Reptiles/Bearded Dragon


Bearded dragons leg
Bearded dragons leg  
QUESTION: I have a female bearded dragon, about 9 months old. She is in a 40 gallon wide/short tank with a 60w Exo Terra bulb that ranges from 110-115 degrees.  UVB is a  flood, humidity  is around 30-40%. She  hasn't been eating much the last few weeks, she's been given a variety of crickets, superstorms, mealworms, roaches, carrots, kale, green beans and apples over the past couple months. However, it was believed that she became impacted from her sand so she had a visit to the vet for the first and only time, about a month ago and she was switched to paper towels  and has  been fed carrot and green bean baby food mixed with light calcium and mineral oil, with few crickets that she wood occasionally eat, up until about two weeks ago.   She is currently being fed Nature Zone bites for bearded dragons, which is soft, wet, food with all the vitamins and minerals she needs. This is dipped in calcium as well. She is fed once a day, around 9pm, and left under her basking light for about an hour to help her digest before the lights are turned off for the night. She was last fed a couple hours ago but only at two cubes of the soft food dipped in calcium.  She was bought from Petsmart and is by herself in her tank. She is currently in the shedding process and last defecated about two weeks ago.  She is soaked once daily (instructed by vet) and has a full body sized water dish.  My problem is that when she was first bought, at about three weeks old, she seemed to have a problem with her back right leg and had a small lump in the top of her tail. Movement in both have progressively gotten worse. About a month ago I came home to her upside down, with sand shoved into her eye, nose and mouth, as if she had fallen off her rock. I have no clue how long she had been stuck that way but I quickly washed out all the sand and let her soak in warm water then held her, as she seemed practically lifeless. I moved her tank in my line of sight and reach where I had constant watch over her for a few days. At this point, she couldn't/wouldn't move anything but her head. She wouldn't eat or drink so I continued to soak her in warm water and massage her stomach, hoping to loosen any sand that could possibly be stuck. After about three days (due to snow) we took her to a vet in Middletown, OH who simply looked at her and said to continue what I'm doing. She's become a little more lively, and has eaten more often, and now uses her front legs and back left leg to wiggle her way around. My new problem is that recently her right leg is swollen and blood has seemed to pool in two spot on that leg. I hardly make any money so I'm just hoping to get your opinion on what could be the problem so I have an idea of what I'll be going into with her or any suggestions as to where to take her. I'm willing to do anything I can for her before I watch her get even more sick. I'm trying anything. I'll post a picture of her leg and also of her food since it's probably not well known. Thank you!

ANSWER: Yes, I'm familiar with the food. I've spoken personally to the owner of that company when he first developed it. I don't actually recommend it though.

You say you have a 60W Exo Terra, then you say you have a flood UVB. I am not familiar with any UVB mercury vapor lamps which are less than 100W. Please clarify. What is the make, model, and output of your UVB lighting?

Are you using any electric powered heat rocks, or an undertank heater? If so, discontinue their use and notify me.

I would like you to cease the nature zone cubes and cease all food at this time until you have confirmed bowel movement, and then I want you to photograph what it looks like for examination. When she defecated two weeks ago, do you recall what it looked like color wise, unusually pungent smell, or off white colored urates?

2 weeks without a bowel movement is life threatening. You need to be soaking her daily in warm water and leaving her there for 30min to 1hr.

In the middle of her soaks, you need to GENTLY massage her belly from her middle left side, downward, to her lower right side. Put her back to continue her soaks, and re-warm the water as needed. Water should be approx 95F (do not guess, use a thermometer).

You need to confirm that she is drinking by dropping water on her snout as she bathes and seeing if she will drink as you do so.

If she does not defecate within 1 day of trying this, then she should be given 2 SMALL drops of milk of magnesia or olive oil, repeated with soaks every 12hrs for up to 3 days. If she does not defecate then she will need more vigorous intervention, such as a cloacal wash at the vet and xrays for blockages. If the vet suspected impaction, then there should have been xrays and more rigorous intervention to clear it at that time, although the diagnosis of impaction from terrarium sand is an overused and not very often proven statement. It's more likely a young Beardie is impacted on improperly large food items than anything, and superworms and the like would do it. The symptoms you described initially are indicative of ataxia that often results when baby Beardies are fed meals too large for them.

Keep in mind that she could die from not defecating in 2 weeks, and that the longer she does not defecate, the more likely it is that she will develop septicemia. She should not have had any food after going so long as a week without defecating. She may also die if you act too aggressively and not take these steps methodically.

Again, cease the food and perform extended warm water soaks only until there is defecation. Answer all new questions, and follow up with me when she defecates, or after 3 days, or if there is any other developments.  

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------


QUESTION: Yes she did have an under the tank heat pad which I removed this morning. I'm not positive about the UVB since I have thrown away the box but I'll post a picture of the discription on the base of the bulb and maybe that will help, since I don't know how to tell. I have soaked her today and made sure it was in 95 degrees. However, she tried to get out time after time until finally she refused to go back in after only 15 minutes. She has not been fed today and has not drank any water that I'm aware of. She usually drinks the water she is soaked in every day and also has a water dish in her tank, but she did not drink today. I usually only give her 10-15 minute long soaks. When she last defecated I didn't notice anything unusual about it. The first time she defecated since she'd visited the vet, there was a small pocket of sand in it, however nothing like that has happened since, and I still feel for lumps in her stomach, but never find any. When she is fed, I've been covering one cube each feeding, with mineral oil. Should I switch to olive oil or milk of magnesia?  She is my first reptile so I've never dealt with anything like this before.

