What is mouth rot in bearded dragons?
How is mouth rot caused in bearded dragons?
What is the treatment for bearded dragon mouth rot?
Understanding your bearded dragon’s behavior and recognizing illness signs are both very important when it comes to ensuring your beardie is happy and healthy.
Regularly monitor your bearded dragon for any changes in appearance or behavior.
Many illnesses and diseases present physical or behavioral symptoms.
These symptoms are clues as to what is causing the ailment or change in temperament, and they are essential to proper diagnosis and treatment.
This article will have an in-depth look at mouth rot in bearded dragons, including the causes, symptoms, and treatment.
Table of Contents
What Is Bearded Dragon Mouth Rot?
Mouth rot is a bacterial infection of the gums and jawbone, appearing as tiny hemorrhages on the gums, swelling of the gums, or an excess of thick mucus in the mouth. Mouth rot will also cause swelling of the jaw when the jawbones are infected.
Mouth rot is also known as Ulcerative Stomatitis, a term meaning “mouth inflammation.”
If mouth rot is left untreated, it will become fatal to your bearded dragon, so it is essential to recognize the causes, symptoms, and treatment so you will be able to seek help for your beardie right away.
What Are Common Causes of Bearded Dragon Mouth Rot?
Mouth rot in bearded dragons may be due to a range of problems, including a weakened immune system and poor living conditions.
A stressful environment, improper temperatures and humidity levels, parasites, a nutrient-deficient diet, and mouth injuries are all able to result in mouth rot.
Sometimes, all it takes is a small piece of food to get stuck between your bearded dragon’s teeth for mouth rot to begin.
Bearded dragon mouth rot may also be caused by a virus, fungus, or bacteria.
If the infection is ignored, mouth rot will spread to other organs in your bearded dragon’s body, such as the esophagus and lungs, and may result in death if proper treatment is not taken.
What Are the Symptoms of Mouth Rot in Bearded Dragons?
The most common symptoms of mouth rot involve behavioral changes as well as physical changes.
These behavioral symptoms involve lethargy and a refusal to eat.
Physical symptoms will appear as gray patches around the beardie’s mouth as well as redness or swelling.
A bearded dragon may begin to drool due to increased saliva production, and mucus may have cottage cheese consistency.
There may be tiny, pinpoint hemorrhages on the gums in addition to loosening teeth.
If these symptoms are left untreated, the infection will spread to the bones, intestines, and bloodstream.
What Is the Treatment for Bearded Dragon Mouth Rot?
If you have more than one bearded dragon as a pet, the first thing you will need to do is to separate the beardie infected with mouth rot from the other bearded dragons.
This separation avoids spreading mouth rot through a contagious virus, fungus, or bacteria.
Next, you need to see the care of a veterinary professional as soon as possible.
A veterinarian will be able to run exact diagnostic tests to identify the underlying cause.
Once the bacteria or fungus behind the infection is found, the proper treatment will be prescribed in the form of an antibiotic or antifungal injection, rinse, or ointment.
In addition to these infections, stress and poor environmental conditions may contribute to mouth rot in bearded dragons.
For successful treatment of the infection, these environmental conditions will also need to be addressed.
In severe bearded dragon mouth rot, the dragon will become dehydrated and may refuse to eat.
If you notice any of the signs of mouth rot in your bearded dragon, you should make an appointment right away with a veterinarian who specializes in reptiles.
Prompt treatment of mouth rot is necessary to prevent the infection from spreading to the lungs or the intestinal tract.
Are There Ways to Prevent Mouth Rot in Bearded Dragons?
There are many different precautions to take in the prevention of mouth rot in your bearded dragon.
Invest in a good thermometer and hygrometer for checking the temperature and humidity of your beardie’s enclosure.
Ensure the humidity is at the optimum range of 20%-40%, and the ambient temperature is between 75-85° degrees Fahrenheit (29° C).
You should also provide a warm basking spot with a temperature between 88-100° degrees Fahrenheit (38° C) for your bearded dragon.
If the overall temperature of your bearded dragon’s enclosure drops below 75° degrees Fahrenheit (24° C), it will harm your beardie’s immune system.
A UV lamp will provide nutrients the bearded dragon synthesizes through UV rays, and it helps the animal regulate its day and night cycle when used properly, being sure to turn it off at night.
Mineral and multivitamin supplements help boost your beardie’s immune system and help its bones grow healthy and strong.
In addition to preventing mouth rot, these supplements also prevent illnesses such as upper respiratory infections and metabolic bone disease.
Providing your bearded dragon with a varied diet of fruits, vegetables, and gut-loaded feeder insects is also a top priority in maintaining excellent health and immune system function.
Keeping your bearded dragon’s habitat clean also goes a long way in lowering the risk of mouth rot by not giving bad bacteria or fungus a chance to grow in the enclosure.
To keep your beardie from becoming stressed, ensure your pet has a hiding spot in its enclosure, so it has a place where it feels safe.
Stress is known to hurt the immune system, and this will make your bearded dragon more susceptible to diseases such as mouth rot.
Annual veterinary check-ups are also important in the early treatment and diagnosis of illness in bearded dragons.
What Are Some Other Common Diseases in Bearded Dragons?
In addition to mouth rot, there are several other diseases common in bearded dragons.
I will give you a brief overview of each disease, along with symptoms, so you will be able to recognize when something is wrong with your beardie.
Always keep in mind when there are physical symptoms, there may be behavioral symptoms as well.
Understanding these symptoms is vital to getting the proper treatment quickly and may mean the difference between life and death.
Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD)
Metabolic bone disease, or MBD, is the most common illness among pet bearded dragons.
MBD begins with a calcium deficiency and eventually causes the bearded dragon’s body to leach calcium from its bones.
This will lead to various bone deformities, including softening of the jaw and facial bones and thin bone tissue.
These deformities caused by metabolic bone disease will lead to tremors and swelling of the hind limbs, as well as the ability of the bearded dragon to walk or hold its body up from the ground.
Behavioral symptoms include seizures, lethargy, and loss of appetite.
There is no cure for metabolic bone disease, and it is often fatal for bearded dragons.
The best way to avoid MBD is by taking preventative measures such as adding a calcium supplement powder to your beardie’s diet 2-3 times every week.
Parasites, especially pinworms, are commonly found in the intestinal tract of bearded dragons.
These parasites may show no physical symptoms and may be found during an annual fecal examination by your veterinarian.
In other instances, parasites may cause diarrhea, weight loss, lethargy, and lack of appetite.
Mites and ticks are external parasites you may find on your bearded dragon.
These parasites are often transmitted from other infected bearded dragons, so be sure to inspect your beardie carefully, especially if you have taken your pet on a trip outside.
Mites and ticks will move around, and they are found under or between scales, in skin folds, and areas around the dragon’s head.
If you suspect any parasites are making your bearded dragon ill, you will need to go to a veterinarian’s office for a fecal test to properly diagnose which parasite is present.
Medication will depend on the type of parasite,
For internal parasitic infections, deworming medications are available in either oral or injectable forms.
Mites and ticks may be treated with topical medicines or with oral or injectable anti-parasitic medications.
In addition to the medications, the entire habitat will need to be deep cleaned to ensure the parasites are eliminated and do not have a chance to re-infect the bearded dragon.
Respiratory infections such as pneumonia are more likely to occur in stressed or improperly fed bearded dragons.
Poor environmental conditions such as low temperature and high humidity may also contribute to respiratory infections.
Physical symptoms of respiratory infections in bearded dragons include discharge or bubbles from the eyes or nose, sneezing, rapid or shallow breathing, and gaping.
Behavioral symptoms of respiratory infections in beardies include lethargy and decreased appetite.
If you notice any of these signs or symptoms in your bearded dragon, you should seek veterinary care as soon as possible.
A veterinarian will diagnose the respiratory infection with X-rays, blood tests, and samples of nasal and oral discharges.
Since bacteria usually cause these infections, the treatment typically includes oral or injectable antibiotics.
Viruses, fungus, or parasites may also cause respiratory infections in bearded dragons.
These causes will require specific treatments, such as drugs which target the root cause of the infection.
If the bearded dragon’s respiratory infection is very severe, it may need to be hospitalized for more specialized aggressive treatment.
Maintaining proper temperature and humidity, along with regular cleaning of the enclosure, will greatly reduce the risk of your bearded dragon getting a respiratory infection.
Atadenovirus, referred to as “adenovirus” in older literature, is a highly contagious virus prevalent in bearded dragons.
This disease is also referred to as the “wasting disease” due to lethargy, lack of appetite, and severe weight loss, which occurs once infected.
This inability to gain weight stems from the atadenovirus causing a weakened immune system, which will cause parasites to affect the bearded dragon even more.
Some bearded dragons infected with atadenovirus even experience neurological symptoms such as seizures and muscle twitching.
Other bearded dragons are carriers of the disease for their whole lives and never show symptoms.
This is especially dangerous due to the highly contagious nature of the disease, and a seemingly healthy bearded dragon may pass the infection to another dragon.
It may never be known unless the newly infected dragon shows symptoms.
Atadenovirus is diagnosed by a veterinarian using a fecal swab to look for virus DNA.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for atadenovirus, and treatment will only help to ease the symptoms.
If your beardie is diagnosed with atadenovirus, you will have to keep it in a separate enclosure from other bearded dragons to prevent the spread of the disease.
Since there is no cure, the disease will ultimately lead to death in your bearded dragon.
Brumation and Shedding
While these last two issues are technically not diseases, they are worth taking a closer look at because both of these natural processes will cause unusual behavior in your bearded dragon.
Brumation is a form of hibernation for reptiles in which they can go without food, but they still need to drink water to keep from becoming dehydrated.
This is a natural process a bearded dragon goes through in the wild when it has to survive the colder winter months.
During brumation, your bearded dragon will seem lethargic, refuse to eat, and will spend a lot of time in a quiet hiding spot getting rest.
You may see your bearded dragon come out and drink water every once in a while, so keep providing fresh, clean water every day.
Brumation typically lasts anywhere from a few weeks to more than three months, and some bearded dragons may not even go into brumation at all if conditions in their habitat are kept at optimal levels.
Another natural process which alters a bearded dragon’s behavior is shedding.
Just before, during, and after shedding, your bearded dragon may refuse to eat.
Your beardie’s skin may appear to be milky white or cloudy, which is a sign of shedding.
The entire shedding process takes about 2 days to complete, and once it is over, your bearded dragon will resume normal behavior.
Bearded dragon mouth rot will become a severe illness if proper treatment isn’t taken right away.
By knowing the signs and symptoms of various diseases, you will be able to scan the body for abnormalities in your bearded dragon more easily.
These symptoms are often crucial in correctly identifying and treating disease.
Proper enclosure maintenance is just as essential as medicine in the treatment of mouth rot.
With an optimal diet, regular habitat maintenance, and annual check-ups, your bearded dragon will be happy and healthy for many years to come.