I’ll go ahead and assume you’ve never thought that your bearded dragon could ever need an enema. That’s your first mistake. The second one would be to ignore this point altogether, which could lead to some unpleasant outcomes.
Today, we will discuss everything involving enemas for bearded dragons. This includes information on why they’re sometimes necessary, how to apply them, and whether you can perform them at home. Let’s check it out!
What is a Bearded Dragon Enema?
A bearded dragon enema is pretty much the same thing as a regular enema. Except it’s applied to bearded dragons. In short, the procedure itself is used to alleviate constipation or impaction, which can occur for a variety of reasons.
For instance, impaction can occur when a bearded dragon ingests indigestible materials, such as large pieces of substrate or food that clog the animal’s tract. Dehydration is also a potential cause, leading to the fecal matter drying out and getting stuck in the small or large intestine. Constipation can also result from poor husbandry or an inadequate diet, but more on this later.
This procedure should be done with caution and only when necessary, as it can be stressful for the animal and carries the risk of injury if performed incorrectly. If you are worried about your bearded dragon’s health or suspect it is impacted or constipated, consult a reptile veterinarian before attempting an enema or any other treatment, for that matter.
Why Might A Bearded Dragon Need An Enema?
Understanding when your bearded dragon needs an enema vs. any other potential treatment is key for addressing your beardie’s health issue correctly. To put it simply, an enema is only necessary in cases of constipation or impaction, but there’s a catch. The reason behind your beardie’s impaction matters greatly. For instance, an enema is useful if the impaction is the result of severe constipation due to dried-out fecal matter.
But it’s not recommended if the impaction is the result of the dragon ingesting something it wasn’t meant for that. This includes a rock, a piece of wood, or any other hard and uneatable object. In that case, the foreign object may clog the animal’s intestine, making it nearly impossible to remove by conventional means. Which also includes an enema.
The Process of Giving a Bearded Dragon an Enema
The process itself isn’t too difficult, but it is one of precision, gentleness, and knowledge. To put it simply, I advise against giving your bearded dragon an enema, especially if you don’t know how severe the beardie’s condition is or what caused the problem in the first place. Considering that you do and you can actually apply the procedure yourself with minimal risks, here are some of the steps to follow:
- Prepare the solution – Use lukewarm water or a reptile-safe enema solution specifically designed for this purpose. The liquid’s temperature should be around the same as the bearded dragon’s basking temperature (approximately 95-105°F, or 35-40°C) to avoid causing shock or burns. I recommend going for the lower value, just to be sure.
- Gather the necessary tools – You will need a small syringe, pipette, or soft-tipped catheter to administer the procedure. I recommend cleaning and sterilizing the equipment thoroughly to prevent introducing bacteria into the bearded dragon’s cloaca. Skipping this point can lead to infections, in which case constipation itself will become the least of your concerns.
- Restrain the bearded dragon – Secure your bearded dragon by gently holding it in one hand. The animal should be calm and comfortable, so only go for the procedure if your beardie appears chill; otherwise, I recommend postponing the entire deal. A stressed or scared dragon may wiggle around and attempt to escape your hold, which can lead to rather unpleasant injuries along the way.
- Lubricate the syringe or catheter – Apply a small amount of water-based lubricant to whatever is going inside your beardie’s cloaca. This is to minimize the local discomfort and reduce the risk of injury during the insertion.
- Go inside – Insert the syringe or catheter into the bearded dragon’s cloaca slowly. Don’t go too far, and avoid using excessive force, as this could cause tissue injuries. Bearded dragons are sensitive animals with an even more sensitive cloaca, so be gentle about it.
- Administer the solution – Slowly push the plunger of the syringe or squeeze the pipette to release a small amount of the solution (typically 1-3 mL, depending on the size of the bearded dragon) into the rectum. Control the pressure to prevent squirting the solution too fast, which could, again, cause local tissue trauma.
