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Anna, Reptile Expert, Biologist
Category: Reptile
Satisfied Customers: 11512
Experience:  Have owned turtles, snakes, amphibians, and lizards. Study and provide habitat for wild herps.
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My bearded dragon is one year old and the last two weeks he

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My bearded dragon is one year old and the last two weeks he has not been able to move his front legs. Like he is paralyzed in the front legs. At first I thought it was impaction so I have him multiple baths and massaged his belly till he dedicated. He has since dedicated around every two or three days. Of course he isn't eating right cause he can't walk right so I have been trying to hand feed him. I feed him calcium covered crickets everyday and mineral covered crickets once a week. What should I do to make him get better?

My name is XXXXX XXXXX I'm a biologist with a special interest in reptiles. I'm sorry to hear of your beardie's problem. Some additional information will be helpful.

Is there any chance he could have fallen or been dropped?

Does he seem to have any problems swallowing?

Are the legs swollen at all? Crooked?

What brand and size of UVB light do you have? Is the bulb a spiral/coil type or a straight tube? How old is the bulb?

What temperatures do you maintain under the basking light and on the cool side of the cage?

I'm sorry to have so many questions, but this information will help me figure out what is wrong. Thank you.


Customer: replied 4 years ago.

I don't think he has been dropped. He had fallen off of his basking perch a couple times but it was only 6 inches off the ground and he usually jumps off of it after crickets.


He swallows fine but he seems to be making a swallowing motion with his mouth a lot here lately. Like he is swallowing or something but he doesn't have any food around him to be swallowing.


Legs look fine. No swelling or crookedness. Back legs work fine.


The bulb is a Reptisun 10.0 and it is about a year old. It is a straight bulb and is around 30 inches. Since he has started having problems getting on his basking area I have since added another Reptisun 10.0 that is a lot smaller but still a straight bulb that is a lot lower so it would be about 6 inches from the log he lays own.


Where he lays on his log it stays around 95 degrees. The cool side of his tank stays around 75 degrees. Also he seems to like the cool side a lot more than anywhere else here lately. Either the cool side of his tank or he will never get out of bed.


I don't mind answering any questions. Please ask cause I want to find out the problem.

Thank you for getting back to me. I’m working on your answer and will post it as soon as I have it typed up. (I am not a fast typist). Please don’t respond to this post as that can lock me out of the question. I’ll be back shortly. I appreciate your patience.

Thank you for waiting. when front legs are paralyzed, and no injury is suspected, there are two common causes. We can't rule either of them out with the information we have, so I'll tell you about both. One is Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD), which sometimes does affect front legs first. Two things which point to that are the fact that he was having trouble getting on her log, and that his UVB light was year old. The Reptisun 10.0 is an excellent UVB light, but like all of them, it is only good for 6 months, regardless of what it may say on the box. After 6 months, they are only putting out visible light, no UVB. By getting a new light, you ahve already provided the solution to that potential problem.

The other common cause of this is impaction, but it's a different kind of impaction. When it occurs int he intestines, that hind legs become immobile. When it occurs in the upper part of the gastro-intestinal system, the front legs are affected. The frequent swallowing motion can be a sign of a partial blockage. Often with this problem, the beardie won't be able to swallow food, and yours is not having a problem with that. Soaks and massage won't help with a blockage in the upper system. You'd have to see a vet for that.

When a beardie stays on the cool side all the time, it can be a sign of not feeling well. I suspect that you got your information on temperatures from a pet store or from an outdated book. They are far too cold - not even warm enough to enable your dragon to properly digest his food. The very coldest part of his cage should be 85*F to 90*F. For a youngster his age, the basking spot should be at least 110*F. The latest research on bearded dragons has shown that they can't even begin to properly digest their food properly until their internal body temperature reaches 98*F. Being cold-blooded, the only way for that to happen is for them to lie in a very hot basking area.You can increase the temperature by using a higher wattage bulb in the basking light fixture, lowering t he fixture itself (but not so low that he can be burned on it), or by adding a second fixture. If you need a second fixture, you don't have to buy something expensive from a pet store.If you live in an area that has farm stores, you can buy a clip-on metal light fixture made to keep baby chicks warm for just a few dollars. Don't buy the accompanying bulb, however. You need an ordinary incandescent bulb in the basking light. Hardware and home improvement stores sell similar light fixtures as work lights.

You're probably wondering what to do by now. I would increase the temperatures and continue to provide soaks. You've already bought a new UVB bulb which would have been my other recommendation. If he's not better in a few days, it's time to see a reptile vet. Of course you can do that now if you'd prefer. If this were my beardie, I would. The vet can take an x-ray to determine if an unknown injury occurred or if there is an upper GI blockage. If MBD is the problem, a special potent form of calcium can be prescribed to work in conjunction with your new light. This link will take you to a directory of reptile vets:

Because there is so much misinformation available, I’m also sending along a care sheet, courtesy of Joan, another of our experts. Joan has many years experience keeping and rescuing beardies. You can just use the care sheet as a check list to provide the best possible care for your beardie. If you have more questions, let me know by clicking on REPLY. I hope your dragon will reach a full recovery.


My 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 only after you have all the information you need. Thank you!

Bearded Dragon Care Sheet

* Bearded dragons should be housed alone.

* Ages of bearded dragons follow these guidelines:

1. 0-3 months- baby
2. 3-12 months-juvenile
3. 12-18 months- sub adult
4. 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 bottle
* Can use artificial plants when they get older- 3 months or so.
* Digital thermostat and/or temp gun
* Tank size: Minimal size tank for this age is 20 gallon long
* Minimal 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.

1. 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: 110-125 degrees F (43.5* to 51.5*C)
Cool side: 85-90 (29.5* to 32*C)
Adults: Warm basking spot: 105-115F (40.5*C to 46*C)

Cool side: 80-85F (27*C to 29*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 mealworms. 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 waxworms, 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 can eat 50-75 crix a day. 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.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

I am going to start trying to get the temperatures higher in his tank. I am using a 70 gallon aquarium. I was thinking about building a top for it. That way it would hold in the heat better. Right now I have the 48" UVB bulb hood, a basking light lamp, and a ceramic heat emitter lamp just hanging over the top of the tank. Do you think build a top for the tank and cutting holes to allow the lamps to sit in and uvb hood to sit in would be a good idea?

Yes, that would hold some of the heat in. It would be very important to not block any of the UVB light because even a screen or clear plastic cuts down on it. Your idea of cutting holes in the top should work well.


My 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 only after you have all the information you need. Thank you!
Anna and other Reptile Specialists are ready to help you
Hello again,

I'm just checking to see if you need more information, since you haven't yet rated my answer. I hopw what I provided is useful, but if you need more, let me know.