Despite being hardy creatures that are generally healthy and happy as long as you’re doing things right, bearded dragon impaction is a concerning health ailment that all beardies owners should watch out for.
To put it in the simplest way possible, impaction is the buildup of food inside the guts or intestines of the bearded dragon, which can cause blockage of the bowels with solid and semi-solid mass.
Read on if you want to know more about the condition, including, symptoms, causes, and treatment.
Signs and Symptoms of Bearded Dragon Impaction
There are some signs that your bearded dragon will show if it’s suffering from impaction, such as:
- Marked change in their mobility behaviors (dragging of the hind limbs with subtle shakiness)
- It’ll seem exhausted and sluggish all the times
- Spits consumed food out, which causes noticeable weight loss
- It may develop a tiny protrusion around the spine
- Resting inside their water bowls
The Ultimate Bearded Dragon Guide for Beginners
Are you thinking about having a pet beardie? This guide will teach you everything you need to know about how to care for a Bearded Dragon.
What Causes Bearded Dragon Impaction?
Impaction can happen due to a wide variety of reasons. It’s extremely important to keep an eye for all of these factors to avoid this problematic condition.
The Poor Choice of Substrates
One of the most popular reasons that causes bearded dragon impaction is swallowing the substrates you add for them in their habitat.
A lot of people tend to use sand as a substrate. The problem is, beardies, especially the younger ones, can accidentally eat the loose substrate, leading to a serious case of impaction.
The best candidates for bearded dragons substrates are:
- Ceramic tiles
- Reptile carpets
Improper Habitat Temperature
Temperatures outside the optimal range for bearded dragons slow down their bowel movements, which can cause impaction.
Make sure that you use problem UV lamps and thermometers to closely monitor the temperature in their habitat.
Large Food Bits
Not paying attention to the size of the bearded dragon’s food bits is a recipe for disaster. Always peel the fruits and get rid of hard to digest bits, such as seeds and rinds before giving them food.
Also, always make sure that your bearded dragon’s food bits are never larger than the distance between their eyes. This way, it won’t block their intestines and cause bearded dragon impaction.
The Hard Exoskeletons of Some Insect Species
The hard shell and exoskeletons on some of the live insects you give to your beardie can also be extremely hard to digest.
Large crickets, mealworms, and their larger versions (superworms) all have hard outer skin and shells, so they should only be fed to adults only and never frequently.
Constipation vs. Bearded Dragon Impaction and How to Differentiate Between Them?
Constipation occurs when the stool becomes difficult to pass. It occasionally happens due to dehydration or when the basking spot is too cool for them. Constipation is a much simpler issue and usually subsides easily with little help on your side.
On the other hand, bearded dragon impaction affects the digestive tract itself and obstructs the bowels. It’s a much more serious issue that won’t go away without treatment. Keep in mind that impaction can also be a complication of long term constipation.
To differentiate between them, check the obvious behavioral changes and weird patterns that the beardie has. The shakiness and bulges at the impaction spots are the best ways to tell the difference.
How to Treat Bearded Dragon Impaction
Here are some methods that you can try to treat impaction in a bearded dragon.
Check the Habitat Temperature
The first and most overlooked cause of impaction is inadequate habitat temperature.
Ideally, the basking spot temperature of an adult beardie should be about 88 to 100 °F and between 105 to 110 °F for juvenile ones.
You can consistently check the basking spot temperature using a Digital Infrared Thermometer.
Reduce Their Insects Intake
One of the most notable causes of impaction is ingesting live insects and feeders that have hard exoskeletons.
If you suspect that your bearded dragon is impacted, giving them more insects will only make the problem worse.
Instead, give your beardie a change of diet, with more soft fruits added to their daily meals.
These fruits can soften the impaction and make it easier to pass. You may also add diluted juices (1:3) and baby applesauce to their daily diet.
Try Giving Them a Bath
Warm water, ideally around 100 °F, stimulates the bearded dragon and encourages them to poop.
They also prefer to poop in the water, and it’s much easier cleanup for you, so it’s a win-win situation!
Keep a nice habit of giving them a weekly warm bath. Not only will it help stay clean and healthy, but it’ll also make them eliminate any mild impaction before it becomes a serious issue.
Give Them a Gentle Massage
While giving your beardies a massage, you can also massage their body to help their bowel movements to pass the impaction.
Start with gentle strokes from head to tail on the belly region but never press too hard, so you don’t harm their skeleton or spine.
Apply Some Home Remedies
There are some common home remedies that can help in passing mild impaction. For example, you can try using olive oil (not vegetable oil) by dropping a few drops on the bearded dragon nose, so they lick it.
The greasy nature of the olive oil has a natural laxative effect that can both soften the impaction and make it easier to pass through the bowels.
When to Seek Vet’s Help?
You may try the previous treatments for as long as a week. However, if the impaction persists or worsens after all these remedies, it’s most likely a more serious case that only a reptile-specific vet can help.
The vet will assess the impaction severity and spot by performing a full-body X-ray. After that, they’ll prescribe treatment depending on their imaging findings, ranging from prescription laxatives and enemas all the way to surgery.
How Much Does an Impaction Surgery Cost?
The price of the surgery will vary greatly depending on the area you’re living in and the level of your vet’s expertise.
However, most bearded dragon impaction surgery would cost anywhere between $300 to $1,200.
Bearded Dragon impaction is a serious issue that you should always keep in mind if you have a bearded dragon. With that guide, you’ll be able to help your beardie get through the mild ones.
Remember to check the parameters of your bearded dragon’s habitat and make sure that it’s not too cold for them to avoid slowing down their bowel movements.