One of the most common issues with bearded dragon health is the risk of impaction. Impaction is caused when your lizard cannot fully digest their food, thus causing a blockage of the intestines. This is usually caused by substandard living conditions and an improper diet. Before you run off to the vet, there are a few home remedies that have proven to be very effective in minor cases.
Although poor husbandry is the leading cause of impaction within beardies, this problem can arise in even the most ideal of settings. For instance, if you have rescued a lizard that had a serious digestive issue in the past, their intestines are more prone to becoming impacted later on down the line, regardless of the current conditions it is living in.
"But how do I know if my lizard is impacted?"
The first thing you will notice in an impacted dragon is a lack of bowel movements. If you spend time daily with your pet, then you will notice when things become "irregular". Younger beardies should pass stool almost daily due to the large amount of insects they eat. Adults on the other hand, may only go once every 7-10 days. Again, this depends on your specific dragon and what is "regular" to them. If your adult gets to around 2 weeks with no movements, then you may have an issue.
Another good sign of impaction is to feel the stomach of your pet. Feel for any abnormal bulges or hard spots. Again, if you regularly handle your pet, it will be easier for you to determine how their stomach should feel when healthy. You must also consider the amount of food they are eating. A brumating dragon will not eat much at all, thus not requiring them to pass a stool as often.
A more serious case would actually hinder your pet's movement. Hind leg paralysis is a common symptom of an impacted dragon. If you notice your beardie's back legs aren't moving, or working, get them straight to the vet.
"I think my bearded dragon is impacted. What should I do?"
Here is the process I have used to help pass several impacted lizards over the years:
- Stop feeding them insects
- Give the lizard a few drops of vegetable or olive oil through an eye dropper. If you can't get them to swallow the oil by itself, try mixing it with unsweetened applesauce.
- Run a lukewarm bath and allow them to soak for around 30 minutes.
- While soaking, gently rub the stomach from snout to vent repeatedly.
- Remove them from the bath and put them under the basking light.
- Repeat a few times daily until the impaction passes.
This method has worked great for me in the past. However, if your beardies still hasn't passed the impaction within a couple days of this treatment, then get them to a vet ASAP. What this procedure does is help hydrate your pet while loosening the impaction via the abdomen massage and oil. You may want to keep away from solid veggies during this time as well. Offer baby food in place of the normal salad, and be sure they are getting plenty of fluids. Pedialyte and Gatorade works great for this purpose.
Bearded dragon health is a fairly easy thing to keep in check if you know what to look out for. But even the most experienced keepers run into the occasional issue from time to time. It is then that having a few tricks up your sleeve will come in handy. These tips won't just prevent another vet bill, but keep your pet healthy and happy by enabling you to take action immediately. The very best thing you can do is to spend time with your pet daily, this way you will immediately notice when something isn't quite right with your lizard.
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