Bearded dragons are lizards, which qualifies them as cold-blooded animals. This essentially means that they cannot regulate their own body temperature, which makes them dependent on their environment for that.
For instance, a bearded dragon subjected to low temperatures will experience a variety of health issues, including digestive ones.
Constipation is the most frequent problem with bearded dragons and reptiles in general. This is typically a mild condition, but its severity depends on the causes and the affliction’s progression over time.
Today, we will look into the 10 of the most tell-telling signs of constipation in bearded dragons, so you can detect the condition in time. Doing so will allow you to act in time before the issue grows more severe.
1. Lack of Bowel Movements
Bearded dragons have regular bowel movements, but the frequency depends on the dragon’s diet and age. Hatchlings and juveniles can have between 1 to 3 bowel movements per day, thanks to their faster metabolism and high-protein diets.
Young lizards up to the age of 18 months may poop once per day, while adults above that age threshold may only poop several times per week.
Some dragons only poop 2-3 times per week at most, which isn’t necessarily a reason for concern. Whether you should be concerned or not depends on your dragon’s pooping schedule.
A pooping schedule of 2-3 sessions per week may spell trouble for some beardies but may be normal for others.
You should always have a good idea of your dragon’s pooping behavior, so you can tell the difference between normal and abnormal bowel movements.
If your gecko isn’t pooping at the same rate as it used to, or not at all, something’s not right.
2. Straining to Defecate
This is another clear indicator that your bearded dragon has pooping problems. Bearded dragons may exhibit straining when attempting to poop, usually with nothing coming out.
This is a clear sign of constipation, but it doesn’t necessarily tell you anything about the causes. It can be dehydration, parasitic activity, cloaca infections, lack of fibers in the food, etc.
Unfortunately, inexperienced beardie keepers are unaware of their pets’ struggles. You should always invest time in learning your dragon’s behavior, so you know when something is wrong.
3. Hard or Dry Feces
The bearded dragon’s poop should be firm, compact, and slightly moisturized. If it’s too hard or dried out, the dragon is most likely constipated and requires assistance.
If it’s too watery, that’s a sign of diarrhea and parasitic or bacterial infections. Keep in mind that bearded dragons don’t pee, at least not in the traditional sense.
All of the pee that they produce comes out at the same time as the poop. That’s the liquid that accompanies your beardie’s feces. If urine isn’t there and the poop looks dry and hardened, this may be a sign of dehydration.
At this point, you need to act fast because dehydration is a potentially deadly condition for beardies; for all reptiles, for that matter.
4. Loss of Appetite
Bearded dragons exhibit low appetite or even stop eating altogether when dealing with constipation. This is generally a healthy behavior because eating but not pooping can prove fatal.
The main issue is that the feces block the intestinal tract, causing intestinal strain and discomfort. Any additional food will contribute to the problem, causing the beardie to experience an inflated abdomen and even higher levels of physical discomfort.
The loss of appetite is indicative of several health problems, so you can’t diagnose your pet’s issue by relying on this symptom alone. One rather common cause of loss of appetite is low environmental temperature.
Bearded dragons require higher temperatures than your typical leopard or crested gecko, with basking temperatures soaring as high as 110 F.
If the environmental temperature is too low, the reptile may experience a more ineffective digestive system, causing the food to remain undigested. This can cause it to rot in the stomach, causing a wide range of additional problems along the way.
5. Abdominal Swelling
This is a sign of advanced constipation or even compaction. You should always contact your reptile vet if your pet lizard exhibits an inflated abdomen that affects its ability to move and climb.
Unless the swollen abdomen is the result of progressive weight gain over time, your lizard is most likely dealing with constipation or impaction.
There’s no way to tell the severity of the problem via a simple visual assessment. You need to rely on a professional’s insight to gauge the issue’s full magnitude. An X-ray may be necessary to determine the condition’s severity and suggest the right approach.
The real problem here isn’t necessarily constipation, although that’s a valid reason for concern. The real problem is impaction because this condition is more frequently responsible for sudden abdominal swelling.
