Losing your bearded dragon or seeing it die is a traumatic experience. A bearded dragon can die of old age, illness, or due to various husbandry mistakes. But is my bearded dragon dead or dying? In this post, we will cover bearded dragon death symptoms and signs, signs of a dying bearded dragon, common causes of bearded dragon death and what to do when your bearded dragon dies.
You are watching: Is my bearded dragon dead or hibernating
First of all, how long do bearded dragons live for?
Bearded dragons can live up to 10-15 years in captivity. With very good care, bearded dragons often live at least 7-10 years.
Bearded dragons over 6 years old enter the old stage of their lives. For some bearded dragons, it can be a bit later – at 7-8 years old. At this stage, your bearded dragon will eat much less, sleep more and be generally less active.
Is my bearded dragon dying right now? Symptoms and signs and how to save a bearded dragon
Bearded dragon refusing to eat suddenly and not eating for more than a week not due to brumationHiding a lot – especially on a cool sideActing very lethargicLosing weight, which shouldn’t happen during brumationDull skin, but not sheddingBecoming pale suddenlySunken eyes and not fully open eyes – eyes tell a lot about a bearded dragon’s stateMinimal movements and lots of sleepingSevere panting, digging, glass climbing and trying to escape – overheating signs
Symptoms might differ depending on reasons why your bearded dragon could be dying (see possible reasons below). To save your bearded dragon from dying, you need to recognize the problem and try to fix it as soon as possible. Please don’t blame yourself if the cause was impossible to fix.1: Refusing to eat due to impaction, stress, sickness etc.
If your bearded dragon has suddenly stopped eating, there can be few reasons. Sudden refusal to eat can be due to impaction. Do you have loose substrate in your bearded dragon’s tank? If yes, replace it with paper towel, reptile carpet like this or tiles immediately.
If your bearded dragon hasn’t pooped in a while and isn’t eating normally, it could be impacted. Give it a few drops of olive, vegetable oil or mineral oil then give baths. Also, feed it some natural laxatives – pumpkin puree, applesauce. Bathing will stimulate pooping.
You must also make sure that you don’t feed bugs or other foods that are larger than the width between the eyes.
Also, your bearded dragon might stop eating due to low temperatures, pain, stress and more.
Read all about reasons why bearded dragons might stop eating here.2: Overheating
If your bearded dragon is panting a lot (in general panting is fine when a bearded dragon is basking), trying to escape the tank and digging, then it might be too hot.
Extreme heat will cause overheating, stroke and death. Overheating can happen in a small tank, where temperature gradient is impossible to create. It can also happen with incorrect bulbs etc.
Read all about correct lighting and heating here.3: Losing weight
One of the main causes of weight loss is a parasitic infection. Depending on a parasitic infection, your bearded dragon can start losing weight, will be lethargic, will have runny and smelly poop and even blood in poop.
Most parasitic infections can be treated with medications, but some are not. If you suspect a parasitic infection, please take a fresh sample of your dragon’s poop (less than few hours old) and request a full fecal test. Unfortunately, some infections which can lead to death are Cryptosporidiosis, Yellow fungus disease, Adenovirus infection and more.
If your bearded dragon is losing weight, you can read a full post on possible reasons why.Is my bearded dragon brumating or dying?
Please note that your bearded dragon might start brumation. Bearded dragons start brumating during colder months of the year, and can go without eating for up to few months without losing any weight!
Brumating bearded dragons mostly sleep, don’t move around much, and don’t eat. Also, bearded dragons start to brumate after reaching 12-18 months old. Brumating bearded dragon will still react to you picking it up and when taking a bath.
Is my bearded dragon dead? Bearded dragon death symptoms
Your bearded dragon is not responsive if you put it on its back or side (dragons can’t breathe properly on their back)No breathing – however their breathing is very slow when they are sleeping or brumating.Lack of any movements – bearded dragon is limp and unresponsiveWhen rigor mortis sets in – a bearded dragon will become stiffA bearded dragon’s color will change – due to blood pooling (pale on top and can get a black beard and belowFluids coming out of the nose and mouthPupils not reacting at all to bright light – just stay dilatedBearded dragon not blinking when you touch its eyelidsJaw looks limp and your dragon doesn’t bite on your finger if you put it inside of its mouthEyes rolled back and sunkenBad smell after few days
Please wait for around 2 days to make sure that your bearded dragon is dead. Try to place it under a basking light, give it a bath and put it on its back to see if it’s alive. If being cool made your bearded dragon become unresponsive, then heat can help bring it back to normal.
