Do you have a constipated bearded dragon?
Are you looking for solutions other than a trip to the veterinarian for your beardie’s digestive woes?
Bearded dragons are strong and hearty creatures, but they depend on specific environmental and dietary elements to stay healthy.
Constipation and impaction are signs of something out of whack with a bearded dragon’s ordinary and necessary living conditions.
To give their pets the best care possible, owners must understand good husbandry, take note of their dragons’ regular routines and be aware of ways to help their beardie return to normal when they are ill or injured.
Constipated Bearded Dragon Remedy And Prevention
Basking temperature adjustments, gentle massages, warm baths, and natural laxatives are effective treatments for mild cases of constipation and impaction. Bearded dragons can often benefit from treatment at home, but more severe cases will require a trip to the veterinarian.
Because bearded dragons are cold-blooded, they require external heat sources to digest food properly.
Basking temperatures must be between 95 and 110° degrees Fahrenheit (43° C), depending on the age of your beardie.
If an object is stuck in your beardie’s digestive tract, a gentle massage may help dislodge it.
Keep your bearded dragon standing upright as you rub either its side or its belly.
A bath could help your dragon relax its muscles and loosen some of the material stuck in its stomach.
Natural laxatives include:
- Olive oil
- Pumpkin, prune, or apple puree
- Other fruits like watermelon and blueberries
Note, not every fruit is good for bearded dragons.
However, the foods listed above are known to help things move along in a bearded dragon’s digestive tract and are not harmful to beardies when fed in small quantities.
Constipation And Impaction In Bearded Dragons
Constipation occurs when a bearded dragon has a difficult time digesting its food.
It is most commonly caused by:
- Eating oversized food
- Basking and ambient enclosure temperatures are too low
Constipation and impaction are similar conditions, but impaction is much more severe.
Impaction occurs when there is a hard blockage in a beardie’s digestive tract, particularly from a chunk of undigestible material which will grow and harden over time.
The most common cause of impaction is consuming substrate (bedding), either accidentally or intentionally. Impaction could also be caused by:
- Rocks or pebbles
- Hard exoskeletons from feeder insects
- Other inorganic material
Impaction is one of the leading causes of death for bearded dragons in captivity, and it must be taken seriously.
Bearded dragons experiencing impaction may or may not respond to home treatments.
Be prepared to take your beardie to the vet if symptoms worsen.
Symptoms Of Constipation And Impaction
The table below will help you determine the severity of your bearded dragon’s condition.
It outlines the most common symptoms of impaction and constipation and whether they are warning signs, signs of mild-to-moderate constipation, or severe signs of impaction.
|Bearded Dragon Symptom||Severity of Symptom||Action to Take|
|Not pooping on regular schedule||Warning sign||Check conditions and monitor your pet|
|Straining while pooping, but still able to poop||Mild-to-moderate||Home treatment|
|Lethargy||Warning sign||Check conditions and monitor your pet|
|Loss of appetite||Warning sign||Check conditions and monitor your pet|
|Weight loss||Mild-to-moderate||Check conditions and monitor your pet. Potentially serious, especially if beardie is underweight.|
|Stomach tenderness||Mild-to-moderate||Home treatment|
|Bulges or lumps in stomach area||Mild-to-moderate||If home treatment doesn’t work, a trip to the vet is necessary.|
|Bulges or lumps between spinal sections||Mild-to-moderate||If home treatment doesn’t work, a trip to the vet is necessary.|
|Regurgitation||Serious||If home treatment doesn’t work, a trip to the vet is necessary.|
|No activity; not moving||Serious||If home treatment doesn’t work, a trip to the vet is necessary.|
|Walking difficulties, including shaky rear legs or rear-leg paralysis||Very serious||Veterinarian as soon as possible.|
The average baby beardie poops once a day, while the average adult poops once every two to seven days.
However, this can vary quite a bit.
Some adults-only poop every two weeks!
It’s essential to observe your bearded dragon when it’s healthy, so you’re able to recognize deviations from its regular bowel movements.
Bearded dragons don’t have discs protecting their spinal cords as humans do.
This means there is no protection for their nervous system.
Large-enough impactions can push against the spine, causing discomfort, pain, and even paralysis of the rear legs.
This paralysis won’t go away until the impaction is removed.
If your beardie is having difficulty walking, its impaction is severe.
Visit a veterinarian as soon as possible.
Detailed Remedies For Constipation And Impaction In Bearded Dragons
Constipation and impaction are serious conditions for bearded dragons.
If your pet is experiencing this, it’s crucial to take action, but don’t panic.
There are treatments to perform at home to soothe your beardie and perhaps alleviate their health issue before you take it to the vet.
Verify Enclosure Temperatures
Proper enclosure temperatures vary depending on the age of your bearded dragon.
Every beardie requires a basking spot between 95 and 110° degrees Fahrenheit (43° C).
Basking spot temperatures should be:
- Between 105 and 110° degrees Fahrenheit (43° C) for babies (0 to 5 months old)
- Between 100 and 110° degrees Fahrenheit (43° C) for juveniles (5 to 17 months old)
- Between 95 and 105° degrees Fahrenheit (41° C) for adults (over 17 months old)
The younger the beardie, the hotter the basking area.
Other parts of the enclosure should be cooler, as low as 80° degrees Fahrenheit (27° C) for adults.
It’s essential to check the temperatures in your beardie’s tank regularly.
Basking lights do get weaker over time, and they may lose heat before their light goes out.
