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Care for Bearded Dragons
February 1, 2024

Bearded dragons, with their unique appearance and charming personalities, have become increasingly popular as pets in recent years. These little dinosaurs are quite cute and charming. However, they have some very specific needs. First-time owners may have a bit of a learning curve to get through. A local Mt. Pocono, PA vet discusses some of the basics of beardie care In this article,.

Basics of Bearded Dragons

Bearded dragons (Pogona vitticeps) are named for the spiky beard-like pouch located under their throats. This beard, along with their flattened bodies and triangular heads, gives them a distinct and memorable appearance. Native to central Australia, these guys usually live about 8 to 10 years. They are usually a sandy color, which originally helped them blend into their arid, desert-like native environment. Some, however, may be yellow or orange.  

As far as temperament goes, beardies are super cute, gentle, friendly, and easy to care for. They are suitable for children, and can actually be cuddly, which is a bit uncommon for reptiles. They also have the advantage of not growing too large: the average adult size usually only reaches about two feet in length. This means you won’t need an overly spacious enclosure. 

What To Feed A Bearded Dragon

These charming lizards are omnivores, so they eat both plants and insects. However, the proportions and feeding schedules will change over time. Younger dragons need more protein, so they usually eat a higher percentage of insects than adults. Fully grown beardies can eat more produce and less bugs. 

Crickets, Dubia roaches, butterworms, hornworms, wasps, elder bugs, and mealworms are some of the bugs you can offer your dinosaur buddy. It’s best to offer store-bought insects, as wild bugs may be contaminated with pesticides. They may also carry parasites or diseases. Before your pet’s bugs become lunch, you should dust them with nutritional powder. This is called gut loading, and it helps ensure that your reptilian pal is getting all of the nourishment they need.

Your reptilian friend can also eat certain fruits and vegetables. Provide your lizard with plenty of green leafy vegetables, such as dandelion, mustard green, collard greens, kale, and endive. In addition, beardies can eat many yellow, red, and orange vegetables, such as bell peppers, carrots, and butternut squash. As for fruits, strawberries, grapes, tomatoes, peaches, figs, dates, and apricots are some good options. Just don’t overdo it, as these foods are high in sugar.

Your lizard pal can also eat flowers. Dandelions, roses, carnations, and geraniums are all fine. However, not all flowers are safe, so make sure you do your research before giving them to your beardie. Also, never give your beardie pesticide-treated flowers.

Your Mt. Pocono, PA vet may also recommend calcium, vitamin D, and multivitamin supplements. Ask for specific recommendations, including portion sizes and suitable treats.

Be sure to always provide your beardie with fresh water. Your beardie will also benefit from regular soaks. Ask your veterinarian for specific advice.

Watch For Common Signs Of Sickness In Beardies

Bearded dragons are typically pretty hardy and healthy as long as they are properly cared for. However, just like any pet, they are susceptible to illness and injury. You’ll need to watch for signs that something is wrong. 

Here are a few things to watch for:

  • Respiratory Issues
  • Unusual Movements Or Posture
  • Trouble Walking
  • Incomplete Sheds
  • Weight/Composition Changes
  • Lethargy
  • Sunken Eyes
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Lack Of Appetite (Note: this is often normal just before a shed)
  • Limping
  • Stiffness/Weakness
  • Tail Kinks  
  • Hanging Jaws
  • Discoloration
  • Lesions

Contact your local Mt. Pocono, PA animal clinic right away if you notice any of these. 

Choosing The Best Terrarium for Your Bearded Dragon

The ideal size of your pet’s habitat depends on their age. In general, a 20-gallon terrarium is suitable for a baby beardie However, they grow quickly and may need more space soon. Opting for a 40-gallon one initially might be wise. As a full grown dragon will require at least a 70-gallon space. The terrarium should have more length and width rather than height. 

You’ll also need to add furnishings, such as bowls, hides, and substrate. 

Substrate: When choosing substrate, you have several options like newspaper, butcher paper, or reptile carpet. If you use paper, you’ll have to change it daily. We would not recommend sand substrates for young dragons. Baby lizards can swallow the particles, causing intestinal blockages.

Dishes: You can opt for whatever you like here, as long as it is safe. Just avoid deep bowls for small beardies, as they could drown. Keep the bowls in the cooler end of the terrarium, so the food won’t spoil.

Furniture: Be sure to include a basking perch for your pet to relax on while basking under (artificial) heat. Possible options could be driftwood, large rocks, or grape vines. Choose something solid and stable to avoid any potential harm to your pet if it were to fall over.

Plants: Incorporating plants into the habitat is also recommended. This will make things more interesting for your pet, and also make the habitat look better. Just stick with things that are safe for your beardie to eat.  

Hides: Additionally, it is crucial to have at least one hiding spot for your pet. Ask your vet for advice on this.

Habitat Temperature For Bearded Dragons

As with many reptiles, beardies have specific temperature requirements. These guys regulate their internal temperature by moving from hot to cool areas and back, so you need to set up the terrarium in a way that creates different temperature zones, or gradients. A temperature between 95 and 105 degrees at the warm end and between 85 and 85 degrees at the cool end is ideal. Nighttime levels can be cooler.

You’ll need to monitor this carefully. Pick a thermometer with a hygrometer so you can check humidity as well. 

Bearded Dragon Heat/Lighting

Bearded dragons need full-spectrum lighting. Ultraviolet light, or UVB, is crucial for them. Without enough UVB, they can’t process calcium or vitamin D properly. This can result in severe health issues. One of the most concerning is metabolic bone disease, or MBD, a debilitating and painful condition that, unfortunately, can be fatal.

Beardies get UVB from sunlight in the wild. Your beardie will need special bulbs since he will live indoors. 

A few things to consider:

  • Make sure that the lights are set on a timed, 12-hour cycle. Young beardies may require stronger bulbs than adults, so you should check with your vet regularly.
  • Fluorescent bulbs should be at least a foot away from your dragon. If not, your pet may suffer from burns.
  • Replace the bulbs regularly. When these wear out, they may lose significant power before you notice it.

In Conclusion: Bearded dragons are a highly popular reptile species, and it’s easy to understand why. These creatures make for an ideal first-time pet due to their low-maintenance care requirements. Of course, it’s important to do plenty of research before adopting one. 

Do you have questions about caring for a bearded dragon? Have you recently adopted a beardie? Contact us, your local Mt. Pocono, PA pet hospital, for all of your pet reptile’s care needs. We are always happy to help!