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Anna, Reptile Expert, Biologist
Category: Reptile
Satisfied Customers: 11066
Experience:  Have owned turtles, snakes, amphibians, and lizards. Study and provide habitat for wild herps.
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My bearded dragon is too skinny. He won't touch his crickets.

Customer Question

My bearded dragon is too skinny. He won't touch his crickets. My mom would always turn his lamps off... and I know he's just too under nourished. I got him at such a young age I had no idea what I was doing. "Feed him once every two to three months" is what I was told but now today as I look at how weak he is I'm being told I was supposed to feed him once a week the latest. Its my fault. And all I want to do is make things right. What do I do?
JA: I'll do all I can to help. What is the matter with the cricket?
Customer: There's nothing wrong with the crickets. They're fine. He just won't touch them.
JA: Where does the cricket seem to hurt?
Customer: The crickets are healthy. My bearded dragon wont touch them for some reason.
JA: Can you see anything that looks wrong or different?
Customer: My bearded dragon is too skinny. I fear this is why he won't eat.
JA: What is the dragon's name?
Customer: Liz
JA: Is there anything else the Veterinarian should be aware of about Liz?
Customer: He's 12. Too skinny. Won't eat. I dont think there's anything else the vet should know
JA: OK. Got it. I'm sending you to a secure page on JustAnswer so you can place the $5 fully-refundable deposit now. While you're filling out that form, I'll tell the Veterinarian about your situation and then connect you two.
Submitted: 5 months ago.
Category: Reptile
Expert:  Anna replied 5 months ago.
Hello and welcome. My name is ***** ***** I'm a biologist with a special interest in reptiles. I'm sorry to hear your beardie is not doing well.I suspect you got your information on care from a pet store or a less than reputable pet store.. Most people do. While we should be able to rely on such information, unfortunately, it is often wrong. They sell people the wrong lighting, advise the wrong foods, and often don't know the correct temperatures for the various reptiles. After months of things not being quite right, the animal becomes ill. Some of what you have been told is horribly wrong, and I suspect that is why Houdini is having so much trouble. Even though you have been trying so hard to keep him healthy, when you didn't have correct information to begin with, things are going wrong. I'm going to ask you a few more questions to see what other misinformation you have been given, and then we'll try to figure out how to help. What temperatures do you maintain under the basking light and on the cool side of the cage? What brand and size of UVB light do you have? How old is the bulb? What substrate do you use on the cage floor? Have you ever given Liz a calcium supplement? When did he last eat? Thank you.
Customer: replied 5 months ago.
I don't even know the size of ubv light he has. My mom decided to put it somewhere and I can't find it. So I've been looking but no luck. I've had it forever and haven't thought to check the size. I have a lamp over him now but it's makeshift. It's warm enough for the night but I need to buy a new one after my mom lost the old one.
I use sand on his cage floor as I was told to. He doesn't take calcium suppliments. I didn't know he had to. The last time he ate was about a month ago. I took a good look at him today. He's anorexic. I didn't realize they were supposed to be so much bigger.
Expert:  Anna replied 5 months ago.
Thank you for getting back to me. I have to be honest with you - it might be too late. But we are going to do everything possible to save Liz. I’ll start with a first aid measure. Liz is very dehydrated by now and that is an emergency. Buy some Pedialyte (yes, the kind for human infants). Prepare a shallow bath consisting of 1/2 water and 1/2 Pedialyte. Soak Liz for about 20 to 30 minutes twice a day. Reptiles can absorb the electrolytes and fluids through their vents (where droppings pass out), so make the water deep enough to cover the vent. Be sure to supervise closely. If you can't get any Pedialyte, you can make your own. Here are the ingredients:1 quart purified or natural spring water2-4 teaspoons sugar1 teaspoon table salt. Mix the ingredients together, then dilute with water half and half for the bath. You also need to try to get the basking area up to 105*F. The cool side should be 85*F to 90*F. Try to give Liz two long soaks tonight. That and keeping him warm will be all you can do for now. We'll see if we can get him stabilized first, and then we'll talk about what changes you need to make. Let me know how he's doing in the morning and we'll proceed from there. Anna
Customer: replied 5 months ago.
