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Reptiles/Sick Bearded Dragon


Hi Thea,
I have read many of your answers and you seem very knowledgeable in the bearded dragon field.  My Bearded Dragon is a juvenile female about 8 to 10 inches long and approximately 5 months old.  She stopped eating and we got extremely worried.  The last meal before the 1 week starvation period was a blue 2 inch horn worm that she seemed to enjoy.  During that week I carefully syringed a protein shake made from carrots, lettuce and others down her throat.  At the end of the week she ate a cricket, by than she started eating much more.  Although I had not remembered that when we were giving her the protein shake I was lifted her from her cage when she leaped from my arms.  She flipped in air and landed in a weird position. All of a sudden, three weeks later, there seems to be a big bump in her skin on her left arm.  My prediction is that it is broken.  I have been giving her a bath almost every day, but she just seems very soar, lazy and tired all the time.  When she closes her eyes there is much more black under her eyelid than usual.  When I check on her she is always laying in awkward part of the enclosure in an extremely awkward position.  She lays with her legs upside down facing the direction of her tail, and seems like she has no control over her body.  She is kept a 40 gallon tank with UVB and regular light, she has wood form a basking spot, a water dish, wooden hide, statue, rock, and a fake plant. What should I do? I am 12 years old and don't want her to die.  Thanks for your thoughts.

Hello Griffin,

Was the hornworm you fed her from a pet store or was it found in a garden? That is important because wild hornworms naturally feed on a wide variety of toxic plants including tomato (toxic leaves), potato and several others. This makes wild hornworms toxic to  animals that are not adapted to feeding on them. Hornworms raised for reptile food are fed on a non-toxic substitute.

I would also like to know about her calcium supplementation. Are her insects dusted regularly?
The combination of the bump on her leg and your description of lack of body control makes me wonder if her calcium levels are sufficient. Deficiencies can lead to weak bones and also to lethargy and poor muscle control. Calcium plays a critical role in nerve transmission.
Have you noticed any twitching or trembling of her toes or feet? That is a common symptom of low blood calcium levels.

Is the bump on her leg right at the joint or is it on the straight part of the limb? Does it feel like it is in the skin? You should be able to tell by gently rotating  the skin over the lump. Does the skin move over the lump or does the lump move when the skin moves?

Fractures can appear as lumps but so can abscesses because reptile pus is semi-solid. If the bump is right at the joint then gout is another thing to rule out. That is usually caused by excessive protein in the diet and/or poor kidney function.

The lethargy and darkened eyes does suggest that she is not well or in discomfort. Has her feeding also dropped at this point?

Make sure your temperatures are correct, around 95 to 105F in the basking spot.

Beardeds suffer from a number of intestinal parasites as well and the other factors may just be coincidental.

If she continues being lethargic and not eating then my best advice is really to seek a veterinarian's opinion.

I was surprised to learn your young age at the end of such an articulate and intelligent question! I hope everything turns out alright with your dragon.  


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I can answer questions on the proper husbandry and diet of Iguanas, bearded dragons, geckoes, skinks, chameleons, tortoises, box turtles, treefrogs, non-venomous snakes and tarantulas. Also the breeding of some species of feeder insects. I have no experience with venonmous snakes and only limited experience with aquatic turtles.


I have been keeping and breeding reptiles for over 30 years. In addition to my regular job in the medical field I also worked for several years in a pet store that specialized only in exotics. The job entailed both caring for and answering questions on innumerable species. It required constant, extensive research into a wide range of reptiles. I have been called to appear on televised national media (CBC, CTV and Life Channel) as well as CBC radio to discuss the proper care of reptiles and other exotics in captivity. I currently own one or more species of those listed under my expertise with the exception of chameleons. I owned chameleons for years but keep none currently. I keep over 20 snakes comprising 5 species, both Colubridae and Boidae. I bred corn snakes for several years. I have a particular interest in treefrogs and currently have 5 different species. I've raised redfoot tortoises for 10 years and have two iguanas, one for 12 years.

A small and now defunct local magazine called "Pet Vue"

Diagnostic medical microbiology with some parasitology experience.

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