We have a 4 year old bearded dragon. Every once in a while, he'll open his mouth and gape (kind of looks like a yawn),

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Customer: We have a 4 year old bearded dragon. Every once in a while, he'll open his mouth and gape (kind of looks like a yawn), and then closes his eyes again and goes limp (with mouth still slightly open). What could be going on?
Answered by Anna in 14 mins 6 years ago
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Anna
30+ years of experience
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17,044 satisfied customers

Specialities include: Reptile Veterinary, Herp Veterinary, Exotic Animal Medicine, Amphibian Veterinary

Hello and welcome. My name is ***** ***** I'm a biologist with a special interest in reptiles. I would like to help you today. Some additional information will be useful.

Is this a new behavior, or has it been going on for a long time?

How often does this happen? What is he doing when it happens - basking, sitting on the cage floor, etc.?

Is he eating well?

Does he have normal energy?

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

Thank you.

Customer
It happened over the last hour. We thought he had been going through brumation, although he never has before. We took him to a vet last week who thought the same thing. He's been very lathargic, no appetite, maybe two small bowel movements in the last week. Sleeps all the time. We read about brumation and every thing was spot on with what Wally has been going through. We put him in some warm water today for about five minutes. We dried him off and placed him back in the cage. He moved slowly around from the front to the back corner of the cage. Then he lifted his head and opened his mouth and kind of yawned. At one point, his tongue came out and stayed out for a few seconds. Sadly, I think he may have passed away. He hasn't moved or opened his eyes in the last 15 minutes.
Customer
His chin and upper chest has been primarily black over the last couple of weeks.

Thank you for getting back to me. It is very difficult to tell a brumating dragon from a sick dragon. This sounds like a respiratory infection. Even if you think he may have passed away, go ahead and do a soak for a longer time period - about 20 minutes. If you can get some Pedialyte, make the bath half Pedialyte and half water at about 100*F. Since he is weak, hold his head up so his nostrils are out of the water.

After the soak, place him in his basking area. Make sure it is 105*F to 110*F. After about an hour, let me know if there have been any signs of life.

Anna

Customer
My husband just picked him up and he is cold and no movement. He hasn't taken a breath in over 20 minutes. He is very limp, his eyes are closed, his mouth slightly ajar. We don't have any pedialite. When we tried soaking him earlier, he would scamper to get out of the water. He did that three times, which is why we gave up after five minutes. It just seems strange timing that the gaping started after we put him in water.
Customer
Is it possible he had the respiratory infection for a while and not brumating?

I'm so sorry. It does sound like he is gone. Gaping can mean one of two things. It's normal for it to occur once in awhile when basking. It's a way of cooling. It also indicates that a dragon isn't getting enough air. It's possible some water got into his lungs while struggling in the water. Or, he may have had lung congestion from an infection. Either way, gaping would occur.

Yes, it is possible he had a respiratory infection for some time. In the beginning, there may be few symptoms. A beardie may simply be a little less active than usual, and perhaps not eat as much. As it progresses, you may (or may not) see discharge from the eyes or nose. The eyes may stay shut a lot. Eventually there will be breathing problems, and that's when frequent gaping occurs.

If you have more questions, let me know in a REPLY. Again, I am so sorry this happened to you. You did all you could, even taking him to a vet.

Anna

Customer
It just seemed to happen so quickly. We first noticed he wasn't eating as much, but he was still eating. Then he was more lathargic. Since we were worried about his behavior, we read a lot and every sign of brumating he had, so we figured it was that. We took him to a vet last week and he said his breathing seemed good and that they have their own version of hibernating. Just last night I even made him a box that he could sleep in and he slept there all night. He came out this morning and hung out in the front of the box, but slept most of the day. The only reason we even put him in water was that the things we read said to keep them hydrated, even if they stay asleep. We were going to do it once a week. We kept his head above the water the whole time, as it was only a couple of inches, if that. The water was soaking into his skin so quickly we thought it was good we put him in water. He even licked his lips a few times so again, thought it was a good thing as he seemed a bit more alert than he had been in the last couple of weeks.

You did everything right with the bath. There is no way water would have gotten into his lungs under those circumstances. You are also absolutely correct that they need to be kept hydrated during brumation. It's also important when they are sick. The fact that the water soaked in quickly tells us that he did need it. You've done everything right. This is just one of those sad, unavoidable things that happens. It wasn't your fault in any way. It's just so very sad.

Customer
Well, thank you for those words. We just felt so helpless :(

I understand. It's so hard when a loved pet suddenly becomes critically ill. I know that words don't really help, but all I can do now is offer my sympathy. I'm so sorry.

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