Impaction is more severe than constipation due to its nature. This condition occurs for numerous reasons, including:
- Severe dehydration, leading to dried-out feces and intestinal clogging
- Bearded dragon eating sand, soil, or other types of substrates that suck the moisture out of the animal’s gut
- Bearded dragons ingesting larger particles like huge insects with hard shells, rocks, pebbles, or smaller tank decorations
- Low temperatures, paired with too much food, etc.
Impaction results from something blocking the reptile’s intestinal tract, which can be deadly.
Constipated geckos will automatically become more lethargic when constipated for 2 reasons:
- Difficulty moving – The reptile won’t be able to move as effectively anymore due to the swollen belly causing it to use extra energy doing so. Your beardie will appear to struggle during tasks that should be natural for them, like walking and climbing. However, just because your beardie shows difficulty moving doesn’t mean it’s dealing with constipation. Other factors may be at play, some of which can be life-threatening, like Metabolic Bone Disease.
- Physical discomfort and stress – Severe constipation causes visible physical and psychological discomfort. Your beardie will appear irritated, lethargic, and behave as if it experiences pain and stress. This can cause the beardie to react aggressively when you attempt to pet it and spend more time in hiding than normal.
This being said, you should never treat lethargy as an automatic sign of constipation. Lethargy alone isn’t enough to accurately determine the lizard’s condition because many health problems can cause lethargy.
As I’ve already mentioned, one of them is MBD, which is the result of severe calcium deficiency. This is a deadly condition, so you should always speak to your vet if your beardie appears lethargic.
7. Licking or Biting at Their Tail
Constipated and impacted lizards often lick and bite their tail and cloaca. This behavior is the result of the physical discomfort associated with constipation, but it’s not limited to that. Beardies may also lick their cloaca in case of local infections or intestinal parasites.
Needless to say, you should consult with your pet specialist to shed light on the matter soon. Few things are as bad as misdiagnosing your reptile’s condition and ignoring the actual problem.
8. Lack of Urination
Bearded dragons urinate at the same time as they defecate. The fecal matter and the urine come out at the same time in the same mix.
Birds also exhibit this type of bowel movement since they, too, have a cloaca, which fulfills both actions. This is normal, given that birds and reptiles are very closely related. After all, birds are literally feathered dinosaurs.
You should always assess your beardie’s poop consistency to see how it presents itself. The ideal poop consistency is soft but compact, with moderate amounts of urine present.
The poop should produce moisture and leave wet stains on the paper towel. If the poop is dry and doesn’t retain its composure, the lizard is likely dealing with constipation.
Most importantly, the lack of urine indicates dehydration, which can put your lizard in critical condition.
The act of vomiting isn’t strictly related to constipation, but it can be. If your gecko vomits frequently and doesn’t poop, that’s most likely a sign of constipation. The vomiting itself is the result of the intestinal tract being blocked and forcing the food back the way it came.
Paradoxically, the lizard vomiting is a good thing in this situation. Otherwise, the food will block the digestive system even further, accelerating the issue and leading to bloating and more severe physical discomfort.
Even so, the fact that your reptile keeps vomiting isn’t beneficial because it leads to dehydration, stress, and nutrient deprivation.
In essence, if your beardie keeps vomiting everything it ingests, it’s time to contact your vet.
10. Weight Loss
Weight loss is the result of the beardie no longer being able to eat properly. Aggravated constipation comes with a loss of appetite, stress, and even dehydration, all of which will cause your beardie to appear more emaciated with time.
You can tell that your lizard has been losing weight if you can spot its ribs protruding through the skin.
The real problem here is the effect of severe and prolonged weight loss. Reptiles are prone to nutritional deficiencies and can experience calcium deficiency when lacking an optimized diet.
So, if your beardie shows signs of weight loss, definitely contact your vet for a more in-depth assessment.
Constipation is generally a mild condition in most reptiles, and pretty much all of them will experience it at some point in their lives.
However, this condition can aggravate fast, putting your lizard’s life at risk. You should always assess your beardie’s behavior and overall health status to detect any digestive problems in time.
The more you wait and ignore the issue, the more severe constipation will get.