What is bearded dragon anorexia?

What are the symptoms of anorexia in bearded dragons?

Some key symptoms of anorexia in bearded dragons include:

– Lack of appetite – Your bearded dragon refuses food or shows little interest in eating. This is the hallmark sign of anorexia in reptiles.

– Weight loss – An anorexic bearded dragon will rapidly lose weight due to not eating enough. Monitor your dragon’s weight regularly to catch weight fluctuations.

– Lethargy – Without proper nutrition, an anorexic dragon will become increasingly tired and inactive. They may spend most of their time sleeping.

– Change in feces – The feces of an anorexic dragon will be smaller and more infrequent since less food is being consumed. Constipation is also common.

– Muscle wasting – Reptiles with anorexia will eventually start to show signs of muscle loss and sunken eyes as their fat and muscle stores deplete.

– Increased basking – Some dragons may spend more time basking under their heat lamp in an attempt to raise their body temperature as their metabolism slows.

What causes loss of appetite and anorexia in bearded dragons?

There are a number of possible causes for appetite loss and anorexia in bearded dragons:

– Parasites – Intestinal parasites like coccidia, pinworms, or tapeworms can lead to nausea and lack of appetite. A fecal exam by an exotic vet can check for parasites.

– Infections – Bacterial, viral, or fungal infections can make a bearded dragon feel unwell and reject food. In particular, look out for symptoms of adenovirus or yellow fungus disease.

– Impaction – Digestive obstructions caused by substrate or other foreign materials can cause loss of appetite. So can constipation from poor hydration or diet.

– Vitamin deficiencies – Lack of vitamins A, D3, or calcium can cause appetite issues. Providing proper UVB lighting and calcium supplementation is essential.

– Husbandry issues – Improper temperatures, stress, lack of UVB exposure, or an incorrect diet can all contribute to anorexia in dragons.

– Brumination – Some dragons may show reduced appetite in the winter months when attempting to brumate. This is normal seasonal behavior.

– Neurological issues – Rarely, lack of appetite may stem from neurological problems like a stroke or infection in the brain. These require immediate vet examination.

Why is anorexia dangerous for bearded dragons?

Anorexia and lack of eating is very dangerous for bearded dragons for the following reasons:

– Nutritional deficiencies – Without a proper diet, bearded dragons can become deficient in essential nutrients like calcium, vitamin D3, and vitamin A. This can quickly lead to life-threatening conditions like metabolic bone disease and liver problems.

– Dehydration – Appetite loss is often accompanied by decreased drinking. Dehydration makes digestion difficult and constipation likely.

– Loss of fat reserves – Bearded dragons rely on stored fat in their tail for energy. As these reserves become depleted, their health can rapidly decline.

– Organ failure – Prolonged anorexia and starvation will eventually cause major organs like the liver, kidneys, and intestines to start shutting down. This can be fatal.

– Seizures – Lack of calcium from poor diet can cause hypocalcemia and fatal seizures in bearded dragons.

– Inability to fight infection – Reptiles need proper nutrition to maintain a healthy immune system. An anorexic dragon is very prone to serious infections.

– Muscle atrophy – The muscles needed for basic functions like breathing and swallowing will waste away without protein from food. This can lead to death.

Catching and addressing anorexia early on is critical for a bearded dragon’s wellbeing before the effects become life-threatening. Contact an exotic vet right away if your dragon stops eating.

What should you do if your bearded dragon stops eating?

If your bearded dragon refuses food or shows signs of anorexia, here are important steps to take:

– Call your exotic vet – A full exam, fecal test, and diagnostics will be needed to determine the cause of anorexia and start appropriate treatment.

– Check husbandry – Ensure temperatures, lighting, humidity, enclosure size, substrate, and other factors are all bearded dragon appropriate. Rule out environmental issues.

– Look for visible issues – Check your dragon’s mouth for retained shed or injury. Examine the skin for injury or mites. Palpate the abdomen for lumps or constipation.

– Offer appetite stimulants – Try feeding the dragon food items known to stimulate appetite like hornworms, waxworms, or fruit baby food.

– Rehydrate – Give the dragon oral fluids like Pedialyte. This may involve syringe feeding if they are too weak to drink voluntarily. Proper hydration is vital.

– Assist feed if needed – Your vet may recommend assist feeding with a slurry of ground up insects, greens, and Critical Care formula. This provides nutrition if voluntary eating fails.

– Correct husbandry – Make adjustments to temperatures, UVB, supplements, hydration, and environment based on vet recommendations. Proper husbandry is key to recovery.

– Follow up frequently – Schedule regular follow ups with your exotic vet to monitor weight, check blood work, and repeat diagnostics until the bearded dragon is eating normally again.

With early veterinary treatment and supportive care at home, many cases of appetite loss can be successfully treated and reversed before becoming critical. But prompt action is essential at the first signs of anorexia.

Are there any home remedies to stimulate appetite in bearded dragons?

There are a few home remedies that may help stimulate appetite in a bearded dragon refusing food:

– Warm baths – Placing the bearded dragon in a shallow, warm bath for 10-15 minutes can help relax them and stimulate their appetite afterward. Ensure the water temperature is 85-90°F.

