I am sincerely ***** ***** there was a delay in someone responding to your question. (Experts are independent contractors and as such are online based on their own schedules.) However, I am available now and can assist you if you still need veterinary advice.
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 Beard is under the weather. What you are describing, extreme lethargy/weakness, lack of appetite or thirst, does sound serious and I strongly recommend that you get him some local, hands on veterinary care.
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.
For example, if the environmental temperatures are too low, since bearded dragons are cold-blooded, this will negatively affect their metabolism, appetite, digestion and immune function. So start by checking the temperature gradient in the enclosure and, if it's too low, adjust your basking light or get a stronger watt bulb so you are achieving the proper environmental temperatures.
In the meantime, I will give you some information about what may be causing these signs, a care sheet with recommendations about environment and diet as some common medical conditions are unintentionally caused by improper husbandry (such as too low temperatures, humidity, UVB lighting or calcium and vitamin supplementation) and some suggestions for home care and support of your ill bearded dragon while you are awaiting a visit to the veterinarian.
There are a number of reasons why your bearded dragon may not be eating a normal amount of food or have lower than normal energy. Some of them are transient and may be normal (like brumation, shedding, temporary stress, etc.) while others are more concerning and warrant a veterinary evaluation.Lethargy is a non-specific sign of weakness that can accompany many conditions. Some are normal, such before or during shedding. Some are abnormal but transient from environmental reasons such as too low environmental temperature.
Some abnormal causes for appetite depression and lethargy include inappropriate environmental temperatures (usually too low), mouth rot (infectious stomatitis), trauma, sickness (viral (Adenovirus/Atadenovirus), bacterial, respiratory infection, parasitic (coccidia, pinworms), nutritional (metabolic bone disease)), indigestion or maldigestion, and gastrointestinal impaction. The bot***** *****ne is that if your bearded dragon is otherwise acting and looking normally and the appetite depression is temporary then it may be normal. However, if the bearded dragon is young, or is displaying any other signs of illness such as weakness, lethargy, weight loss, sunken eyes, skin discoloration, abnormal defecation or urination or the depressed appetite persists more than a few days, a visit to a local veterinarian with experience in reptile medicine is warranted.
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.
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 or awaiting veterinary care:
-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, especially when/if they are not eating, 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. The water should only be shoulder depth and please monitor them while in the bath so their head doesn't submerge. Dry them off after the bath so they don't cool off too much from evaporation.
If they might be having some GI issues, you can help promote GI motility and defecation with gentle tummy massage during the warm water soak. Be gentle and stroke the tummy from front to back a few times every 5-10 minutes during the warm water soak.
-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 the 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.
-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 assist feed them an insect (I recommend removing the head first to prevent injury to the bearded dragon) or syringe feed them a replacement formula like Fluker’s ReptaBoost, EmerAid Intensive Care Omnivore, Oxbow Animal Health Critical Care Omnivore. Or you can make a slurry out of Repashy Superfoods Beardie Buffet Omnivore Gel Premix 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 video 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) video 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.
If they are weak because they are experiencing a severe calcium deficiency related to Metabolic Bone Disease or dietary insufficiency, you can buy a liquid calcium supplement at the pet store and give them a few drops into their mouth once a day and this should help, but this isn't a replacement for a veterinary evaluation and treatment or proper diet and routine calcium supplementation.
Fluker's Liquid Calcium Reptile Supplement
Zilla Calcium Supplement Reptile Food Spray
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 already 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 Beard 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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