He is sluggish. Will not eat drink or even open his eyes. His color has faded some as well. A bearded dragon. It’s been

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Customer: He is sluggish. Will not eat drink or even open his eyes. His color has faded some as well.
JA: I'll do all I can to help. What type of reptile are we talking about?
Customer: A bearded dragon.
JA: When did you first notice this decrease in the Bearded Dragon's appetite?
Customer: It’s been since yesterday.
JA: Does the Bearded Dragon seem to be in any pain?
Customer: No Ma’am. I’ve held him even given him a warm bathe. He’s just there and not as active as he normally is.
JA: And what's the Bearded Dragon's name and age?
Customer: Lucifer he is about 6 months old now
JA: Is there anything else the Vet should know before I connect you? Rest assured that they'll be able to help you.
Customer: No I don’t believe so.
Answered by Dr. Caryn – Vet in 22 mins 2 months ago
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Dr. Caryn – Vet
Pet Specialist
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2,246 satisfied customers

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

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 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, while I am happy to provide information about what may be going on and provide suggestions for home care, I do 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 (only), 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 6 month old bearded dragon Lucifer is under the weather - lethargic/sluggish, not eating or drinking, keeping his eyes closed, and colors look faded.

This does sound concerning though if his colors are pale and he is showing these signs, it might be preparation for shedding which can cause transient/temporary lethargy and lack of appetite.

When is the last time Lucifer shed his skin?

I have some questions that will help me get a better idea of what may be going on with your bearded dragon:

-What the current cool side and hottest basking temperatures in the enclosure and what is the relative humidity?

-Do they receive any access to UV light?

-What do you normally feed them?

-How often do they receive any calcium and vitamin supplements?

-Any other signs such as weight loss, straining to defecate/diarrhea, open mouthed breathing, sunken or swollen eyes, wrinkled skin, lumps/bumps, swelling or deformity of the jaw, joints, limbs, tail or spine, muscle tremors or shaking, etc.?

Thanks very much for providing additional information, it is very helpful for me to try and figure out what is going on with your bearded dragon and the history information will help me to do that.

If you can upload a photo or video that might be helpful so I can see the color change that you are describing. If using the JustAnswer website or app, you can do so using the upload attachment (paperclip) icon below the text field. If texting to a JustAnswer phone number, then please attach a photo from your phone as you normally would. Please note that files need to be less than 5 Mb to upload properly. Thanks.

Customer
I honestly can't remember the last time he has shed. He does do open mouth breathing from time to time and his eyes are seemingly sunken.
Customer
He just lays there and normally he doesn't like the attention.

Okay thanks. Open mouthed breathing can be due to temperature regulation though could also be from respiratory problems.

If you could provide answers to the history questions, that would be most helpful.....especially:

-What the current cool side and hottest basking temperatures in the enclosure and what is the relative humidity?

-Do they receive any access to UV light?

-How often do they receive any calcium and vitamin supplements?


While you are typing in some history information, I will provide some additional information. But please take your time, there is no rush. JustAnswer alerts me when/if you add new comments to our conversation.

With any bearded dragon that might be under the weather, 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 (every 6 months for fluorescent UVB and every 12 for mercury vapor bulbs). 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.

Temperature is very important for keeping your dragon healthy with a gradient of temperature from cool or warm. 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 105-110F (35-44C) for babies. A nighttime temperature range of 70-75F (21.5-24C) should be provided. 30-40% humidity is recommended.

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 or 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 and have lower than normal energy levels. Some of them are transient and may be normal while others are more concerning and warrant a veterinary evaluation especially if the signs are severe, persist for more than a few days or are accompanied by other signs of illness.

-Bearded dragons may not eat normally due to emotional or physiological stress. Changes in environment such a new tank or changes in décor, or changes in lighting, temperature or diet might trigger temporary disinterest in food. Dragons kept with other dragons may be bullied by a more dominant individual. The stress or physical intimidation may prevent a more submissive dragon from eating. Close observation of interaction between dragons is important and this may require separate feeding bowls, tank partitions or even separate housing.

-Improper lighting (too little visible light or UVB light) or temperature can negatively impact appetite since dragons are visual eaters. As cold-blooded animals, bearded dragons require sufficient temperatures for proper digestion.

-During brumation, which is a normal, seasonal decrease in activity, typically during the Australian winter, appetite is depressed, they seek out dark, cool areas of the tank to sleep and will not eat or defecate, though they do occasionally rouse briefly to drink. They often will eat more food prior or seem hungrier prior to the start of brumation. Brumation is not the same as hibernation and they can rouse and move if needed. They should look fairly normal, no discoloration, blackened beard, or visible weight loss, in fact their weight should remain fairly stable during this time even though not eating. So taking regular, weekly weights is important during brumation. If they lose more than 5-10% of their body weight, then this is not likely brumation and a veterinary evaluation should be obtained. If you are unsure if this is sickness or brumation, then keep the lighting and temperature cycle normal, do not decrease either. Decreasing lighting and temperatures may worsen sickness in an ill dragon but keeping the lighting and temperature in the normal range will not injure a brumating dragon.