– Gently massaging the abdomen – This can help relieve mild constipation or impaction that may be suppressing appetite. Take care not to press too hard.

– Providing brighter basking light – Slightly increasing the wattage of the basking bulb can raise your dragon’s body temperature and metabolism, increasing appetite.

– Offering fresh greens and veggies – The smell of fresh chopped greens or veggies may entice a picky dragon. Try endive, spring greens, squash, berries, figs, or melon.

– Light hand feeding – Gently using your fingers to place insects or bits of food in front of the bearded dragon’s mouth may trigger their feeding response.

– Adding bee pollen – Sprinkling a tiny bit of bee pollen on greens or feeder insects can make them more appetizing with the sweet pollen taste.

– Raising ambient temperatures – Slowly raising the ambient temp a few degrees in the enclosure can improve digestion and appetite.

However, if these remedies do not work within 12-24 hours, it is vital to seek veterinary care, as home remedies cannot fix underlying illness or nutritional deficits. Appetite stimulation shouldn’t replace diagnosis and treatment.

What are the risk factors for developing anorexia in bearded dragons?

Certain bearded dragons may be at increased risk for developing appetite and eating issues. Risk factors include:

– Very young or very old age – Hatchlings and elderly dragons can be more prone to anorexia. Their nutritional needs are higher.

– History of poor appetite – Dragons who have had previous bouts of anorexia are at risk for recurrence.

– Recent major habitat change – Relocation to a new home or enclosure can stress some dragons and suppress appetite.

– Brumation attempt – Appetite decrease in the winter as the dragon attempts to brumate (hibernate) can become excessive in some cases.

– History of gastrointestinal issues – Dragons with previous problems like parasites, impaction, or infection are more likely to develop anorexia.

– Improper temperatures – Consistently incorrect temperatures can affect appetite and place a dragon at higher risk.

– Lack of UVB exposure – Deficits in UVB rays that facilitate vitamin D3 synthesis have been associated with appetite issues.

– Concurrent illness – Anorexia that occurs alongside other health issues poses greater risk due to the bearded dragon’s compromised state.

– Inadequate calcium or supplements – Lack of proper calcium and vitamins A and D3 in the diet makes appetite problems more likely.

Identifying and mitigating these risk factors through proper husbandry, nutrition, and preventative care is important to help avoid anorexia in your bearded dragon whenever possible.

How can anorexia in bearded dragons be prevented?

Here are some key tips for preventing appetite and eating issues in bearded dragons:

– Perform regular health checks – Weigh weekly, examine feces, inspect mouth and skin, and monitor overall activity levels. Look for subtle changes.

– Provide proper heat and UVB – Ensure basking spot temperature of 95-105°F. Supply appropriate UVB lighting and replace bulbs every 6-12 months.

– Vary diet with greens and veggies – Feed a diverse mix of insects along with chopped greens and veggies for variety and nutrients.

– Dust food with calcium and vitamins – “Gut load” insects and lightly supplement with calcium and vitamins A and D3 at all life stages per your herp vet.

– Don’t use loose substrates – Loose substrates like sand can lead to impaction that causes appetite loss. Use textured ceramic tile, repticarpet, or paper towels.

– Install full spectrum lighting – In addition to heat and UVB bulbs, provide bright full spectrum lighting on a 12-14 hour daily cycle.

– Give proper hydration – Provide clean, fresh water daily and monitor intake. Hydration aids metabolism and digestion to support healthy appetite.

– Reduce stressors – Limit sudden environment changes, loud noises, and handling to prevent stress related appetite decrease.

– Seek annual checkups – Have an exotic vet perform fecal exams, weight checks, and overall exams annually to help catch issues proactively.

Being alert to your bearded dragon’s needs and ensuring the best possible care and husbandry is key to minimizing cases of dangerous anorexia in these pets. Quick action is essential if decreased appetite is noted.

What types of diagnostic testing might a veterinarian perform for a bearded dragon with anorexia?

There are several diagnostic tests an exotic veterinarian may recommend for a bearded dragon displaying anorexia or appetite decline. These can help determine the underlying cause:

– Fecal exam – Microscopic examination of a stool sample to look for parasites like pinworms, coccidia, or giardia which can cause appetite loss.

– Blood work – Testing blood calcium levels and other blood cell counts can reveal nutritional deficits or systemic illness.

– Swab cultures – Taking samples from the oral cavity or cloaca to test for bacterial, viral, or fungal infections.

– Ultrasound – Allows visual examination of internal organs like gastrointestinal tract, liver, kidneys, and spleen for signs of blockage, inflammation, or thickening.

– Radiographs (x-rays) – Can identify foreign objects causing obstruction, retained egg follicles, abnormal organ size, or skeletal issues.

– Endoscopy – Inserting a small camera scope into the mouth or cloaca to directly examine the gastrointestinal tract lining for signs of infection or obstruction.

– Biopsy – Taking small tissue samples for microscopic examination, for diseases like liver or kidney disorders.

