Respiratory Disease in Bearded Dragons

Updated on December 29, 2016

Bearded dragons are hardy reptiles with a reputation for being a greater starter pet for new reptile owners. However they do have specific environmental requirements which if not provided correctly can result in disease.

Respiratory disease as its name suggests is when your dragon has difficulty breathing. This lens will explain the cause, signs and ultimately prevention and treatment of respiratory disease in bearded dragons.

Causes

Causes of respiratory disease are usually related to their environment and can include the following;

  • Low temperature
  • Bad ventilation
  • Excess humidity
  • Bad diet

Signs and Symptoms

The signs and symptoms for respiratory disease are easy to identify. They include;

  • Raspy breathing
  • Forced exhalation causing a coughing noise
  • Gaping as they have difficulty breathing
  • Puffing up around the throat
  • Mucus around the nose and mouth
  • Loss of appetite

Prevention

As always prevention is better than cure. Diseases can be avoided with good bearded dragon care.

  • Ensure the dragons vivarium is at the correct temperature and humidity
  • Ensure they have adequate ventilation
  • Provide them with a good balanced diet and supplements such as calcium
  • If a dragon has been affected, keep them away from any other dragons to avoid affecting the others

Treatment

If you suspect that your bearded dragon is suffering from respiratory disease you should take them to a reptile vet immediately. A reptile vet can provide accurate diagnosis and correct treatment, probably requiring medication.

You should also find the cause of the disease and correct it for the future health of your dragons.

Personal Case Study

About 6 months ago I arrived home from work and went to feed my beardies as normal. Something did not seem right. They seemed uninterested, whilst normally they ignore good table etiquette and snatch the food from my hand before it’s even touched their food bowl.

I checked the lamp and it was stone cold. It must have failed whilst I was at work. I had no idea how long they must have been without heat for. It could have been anything from 1-12 hours, but I knew they needed immediate care.

I immediately went out to a late night pet store and bought a new ceramic heat lamp. I got home set it up and sat down as a happy bearded dragon owner protecting my babies.

After a couple of days their behaviour had not improved and I noticed Eddie (my male) making coughing noise, puffing up and opening his mouth. I thought maybe he had not properly digested some food and it was lodged in his digestive tract.

I immediately took him to our local exotic pets vet. Here he was diagnosed with a respiratory disease and given medication that I was to give to him daily orally using a syringe.

After a few days he was looking like a dragon re-born. Running around his vivarium, head bobbing and eating like every meal was his last.

Unfortunately I did not separate the 2 dragons and just a day later I noticed the same symptoms being displayed by Amber (my female).

Another trip to the vet, and smaller doses of the same medication (it is calculated using the dragon’s weight) and after a few days Amber was also back to full strength.

If your beardie displays signs of illness, do not delay due to embarrassment or fear that people will reflect badly on you as a bearded dragon owner. Pets will get ill just like you and me. Do what’s best for them and get them the best care possible, which only qualified veterinarians can provide.

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