Leapin’ Lizards: How to Achieve Top Marks in Bearded Dragon Health
The ancestors of today’s pet bearded dragons hailed from inland Australia where they enjoyed the arid climate. During the day they could be found climbing trees, rocks, or posts; at night they hid in underground burrows. Equipped to withstand both high and low temperatures, bearded dragons use their tongues to explore their environment.
Thanks to popular films like Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Holes, these lovable lizards are among the most popular exotic pets available to both new and experienced pet owners alike. However, there’s a lot more to bearded dragon health than one might think.
The Long View
Bearded dragons can live up to a decade (or more) if they have all of their essential needs met. They generally have a calm, curious nature, are less than 24 inches in length, and don’t require as much room as other reptiles or amphibians. Depending on the breed, they also boast vibrantly-colored skin.
To promote optimal bearded dragon health, owners must carefully consider their habitat. A young beardie may enjoy a glass 10-gallon tank, but a fully grown adult requires at least 40 gallons.
Wire cages or plastic containers are not recommended. Sand or gravel substrates on the tank bottom can cause health problems, but tile or reptile carpets may be a good fit for your beardie.
I See the Light!
Because they love to climb, perch and hide, the addition of logs, rocks and artificial plants are vital components to a bearded dragon’s habitat. A heat lamp exposes them to both UVA and UVB rays necessary to synthesize vitamin D3 and utilize calcium from their diet.
Since they are diurnal, lamps can be turned off. Safe nighttime temperatures can be achieved through the use of a ceramic heat emitter.
Get the Chomp On
Bearded dragons are omnivores. They enjoy eating insects, but may be enticed by various fruits and veggies if introduced early on. Leafy greens, broccoli, bell peppers, and carrots elevate bearded dragon health, and supplement a diet of gut-loaded crickets, mealworms, and roaches. Additional calcium or multivitamin dusting may be necessary.
The Essence of Life
Bearded dragons must have access to clean drinking water, but they love to soak in warm water, too. Because they might soil their water container, cleaning it daily with mild soap and hot water is critical.
Did you know that bearded dragons shed their skin as they grow? During these times, owners may increase ambient humidity to help the process along.
Celebrate Bearded Dragon Health
These amazing exotic pets have some quirky behaviors worth paying attention to. They are highly territorial, so keeping more than one in the same enclosure can cause stress. When upset, bearded dragons turn dark grey or black around their neck and puff up their spikes to look bigger. A sign of fear or doubt may be head bobbing or waving.
Keep an eye on their color, as their skin changes when thermoregulating. If ambient temperatures are cool, they’ll appear darker to absorb as much light as possible.
While they do use their tongue and mouth to interpret the world around them, if they are frequently open-mouthed, respiratory trouble could be to blame.
We Love Your Beardie!
Like all other pets, bearded dragons need regular veterinary care. Annual checks for parasites or infections are just as important as regular blood work, fecal testing, and discussions about possible issues.
If you have any questions or concerns about bearded dragon health, give us a call at (630) 428-0500. We’re always here for you at Springbrook Animal Care Center.