The dark spots on the underside of her legs appeared to be possible thermal burns. Direct heating sources like this should not be used without substrate in between otherwise thermal injuries may result.

I would recommend that you use terrarium turf at least. There is nothing wrong with sand being used for Beardies if it is fine grade enough, simply stay away from "calcisand" as it is not sand, it is crushed shellfish, which is not safe in my opinion. If you use a substrate, then you can use an undertank heater, but not if all you have her on is paper towels. As long as she has some possible neuro or other health issues though, it would be wise to use turf. If you stake the sides of it down where she can't get underneath the turf and contact the glass, then you can use the undertank heater again, assuming it covers no more than half the bottom of the terrarium.

When you soak her, you need to put her in a container that you can place a lid over, and leave her in the warm soak for the time specified and follow all other recommendations I made.  

Follow up with the requested information, and follow previous recommendations as I gave them. If I didn't specifically say do it, then don't do it.  


All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts




YOU WILL GET A REJECTION OF YOUR QUESTION IF YOU FAIL TO FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS TO QUESTIONER IN FULL!. I am primarily here to assist with health concerns. I am here for the more difficult questions. Not for questions that you could research & easily find the answer yourself. My standards are that you provide DETAILED and RELEVANT background history on your pet before you ask me any question about it other than GENDER or ID. The requested information is in the instructions to questioner. Failure to answer each of those questions to provide that background, will result in your question being rejected. I can answer questions related reptile husbandry, identification (esp. in Texas and the SW), legal aspects, and advanced level medical care. I am the director of Wichita Falls Reptile Rescue (TX), a wildlife rehabilitator specializing in reptiles, a founding member of The Society for Horned Lizard Preservation, a subscriber to the International Veterinary Information Service,, educational content contributor to, and a Dept of State Health Services accredited animal control instructor (CE) for reptile handling. I do most of my own veterinary care in-house, including minor surgery and necropsy. I am most experienced in Chelonia with box turtles and common smaller tortoises; and in Squamata with everything from Anoles, Geckos, Beardies, and Monitors, to venomous snakes. I am most known for my expertise with horned lizards (Phrynosoma). With snakes, my primary expertise is in Crotalids (rattlesnakes), but I can answer a broad range of questions about various species. I am not aware of any reptile related question that I would not be able to provide some reasonable answer for. I have a direct style and may tell you something you did not want to hear; but the welfare of the animal comes FIRST with me, and I will always reflect that position in my answer, despite how it might make you feel.


I am a non-academic herpetologist with 25+ years reptile experience, and I am an accredited Texas Dept of State Health Services Animal Control Instructor for Reptiles (CE). I am a reptile rescuer, reptile wildlife rehabilitator, and subscriber to the International Veterinary Information Service, wikivet, and article/journal content contributor to Lafebervet. I have medical and scientific resources available, and I perform in house reptile veterinary care for my rescues. I am not a vet, but I read from the same materials and have had to correct quite a few in the past. The average vet is not well versed with reptile physiology and medical treatments.

Animals that I am currently caring for, or have significant rehabilitation and husbandry experience with: Horned Lizards (5 species); Eastern and Western Box Turtles; Painted, RES, YBS, Soft-Shell, and Cooter aquatic turtles; Russian Tortoises; Fire Bellied Toads; Fire Bellied Newts; Ornate Horned Frogs; Green Iguanas; Desert Iguanas; Spiny Lizards; Long Nosed Leopard Lizards; Anoles; Racerunners; Collared Lizards; Bullsnakes; Eastern Ratsnakes; Great Plains Ratsnakes; Kingsnakes; Gartersnakes; Cornsnakes; Boas; Pythons; Bearded Dragons; Water Dragons; Massasauga Rattlesnakes; Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes; Leopard, Mediterranean, Golden, Indo-Pacific, African White-Spotted Geckos; Savannah Monitors; Jeweled Curly-Tailed Lizards; Long-Tailed Grass Lizards; Fox Squirrels; Deer Mice; Hispid Cotton Rats; Merriam's Pocket Mice; Eastern Cotton-Tails; Blue Bar racing pigeon; Budgies; Asian Forest Scorpions.


Co-Founder & Director: Wichita Falls Reptile Rescue

Founder: The Society for Horned Lizard Preservation

Publications contributor. The Horned Lizard Husbandry Manual - self published 75 pages of care information on genus Phrynosoma.

Wikipedia entry "Horned Lizards" - contributed to a majority of the content., and various reptile related forums and email lists under the handles "fireside3" and PhrynosomaTexas".

My hands-on field, rehabilitation, and captive husbandry experience beats a PhD any day of the week. I am also a state accredited animal control instructor for reptile handling.

Past/Present Clients

I was requested to provide my care manual on the Desert Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma platyrhinos), for the Montreal zoo. My manual is also used by several other zoological institutions in N. America. I also teach reptile education to summer camps, and instruct wildlife rehabilitators on live saving and rehab techniques with reptiles.

©2017 All rights reserved.