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The sudden death of a bearded dragon is usually caused by organ failure, choking, or impaction. These are common causes of death and can happen overnight, without any symptoms or signs. A bloated, dead bearded dragon most likely died because has swallowed foreign objects and blocked its guts.
In this article, I will guide you through some of the most common causes of death in breaded dragons, and how to prevent them. With a proper enclosure setup and good care, your bearded dragon can live up to 15 years, so don’t let your pet be a victim of the following problems:
This happens when your bearded dragon swallows something that gets stuck in its digestive tract. Impaction might follow the ingestion of one large object that gets lodged in the digestive system or continuous ingestion of small objects that remain undigested.
It is common when your lizard’s enclosure contains loose substrate like sand or ground walnut shells. The bearded dragon might try to catch a small food item like a cricket in the cage and accidentally swallow the loose substrate.
Feeding a bearded dragon that is below 6-7 months on large bugs like mealworms might also cause impaction. Some of the typical signs of impaction in a bearded dragon include lethargy, paralysis, refusal to feed, and constipation.
A bearded dragon is a cold-blooded animal that cannot regulate its body temperature. To this end, you should include UVB lights and heaters in its enclosure to keep it warm enough.
Even so, some pet owners use the wrong lights or have incorrect specifications for their heater’s temperature. This might cause your bearded dragon’s enclosure to overheat. Overheating can lead to confusion and dehydration in a bearded dragon followed by stroke or death.
If you notice that your pet is huddled in a corner, sweating or trying to escape or hide, take a temperature reading of its enclosure using a thermometer.
If the temperature is above 90-93 °F, this is too high for your adult pet, while anything above 95-100 °F is too high for a juvenile bearded dragon.
As cold-blooded animals, some people assume that low temperatures will not affect their bearded dragons. Even so, when the temperature in your pet lizard’s cage falls below about 50 degrees Fahrenheit, your pet might go into brumation.
This process is much like hibernation as the lizard tries to conserve as much of its body energy and heat as possible. In brumation, bearded dragons can survive in temperatures below 10 °F, but this depends on how long they have to endure these low temperatures.
If the cold extends for a long time, your pet starts dying. Consider getting other options like heat packs or blankets to keep a bearded dragon warm if there is a power outage that causes the heating and lights in its cage to go off for a long time.
Parasites or Infections
Like in other living organisms, infections and parasitic infestations can lead to death in a bearded dragon when left untreated. The common parasitic infections that might affect your pet lizard include adenovirus, cryptosporidium, and CANV that causes yellow fungus disease, among others.
These are evidenced by smelly, runny poop, lethargy, and unexplained weight loss. Unfortunately, parasitic infections can quickly become severe, more so for juvenile bearded dragons, and cause seemingly sudden death of the animal.
The other infections that might affect your bearded dragon include salmonellosis, abscesses, and meningitis. Keeping your pet’s enclosure clean, quarantining new pets, and promptly removing leftover foods can go a long way in protecting your pet lizard from parasites, bacteria, and viruses that cause infections.
Dystocia or Egg Binding
Dystocia denotes a condition in which a female bearded dragon cannot lay eggs because they are stuck in her. Though it is a fairly common issue, it can be life-threatening. Dystocia usually follows poor husbandry, wrong nest sites, inadequate humidity, and malnutrition.
Physical obstruction because of oversized eggs, advanced animal age, reproductive tract infections, and masses obstructing an egg’s passage also contribute to dystocia.
Be careful to check that the clutch of your female dragon has 7-40 eggs at the end of each breeding season. If you suspect dystocia, get an x-ray to confirm it. The stuck eggs can be removed surgically to save your beloved lizard.
Ingesting Toxic Plants or Bugs
Toxic bugs and plants can cause the quick death of a bearded dragon. Some of the poisonous bugs for your lizard include fireflies, lubber grasshoppers, and box elder bugs. Avocados, daffodils, rhubarbs, and azaleas are some of the toxic plants to your bearded dragon.
Seizure, twitching, lethargy, and turning black are some of the signs of poisoning in your lizard. If you suspect poisoning, give your bearded dragon detoxifying slurry or activated charcoal to cleanse its system. You can do this every 4-5 hours on your way to a vet.
Metabolic Bone Disease
This is a deadly condition caused by a low consumption or lack of vitamin D and calcium-rich foods in your bearded dragon’s diet. It can also follow the absence of UVB lighting in your pet’s enclosure since this helps in the generation of vitamin D that, in turn, enhances calcium absorption.
Limb weakness, lethargy, brittle bones, and back or tail kinking are typical signs of metabolic bone disease. You can avoid it by including vitamin D3 and calcium powder in your bearded dragon’s diet, along with UVB lighting covering 50-70% of the animal’s enclosure.
Though treatable, metabolic bone disease might be irreversible and cause your pet’s slow death if you take a long time to intervene.
There are fat and water-soluble vitamins. Water-soluble vitamins like B and C are excreted from a bearded dragon’s body in urates when they are in excess. Fat-soluble vitamins including A, D, E, and K, however, build up in the lizard’s body when in excess and become toxic.
Vitamin toxicity is evidenced by bloating, constipation, lethargy, and swelling. Though uncommon, it can lead to kidney failure and death when severe.
Stress and Bullying
Housing bearded dragons with cage mates might seem like a good idea. Even so, these animals are quite territorial and will compete for food, use of the basking or cooling spots, and space, among other things, as they try to gain cage dominance.
The bullying often leads to stress that over time destroys the immunity systems of these lizards and increases their risks of deadly infections. There is also a chance of deadly injuries sustained from the fights between the pet bearded dragons.
Have separate housing for bearded dragons if you have more than one. Moreover, avoid very bright lights, cramped enclosures, poor sanitation, and loud noises when keeping a bearded dragon since these might slowly stress it.
Internal Organ Failure
Unfortunately, death from an internal organ failure is often sudden and only picked up during a necropsy. Kidney failure often follows excess dietary protein, old age, while fatty liver disease that causes liver failure follows overconsumption of fatty foods.
Knowing the typical causes of internal organ failure and avoiding the ones that you can control is the best way to protect your bearded dragon from sudden death.
This refers to the widening of the arteries that supply blood to different parts of your bearded dragon’s body. Aneurysms generally follow a weakening of vessel walls in the back, limbs, or head.
The weakened wall is at high risk of rapture that, in turn, causes an internal bleed and the death of your bearded dragon. In some cases, vets misdiagnose aneurysms for cysts or abnormal growths since they look like swellings.
Though surgery is the best choice for managing an aneurysm in your bearded dragon, the aneurysm sometimes recurs.
Death can happen quite quickly when a bearded dragon unintentionally inhales loose substrate or water that then lodges in its lungs. Lethargy, violent shaking, and bloating are the signs of choking that should catch your attention.
Sadly, there is a small survival chance when your bearded dragon chokes. Ensure the water level in your pet’s water dish is below its ankles to minimize the chances of your pet falling into it and drowning.
Moreover, remove all loose substrate from your lizard’s enclosure. Remember to chop your bearded dragon’s greens since these can also choke them.
Your bearded dragon might have been diagnosed with one of the above issues, or you might have noticed them and tried to intervene. If you are nursing your pet to health, but nothing is working, your beloved lizard might have died.
An unnatural yellow body color, black beard or underside, lack of response to touch, or partially closed eyes might be pointers of death. Even so, some of these are signs of brumation, so ensure you get a vet to ascertain the death.
It is understandable to sink into depression and other mental health issues because of your pet’s passing. Consider getting professional help or joining a support group to prevent the issues and help you to process your loss.Bearded Dragons, Reptiles