Bearded dragons are usually hardy animals with strong immune systems and a stable health profile. They’re not vulnerable to specific health problems other than the issues that plague reptiles as a whole.
These may include mouth, eye, ear, or skin infections, respiratory infections, digestive problems, parasites, and so on.
Most of these issues are easily treatable, especially in the first phase when the disorder is still new and mild. But, sometimes, they’re not. Especially if your beardie is old and with an already compromised immune system?
So, what can you do if your beardie’s condition is untreatable and you want to ease your pet’s suffering? Two options here: palliative care or euthanasia.
Today, we will discuss the latter.
What is Euthanasia?
Simply put, euthanasia is assisted death. You know your pet’s condition won’t get any better, so you resort to the only method that could alleviate (in this case, eliminate) your pet’s suffering: euthanasia.
You can approach this concept however you see fit, as some lizard keepers apply the method themselves, while others prefer to leave it to the vet.
Today, we will discuss both aspects to see which of them is best for you or even better in general.
When to Consider Euthanasia for Your Bearded Dragon
As a general rule, euthanasia should only be considered for your bearded dragon when all other options have been exhausted, and there is no hope for recovery.
The decision to euthanize the reptile should be made in consultation with a qualified veterinarian who can evaluate the situation and provide guidance. This is the best way of making sure that your beardie’s condition is actually incurable and only leads to more suffering in the future.
Some of the reasons that may necessitate euthanasia for your bearded dragon may include severe or terminal illness, chronic pain or suffering that cannot be alleviated through medical treatment, or extreme age-related decline in health that affects their quality of life.
In some cases, injuries or trauma may also result in the need for euthanasia if the injury is severe and recovery chances are virtually non-existent.
Ultimately, the decision to euthanize your bearded dragon is a personal one, and it can make for a difficult and emotional process.
It is important to discuss your concerns and options with a qualified veterinarian, who can provide you with the necessary information and support to make the best decision for your pet.
Methods of Euthanasia for Bearded Dragons
I’ll start things off by saying DIY euthanasia methods are generally considered unsafe and inhumane for the most part.
Even popular methods like the freezer one, which involves placing the lizard in a freezer so that it can freeze to death, are especially cruel.
This causes the formation of ice crystals in the blood, causing significant suffering in the process.
The only way to euthanize your bearded dragon humanely is by getting your vet to do it. There are 3 potential methods that the expert might use, such as:
- Intravenous injection – This involves the injection of a lethal dose of anesthetic into the vein. The bearded dragon is usually given a sedative first to reduce any anxiety or stress they may be experiencing at the moment. Because of this, the procedure is virtually painless and doesn’t cause any stress, suffering, or discomfort, which should be the ultimate goal, aside from death itself.
- Inhaled anesthetic – This involves the use of a gas anesthetic, which is delivered through a mask or chamber. The bearded dragon will become unconscious quickly, and death will come completely painlessly.
- Cervical dislocation – This method involves the quick and painless dislocation of the neck, which results in immediate death. This method is only appropriate in certain circumstances and should only be performed by a trained professional. We know that this works because this is how many predators kill their prey in the wild. Breaking the cervical vertebrae causes an immediate separation of the central nervous system, ceasing all brain function nearly instantly.
I cannot stress the importance of a vet’s assistance in this whole situation.
The Euthanasia Procedure
The euthanasia procedure is the go-to method when dealing with a very old or very sick bearded gecko, but it also works just as fine for other pets.
The goal is to end the animal’s suffering and torment caused by the injury or disease it’s dealing with. The same procedure may be necessary for very old animals that develop old-age-specific health problems like severe arthritis or MBD.
Or maybe the lizard is simply impaired due to its very old age, and living itself has become a burden.
You should always discuss the prospect of euthanasia with your vet in these cases to make sure it’s the best solution for your unique situation.
Burring Your Dead Bearded Dragon
Now that the job is done and your bearded dragon has passed away, your next concern should be burying the body.