– Toxicology screens – Testing blood, urine, or feces for potential environmental toxins, if toxin exposure is suspected.

Based on clinical signs and exam findings, the vet will determine which diagnostics are needed in each particular case to get to the root cause of the bearded dragon’s anorexia and loss of appetite.

What types of treatments might a veterinarian prescribe for a bearded dragon with anorexia?

Depending on the underlying cause of a bearded dragon’s anorexia, some possible medical treatments a veterinarian might use include:

– Antiparasitic drugs – Fenbendazole, pyrantel pamoate, or other antiparasitics to kill intestinal worms and protozoa.

– Antibiotics – Enrofloxacin, ceftazidime, or other antibiotics to treat bacterial infections.

– Antifungals – Itraconazole or voriconazole to clear up fungal infections.

– Fluid therapy – Administering fluids under the skin or intravenously to treat dehydration.

– Appetite stimulants – Drugs like cyproheptadine or mirtazapine to potentially improve appetite.

– Vitamin supplements – Injectable or oral vitamin A, D3, calcium, and B-vitamins to correct deficiencies.

– Gastroprotectants – Medications to coat and soothe the GI tract like sucralfate or misoprostol.

– Anti-inflammatories – Meloxicam or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce inflammation and discomfort.

– Nutritional slurry feeding – Assist feeding with blended insects, greens, and supplements if the dragon is too weak to eat alone.

– Removal of foreign material – Surgery may be needed to remove obstructive foreign bodies if present.

The specific medical approach depends greatly on the individual dragon’s health status and the primary underlying problem causing the anorexia. Combining drugs, vitamins, slurry feeding, fluids, and husbandry management is often needed.

What is the prognosis for a bearded dragon diagnosed with anorexia?

The prognosis for a bearded dragon with anorexia can vary considerably based on:

– Severity – Mild anorexia of short duration has a better prognosis than severe, prolonged anorexia with significant weight loss.

– Cause – The underlying reason for the anorexia impacts projected outcome. Certain infectious causes may respond better to treatment than chronic conditions.

– Age – Very young and very old dragons tend to have a poorer prognosis with any significant health issue including anorexia.

– Response to treatment – How the bearded dragon responds to the initial treatment course and supportive care impacts long-term outlook.

– Presence of secondary issues – The development of additional problems like dehydration, impaction, or sustained nutritional deficits can negatively affect prognosis.

With aggressive diagnostics, appropriate medical care, and excellent supportive nutritional and environmental management at home, many dragons can make a complete recovery from short term appetite decline before it becomes critical. However, untreated chronic anorexia lasting weeks to months often has a grave prognosis. Expert exotic veterinary care is essential.

What is the long-term management for a bearded dragon that has recovered from anorexia?

For a bearded dragon recovering from anorexia, the following steps make up important long-term management:

– Follow up veterinary exams – Recheck with the exotic vet every 2-4 weeks until the dragon is fully back to normal appetite, weight, and activity levels. Conduct fecal exams and blood work periodically.

– Weigh weekly – Continue tracking weight at home to ensure the bearded dragon is continuing to gain weight back to normal levels since they may still be at risk of recurrence.

– Assist feed if needed – If voluntary food intake continues to be low, persist with assist feeding nutritional slurries under veterinary guidance until fully recovered.

– Review husbandry – Make any needed adjustments to enclosure temperatures, lighting, humidity levels, enrichment, etc. Optimize housing and nutrition.

– Schedule annual exams – Have your exotic vet perform a full annual physical exam moving forward to catch any concerns early. Conduct preventative fecal checks for parasites.

– Monitor appetite – Being alert to any changes or reductions in voluntary food intake and quickly addressing decreased appetite is imperative.

– Reduce stress – Keep handling and disturbances within the enclosure to a minimum during convalescence. Transport only when necessary.

– Follow nutritional guidelines – Strictly adhere to your veterinarian’s recommendations for diet, gut loading feeder insects, vitamin dusting, and calcium supplementation to maintain health.

Recovering anorexic dragons require close monitoring both by owners at home and exotic veterinary professionals to get them fully back to normal long-term health and prevent any relapse.


Bearded dragon anorexia can stem from a range of causes, from parasites and conditions like yellow fungus disease to inadequate housing and problems like metabolic bone disease. Key symptoms include appetite decline, rapid weight loss, lethargy, change in feces, and muscle wasting. Without prompt exotic veterinary treatment, bearded dragons can rapidly decline into organ failure, seizures, and death. Diagnostics like fecal exams, blood work, cultures, radiographs, and endoscopy can uncover the underlying problem, be it infectious or non-infectious. Supportive care with fluid therapy, appetite stimulants, assisted feeding, pain control, and correcting any husbandry issues make up important treatment. With aggressive treatment guided by an experienced herp vet, the prognosis for full recovery is often good if addressed before advanced stages. Long-term management requires diligent monitoring for normal appetite, growth, and activity. Annual exams and lab work help provide lifelong preventative care. Being alert to appetite changes, maintaining excellent multi-factorial husbandry, and working closely with your exotic veterinary team allows for the best possible outcome in successfully recovering an anorexic bearded dragon.

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