It’s been over a week since your bearded dragon has passed a bowel movement, and you’re concerned.
You’ve likely heard other reptile owners discuss treatments for constipated or impacted beardies, particularly olive oil.
But how do you give it to your lizard, and how much olive oil is necessary to help ease their constipation?
As a general rule, olive oil is good for helping constipated bearded dragons. Give them a few drops of olive oil on the tip of their nose and allow them to lick it off. If you don’t see any results after a day or two, repeat the process and soak your beardie in warm water to soothe their stomach.
To learn more about how to properly give your bearded dragon olive oil, its natural laxative effects, and other remedies you should use to help your dragon pass a bowel movement, keep reading.
We’ll also briefly cover the causes of impaction and constipation in these lizards.
When Should You Give Your Bearded Dragon Olive Oil?
Olive oil should be given to your bearded dragon if they haven’t produced a bowel movement in a week or more.
At a minimum, your beardie needs to be pooping at least once per week, with two to four bowel movements each week being ideal.
If your dragon hasn’t pooped in a while, it will display symptoms of distress, such as:
Your dragon’s beard will become darker when they are in pain or stressed but this isn’t to be confused with black spots.
If you notice black spots they could be a sign of sickness.
You can learn more about black spots on bearded dragons and what they might be in our other post dedicated to the topic.
Keeping their eyes closed or squinting.
Your beardie’s eyes should usually look alert and responsive.
When they are in pain or distressed, they will keep their eyes closed most of the time.
Your lizard will pace around their tank more often when they are upset.
Paralysis of the back legs or refusal to walk.
This is one of the more severe signs, and it typically only occurs in advanced stages of impaction.
It is usually accompanied by trembling or shaking.
If you notice either symptom, the impaction is most likely severe and needs immediate veterinary attention.
You will also notice your dragon’s belly will look bloated or distended, and it will have a substantial feel to it.
Typically, your dragon’s belly will be soft and squishy.
When they are backed up or impacted, however, their belly will become stiff and bloated.
Impaction is a health condition which commonly occurs when your lizard’s digestive tract is blocked by a mass of food, substrate, or other foreign objects.
In rare, more severe cases, veterinary attention will be necessary.
If your lizard doesn’t show any results after around two weeks, seek veterinary advice as soon as possible, as surgery may be necessary.
Hopefully, one of the remedies covered in this guide will ease their bowels, as the cost of surgery for such a condition is often remarkably high.
Impaction over time often becomes a fatal condition, and it is one of the leading causes of premature death in bearded dragons.
It becomes severe very quickly without treatment.
Constipation, in general, is also extremely painful for your dragon, mainly if it’s been more than a week since their last poop, so you need to act quickly to help move things along.
How Much Olive Oil Should You Give Your Bearded Dragon?
Only a few drops of olive oil are necessary to give to your dragon for constipation or impaction.
Use a small teaspoon or a dropper to put a few drops of olive oil on your beardie’s mouth and nose area.
They will lick it off.
Give them a moment, then give them a few more drops to be on the safe side.
Your beardie might not enjoy the taste of the olive oil.
If they are particularly resistant and shake their head or scratch at their mouth to get the oil off of their face, put some of the olive oil on a piece of fruit or vegetable, preferably one of their favorite treats if you have it on hand.
This will make the olive oil more palatable for your lizard to eat, particularly while they’re having such a difficult time.
Be persistent, and if you have to, use a dropper or small syringe to squirt some into the side of their mouth.
Wait a few days and combine this method with a few other remedies mentioned and covered below, like feeding your dragon pumpkin puree, giving them warm baths daily, and giving them gentle belly rubs.
If you don’t see any results, give them a few more drops of olive oil.
If, after two weeks, your dragon is still unable to poop, contact your reptile veterinarian for advice and see them or an emergency vet as soon as possible.
What Causes Impaction In Bearded Dragons?
Impaction, by definition, occurs when an animal’s digestive tract is blocked by a solid or semi-solid mass of either food, substrate, or other foreign objects.
It has a few primary causes in bearded dragons.
The most common cause of impaction is the consumption of loose substrates.
The risk of impaction is why loose substrates, in general, are to be avoided in favor of more ideal bedding options like reptile carpet, tile, or another flat, easy-to-clean surface.
As your beardie eats food, mainly insects, in their tank, they will pick up and swallow bits and pieces of loose substrate.
The pieces of substrate build up in their digestive tract over time and will eventually block it off entirely, preventing them from being able to poop regularly.
Many beginner reptile owners see loose substrates as preferable as they visually mimic the lizard’s natural environment better than carpet or tile.
However, your beardie won’t care either way what the substrate looks like, and a flat surface will be more accessible for you to clean anyway.
Impaction is also commonly caused by dragons eating pieces of food too large to pass through their digestive tract usually.
This is why it is so important to only give your beardie pieces of food smaller than the width of the space between their eyes, as anything bigger often presents digestive issues.
Thankfully, there are a few home remedies available to help your beardie pass a bad blockage, whether it’s made up of substrate, food, or another object they’ve eaten.
In addition to giving your beardie olive oil, you should also feed them pureed pumpkin and give them a warm bath along with a gentle belly rub.
Are There Other Remedies For Bearded Dragon Impaction?
A common remedy for impaction often used in conjunction with olive oil is feeding your dragon pureed pumpkin.
A small spoonful is usually enough, and most beardies enjoy pumpkin enough to eat it willingly, even when they’re impacted.
Be sure to buy a can of pumpkin puree with no added sugars or preservatives, as these are bad for your dragon’s health and cause other health issues.
The ingredients should be pureed pumpkin and absolutely nothing else. Additionally, it is best to opt for an organic option if it is available to you.
To help make it more appetizing, warm it up a little in the microwave.
The warm pumpkin puree will be far more appealing to your lizard than if it were room temperature or cold.
Make sure it isn’t hot, though, as you don’t want to burn your dragon’s sensitive mouth while they’re already in considerable pain.
You can learn more about this in our other post on feeding bearded dragons pumpkin puree.
Another way to help ease a blocked digestive tract in bearded dragons is to give them a warm bath.
If you’ve ever bathed your lizard, you’ve probably noticed they tend to poop in the water pretty quickly.
The water, hot water, helps soothe their stomach and ease their bowels, producing a bowel movement.
Soaking your beardie in warm water for 15-30 minute soaks is best, as this gives your beardie ample time to relax in the water and attempt to poop.
Be patient, and if your dragon allows you, massage their belly gently for a few seconds at a time in a circular motion to help the process along.
Soak them in warm water every day until they successfully pass their blocked stool.
Continue giving them olive oil every couple of days, alternating it with the pumpkin puree.
Hopefully, by combining these three methods, your lizard will feel better and be able to poop regularly again after a few days to one week of these home treatments.
If the impaction is more severe and doesn’t go away after repeated olive oil, pureed pumpkin, and warm baths, however, you will need to contact your veterinarian.
Don’t wait more than two weeks at the very most, as the blockage will only become worse in time.