Did you know that egg binding can be a distressing condition among female bearded dragons?
When a bearded dragon is egg-bound, it means she isn’t able to lay her eggs naturally. This situation can be caused by various factors, including inadequate nesting sites, calcium deficiencies, or reproductive issues. If left untreated, egg binding can lead to severe health complications and can even prove fatal for the reptile.
But don’t worry! The treatment of an egg-bound bearded dragon typically involves providing a suitable laying environment, gentle massage to aid egg passage, and, in severe cases, veterinary intervention.
In this guide, we will explore the causes, symptoms, and essential steps for treating egg-bound bearded dragons to ensure their well-being.
Table of Contents
What Causes Egg Binding in Bearded Dragons?
Dystocia will be classified as either obstructive or non-obstructive.
Obstructive dystocia occurs when there is something in the way of passing the eggs.
The most common causes of obstruction are:
- Very large eggs
- A body issue, such as a small pelvic canal or previous scarring in the oviducts
- Genetic deformities
There is not much you will be able to do to prevent obstructive dystocia since it involves internal issues in the reptile.
Non-obstructive dystocia happens due to external factors and is not caused by an obstruction to the passing of the eggs.
Instead, the cause is usually due to preventable issues, such as:
- An improper nesting area
- Having a stressful environment
- Poor nutrition
- Not receiving enough UV light
- Low temperatures
- Poor overall body condition
- Disease or respiratory infection
- Poor husbandry
While egg binding is rarely seen in wild bearded dragons, it will affect at least 9% of the captive beardie population.
Symptoms of an Egg Bound Bearded Dragon
An egg-bound bearded dragon’s symptoms are typically very vague and will vary from female to female.
The pressure placed on the internal organs, coupled with the inflammation caused by the necrotic mass, will make your beardie feel very ill.
One of the first symptoms you may notice is your beardie will make several attempts to lay her eggs, and she may even manage to pass a few.
However, if you see very few eggs at one time, this is a sign your beardie is struggling, and she is likely to be egg bound.
This excessive straining may lead to a cloacal prolapse, which is a hazardous condition for your beardie.
We have some tips in this post on bearded dragon prolapse treatment and prevention to help you avoid the situation.
Your beardie may also have an extremely swollen stomach, and in severe cases, this has even been known to affect a reptile’s ability to breathe correctly.
A bearded dragon will also exhibit a lot of behavioral symptoms if she is egg bound, including:
- Lack of appetite
- Weight loss
These are the most noticeable symptoms of egg binding, so it is essential to regularly monitor your beardie’s behavior to know right away when your reptile is not behaving normally.
How Do You Treat Egg Binding in Bearded Dragons?
There are no known home remedies for treating an egg bound bearded dragon at home.
You should never give your beardie olive oil to help her with egg binding.
The oil will do more harm than good and may even cause diarrhea.
You should also never massage your beardie’s stomach or manipulate her eggs in any way.
This may cause an egg to rupture, which is usually fatal for a reptile.
A veterinarian will perform a series of tests on your bearded dragon, including x-rays, ultrasounds, and blood work to determine the best course of action.
Surgical intervention is usually required to remove the bound eggs, and if it is not done, your beardie will most likely die.
This is especially true if your beardie is also suffering from a prolapsed cloaca, as this is a very dangerous situation for any animal.
Aside from surgery, your veterinarian may also encourage egg-laying by giving your beardie a series of hormones or by very carefully manipulating the eggs.
As stated previously, manipulating the eggs is something you should never attempt to do at home.
Only a licensed professional will be able to undertake this task without causing severe harm to your beardie.
How Do You Prevent Egg Binding in Bearded Dragons?
Egg binding is common in captive bearded dragons, but there are ways to prevent it from happening.
Once you have determined your bearded dragon is pregnant, you will need to provide her with a nesting box.
A nesting box gives your beardie a place where she feels comfortable laying her eggs without being disturbed.
Poor enclosure conditions are also a cause of egg binding in bearded dragons.
To prevent your beardie from becoming egg bound, it is vital to maintain proper temperature, humidity, and lighting in her habitat.
Beardies prefer warmer ambient temperatures between 80-90° degrees Fahrenheit (32° C), with a basking area around 100° degrees Fahrenheit (38° C).
Humidity levels should typically be close to 20%, but you may increase this temporarily to 30% until your beardie is done laying her eggs.
Finally, you need to provide your reptile with a consistent light cycle of 12 hours on, 12 hours off, so she can maintain her natural circadian rhythm.
Nutrition also plays an integral part in preventing your beardie from becoming egg bound.
Eggs require a lot of calcium to form correctly, so you will have to add a calcium powder supplement to every meal you feed to your pregnant beardie.
Without the added calcium, her body will start leaching it from her bones, and she will be at extreme risk for getting metabolic bone disease.
Taking these preventative measures will go a long way in helping to prevent egg binding in your bearded dragon.
However, if your beardie is either too young or too old, or she has been bred repetitively, preventing egg binding may not be possible.
How Do You Tell If A Bearded Dragon Is Pregnant?