Thank you for your help Anna. I've managed to get him to drink. I took a needless syringe ( dropper with no needle ) and dropped reptile friendly water by his mouth and eventually into it. He drank it and now he's sitting there-breathing with his eyes open as well as his mouth is open. What does this mean?
Expert:  Anna replied 5 months ago.
You're welcome. The mouth being open can indicate that he's having trouble breathing. Having the eyes open doesn't really mean anything. A long soak would do him more good than trying to syringe water into his mouth. It's also very easy to aspirate water into the lungs when using a syringe, and that leads to life-threatening pneumonia. The fact that he was interested in the water was a good sign, though. If you soak him, he might even try to drink some of that water. If he seem sto perk up, you can try feeding him, but don't force feed. Instead, buy some plain meat baby food. Drop a small dollop right on the end of his snout. Many times, reflexes will cause them to lick it off. I would also get rid of the sand on the floor. Pet stores recommend it because it is a money maker. Instead, get some reptile carpet or ceramic tile. You can use paper towels in the meantime. If we can get Liz stabilized, it's extremely important that you buy an additional light that produces UVB rays. A Reptisun 10.0 is a good brand that does. If you choose another brand be absolutely certain it provides UVB rays. Don't take the word of pet store personnel, but read it for yourself. Full-spectrum, DayGlo, daylight, UV, and UVA are NOT the same thing. I'm putting a lot of emphasis on this because it's crucial to a reptile’s health. Without this light, Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD) will develop because they won't be able to produce vitamin D. Vitamin supplements are not a good replacement for the proper lighting. MBD causes a very slow and painful death. UVB bulbs must be replaced every six months as they lose their effectiveness after that, even though they may still look fine. Light that comes through a window isn't sufficient because the glass filters out the UVB rays. Because pet stores give out so much incorrect information, I’m also sending along a care sheet, courtesy of Joan, another of our experts. Joan has many years experience keeping and rescuing beardies.Her care sheet is used on some reputable websites, so you may have even seen it before. I suggest that you use the care sheet as a check list to provide the best possible care for your beardie. If you have more questions, just let me know. I hope Liz will be able to recover.AnnaMy goal is to provide you with excellent service – if you feel you have gotten anything less, please reply back, I am happy to address follow-up questions. Please remember to rate my service after you have all the information you need. I will greatly appreciate a positive rating as that is the only way I am compensated. Thank you! Bearded Dragon Care SheetBearded dragons should be housed alone.Ages of bearded dragons follow these guidelines: 0-3 months- baby 3-12 months-juvenile 12-18 months- sub adult 18 months + -adult Bearded dragons live as much as 10-12 years if well cared for properly.Bearded dragons have a very good temperament as long as they are cared for and handled.When you bring your baby home, it may be quite stressful to him/her to get use to new home. May not eat well the first 2-3 days. They may not need to be handled the first 2-3 days if skittish and nervous.Never use sand or any other type of loose substrate: Loose substrates can cause impaction (not being able to go Poop) in all ages of bearded dragons- they lick their environment to explore .It is difficult to keep germ free and clean. Ceramic tile, newspaper, non adhesive shelf liner and reptile carpet is what is most recommended. Use paper towels for the little one and as they get bigger you can change to something else.Be sure you keep your beardies home as clean as you can. Clean up by spot cleaning when needed. Clean & sanitize entire tank every 10-14 days. A good cleaning solution is a 20% bleach solution. If you choose to use wood climbing branches etc, these should be soaked in the bleach solution and rinsed well. Then bake in 250 degree oven for 30 minutes.Need a climbing accessory: to bask and to warm up under basking heat light and lower branches or platforms to come down and cool off.A hide of some sort like a cave.A food dish and water dish.Plastic spray bottleCan use artificial plants when they get older- 3 months or so.Digital thermostat and/or temp gunTank size: Minimal size tank for this age is 20 gallon longMinimal size for older beardie: 4 months of age: 40 gallon breeder is the minimal tank size for older dragon. Can divide a 40 gallon breeder for a smaller dragon. Must have two lights for your beardie. A UVB light source-best is 10.0 Reptisun that runs the length of your tank. Your dragon must have