If you wish to know for sure, a vet will be able to perform a Doppler ultrasound to check for any blood flow in the body. A vet will also check for a pulse and see if pupils react to light at all.
Why did my bearded dragon die? Possible causesImpactionOverheating – small tank, high temperaturesColdParasites or infection, especially Crypto or AdenovirusDystocia, or egg bindingIngesting toxic plants or bugsMetabolic bone diseaseVitamin toxicityStress and bullyingInternal organ failure – gout (kidneys), fatty liver disease, heart etc.AneurysmAccidentally aspirating water or loose substrate and blocking the lungs or choking with food1: Impaction
Bearded dragons can die of impaction pretty quickly. If ingested substrate or object is small, then it might pass through the digestive tract. But if your dragon is kept on loose substrate such as sand or rocks, it can lead to impaction and death.
Same can happen if you fed it very large bugs. You must also not give your baby bearded dragon under 6-7 months any mealworms, butterworms or superworms. Eating these bugs can cause paralysis and impaction in baby bearded dragons.
Did your dragon experience any back leg paralysis? And did it not poop for a while? Was it refusing to eat? Was it lethargic? These are impaction signs.2: Overheating
Overheating is actually very dangerous and can kill your bearded dragon quickly by causing dehydration, confusion and stroke.
Common signs of overheating include severe panting, trying to escape the tank, digging, hiding under a rock or hide and sitting in a corner. If you notice that your bearded dragon has overheated, take it out immediately to allow to cool down and review heating in the tank.
High temperatures can be often seen with incorrect lighting+heating or in small tanks. Adult bearded dragons require an at least 40-55 gallon tank to themselves. Baby bearded dragon over a month old already require 30 gallons tanks – so it’s better to get a bigger one straight away.
In this tank, you must create a temperature gradient – a hot and a cool side. However, in smaller tanks, especially for baby dragons, you can’t create a gradient due to lack of space.
Bearded dragons require high temperature basking spots, so this can create a problem in small tanks. Make sure not to use high wattage bulbs in small tanks, or tube lights either. But the most important thing is – your bearded dragon does require a large tank with tube UVB light and heat bulb.
Make sure to use one digital thermometer with a probe like this in a hot spot, and one in a cool spot. Analog stick on thermometers tend to be very inaccurate and can be off by 10 degrees or more. On top of it, please use a handheld infrared thermometer like this and hold it 2-3 inches away from the spot to get accurate temperatures.
Read a full heating and lighting guide here. By reading this post, you can choose correct lighting and heating as well learn about ideal temperatures.3: Cold
Your bearded dragon can easily die from cold. Bearded dragons are cold-blooded lizards, and they rely fully on outside temperatures to keep themselves warm.
Preferred bearded dragon body temperatures are around 98 F (36.6 C). But for some time, it can be fine if temperatures are lower by even 10 degrees F (around 5 C).
If you keep your bearded dragon in low temperatures for few hours, it will go into brumating state to save itself from dying. With more hours on, your bearded dragon will slowly start to die. This will depend on how low temperatures are.
If there is a power outage in your home or if your dragon’s bulbs burn out, you can keep it warm until you find a solution. You can put your dragon in a blanket, under your shirt, or even use heat packs to keep it warm.
Read about keeping your bearded dragon warm during a power outage or without bulbs here.4: Parasites or infections
Most parasitic infections can kill a bearded dragon if untreated. However, there are certain parasites or infections that can inevitably lead to wasting and death, even with supportive care. Signs of parasites include weight loss, runny, smelly and even bloody poop, appetite loss, lethargy.
This is especially true for baby bearded dragons, as many sick babies don’t survive at all. If you have got a baby bearded dragon and it died very quickly, it could possibly be a parasitic infection.
This is why getting a slightly older bearded dragon at least will give you a better chance of its survival. Even if this sounds harsh, weak and sick baby bearded dragons mostly don’t make it, even with intensive care. And if you got one that was already sick or infected and it died, don’t blame yourself as it’s natural selection.
However, parasitic infections can kill adult bearded dragons too. Some of the most serious parasites include Cryptosporidium, Adenovirus, CANV (causing Yellow Fungus disease) and more. Other types of infections are bacterial or viral infections – such as meningitis.
If you suspect a parasitic infection in your bearded dragon, please have a full fecal test done. Also, always quarantine your new bearded dragon. This means that you have to keep it separate from other pets and have its poop tested.
With treatment, you can bring your bearded dragon back to normal, but with weak dragons, it might not be enough.
When treating your bearded dragon for parasites, make sure to keep its enclosure extremely clean to prevent reinfection. You can even invest in a steam cleaner like this that will help disinfect a tank and surfaces with a hot pressurized steam.
You can read all about parasitic infections in bearded dragons in this post.5: Egg-binding, or dystocia
Egg-binding happens when a female bearded dragon couldn’t lay her eggs, and they got stuck inside of her. There can be few reasons why a gravid bearded dragon wouldn’t lay her eggs.
One of the reasons is when you don’t make a nesting site for your bearded dragon, and she gets stressed and doesn’t lay them anywhere. Other reasons can include deficiencies, very large eggs and numerous abnormalities in the reproductive tract.
If you suspect that your bearded dragon couldn’t lay her eggs, please take her to the vet for an X-Ray. In case of egg-binding, surgical removal might be required to save your dragon. Dystocia can be fatal.
A female bearded dragon will lay around 2-7 clutches of eggs in one year, and each clutch will consist of 7-40 eggs! This is why it’s important to check if your dragon laid all her eggs by the end of breeding season.
Read all about reproduction in bearded dragons, breeding, eggs and more here.6: Ingesting toxic plants or bugs
Ingesting toxic plants or bugs can quickly kill your bearded dragon. Unless you realize that your dragon has ingested a toxic plant or bug, your beaded dragon can go ill quickly and die.
Toxic bugs for bearded dragons include fireflies, box elder bugs, lubber grasshoppers and more. There are a lot of toxic plants and veggies, such as avocados, rhubarbs, daffodils, azalea and many more.
Symptoms of poisoning in bearded dragon are lethargy or running around the tank, scratching the belly, black beard, vomiting, seizure or twitching. If you suspect that your bearded dragon has ingested a toxic plant or bug, act immediately. Give your bearded dragon some activated charcoal, to help cleanse the system quickly.
Mix a pinch of charcoal in a 10ml of water, and then offer 0.2 ml to small dragons under 150 grams. You can add extra 0.2 ml for each 150 grams of your bearded dragon’s weight. If you can, also make a cleansing slurry.
If you don’t have any charcoal at home, you can quickly get some at the pharmacy, or instead, you can make a detoxifying slurry. To make a detoxifying slurry, mix cilantro, kale, turnip greens, watercress and add some coconut water for natural electrolytes and hydration.
And you can also add a small drop of diluted charcoal in there, too. Keep offering the slurry with the charcoal every 4-5 hours. The best thing is to take your bearded dragon to the vet, but while getting there, you should make the slurry and offer some activated charcoal.7: Metabolic bone disease, or MBD
MBD is a serious illness that is caused by lack or calcium and/or vitamin D in the diet. This can also be caused by lack of UVB lighting in the tank. UVB light helps produce vitamin D, which is also crucial for calcium absorption.
Please make sure to have a UVB tube light that runs 50-70% of the tank, as well gut-load and supplement all the live bugs (apart from Calci-Worms, as they have an ideal Ca:P ratio).
Symptoms of MBD start with tail and back kinking, weakness in limbs, soft bones and jaw, lethargy. Then, you might start seeing twitches, broken bones and more. If you don’t correct the setup or take any action on time, the changes will be irreversible and will lead to slow death.
Please read a guide on lighting here and supplementation here to prevent future mistakes.8: Vitamin toxicity
Vitamin toxicity is not common, but can happen. Some vitamins and minerals are water soluble, while others – fat soluble. Water soluble vitamins will be excreted with urates if you give too much. But fat soluble vitamins, however, will build up in internal organs and cause toxicity.
Water soluble vitamins include vitamin B, C, while fat soluble ones – vitamin A, D, E, K. The most common vitamin toxicity in bearded dragons is vitamin A or D toxicity. Symptoms of vitamin toxicity include swelling, bloating, vomiting, lethargy, constipation and more. Vitamin D toxicity can also cause kidney failure.
Please read a supplementation guide to see supplement dosages.9: Stress and bullying
Believe it or not, stress and bullying can slowly kill your bearded dragon. If you house your bearded dragon with other cage mates, it’s highly likely to experience serious stress. Bearded dragons are competitive for food, space, basking spots etc. and there is always an alpha (main) and beta dragon in the group.
Weak bearded dragons don’t get to eat or bask as much and tend to hide more. This with time suppresses the immune system and leads to illnesses. Not even mentioning a high possibility or attacks and injuries.
Make sure to always house your bearded dragons separately. You can only keep hatchlings together for 2-3 weeks, that’s all. Don’t keep even a male and female(s) together, as male will always cause stress to a female.
Read about keeping two or more bearded dragons together in this post.
Additionally, stress caused by various factors will have the similar effect on your bearded dragon. Stress can be caused by loud noises, very bright light, small tank, relocation, poor hygiene and much more. If you don’t eliminate stress factors, your bearded dragon will slowly die.
Read about stress factors and symptoms in bearded dragons here.10: Internal organ failure
Your bearded dragon can die from organ failure and it can sometimes seem as a sudden death. For example, a bearded dragon can suffer from gout or kidney failure – due to old age, too much protein in the diet, toxicity.
Hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver) can happen in bearded dragons that have been eating too many fatty foods. Liver will store the fat until it can’t function anymore. Other problems with a heart, lungs and other organs can also cause death.
The only way to find out if your bearded dragon had an organ failure would be to take it to the vet and ask to perform a necropsy. This is when a vet would open up the internal organs and will examine them for possible problems that could cause death. But even a necropsy doesn’t always provide answers.11: Aneurysm
Aneurysm is an enlargement of the arteries in various parts of a bearded dragon’s body. It happens when the blood vessels on the head, limbs, and even back enlarge. The weakened and enlarged vessels are due to weak vessels walls.
The enlarged vessel will look like a swelling and some vets can misdiagnose it with a cyst or abnormal growth. Either way, if untreated, aneurysm will burst and cause internal bleeding in a bearded dragon, leading to death.
Surgery is required to prevent your bearded dragon’s death. However, aneurysms might reoccur after the surgery.12: Inhaling water or loose substrate, or choking
If your bearded dragon accidentally inhales water or loose substrate in the lungs, it can die very quickly. Unfortunately, if your dragon gets something in its lungs by mistake, there is a small chance that it will survive. A dying bearded dragon will be shaking violently, getting bloated and becoming lethargic.
This is why you must always make sure that water level in a water dish (if you have it) is below your dragon’s ankles. Baby dragons especially can fall in a dish and aspirate water or even drown. Same goes when you are bathing your dragon. And, you must not use any loose substrate in the tank.
Choking might also happen if you offer bugs that are too large (larger than the with between dragon’s eyes). Or, if you haven’t chopped veggies or greens properly.
In some cases, bearded dragon won’t choke, but will get it stuck in the throat. This will cause its beard to enlarge – in this case you might reach and remove the object from the throat with tweezers.
What to do when your bearded dragon dies?
If your bearded dragon has died, you can either take it to a vet for a necropsy, bury it or request cremation. If you choose to bury your dragon, please check if it’s legal before you do it.
Necropsy is opening up of internal organs surgically to find out the possible cause of death. However, necropsy can be a bit expensive and not always give much information on death causes.
See more: How Many Grams Is 16 Ounces To Grams Conversion Calculator, Convert 16 Ounces To Grams
If you are having a very hard time and feeling depressed about your bearded dragon’s death, please don’t hesitate to get support or call a hot line to share your emotions. Cremating your bearded dragon might also help to keep your dragon with you after its death.
Thank you for reading this post. Please check out a resource page where you will find lots of useful care articles on bearded dragons.