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 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 licensed and accredited veterinarian in the US for over 22 years, specializing in aquatics, reptiles, amphibians, avian and other exotic species. JustAnswer is a question-and-answer service, not a veterinary telemedicine or emergency service. On this platform veterinarians can provide insight and advice based on the information you provide, but as this is not considered a legal client-patient relationship and we cannot examine your pet, we are unable to provide definitive diagnoses, prescribe medications, provide medical records or sign documents for your specific pet. For any of those you would need to make an in person visit with a local veterinarian. If your pet has a serious illness or life-threatening emergency, I strongly recommend you obtain hands-on veterinary care with a local veterinarian or veterinary emergency service as soon as possible. I am happy to chat with you via the JustAnswer app via text. For US based clients, 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.
Thanks again for posting your question. I am so sorry to hear your bearded dragon has a vent prolapse. How long has the tissue been out?
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A prolapse of tissue from the vent of the bearded dragon occurs when an internal tissue or organ (such as the cloaca, urinary bladder, hemipene or uterus or part of the GI tract such as the small or large intestines) abnormally protrudes through the vent. Prolapsed tissue that does not or cannot go back inside on its own in a timely manner is a potentially serious medical problem that does require veterinary care. Prolapsed tissue may become traumatized by the environment, bitten by a tankmate, or so swollen that blood flow becomes cut off and the tissue begins to die. Note that male bearded dragons have a pair of intromittent organs called hemipenes which are kept inverted inside and just distal to the vent (in males these cause the visible bulges that you can see just below the vent at the base of the tail). While the bearded dragons may evert their hemipenes occasionally, they should normally invert quickly back inside. In females that are pregnant if there is problem laying eggs due to unusual egg size or low blood calcium, the reproductive tract (such as the uterus) can prolapse. Other internal organs such as the cloaca, large or small intestines may prolapse if the bearded dragon has internal parasites causing loose stool and/or straining to defecate.
It is not normal for these organs (other than the hemipenes on occasion or during reproduction) to evert through the vent and this does require medical treatment. I highly recommend that you call your local exotics/reptile veterinarian or veterinary ER to have the bearded dragon evaluated and treated. If you do elect to take your dragon to a small animal veterinary ER, please call them first to double check that they take reptile patients as not all of them do.
While you are waiting to take the bearded dragon to the vet, there are a few things you can do to try and keep the prolapsed tissue healthy. First you should physically separate the bearded dragon from other tankmates to prevent the tissue from being bitten. You can gently rinse the exposed tissue with room temperature or slightly warm water to clean it off. If you have some non-spermicidal, water-based lubricant, you can put some on the exposed tissue and gently wrap the bearded dragon’s hind end, including the prolapsed tissue, gently in plastic wrap. This will help keep the tissue moist. If you don’t have any water-based, non-spermicidal lubricant, no worries, instead you can place some clean gauze or paper towels moistened with water over the prolapsed tissue and then wrap the bearded dragon’s hind end with plastic wrap. I don’t recommend using toilet paper as it breaks down too much in water.
Lastly, if the tissue appears very engorged, swollen and red, you can try to reduce the swelling by treating the tissue topically with either a paste made by mixing table sugar and water or by applying some honey gently onto the prolapsed tissue. After applying this, wrap the bearded dragon’s hind end with moistened gauze or paper towels and then wrap with plastic wrap. I would recommend only doing this for an hour or so at a time, then rinsing gently but thoroughly with room temperature or slightly warmed water. This can be repeated 2 or three times during the day, but make sure you rinse off the sugar well between treatments. While you are waiting to see the veterinarian, keeping your bearded dragon on, clean, non-abrasive substrate would be advised, e.g., moist toweling or moss, rather than gravel, peat, dirt, etc.
With any bearded dragon that is sick, 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 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 105-110F (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 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.
For bearded dragons showing signs of dehydration, sunken eyes or wrinkled skin, that are not eating they can get 1 ml of water for every 50 grams of body weight per day. Split this amount up into several smaller sessions during the day, limiting amounts at any one time to around 0.5 ml and go slowly.
-Limit handling. If they are ill or injured limit handling and limit time out of the enclosure. If you must lift or remove them from their tank, go slowly and support their weight from underneath with your palm. Try to not handle the prolapsed tissue too much and when/if you do, be very gentle as the engorged tissue may be friable and easily damaged.
-Make sure you always wash your hands with soap and warm water after handling your bearded dragon or any cage furniture.
-Make sure the enclosure is clean as built up waste, dust and other irritants can predispose your animal to infection. Cleaning the enclosure more thoroughly at least once monthly with a reptile safe disinfectant is recommended. F10 Veterinary Disinfectant is a good option, safe with reptiles and comes pre-diluted and ready for use in a spray bottle. You can also consider lining the tank with disposable unbleached paper towels or newspaper while they have a prolapse to help keep the tissue clean. The papers should be changed out daily or more frequently if they become soiled. Also, since they defecate into their water bowls often, cleaning the water bowl daily with soap and warm water before refilling it and weekly disinfection of the bowl is a good idea while they are ill (normally, it's okay just to do a daily rinse and refill of the water dish with 1-2x per week washing/disinfection).
-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.
The focus now isn't on food, but 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.
Another option is to assist or syringe feed Repashy Superfoods Beardie Buffet Omnivore Gel Premix. It's a diet that is normally mixed with boiling water and then allowed to set up into a solid to make a gel food to feed to omnivorous lizards, like bearded dragons. But if you mix it with room temperature (not boiling) water and a bit more water than the package recommends, it makes a slurry that is thin enough to go through a syringe which can be used for syringe feeding. Or you can make it according to the package directions, using boiling water to make a gel that sets up, then cut the gel into pieces that you can then assist feed (like you would assist feed an insect). This formula is nice because it's based on insect and plant based protein and has a good variety of vitamins and minerals. Treat any gel you make like you would fresh fish, store leftovers in the refrigerator and discard after a day or two.
With any assist or syringe feeding, 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 and vitamin 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, or they are not eating, 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
If they are experiencing signs of hypovitaminosis (A or D) or they are not eating, then you can buy a liquid multivitamin supplement at the pet store and give them 2 drops for every 50 grams of body weight. If they are not eating, you can give this supplement every other day for a week before decreasing to twice weekly. The supplement can be placed onto a food item before feeding or dropped directly into their mouthes if they are not eating. Once they are back to eating or no longer have signs of a vitamin deficiency, this liquid supplement should be stopped in favor of multivitamin powder dusting of food and gut loading of insects, as described in the care sheet I shared with you.
Fluker’s Liquid Vitamin (Reptile Supplement)
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. If you have any questions about the general bearded dragon care sheet that I shared with you please let me know. Thanks.
I should be notified if/when you respond with additional information so we can connect about your bearded dragon Clifford but, in the meantime, I hope you are able to get him some hands on veterinary care and I do sincerely ***** ***** both the best. Thanks again for posting your question to JustAnswer.com. Sincerely, ***** *****
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