this light to metabolize calcium. If not he will get metabolic bone disease, a serious condition. You can also take your beardie outside to bask in the sun for 15 minutes each day if your temps are 80 degrees or above outside. You can purchase cages or reptariums from your pet store. Never leave a beardie outside unattended.2. A basking type light that puts out heat and warmth above basking spot. Your beardie must have warmth to digest food & thrive.Lights should be on for 12-14 hours each day. Follow the seasons and light timers are a great luxury if you can get them. 6 dollars at Lowe's. No lights or warmth needed at night unless your temperatures get below 62 degrees. If they do, there are ceramic heat emitters that put out no light, only heat. Use these at night if temperatures fall below 62 degrees. Temperatures have to be kept at the following ranges during the day: Babies: Warm basking log: 105-115* degrees F (40.5 - 46*C) Cool side: 85-90 (29.5 - 32*C)Adults: Warm basking spot: 105-110*F (40.5- 43*C) Cool side: 80-85 (26.6 - 29.5*C)Measure temperatures with a digital probe type thermometer or a temp gun-these are most accurate. Stick on thermometers unreliable.Feeding a Beardie: Beardies eat live prey consisting of crickets, roaches and/or silkworms. Never feed any size of mice to your beardie. Never feed meal worms. They also must be given greens/veggies everyday. The younger they are the more live prey they should have. As they grow older the live prey decreases and the veggies/greens should be the major part of diet. Never feed anything bigger, than the space between your beardie's eyes. This includes both live prey and pieces of veggies/greens,.A chopper or food processor is a huge help when your beardie is small. Always offer greens and veggies: collard greens, turnip greens, mustard greens, cabbage, red cabbage, fresh green beans, yellow summer squash, butternut squash, sweet potato, cactus pad. Apricots, strawberries, apples, blueberries, raspberries, cantaloupe- fruits are treats only.What is live prey? The easiest and less expensive live prey is crickets when you have a young or first beardie. The other live preys you can feed are silkworms, and special types of roaches. You can learn to raise your own live prey. Treats can be wax worms, super worms, and tomato/Goliath worms. You may find that ordering live prey from the internet is the way to go..... Never leave live prey or greens/veggies in tank overnight. . Crickets can bite your beardie when sleeping.Babies should get 80% live prey, and 20 % greens/veggies. But since the greens/veggies are a must when they are older, get them eating their greens/veggies very early. Give greens/veggies in small pieces everyday. You should eventually start decreasing your older dragon's protein intake when they are about a year to 15 months old. Their protein intake decreases to 20 % live prey and 80% veggies/greens. A baby eats 50-75 crix a day depending on the size of the crickets. Never feed crix or veggies bigger than the space between your beardie's eyes. Use this guide when buying crix or chopping your greens/veggies.You must provide calcium dust without D3 and multivitamin dust for your beardie. You should dust the live prey with calcium one time a day, and vitamins 3 times a week. Just collect your live prey into baggie and add enough calcium and vitamin to dust them. Then pour a few at a time into your tank. Some people feed their beardie in a separate tank so that no crickets can hide. Or some take out "furniture" from tank and feed this way. As they get older, 4-5 months or so dust live prey with calcium 3 times a week.Feed the veggies/ greens 1st thing in morning after lights on for one hour at least. Then after 2-3 hours offer crix. Then freshen green/veggies. Then give more crix. Make sure after last crix feeding there is at least 1-2 hours of lights so that they can digest their food before night time. Beardies over the age of one year old during the winter months will go into a Brumation like most Reptiles and Herps. It is a form of Hibernation that is governed by the weather and time of year. The lights should be on a shorter period at this time. Fresh greens should be available during this period. Do not feed live prey during Brumation. Water: Mist your little one with the spray bottle 3-4 times a day. You can also offer a small dish of water in your enclosure but be sure your dragon is not too small to drown in it. It is recommended that when your beardie is 2 months old you can bathe your baby in a small plastic container with warm water- not hot. It will help them to stay hydrated. As they get older you can move up to the bathroom sink and then to the bathtub. Very important for bath enclosure to be thoroughly cleaned and rinsed prior to bath time. Clean between dragons too if bathing more than one.Fruits and Vegetables: Substrate Graphic: Bearded Dragons:
Customer: replied 5 months ago.