Use a temperature gun like this one for the most accurate measurements.
When you massage your beardie, make sure you follow these guidelines, so you don’t harm it or make impaction worse:
- Don’t push hard on your beardie’s body.
- Keep your beardie standing upright; never lay it on its side or its back.
- Always rub from head to tail or chest to cloaca.
Keeping your beardie standing upright is important because bearded dragons have difficulty breathing when laying on their backs.
Either massage the side the impaction is on (either side of the spinal cord) or massage the abdomen.
Depending on the extent of the blockage, a lot of feces might emerge when you do this.
However, don’t force it out.
It’s important to be gentle and ultimately let your dragon’s body remove its blockage.
You are only assisting it.
Combine the massage with a warm bath to even further alleviate bearded dragon impaction.
These should be part of a weekly routine for your bearded dragon anyway.
When treating impaction, bathe your beardie for at least 30 minutes.
Massage it and let it swim if it wants to.
The exercise from swimming could also help alleviate impactions.
Baths address several possible causes of impaction all at once:
- Lack of activity
- Too-cool temperatures
Bearded dragons largely stay hydrated by soaking in water.
They may feel motivated to swim while in the water.
And the temperature of the bath will warm them up if it was cold.
The water should be at least up to your beardie’s shoulders but not above its head.
Use a temperature gun to monitor the warmth of the water.
Regularly add more warm water, so the bath doesn’t get cold.
Your beardie may poop in the water.
This is not only a great sign but an easier cleanup for you!
Just replace the dirty water with clean water, so everything remains sanitary.
Several foods may be an excellent option to help move things along.
If your bearded dragon isn’t eating, put a small dollop on their nose, and they will instinctually lick it off.
Olive oil is a great option for treating bearded dragon impaction.
Place a drop or two on your beardie’s nose or combine with another laxative you administer to your pet.
Please note: no other types of cooking oil are healthy choices for bearded dragons, only olive oil.
Other popular options include:
- Pureed pumpkin
- Baby food: applesauce, pumpkin, or prune
- Other safe fruits
Make sure any fresh foods you feed your beardie are organic and free of chemicals and additives.
Not all fruits are good for bearded dragons.
Be sure you feed your dragon safe foods.
Fruits should always be given to beardies in small amounts.
Visiting The Veterinarian
If your beardie’s symptoms are severe enough, home remedies will not work.
It is essential to take your beardie to the vet before it is too late.
Waiting too long is a dangerous game to play when it comes to bearded dragon impaction.
Expect the vet to take an x-ray to determine the location and type of impaction.
The vet will then design a treatment plan which may include any of the following treatment options:
- Subcutaneous fluids (rehydration with under-skin injections)
- Intraosseous fluids (rehydration through the bone canals)
Surgery may also be a necessary step.
It is reserved for the most serious of impactions, and it may save your pet’s life.
Preventing Constipation And Impaction In Bearded Dragons
Bearded dragons in captivity depend on their owners to keep them healthy and maintain conditions as similar to their natural environment as possible:
- A balanced and healthful diet
- Proper enclosure temperatures
- Appropriate substrate
- Proper hydration
- Activity and exercise
Taking note of these elements will help you prevent impaction in your bearded dragon.
The following pointers will help you imitate your beardie’s natural habitat and keep them healthy.
Healthy Diet And Appropriately Sized Foods
Bearded dragons require a mix of insects and greens in their diet.
The exact proportions vary depending on their age, but adult dragons require 20% insects and 80% vegetation.
Avoid feeder insects with tough shells or exoskeletons.
Make sure your beardie is eating food of appropriate size.
The food should not exceed a size equal to the distance between your beardie’s eyes.
Anything larger may result in digestive problems, with food items possibly getting lodged in the intestinal tract.
Common insects which may help with digestion are:
- Dubia roaches
Proper Enclosure Temperatures
Without appropriate temperatures, cold-blooded bearded dragons will not be able to digest their food.
Cold temperatures slow, and even stop, reptile metabolism.
The best substrates for bearded dragons are flat and large floor liners.
- Reptile carpet, like this one for purchase on Amazon.
- Paper towels
- Ceramic tile
These substrates prevent accidental ingestion because they don’t have any small or loose materials.
Many bearded dragons don’t drink water.
Their primary sources of hydration are:
- Soaks in their water bowl
- Daily misting
- Foods with high water content
Make sure these three water sources are readily available for your bearded dragon every day.
Activity And Exercise
Exercise your bearded dragon each day; give it things to do.
In the wild, beardies would be running around and doing as they please.
But in captivity, they are very limited in their activities and rely on their owner to provide them with an enrichment option.
Decorate your beardie’s enclosure with one or more perches, like this fibrous lizard lounger.
Allow it to swim during its baths.
Occasionally take it out of its enclosure and allow it to explore (under close supervision, so it doesn’t consume something it shouldn’t).
Daily activity like this will keep your beardie healthy in both body and mind.
Constipation and impaction are potentially serious health conditions for bearded dragons.
However, there are many actions owners can take to nurse beardies back to health if and when illness strikes.
Massages, baths, and natural laxatives are all home remedies with the potential to alleviate mild or even moderate cases of constipation and impaction.
However, severe cases of impaction require a rapid visit to a veterinarian.
The key to preventing impaction is to practice good husbandry and to know your beardie’s regular habits.
Get to know your beardie, and you will better recognize when it is sick or injured.
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