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Care for Bearded Dragons

February 01, 2024

Bearded dragons, with their unique appearance and charming personalities, have become increasingly popular as pets in recent years. These small reptiles are native to Australia and are known for their distinctive bearded appearance and gentle demeanor. A localCovington, GA  vet discusses some of the basics of beardie care in this article. 

Basics of Bearded Dragons

Originally from Australia, bearded dragons (Pogona vitticeps) are named for the spiky beard-like pouch under their throats. Usually, bearded dragons live about 8 to 10 years. They are typically a sandy color, which helps them to blend into their native environment, but some may be yellow or orange in color. When they are scared, they flare out the skin under their chins, which will resemble a beard … hence the name.

One of the most endearing aspects of these reptiles is their behavior. Beardies are cute, gentle, friendly, and quite easy to care for. Some are even cuddly! Bearded dragons are known for their inquisitive nature, and can often be found exploring their surroundings. They also have a unique way of expressing themselves through various body language cues, such as head-bobbing, arm-waving, and even “bearding up” when they feel threatened.

Setting Up A Great Bearded Dragon Habitat

The appropriate habitat size for your pet will vary based on their age. A minimum of a 20-gallon terrarium is suitable for a baby beardie, but because they grow quickly,  a 40-gallon one may be better in the long run. A fully grown dragon will need at least a 70-gallon tank. While these guys don’t get as big as many other reptiles, that is quite spacious and is something to consider before bringing one home. Regardless of size, choose something that is wider and longer rather than tall. 

You’ll need to complete your pet’s habitat by furnishing it with suitable items. Offer some sort of a basking perch for your pet to lounge on while enjoying that simulated sunlight. You can use driftwood, large rocks, or store-bought decor. Whatever you choose, make sure that it is stable enough not to topple over: that could harm your pet. 

Adding plants is also beneficial. However, be careful not to include any that may be poisonous:  your beardie may decide to eat his decor.  Ask your veterinarian to recommend some good edible ones.

Additionally, provide at least one hiding spot for your pet. There are some really interesting and fun options available at stores! 

When it comes to substrate, there are various options to choose from including newspaper, butcher paper, and reptile carpet. If you opt for paper, you’ll need to change it on a daily basis. Sand substrates aren’t recommended, especially for young dragons. Baby lizards can swallow the particles, which can lead to intestinal blockages.

Last but not least, you’ll need dishware. Choose shallow bowls for your pet’s dishes. Baby lizards could drown in deep bowls, so shallow bowls are imperative. Place the bowls in the cooler end of the terrarium to prevent them from spoiling quickly.

Temperature For Bearded Dragon Terrains 

beardies have very specific requirements here. You should set up the terrarium in a way that creates different temperature zones, or gradients. Like other reptiles, these guys regulate their internal temperature by moving from hot to cool areas and back. You’ll need to set the habitat up so that the warm end stays between 95 to 105F, and the cooler part between 85 and 95. At night, the habitat can get cooler.

You’ll have to check these temperatures several times a day, which will require getting some good thermometers. Pick a thermometer that includes a hygrometer, so you can measure humidity as well.

Bearded Dragon Heat/Lighting

In order to keep bearded dragons healthy, you’ll need to provide them with full-spectrum lighting. Ultraviolet light, or UVB, is crucial to their health. If they don’t get enough UVB, they can’t process calcium and vitamin D properly. This can lead to severe health complications, such as  metabolic bone disease, or MBD, which can be fatal. 

A few things to remember here:

  • Young beardies may need stronger bulbs, so you’ll want to check with your veterinarian regularly. The lights should also be on a timed, 12-hour cycle.
  • Fluorescent bulbs should be kept at least a foot away from your dragon to prevent burns.
  • Remember to replace the bulbs regularly as they wear out quickly, resulting in significant power loss before you notice anything.

Ask your veterinarian for specific advice.

Feeding A Bearded Dragon

Beardies are omnivores, and eat both plants and insects. While insects will make up the majority of your pet’s diet, the proportions and feeding schedules will change over time. Younger dragons need more insects for protein, while adults can eat more produce and less bugs. For specific advice, contact your veterinarian.

For bugs, you can offer your dinosaur buddy crickets, Dubia roaches, butterworms, hornworms, wasps, elder bugs, and mealworms. You will need to dust them with nutritional powder before they become lunch. Stick with store-bought creepy-crawlies: wild bugs could be contaminated by pesticides and/or could carry parasites or diseases.

Your reptilian friend can also eat certain fruits and vegetables. Give your lizard plenty of green leafy vegetables, such as dandelion, mustard greens, collard greens, kale, and endive. In addition to bell peppers, carrots, and butternut squash, beardies can also eat yellow, red, and orange veggies. Fruits are fine in small amounts, but don’t go overboard, as they are high in sugar. Strawberries, grapes, tomatoes, peaches, figs, dates, and apricots are a few good examples.

Fresh water is also a must. Your beardie will also benefit from regular soaks, as these guys are prone to dehydration. 

Of course, you’ll want to ask your veterinarians for specific recommendations. Always research a new food before giving it to your lizard. Consult your veterinarian regularly as your bearded dragon’s nutritional needs change over time. We also recommend asking your Covington, GA veterinarians about supplements such as calcium, vitamin D, and multivitamins.

Signs Of Sickness In Bearded Dragons

The bearded dragon is a tough and healthy pet, if given proper care. However, like any other pet, it is susceptible to illness and injury. It’s important to watch for warning signs. 

These include: 

  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Lack Of Appetite (Note: This Is Normal Just Before A Shed.)
  • Respiratory Issues
  • Unusual Movements Or Posture
  • Trouble Walking
  • Incomplete Sheds
  • Weight/Composition Changes
  • Lethargy
  • Sunken Eyes
  • Limping
  • Stiffness/Weakness
  • Tail Kinks  
  • Hanging Jaws
  • Discoloration
  • Lesions

Contact your Covington, GA vet right away if you see any of these warning signs. Many conditions can be treated with medication and proper care, but prompt action is key.

Bonding With A Beardie

One of the most rewarding aspects of owning a bearded dragon is the fact that they can be quite affectionate. Some even like to cuddle! These reptiles can recognize their owners and often enjoy being gently handled. Spending time interacting with your bearded dragon, whether through hand-feeding or allowing them to explore in a controlled environment, strengthens the bond between pet and owner.

In Conclusion: Bearded dragons have rightfully earned their place as beloved companions in the world of exotic pets. Their charming personalities, unique appearance, and ease of care make them an ideal choice for reptile enthusiasts of all levels. As with any pet, responsible ownership is key. Do plenty of research, and ask your veterinary clinic for specific advice. 

Do you have questions about bearded dragon care? Contact us, your local Covington, GA pet hospital, today! 

Posted in Exotic Care

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