Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He works with dogs, cats, exotics, and livestock.
Is My Bearded Dragon Too Old to Breed?
"I've had dragons for 30 years and bred them for 12 or so. I'm down to one, Merlin, and one male yellow Niger Uromastyx geyri as well. Merlin just turned 14 this month, and I'm wondering if he's too old to breed. I have a friend with a female, and she's wanting to breed her with Merlin. I don't want to give my poor dragon a heart attack if he suddenly has a female available! I want him to live as long as possible—he's healthy, he's good and I want him to stay that way. Is his sperm still viable at his age? What should I do?" —Ann
Play It Safe and Avoid Breeding
There is no research on the sperm viability of a bearded dragon of that age. In mammals, sperm count becomes lower and the sperm is more likely to cause DNA mutations. (1) In humans this starts at about 35, but it's unclear if or when this happens with bearded dragons.
If your friend is wanting to breed her bearded dragon, I would play it safe and use a male about 5 years old or less. (No younger than 2 years, though.)
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If Merlin were my pet, I would want to keep him just as he is for as long as possible. A heart attack is unlikely, but there is always the possibility he could be injured by the female during breeding, and due to his advanced age his healing process would be slower than normal, and maybe he would not heal up at all.
You must be doing a good job for him to live that long and still be healthy. (I have had Uromastyx live almost that long, but none of my Tegus have reached that age.) I hope Merlin is with you for many years to come.
- Sharma R, Agarwal A, Rohra VK, Assidi M, Abu-Elmagd M, Turki RF. Effects of increased paternal age on sperm quality, reproductive outcome and associated epigenetic risks to offspring. Reprod Biol Endocrinol. 2015 Apr 19;13:35. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4455614/
This article is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from your veterinarian. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2022 Dr Mark