A bearded dragon will become pregnant even if she has not mated, so it is essential to recognize the signs so you will be better prepared for what lies ahead.
Female bearded dragons reach sexual maturity anywhere between 8-18 months of age.
At this stage, they will begin ovulating, and they can become pregnant and lay eggs.
The most obvious signs of a pregnant beardie will be her dramatic increase in appetite and weight gain.
When a female beardie is carrying eggs, she is known as being gravid.
You may even be able to see the eggs in her lower abdomen.
Another sign your beardie is pregnant will be her sudden behavior change.
For example, she may not like to be handled, and she will lose interest in other activities because all of her focus will be on getting ready to lay her eggs.
Gravid females will lay between 15-35 eggs in one clutch, and they will likely begin to move a lot slower as the eggs become fully formed.
If you’re dealing with a pregnant bearded dragon we have a great post on how long bearded dragons are pregnant for that provides a great timeline and additional care details for your pet.
How Do You Know When a Bearded Dragon Will Lay Her Eggs?
A typical bearded dragon pregnancy lasts between 4-6 weeks before the female will lay her eggs.
Towards the end of the pregnancy, the female beardie will begin to exhibit behaviors signaling she is ready to lay her clutch.
You will notice she has suddenly lost her increased appetite, and she is now refusing food.
She will also start digging furiously in her nesting box and may even start digging in random areas of her enclosure.
A beardie will only lay her eggs once she has found a suitable place for them.
This is why providing her with a nesting box is so important.
A beardie who does not find a place to lay her eggs is more likely to become egg bound.
Your beardie’s behavior will also change when she is close to laying her eggs.
She will appear to be more restless, and she will not interact with you as much as she normally would.
Will A Female Bearded Dragon Lay Eggs Without Mating?
A female beardie can lay eggs even if she has not mated with a male.
It is not entirely known what causes this to happen, but it is believed to be triggered by simply being in the presence of a male, even if he is in a different enclosure.
Another reason a female will lay eggs is if she has been overfed.
An abundance of food is a signal for a female beardie to look for a mate in the wild.
In captivity, where food is always plentiful, a female’s instinct will kick in, and she may become gravid.
Any eggs your beardie lays without mating will be infertile, and you should remove them from the enclosure before they start to mold and spread bacteria.
Infertile eggs will turn to mold in a matter of 3-4 weeks.
One unique feature in female beardies is their ability to lay fertile eggs when they have not recently mated.
Beardies can store sperm for up to one full year, and there is a chance for them to lay fertile eggs at any point in this period.
This is often a surprise for many bearded dragon owners who may not have been aware their new pet has ever mated.
And if you’re experiencing this and you pet has not mated read our post to bearded dragons laying eggs without mating for a complete guide.
What Do You Do Once Bearded Dragon Eggs Have Been Laid?
If there is a good chance your beardie will be laying fertile eggs, there are a few things you will need to do for preparation.
You will also need to take special care of your beardie and ensure she receives extra hydration and the nutrients she needs to recover quickly.
The first thing you will need to do after your beardie lays eggs is to determine if they are fertile.
Infertile eggs will mold and cause many issues if they are not removed from the nesting area.
Check for Fertility
To check whether or not an egg is fertile, you will hold a flashlight up to the egg to see inside.
This process is known as “candling.”
If the egg is fertile, you will be able to see the embryo inside.
Fertile eggs will also develop a chalky color as they incubate, and they will grow to more than twice their original size.
Infertile eggs tend to be yellow, green, or pink, and you will not be able to see anything when you shine a light through them.
The infertile eggs should be removed from the rest of the clutch immediately before they start to mold.
Incubate the Eggs
The fertile eggs will need to incubate for 55-75 days before they hatch.
Place the eggs in warm moist soil, and keep the temperature between 80-85° degrees Fahrenheit (29° C) using a heat lamp or an under-tank heater.
The humidity of the eggs should be close to 75%, which is done by lightly misting the soil several times per day.
Avoid directly spraying the eggs because this will encourage mold growth.
Here is our guide to incubating bearded dragon eggs if you’re wanting to do that.
Separating the Babies After They Hatch
Once the baby beardies reach 2-4 weeks of age, they will become aggressive toward each other, and they will have to be separated.
It is often impractical to house each hatchling separately since bearded dragons tend to have large clutches.
Keeping the babies in groups of 3-5 is ok, but you will need to monitor them for any aggressive behavior and separate the most aggressive ones from the others.
A good-sized tank for each group is a 20-gallon tank, which gives them enough room to move around without being too close to each other.
Caring for Your Egg-Bound Bearded Dragon
Taking care of your bearded dragon is a big responsibility, and when it comes to egg binding, it’s important to know how to recognize and address the issue.
By keeping an eye out for the signs and symptoms, providing a safe and comfortable nesting area, and seeking advice from a reptile veterinarian if needed, you can ensure your little buddy stays healthy and happy.
Remember, your care and attention can make all the difference in your bearded dragon’s quality of life. So, stay alert, be compassionate, and keep up the good work!