Thank you for this information. If he's having trouble breathing what can I do about that? What if there is now water in his lungs? If there's that chance what do I do?
Customer: replied 5 months ago.
He's in his bath now. I'm propping him up and monitoring it very very closely. He's still weak but his eyes are open and his mouth is closed. He seems better than he was an hour ago. But Im still very concerned. Thank you for the help I'll keep I'm touch. Thank you so much.
Expert:  Anna replied 5 months ago.
You're welcome. If he's having trouble breathing, there is nothing you can do on your own. You would need a vet to help. I'm glad to hear he seems better, but his condition is still critical. Just keep doing what you can for him. We'll hope for the best.
Expert:  Anna replied 5 months ago.
I'm just checking on Liz. Did he make it through the night? I hope so.
Customer: replied 5 months ago.
Hi Anna. Sorry for such a late reply... Liz... he didn't make it through the night... I was seven when I got him.... I would talk to him every night, he knew my voice.. he'd perk up as if he was listening. .. he'd watch me when I sing. Facinated. He'd cuddle into my pile of stuffed animals and fall asleep. He loved baths and oranges. I knew they'd give him the poops so I only gave him a little .. he was so innocent . I was playing with magic I didn't understand. I became a teenager and stopped being there for him. I fed him, and gave him baths, and oranges, and sang to him but it wasnt the same. Other than feeding him everything became spaced out. I did it when I "remembered"
So eventually I grew up... I was there for him. But it still wasn't enough.. he was too good for me. Then in the past month he got too skinny and one day he just died. My parents are telling me he was reaching his time and that could have been it. But it's my fault. I was stupid. I was stupid to think I could help him last night. He was my first pet, and my first friend. I let him down the past couple of years. I dont know why I'm opening up so much to someone I don't know... anyway... thank you for helping me as much as you could. He passed peacefully under a warm lamp, in a warm blanket after an hour long warm bath.. with the sounds of crickets chirping off in the distance. I'll feel this guilt, and pain forever. And I want to. I deserve to. You made his last night peaceful with your help. he had his favourite warm bath placed gently on my hand. For that, I really am grateful for all you did.
~ Jessica
Expert:  Anna replied 5 months ago.
Oh, Jessica, this made me cry. I think you opened up to me because somehow you knew I love animals, and I care about people, too. Besides my work here, I was a high school science teacher for a number of years. Young people change as they move into their teens, and some of those changes are why your relationship with Liz changed, too. And yes, like all teens, you eventually grew up. Unfortunately, Liz paid the price for your years of changing. But you are being too hard on yourself. I understand the guilt and the pain you feel. We all make mistakes, and some of them hurt others, whether they be human or animal. It can take a long time, but I hope that someday, you'll be able to forgive yourself. You were young, and young teens are not known for having good judgment.Last night, you looked for help for Liz, but it was too late to save him. Your seeking help, though, resulted in him passing more peacefully and comfortably than he would have otherwise. I hope that's at least a little comfort to you. I can also tell you that because you feel this guilt and pain, I know you are a good person. A bad person wouldn't care.I wish I could help more. I wish we could have saved Liz. I wish I could make you feel better. But I know I can't, and wishes don't help much. I am so sorry for your loss of Liz, and for what you are going through. If you need to talk more over the next few days, I'll be here. There's no additional fee, so if I can help in some way, let me know. I'll be logging off for the night soon, but I wanted to reach out to you before I do that. I'll keep my eye out tomorrow in case you need to talk more. I hope you can get some rest tonight.Anna