Hello and thanks for posting your question on JustAnswer.com. My name is***** and I have been a veterinarian in the US for over 21 years, specializing in aquatics, reptiles, amphibians, avian and other exotic species. You may already be aware, but on this platform veterinarians can provide insight and advice, but as this is not considered a legal client-patient relationship, we are unable to prescribe medications, provide medical records or sign documents for your specific pet. For that you would need to make an in person visit with a local veterinarian. I am happy to chat with you via the JustAnswer app via text but if you are interested in a phone call instead that is an option you can choose for an additional charge. In the meantime, I am putting together some questions and/or suggestions to help with your pet’s concern.
I am sorry to hear that your bearded dragon is under the weather. Diarrhea can be concerning and it does sound like he might be dehydrated, as sunken eyes suggest either dehydration (if they occurred recently) or can also be caused by severe weight loss but that would occur more slowly over time.
There are a number of reasons why your bearded dragon may develop diarrhea. These include infections (parasites, bacteria, viruses such as Atadenovirus), stress, spoiled food (this is what you are suspecting if the food was left out too long), temperature outside of range (too high or too low), poor hygiene (dirty food or water bowls or unsanitary cage) or malnutrition/improper diet. It’s important to make sure that your bearded dragon’s tank is clean, food is fresh and prepared hygienically and that the temperature is appropriate and that your UV-B bulb is in proper working condition.
Providing a balanced diet of greens, vegetables and insects along with a calcium supplement is important. To prevent or treat dehydration while they have diarrhea, you can give your bearded dragon a soak in a shallow dish of warm watern (85-90F) for 15-30 minutes once or twice a day to encourage drinking. If you are seeing sunken eyes, then you can further encourage drinking by offering water or diluted, unflavored Pedialyte by syringe. To do this, place the syringe tip (no needle!) between his lips on the side of his mouth and slowly advance the plunger, go slowly to only give as much as he will swallow. Sometimes they will open their mouthes when you do this, that is fine, but give fluids slowly as you want to avoid it flooding the mouth and inadvertently going down the entrance to their airway (the glottis) which is a the base of the tongue.
While your dragon has diarrhea, increasing the frequency of cleaning inside the cage with a reptile safe disinfectant will help avoid cross contamination and repeat infection (if it is infectious). You can consider lining the tank with disposable unbleached paper towels or newspaper while he has diarrhea to make clean up easier.
Decreasing the fruit component of the diet may help. If your adult bearded dragon has diarrhea that lasts for more than a couple of days or is tinged with blood or the bearded dragon is showing signs of depression or weakness, then I recommend you have your bearded dragon evaluated by a local reptile veterinarian. Bearded dragons can become dehydrated and weak fairly quickly from diarrhea so a call to a local vet is warranted sooner rather than later if the diarrhea persists.
It is recommended that you collect and bring a fresh fecal sample with you so the veterinarian can evaluate the poop to look for possible causes, such as parasites.
If he has diarrhea from spoiled food, he may need prescription medication and a bit of injectable fluids if he's very dehydrated so a trip to a local, reptile-experienced veterinarian is a good idea.
To find a local veterinarian with reptile experience, here is a useful website you can use to search for a local reptile veterinarian:
(please note this site may not work on older browsers like Safari)
These veterinarians are active members of the Association of Reptile and Amphibian Veterinarians, which means they have interest and experience in treating reptile patients.
With any sick bearded dragon, it is always a good idea to start by checking that their environment and husbandry are proper for their species. Taking a physical measurement of the temperature gradient within the enclosure and measuring humidity with a hygrometer are a good idea. Making sure the UVB bulb is appropriate for the size of the space and has been changed regularly. Even if they are still producing visible light, UVB bulbs have a limited lifespan and need to be changed every 6-12 months, depending upon bulb type. Making sure diet is varied and the insects have been gut loaded with a nutritious gut-loading diet as well as dusted regularly with calcium and multivitamin powder. Therefore, I am attaching a bearded dragon care (husbandry) reference sheet that I put together. Please review it at your convenience and let me know if you have any questions.
It’s especially important with a sick bearded dragon to make sure that their tank is clean, food is fresh and prepared hygienically and that the temperature is appropriate and that your UV-B bulb is in proper working condition. Here are some additional recommendations of how you can support your bearded dragon while they are under the weather:
-Healing and normal metabolism are linked to proper environmental temperature. Provide a daytime temperature range with a cool side at 77-80F (25-27C), a warm side at 85-90F (30-32C) and a very warm, focal basking area of 95-105F (35-41C) for adults and juveniles and a slightly warmer basking spot 95-110F (35-44C) for babies. A nighttime temperature range of 70-75F (21.5-24C) should be provided. 30-40% humidity is recommended.
-Keep them warm. If your bearded dragon is not moving around much on their own, or are unable to move around at all, place them in a location in their enclosure where the temperature is warm but not super hot: 85-90F (30-32C). This will ensure proper metabolism but they won't overheat or chill at this temperature range. Do not put them on a hot rock or under the basking light hot spot if they cannot move off by themself, as they might get overheated or burned.
-To prevent or treat dehydration, you can give your bearded dragon a soak in a shallow dish of warm water (85-90F or 30-32C) for 15-30 minutes once or twice a day. Dry them off after the bath so they don't cool off too much. Monitor them while in the bath so their head doesn't submerge.
-Limit handling. If they have an injury, infection or metabolic bone disease (which puts them at increased risk of injury due to weakened bones), limit handling and limit time out of her enclosure to avoid injury. If you must lift or remove them from their tank, go slowly and support their weight from underneath with your palm. Make sure you always wash your hands with soap and warm water after handling your bearded dragon.
-Since your dragon has diarrhea, increasing the frequency of cleaning inside the cage with a reptile safe disinfectant will help avoid cross contamination and repeat infection (if it is infectious). You can consider lining the tank with disposable unbleached paper towels or newspaper while they have diarrhea to make clean up easier.
-Offer food, even if not eating. If your bearded dragon is having difficulty reaching or getting to their food, put the food dish next to them or you can also hand or tong feed them. Place an insect gently against their lips and if they are hungry, they will bite at it. If not, don’t force it.
If needed for prolonged appetite loss, you can syringe feed them a replacement formula like ReptaBoost by Fluker's but go slowly and don't feed too quickly to prevent choking. If you’ve never done this before there are some good online videos that you can watch first such as these ones:
How to assist feed an insect by hobbyist Curtis Lasane (2:50 to 3:50 in the video). Note, I recommend if assist feeding insects to a lethargic bearded dragon, that you dispatch the insect first by pinching off it's head.
How to syringe feed (slurry, water or medicine) by exotic pet veterinarian Dr. Laurie Hess:
-Calcium supplementation. It is important to still offer calcium and vitamin supplements if they are eating. This is usually done by gut loading insects with a diet that provides a good source of calcium and vitamins as well as dusting insects with powdered calcium and multivitamins. There is more specific information about how to properly supplement your bearded dragon in the care sheet I have shared with you.
It is also a good idea to re-evaluate your current husbandry practices as some common disorders, such as metabolic bone disease, are unintentionally caused by deficiencies or imbalances in diet, UVB lighting and calcium/vitamin supplementation. Therefore, I have earlier attached a general bearded dragon care sheet that I put together as a reference for you to review. Thanks.
I should be notified if/when you respond with additional information so we can connect about your bearded dragon Mushu but, in the meantime, I hope this information is helpful and I wish you both the best. Thanks again for posting your question to JustAnswer.com. Sincerely, ***** *****
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