Thank you for waiting. I suspect you got your information on care from a 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. Lizards don't get sick right away when things aren't quite right, but after years of things not being quite right, the animal becomes ill. Some of what you have been told is wrong, and I suspect that is why your beardie 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.
From what you have described, it is likely that he has Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD). MBD is caused by an imbalance of calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D in the body. The most common reason for its occurrence is lack of UVB light rays. A fluorescent bulb or a basking light will not provide UVB. UVB bulbs typically do not provide any heat, so a bulb that is warm doesn’t provide UVB. Full-spectrum lighting, UVA, and UV also do not. UVB light bulbs are only effective for about 6 months. they still look fine after that, but don’t emit enough UVB rays to do any good. 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. Bearded dragons need to be exposed to UVB rays for 12 to 14 hours per day. In my experience almost all free range beardies develop MBD. The conditions in the house are not right to keep them healthy.
The other thing necessary to prevent MBD is supplementation with plain calcium. When no calcium is provided, even UVB light won't do any good. They need both.
Symptoms of MBD can include softening of the bones, broken bones, and curvature of the spine. These are the symptoms most people look for. however, there are others that are just as common, and they include weakness, lethargy, appetite loss, constipation/impaction, balance problems, and tetanic spasms. Tetanic spasms are when a group of muscles contracts suddenly, sometimes flipping the lizard. These spasms can also cause temporary paralysis. An imbalance of these nutrients in the body, regardless of the cause, can affect almost every body system, and there is no certain order in which symptoms will appear.
It's never possible to be certain of a diagnosis without an exam and testing, so the only way you'll be sure is to see a vet. If it is MBD, the best treatment involves an injection of a special form of calcium, followed by at home treatment. This site has a directory of reptile vets:
If you prefer to try at-home treatment, your dragon will need to be confined to his cage witha fresh UVB light on for 12 to 14 hours per day. He will need calcium powder. If he won't eat his prey insects, buy some plain meat baby food. Mix in calcium powder. Drop a small dollop on the end of his snout, most of the time they will lick it off.
I'll also give you a first aid measure. Buy some Pedialyte (yes, the kind for human infants). Prepare a shallow bath consisting of 1/2 water and 1/2 Pedialyte. Mix in a big scoop of plain calcium powder. Soak your dragon 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.
Make sure you have proper temperatures in the cage. The basking area should be 105*F to 110*F. The cool side, 80*F to 85*F. Night time temps can be allowed to drop into the 70's. Supplemental heat is not needed at night. Those red lights are unnecessary.
It would also be a good idea to use some liquid calcium, but you will have to order it. Here is a source:
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 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:
0-3 months- baby
12-18 months- sub adult
18 months + -adult
Bearded dragons live as much as 10-12 years if well cared for
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.
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
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
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:
Walnut Shell Graphic:
Sexing Bearded Dragons: