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Bearded Dragons - Diseases

The bearded dragon is a well-known lizard currently considered one of the best pet lizards. There are eight species of bearded dragons, but the most popular one is the inland or central bearded dragon (Pogona vitticeps), from the arid to semi-arid southeastern parts of Australia. The information in this handout refers to the inland bearded dragon.

 

bearded_dragons-diseases-1What are some of the more common diseases of pet bearded dragons?

If they are well looked after, with a good diet and proper environment, bearded dragons are reasonably hardy animals. Common health conditions of pet bearded dragons include metabolic bone disease, infectious stomatitis (“mouth rot”), parasites, respiratory infections, and adenovirus infection.

"If they are well looked after, with a good diet and proper environment, bearded dragons are reasonably hardy animals."

 

What are the signs of these diseases?

 

How can I tell if my bearded dragon is sick?

"ANY change from normal is a cause for concern and should be immediately evaluated by your veterinarian."

Signs of disease in bearded dragons may be specific for a certain disease, such as jaw or hind limb swelling seen in bearded dragons with metabolic bone disease, or may be non-specific, such as anorexia (lack of appetite), depression, and lethargy which is seen in many diseases. ANY change from normal is a cause for concern and should be immediately evaluated by your veterinarian.

 

How are diseases in bearded dragons treated?

Metabolic bone disease usually requires immediate oral calcium supplementation, rehydration with fluids, nutritional support, treatment with injectable vitamin D3, and injections of calcitonin (a drug which helps re-deposit calcium back into bearded dragons’ bones). In addition, the diet has to be corrected, and full spectrum lighting (including UV-B, essential for enabling lizards to make vitamin D3 in their skin), must be provided.

Infectious stomatitis (“mouth rot”), usually requires injectable antibiotics, as well as rinsing the mouth with antiseptic solutions. Dragons too painful to eat may also require supplemental feeding.

For parasitic infections of the gastrointestinal tract, several deworming medications are available, formulated as either oral or injectable drugs. The type of parasite identified on microscopic examination of the feces dictates which drug is needed. Mites and ticks can be treated either topically or with oral or injectable anti-parasitic medications, as advised by your veterinarian. Environmental cleaning, disinfection, and treatment, is essential, as well, so that parasites do not re-infect the dragon after treatment.

 

"Be sure to have any health issues your bearded dragon exhibits checked immediately by your veterinarian to avoid serious illness."

Respiratory infections can be diagnosed with X-rays, blood tests, and cultures of eye/nose/oral discharges, or other samples. As these infections are often bacterial, affected dragons are typically treated with oral or injectable antibiotics. If infection is severe, the animal may have to be hospitalized for more aggressive therapy and supportive treatment. For respiratory tract infections caused by fungus, viruses, or parasites, other specific drugs targeting the cause of the infection may be warranted.

Any of these diseases can be severe enough to cause a loss of appetite and severe lethargy. If your lizard is really debilitated, it may need hospitalization and intensive care, including medications, fluid therapy, and force-feeding. Be sure to have any health issues your bearded dragon exhibits checked immediately by your veterinarian to avoid serious illness.

 

Rick Axelson, DVM; Updated by Laurie Hess, DVM
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