- Wait for results – Hold your bearded dragon for a few minutes, allowing the solution to work on softening the fecal matter. If the beardie appears uncomfortable and wants to leave your hold, put it back into its enclosure to allow it to calm down. The reptile should expel the liquid along with some of the fecal matter shortly, as soon as the solution takes effect. If it doesn’t, do not force or repeat the process and consult a veterinarian for further advice instead.
- Clean and monitor – After the enema, clean the area around the cloaca with a soft, damp cloth, and monitor your bearded dragon for any signs of discomfort or additional health concerns. If you’ve applied the procedure correctly and gently, there shouldn’t be any complications, but it doesn’t hurt to supervise your pet for a while anyway.
An important note here: the enema itself is a strict procedure that involves knowledge, precision, and professionalism, attributes that most casual beardie owners lack to some degree or another. This is why I recommend consulting your vet before doing anything. The expert is qualified to apply such procedures in a controlled and safe environment to minimize any health risks that you cannot foresee and control at home.
As another important note: if your beardie is simply constipated, not impacted, the enema itself is a standard and rather innocuous procedure, but that can go wrong fairly quickly. It’s not worth the risk of injuring your beardie when you can have the vet perform the enema fast and with no risks to your pet’s wellbeing.
Natural Remedies for Bearded Dragon Constipation
It’s critical to note that the enema itself, while quite useful in many situations, shouldn’t be the go-to solution. Instead, it should be the last resort in case all other measures have failed to alleviate your beardie’s constipation. That’s because there are quite a handful of potential natural remedies to use to address your dragon’s digestive issues.
So, let’s discuss them:
- Adequate hydration – Your bearded dragon should have access to fresh, clean water at all times, despite the reptile being quite adept at thriving even in low-humidity conditions. After all, these are desertic reptiles that only require a humidity level of 30-40%. Even so, having sufficient water in their diet is critical for avoiding constipation and dehydration, aside from a variety of other health issues. You can also increase moisture intake by misting your reptile’s food, given that beardies usually extract much of the water they need from their food.
- Warm baths – Giving your beardie a lukewarm bath can hydrate them and stimulate natural bowel movements for enhanced digestion. To achieve this, fill a shallow container with water at a temperature between 85 and 92 °F and let your bearded dragon soak for 10-15 minutes. You can also massage your beardie’s belly gently to encourage defecation, but don’t be too pushy about it. If your beardie appears uncomfortable, give it some space and try again later.
- Adjust the enclosure temperature – Ensure that the basking area has the correct temperature, around 95-110 F, to promote healthy digestion. Bearded dragons are ectothermic, so a proper temperature gradient in their enclosure is essential for maintaining their metabolic processes, which stays true for most reptiles; it’s only that the temperature values themselves vary, depending on the species.
- Adjust the diet – Provide a balanced diet of insects, vegetables, and fruits with appropriate levels of fiber. High-fiber foods, such as leafy greens (collard, mustard, dandelion), can promote regular and healthy bowel movements, which is why adult beardies consume a lot more greens and veggies than juveniles. Avoid feeding your bearded dragon hard-to-digest insects, such as large adult mealworms, especially when it comes to baby and juvenile beardies, due to their more sensitive digestive systems.
- Exercise – Encourage your bearded dragon to be active by providing them with a spacious enclosure and a handful of opportunities for exercise. Some good ideas include rocks, logs, PVC pipes, and any other decorations that your beardie can climb and explore daily. These will provide your pet with physical and mental fortitude and stability and stimulate digestion and prevent constipation. Make sure that the decorative elements in question are safe and free of any rugged or pointy parts that could cause even minor injuries.
- Use probiotics – Adding a reptile-safe probiotic supplement to your bearded dragon’s diet can help maintain a healthy gut flora, which supports healthy and effective digestion. I recommend speaking with your vet about this to make sure you’re using the right product and in the right quantity.
I actually advise contacting your vet anyway, even in cases of mild constipation. The expert may recommend even better and more effective approaches to alleviate and prevent your beardie’s digestive problems over time.
