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Ask Joan Your Own Question
Joan, Veterinary Technician
Category: Reptile
Satisfied Customers: 18170
Experience:  35+ years experience as veterinary tech and 40+ years experience doing reptile rescues.
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Our bearded dragon started making a wheezing noise then

Customer Question

Our bearded dragon started making a wheezing noise then became totally lethargic. He is only now opening his mouth every few minutes but not showing any movement
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Reptile
Expert:  Joan replied 1 year ago.


My name is ***** ***** I have been a Vet tech for 30+ years with special interest in Reptiles and Reptile rescue. I need to ask some questions before I can give you an answer. Please do not Rate until I have addressed the problems.

Can you tell me about set up?

Diet Prey and Veggies?



UVB light, Coil or linear tube, strength and age of bulb?

Temps in basking area, warm site and cool side?

Passing stool?

Any runny nose or eyes?

Any cough?


Customer: replied 1 year ago.
He was in perfect health. 4 years old. He just ate a mix of greens and worms 10 minutes before he started wheezing. It had never happened before. No runny nose or eyes, stool is good, bulbs are coil in need of changing, never given supplements, 95/85 in the tank temps, we live in AZ so he is out by the pool a lot in the day. This was sudden. He seems to be alive but not sure, eyes closed and not moving at all.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
He is in a big family and always with someone. Very social, This is a shock to us
Expert:  Joan replied 1 year ago.


I have a few more questions. What type of worms are you feeding? Silk worms, Meal worms, Super worms, Phoenix worms or goliath worms?

What type of greens?

Have you ever given any calcium?

How do you measure the temps?


Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Hi Joan,
Super worms, kale, no calcium, temp with an old thermometer. He is in indirect Sunlight all day long, open window. Can I send you a picture of him. He seems to be breathing but VERY shallow if at all. I am not sure if he is alive
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
This is very urgent!
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
he does not appear to be alive anymore
Expert:  Joan replied 1 year ago.

Let try something immediately to see if he responds. I would like to put him in a 50/50 warm water and Pedialyte soak. This will hydrate him and give him some electrolytes through the Vent and skin. I would also like you to pinch a back foot to see if you get a reflex action. You can post a picture by using the paper clip in the tool bar. I will stand by.

Expert:  Joan replied 1 year ago.

You have some husbandry issues that may be causing the problems you are seeing.

The basking area should have 105*-110*F and the warm side mid 90's and cool side of the tank in the 85* range. This is important for digestion and passing of stool. If the temps are not correct, this can also cause a problem.

You need to have 2 lights, a day time basking bulb as well as a UVB. I recommend a reptisun 10.0 and UVB lights do not put out heat. The UVB bulb is needed to stop Metabolic Bone Disease. The UVB needs to be changed every 6 months.

The UVB should be a tube type. Coil UVB bulbs can injure the eyes. Compact UVB problems: This should not be giving off a lot of heat, but UVB rays.

The UVB bulb should not have any plastic between it and the Dragon, it needs to run the length of the tank and be no more than 12" from the Dragon. Both lights should run daily for 12-14 hours a day. UVB cannot penetrate glass so sitting by the window, does not supply UVB rays which are needed to metabolize calcium. The UVB light can change the level of activity as well as the Dragon can get MBD: That is why it is extremely important to be giving a calcium suppleent 5 days a week.

You should be feeding Collard greens, mustard greens, dandelion greens, escarole and curly endives. Butternut squash and various berries are great for a treat. The Veggies should be put in fresh daily, and done about an hour after lights on. The kale you are feeding will bind calcium adding to problems. They need 80% veggies daily and 20% live prey overr a year of age. The live prey should include crickets, silk worms, roaches, goliath worms and phoenix worms.The canned prey looses the nutritional value and is high in chitin which is the outer shells and can cause a blockage.

Super worms and wax worms are like giving the Dragon candy. All veggies and prey should be dusted with calcium daily 5 days a week and vitamins 2 days a week. The super worms also hav e high Chitin amount that may have been the problem with the gaping and problems breathing.

Another issue if the Dragon was outside, it is possible it ate a wild caught insect that was toxic. Fireflies are one that can cause serious toxicity issues.

Please let me know if you got any response. I am standing by.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I added the photo. He did not respond
Expert:  Joan replied 1 year ago.

From the looks of his posture he still has color which means he is still warm. The best way to judge is the foot pinch. Even with Brumation we still have a refex reaction when alive. I would leave him in the tank overnight. if there still is no response I would say he is gone. I am so sorry as this is the hardest part of my job.

I wish we had gotten to him hours earlier, we may have had a better chance to assist him. I suspect he got an insect outside that gave him anaphalaxis or a toxin for him to go down so fast.


Expert:  Joan replied 1 year ago.
Hi Eric,
I'm just following up on our conversation about Ed. How is everything going?