When caring for a bearded dragon, it is essential to carefully monitor their health for any signs of illness or distress.
Crucially, reptiles don’t express pain or discomfort in the same way animals as dogs or cats do.
This means as a reptile owner you will need to keep an eye out for a wide range of possible symptoms of illness, many of which are very subtle.
When a bearded dragon is sick, they will display the following symptoms:
- Cloudy eyes
- Low movement/lethargy
- Low appetite
- Sudden weight loss
- Swollen limbs
- Discolored stomach
- Black mouth/beard
- Gaping mouth
- Discharge (nose/mouth)
- No droppings
- Boney appearance
- Other unusual behaviors
Read on for more about these signs and what they could mean.
15 Warning Signs Your Bearded Dragon May Be Sick
In this section, we’ll go over 15 common warning signs showing your reptile friend may be sick.
There are, in some cases, simple reasons for these signs, but when you see a few of these at the same time, you know something is wrong.
Make sure your beardy has an established vet you visit at least once per year.
This will be helpful if your pet does get sick.
Healthy bearded dragon eyes are clear and active.
They track motion even when their bodies aren’t moving.
Sick beardies may have eyes looking cloudy, filmy, or lazy.
This is seen around shedding time, but it is a sign of a severe infection.
If you suspect shedding is the cause, help your pet through this by bathing your sick bearded dragon.
Soaking in hot water for 15 minutes will help loosen the skin up.
Just don’t rub or brush it off yourself; this could damage the beardy’s skin.
Keep your pet safe during this process by checking out our guide on how to bathe a bearded dragon.
Loose droppings are usually a sign of digestive issues.
This occasionally happens if too many fatty insects are given, but it isn’t a huge problem.
However, consistent loose droppings are a sign of more severe problems such as dehydration or parasites.
Learn more in our guide to bearded dragon dehydration.
This would then require some help from a vet.
A lack of movement is another sign to watch for.
This is noticeably more extended periods of hiding for sick bearded dragons or basking without movement.
For more details on bearded dragon hiding, check out our detailed article.
While a lack of movement is also a sign of impending bearded dragon brumation (similar to hibernation), it is a sign of worse.
Many illnesses, including infections and parasites, will also show themselves in a lethargic bearded dragon.
Lack Of Appetite
When your bearded dragon isn’t eating, it is worrisome.
After all, if you haven’t fed them in a couple of days, you’d expect them to snap up any food you give them right away.
But this isn’t always the case.
A lack of appetite for a few days isn’t a reason to panic right away.
Adult bearded dragons tend not to eat right around shedding and during brumation.
They can go for a long time without eating.
Click the link to find out more on how long a bearded dragon can go without eating.
However, when you start to notice this lack of appetite, there may be a more severe reason too.
They could be impacted; there could be an infection; they could have parasites or more.
As usual, watch for a combination of signs to appear.
If you notice more than two or three of these at a time, take a trip to the vet.
Sudden Weight Loss
In addition to a general lack of appetite, it is common for sick bearded dragons to suddenly lose a significant amount of weight.
Many illnesses, such as MBD or the presence of internal parasites, will cause a bearded dragon to become very weak and thin over time as they deplete the animal’s energy and fat reserves.
It helps to keep track of your bearded dragon’s weight week by week to pinpoint exactly when they started losing weight.
This will help you determine when they became sick and at what kind of rate the illness is progressing.
If you notice your bearded dragon has lost a lot of weight suddenly and they aren’t brumating, there is a good chance they are ill.
Shaking or trembling is a clear sign of illness in bearded dragons and most other reptiles in general.
By closely observing your pet’s movements day by day, you’ll be able to tell if anything looks unusual as far as their gait and how they move during meal times.
If your bearded dragon suddenly struggles to walk or run or is unable to eat insects with ease due to their body uncontrollably shaking, they are very likely weak due to an undiagnosed illness.
Trembling and shaky behavior is a key sign of illness as it indicates the animal is too frail to move as it normally would.
In addition to being uncomfortable and painful, trembling will also interfere with the dragon’s ability to eat and drink properly.
Another key sign of illness in bearded dragons is difficulty breathing.
This typically manifests as wheezing, coughing, and gasping for air, and it is a common side effect of a severe respiratory infection.
Bearded dragons are susceptible to respiratory infection if the humidity levels in their enclosure become too high.
As the respiratory infection worsens, the lizard will struggle more and more to breathe properly, resulting in gasping and wheezing sounds every time they open their mouth.
Be sure to see a reptile vet immediately if your bearded dragon starts wheezing, as this means they are unable to breathe normally on their own.
This symptom is painful for the lizard and will quickly worsen if left untreated.
In many cases, untreated respiratory infections will become fatal.
There is no good reason for a swollen tail or limb (don’t be confused with a swollen abdomen on a female beardy who may be preparing to lay eggs).
If you see this sign, we recommend a vet trip right away.
Swollen tail and limbs are signs of either a broken bone or an infection.
Bones are broken from falls, but this is usually a sign of metabolic bone disease.
Metabolic bone disease is caused by a calcium deficiency causing the bones to become brittle.
By the time this disease has gotten to the point where bones are breaking, you are going to need vet help.
Help prevent this disease by increasing UVB light with a good UVB bulb and adding more calcium in their diet (Dubia roaches or a gut-loaded feeder insect are great for this).
For adding calcium, you need to check out our picks for the best calcium supplements for bearded dragons.
Bearded dragons can change the color of their skin to a degree.
This ability is for communicating with other bearded dragons around.
It is also an excellent way to check on the health of your pet.
If the beardy’s stomach turns dark or black, the reptile may be stressed.
Usually, this isn’t a sign of illness.
More likely, your pet is stressed out.
This could be from being moved to a new habitat or another animal in the house bugging its tank.
Stress still isn’t good, and you should take steps to calm your lizard.
Here are a few quick tips to help your pet bearded dragon calm down:
- Give them a bath
- Check the tank is at the right temperature
- Pick them up correctly
- Feed them treats
- Pet them
- Cover the tank
Learn more in our dedicated article on how to calm a bearded dragon.
There is a chance the black stomach shows up before other signs show up.
When you see the black stomach, be on the lookout for other signs cropping up.
A black or discolored mouth is a scary-looking thing.
It can easily make you panic.
And it’s not a sign you want to ignore either.
Bearded dragon mouths don’t turn black or discolored for no reason.
This is a sign of infection or mouth rots in their mouths.
You’ll want to take your pet to the vet at your earliest opportunity.
The best ways to avoid this are to check your tank for left-over food and droppings regularly.
A bearded dragon will leave its mouth hanging open for many reasons (click the link for more details).
From regulating body temperature to feeling threatened, gaping mouths aren’t always a big deal.
The critical thing to watch for with this is the amount of time spent gaping.
If it doesn’t stop for hours on hours, you may need a vet trip.
But the stress and body temperature problems are caused by an illness too.
This is a sign to watch for along with other ones before you panic.
Discharge From Nose Or Mouth
No animal should be leaking fluids at any time.
Even when we humans have a runny nose, this is a sign of a cold.
The same is true for unhealthy bearded dragons.
Leaking fluids or discharge from their mouth or nose is a sign of sickness.
Bearded dragons poop somewhere between every 1-7 days as an adult.
But if they start to stretch out longer than this, it could be a sign of impaction or constipation.
If this isn’t relieved, your pet may be in danger of serious harm.
Fortunately, this is an easy problem to fix.
Give him a bath; the warm water often helps bearded dragons go.
If you don’t already keep a water dish in their tank, put one in.
They may crawl in there and go on their own.
If it doesn’t resolve itself soon, a vet can prescribe laxatives to help the issue.
And we have a great guide on bearded dragon poop we highly recommend every pet owner learns about to stay on top of their pet’s health.
Bearded dragons should find the fine line between skinny and obese.
But if see the bones beneath their skin, they are too bony or skinny and you should provide foods to help your bearded dragon gain weight.
This is either a sign of dehydration or starvation.
If the dragon isn’t eating at all and showing boniness, you may need for a trip to the vet.
To check for dehydration, gently pinch some of the bearded dragon’s skin.
If the skin springs back quickly, they’re not dehydrated.
On the other hand, if the skin goes back slowly, the beardy needs more water.
Give them more water by filling the water dish, bathing them, or feeding them foods high in water like fruit and vegetables.
If you need help finding good options, head over to our article on the best fruits, veggies, and salads for bearded dragons.
Other Unusual Behaviors
You know your pet better than anyone.
What may be unusual for your bearded dragon might be normal for another.
The point is: if you notice out-of-the-ordinary behavior (even if it seems within the bounds of what other bearded dragons do), trust your instincts and take the pet to the vet.
For example, if your pet goes poop every day, it may be a bad sign if it then takes 7 days to go.
But another bearded dragon goes everyone 5-6 days, it isn’t a concern if this one waits for 7 days.
Keep an out for behavior you see as odd.
And check out our many helpful articles on different behaviors, the reasons behind them, and how to help your pet.
Now you know how to tell if your bearded dragon is sick.
Watch for these 12 signs of sickness and take your pet in when you see them.
Most illnesses are fixed pretty easily if caught early enough.
So pay attention to your pet’s sign, and he may live a long and healthy life.
Commonly Asked Questions
When should I take my bearded dragon to the vet?
Generally, it is a good idea to take your bearded dragon to a vet if they stop eating for more than a couple of days or behave in any way which seems unusual for them.
Additionally, if your bearded dragon displays any of the key symptoms of illness listed above, consulting with a veterinarian as soon as possible is recommended to determine if your pet is ill, receive a formal diagnosis, and formulate a treatment plan moving forward.
Do bearded dragons get sick easily?
Although bearded dragons are known for being hardy, fairly low-maintenance pet reptiles, they are still susceptible to a wide range of potential illnesses, such as respiratory infections, parasites, metabolic bone disease, and more.
Overall, bearded dragons do not get sick easily, but many care factors such as temperature, humidity, and calcium intake are very delicate and need careful consistent monitoring.
If any of these settings are incorrect, your bearded dragon will become prone to illness.