However your bearded dragon is too young to be brumating, this isn't until they are older than 10 months.

-Before and after shedding, appetite and energy may be down and they may appear lighter in color than usual as they prepare to shed. Shedding is energy intensive and potentially itchy and uncomfortable so while they will commonly not eat during the shedding process, their appetites may be depressed just before and after shedding as well.

-Appetite will also slowdown in bearded dragons as their growth rate slows down, such as a transition from baby to juvenile or juvenile to adult.

Some abnormal causes for appetite depression 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)), reproductive problems, liver or kidney disease, gout, indigestion or maldigestion, and gastrointestinal impaction.

The bottom line 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, despite normal tank temperatures and humidity, then a visit to a local veterinarian with experience in reptile medicine is warranted.

To help find a local veterinarian with reptile experience, here is a useful website you can use to search for a local reptile veterinarian. These veterinarians are active members of the Association of Reptile and Amphibian Veterinarians, which means they have interest and experience in treating reptile patients:

https://arav.site-ym.com/search/

(please note this site may not work on older browsers like Safari)

Choose "radius search" and enter your zip code and distance you wish to travel and it will come up with options. If there are none, then increase the distance and try again.

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 if they are not eating or are showing signs of dehydration such as sunken eyes or wrinkled skin, 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 there may be some GI issues, you can help promote GI motility and defecation with gentle tummy massage during the warm water soak. You can do tummy massage by gently stroking the belly from front to back a few times every 5-10 minutes during the bath.

-Limit handling. If they are ill, limit handling and limit time out of the enclosure to only what is absolutely necessary. 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 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 are ill to make cleaning easier and prevent reinfection if they have any internal parasites. 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).

(I am typing up some additional suggestions on nutritional support since your bearded dragon is not eating.....)

-If your bearded dragon is alert (and not vomiting), 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 you think your animal might be constipated or impacted or for animals that are not alert enough to be safely fed, then the priority is getting them fluids rather than food. You can do warm water soaks plus give them oral water (room temperature) with a syringe if they are not eating or drinking on their own.

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 given into their mouth with a dosing syringe. For a 6 month old bearded dragon weighing 200 grams this would be 4 ml of water per day. Split this amount up into several smaller sessions during the day, limiting amounts at any one time to 1-2 mls and go slowly. It might be better to do this first for a day or so before starting assist feeding if they are showing signs of dehydration.

But I wouldn't try to feed them if they are severely lethargic as they might choke. Start with warming them up, warm bathes and, if there's a delay taking them to see the vet, then the oral calcium supplements and water.

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.

These replacement formulas mentioned are assist fed via syringe, to provide nutrients, including vitamins and minerals, and calories while they are sick. If you can't locate them locally at a pet store, you can mail order one and, in the meantime, you can syringe feed your bearded dragon some no sugar added green vegetable baby food (green bean, pea, peas and carrots). Amount per feeding session for syringe feeding slurry or water should be limited to about 1% of their body weight, given slowly and repeated a few times during the day. To calculate that amount, multiple their weight in grams by 0.01 to come up with the volume in mls. For example, for a 200 gram bearded dragon that would be 200gm x 0.01 = 2.0 ml. So give 2.0 ml of replacement formula three times a day.

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.

https://youtu.be/96rfaETGLKY

How to syringe feed (slurry, water or medicine) video by exotic pet veterinarian Dr. Laurie Hess:

https://youtu.be/38BbTokTwjI

-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 (4x/week for juveniles and 3x/week for adults) and multivitamins (2x/week for juveniles and 1x/week for adults). An excellent brand of multivitamin is ZooMed Reptivite with D3. 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 and not eating because they are experiencing a severe calcium deficiency or Metabolic Bone Disease or dietary insufficiency, or because they are not eating for another reason, you can buy a liquid calcium supplement at the pet store and give them a couple drops directly 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

Please make sure you are supplementing at least twice weekly with a good quality reptile multivitamin that contains calcium, vitamin A and D3 of a juvenile or adult with any skin or eye issues and once weekly for adults. An excellent brand is Zoo Med Reptivite with D3.

But if 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 are unintentionally caused by deficiencies or imbalances in diet, UVB lighting, calcium/vitamin supplementation or improper temperature or humidity. If you have any questions about the general bearded dragon care sheet that I shared with you please let me know. Thanks.


I do sincerely ***** ***** feels better.

I should be notified if/when you respond with additional information or photos so we can connect further about your bearded dragon 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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