Problems with Giving Enema to Bearded Dragon
While an enema can sometimes help a constipated or impacted bearded dragon, the procedure is not without noticeable risks. Some of the potential problems to consider include:
- Stress – The enema process itself can be stressful for the bearded dragon, causing anxiety and discomfort, which may even exacerbate the animal’s overall health condition. You should either only perform the procedure when the beardie is calm or avoid it altogether and have the vet do it instead. Actually, the latter is good health advice that applies to most of your beardie’s conditions.
- Injury – If performed incorrectly or with improper tools, the enema can result in physical injuries such as tearing or damaging the cloaca, rectum, or internal organs. Needless to say, these can sometimes become deadly in some cases.
- Infection – Introducing foreign objects or substances into the cloaca carries the risk of bacteria, contaminants, or minor tissue tears that could lead to infection. These infections are typically minor at first but can progress fast and even kill your beardie before you even realize the severity of the situation.
- Overuse or misuse – Overly frequent enemas may disrupt the bearded dragon’s natural digestive processes, causing a dependency on enemas for bowel movements. This can result in the enema itself actually making things worse.
- Ineffectiveness – In some cases, the procedure itself may not even resolve your beardie’s issue to begin with.
Given these potential problems, it is crucial to consult with a reptile veterinarian if you suspect your bearded dragon is constipated or impacted. They can provide guidance on appropriate treatments, which may include an enema or any number of alternative methods to address the issue safely and effectively. Always prioritize your beardie’s health and wellbeing over the comfort of performing the procedure at home to save the time and money spent when involving the vet in the process.
So, involve the vet in the process!
When to Take Your Bearded Dragon to The Vet?
Constipation or impaction are generally good reasons to consult your vet over, but these aren’t the only ones. Several other signs may require the presence of a veterinarian, such as:
- Lethargy – Your bearded dragon is unresponsive, less active than usual, or consistently sleeping during the day.
- Loss of appetite – A sudden or prolonged decrease in appetite could indicate a health problem that may require a veterinarian’s input. That is, unless the lack of appetite is the result of incoming shedding or part of your beardie’s personality and normal eating behavior.
- Weight loss – Rapid or unexplained weight loss can be a sign of severe illness, in which case your beardie should be evaluated by a professional. Especially if there are no other physical signs visible that could explain the potential health issue that your dragon is experiencing.
- Swelling or deformities – Any unusual swelling, lumps, or deformities visible on your bearded dragon’s body, limbs, or joints may indicate an infection, injury, or Metabolic Bone Disease. The latter is especially concerning because MBD is typically incurable and deadly in advanced phases.
- Breathing difficulties – Your bearded dragon is breathing with its mouth open, making wheezing or clicking noises, or showing signs of respiratory distress. These symptoms usually suggest a respiratory infection, but you can never tell for sure without a professional’s input.
- Discharge or unusual odors – Any discharge from the eyes, nose, or mouth or unusual odors may indicate an infection, whether internal or external. Infections are particularly dangerous and can become generalized if untreated.
- Changes in skin condition – You notice any skin issues, such as discoloration, sores, or excessive shedding. These symptoms can suggest infections, parasites, or even nutritional deficiencies, which require your vet’s assistance and guidance.
- Behavioral changes – Any sudden, unusual, or drastic change in your bearded dragon’s behavior could signal an underlying health problem that requires immediate diagnosis and treatment.
- Parasites – External parasites can cause discomfort, anemia, and infections, while internal ones can lead to diarrhea, nutritional deficiencies, and severe weight loss. Both types of pathogens can lead to death if untreated.
Plus, I always recommend regular vet check-ups even if your beardie appears healthy. Go for at least 2 standard vet check-ups per year just to make sure you detect any health issues in their incipient form. This makes them easier to treat and prevents complications along the way.
I would say that the clearest conclusion is that enemas can be extremely useful for tackling your beardie’s constipation but can also backfire when not applied properly. As a general rule, I recommend avoiding giving your beardie an enema at home, no matter how accustomed you may be to the procedure.
Keep it safe and have the vet do it for a plus of safety and effectiveness.