthusiasts find them revolting, but sperm plugs are a common, natural occurrence for male bearded dragons.
But what are they, and do you need to remove or treat them?
Sperm plugs, also known as seminal plugs, are pockets of seminal fluid which build up in male bearded dragons’ and other reptiles’ hemipenes during mating season. They are normally passed with the lizard’s bowel movements and occasionally remain stuck to the lizard’s vent temporarily.
To learn more about sperm plugs, their purpose, and how to provide the best bearded dragon care, keep reading.
We’ll cover everything you need to know to keep you informed and your pet healthy.
What Are Sperm Plugs/Seminal Plugs In Bearded Dragons?
If you’ve ever noticed your male beardie pass a small, waxy, off-white substance in their poop, don’t panic, as it isn’t a cause for alarm but rather a sperm plug.
While they don’t have much of a use in captivity, in the wild, sperm plugs help bearded dragons and many other reptile species spread their scent in search of a willing female to mate with.
Once your male lizard reaches sexual maturity, it will begin producing sperm plugs from time to time, particularly during the warmer months wherever you live.
Perhaps you’ve noticed your beardie dragging their behind against the ground as they walk while head bobbing aggressively in their tank at nothing in particular.
Upon closer inspection, you’ll probably see a seminal plug dangling from their vent.
Usually, you don’t have to remove the plugs yourself, as they will normally pass the next time the lizard defecates.
Sometimes they remain stuck to the lizard’s vent for a little while, only to end up somewhere in their tank after it eventually falls off.
In rare cases, you might need to help the process along and gently remove the plug by giving your pet a warm bath; this is also normal.
How Often Do Bearded Dragons Get Sperm Plugs?
There is no set number or size of sperm plugs your dragon will produce in its lifetime.
They will pass anywhere from a few per year or a few per month, depending on their age, size, and if they have been paired with a mate for breeding.
This is normal.
Of course, only sexually mature males are capable of producing sperm plugs.
Bearded dragons are not hermaphroditic.
Should You Remove A Sperm Plug?
As long as your dragon isn’t regularly struggling to pass them or experiencing swelling or redness around their vent, all is well.
Your lizard will usually be able to remove them on its own.
If the plug remains stuck after a day or two, however, you should soak your lizard in warm water and massage the area around their vent with a wet cotton swab to help the process along.
Never pull directly on the seminal plug.
If the plug remains stuck after a few warm soaks and you notice your dragon is struggling to pass a bowel movement, you should contact a reputable reptile vet for assistance and guidance on how to proceed.
In rare, extreme cases, the stuck plug will cause impaction and potentially need to be removed by a medical professional.
Keep in mind sperm plugs are not like femoral pores, which need to be unclogged regularly to keep your lizard healthy.
If you’re experiencing issues with femoral pores we have a guide to cleaning clogged femoral pores in bearded dragons if you need help.
Sperm plugs rarely need much assistance to remove, and you don’t need to clean your dragon’s vent or pull them out yourself.
Do Babies and Juveniles Produce Sperm Plugs?
Bearded dragons don’t begin to produce sperm plugs until they reach sexual maturity, which occurs anywhere from 8 months to 2 years of age.
This means baby bearded dragons don’t produce them, but some juveniles will go through the maturation process.
Most male adult dragons produce seminal plugs throughout adulthood.
They will usually increase in size and frequency during mating season, but it is normal for them to occur year-round.
Can Sperm Plugs Cause Impaction?
Sperm plugs are almost always passed normally by the lizard, and at most, will require a warm soak or two to fully remove the entirety of the plug.
However, in rare cases, a sperm plug will get stuck in the lizard’s hemipenes and block the vent, resulting in impaction.
As we briefly mentioned above, if after a couple of days the seminal plug is still stuck to your dragon’s vent or you notice them struggling to poop, pacing around their tank restlessly, and rubbing their vent against objects in their tank, it is best to contact your veterinarian for advice.
Usually, however, the plug will fall off either on its own or with the help of a little warm water.
Don’t be surprised if your dragon passes a bowel movement as you’re soaking them, as the warm water helps to soothe their bowels.
Daily baths (or at least weekly) will help keep your beardie regular and prevent sperm plugs from becoming stuck to their vent.
We have another post on how to tell if your bearded dragon is impacted for a guide on spotting when this happens.
What To Do If Your Bearded Dragon Has A “Stuck” Sperm Plug
If warm baths and your attempts to gently remove the sperm plug aren’t working, never use excessive force to pull it out.
Seek the advice of your veterinarian and allow them to guide you through the removal process.
Although impaction and prolapse are rare with stuck seminal plugs, they are serious and sometimes even deadly.
Don’t wait too long if your dragon cannot pass a sperm plug, especially if they are displaying other signs of discomfort and distress.