This is a pet that has been by your side for years or even decades. It’s worth treating it with respect, even in the afterlife.
So, here are the standard tips to follow when it comes to burying your lizard properly:
- Choose an appropriate burial location – Choose a location that is safe, legal, and respectful for burying your bearded dragon. Make sure to avoid areas that are near water sources or in public areas where it may be disturbed. Also, avoid regions that are likely to be explored by pets or wild animals that could dig the corpse out.
- Dig a hole – Dig a hole that is deep enough to fully cover your bearded dragon and prevent any scavengers or predators from digging it up. Aim for at least 2-3 feet and compress the earth above the grave to harden it at the surface and compact it better.
- Place your bearded dragon in the hole – Wrap your bearded dragon in a cloth or bag to protect it during burial, and place it gently in the hole. You can also skip any burial materials, as this will allow the body to decompose even faster and nourish the ground nearby. Just keep in mind that doing so allows the corpse to emanate a more powerful odor, which is more likely to attract scavengers. Digging a deeper hole should mitigate this issue.
- Cover the hole – Once your bearded dragon is placed in the hole, cover it with soil and pack it down firmly to ensure that it is secure.
- Mark the burial site – You may choose to mark the burial site with a small headstone or marker to remember your bearded dragon’s last home.
Coping with the Loss of Your Bearded Dragon
There’s no doubt that losing a bearded dragon, or any pet for that matter, can be a difficult and emotional experience.
Coping with the unexpected loss of a beloved pet can be different for everyone, but here are some tips that may help you during this difficult time:
- Allow yourself to grieve – It’s important to allow yourself to feel and express your emotions in a controlled manner and setting. Internalizing these emotions can impact your health and will prevent you from overcoming the event as rapidly or effectively as you should. This being said, everyone grieves differently, so don’t feel like you need to follow any specific timeline or expectations.
- Seek support – Reach out to friends, family, or a support group who can provide a listening ear and emotional support. You may also consider talking to a counselor or therapist who can offer guidance and support. There’s no shame in asking for help when the times are tough, as doing so allows for faster recovery and fewer scars.
- Memorialize your bearded dragon – Consider creating a memorial for your bearded dragon, such as a photo album or a special place in your home or garden. You could also make a donation to an animal rescue or conservation organization in their honor. Doing so allows you to make peace with yourself and the event itself and even see everything in a more positive light.
- Take care of yourself – Make sure you’re taking care of yourself physically and emotionally. Eat well, exercise, get enough sleep, and engage in activities that you enjoy. Also, take time to rest and reflect on your life moving forward because that’s exactly what you need to be doing shortly: move forward.
- Consider getting a new pet – While it’s important to take time to grieve, some people find that getting a new pet can help with the healing process. However, it’s important to make sure you’re emotionally ready for a new pet and that you can provide them with the care they need.
These approaches should come naturally, not forced, so rely on self-reflection to understand your emotions and feelings and proceed however you see fit.
Asking for help is often paramount in these situations as it allows you to share your grief with others.
This alone can feel like a weight has been taken off your shoulders, which will contribute to the healing process greatly.
Alternatives to Euthanasia for Bearded Dragons
In some cases, euthanasia may not be necessary or may not be the best option for your bearded dragon.
This depends on the situation, and only a vet can make such a judgment accurately.
In that case, here are some alternatives to consider:
- Palliative care – If your bearded dragon is suffering from a chronic or terminal illness, palliative care can manage its symptoms and improve its quality of life. This may involve pain management, dietary changes, or modifications to their environment to improve comfort and wellbeing. Palliative care may go on for years, depending on your pet’s condition and progression, so you should ready yourself for that scenario.
- Medical treatment – If your bearded dragon is experiencing an illness or injury that can be treated, working with a qualified veterinarian to develop a treatment plan may be a viable option. This is especially necessary if you’ve only diagnosed the condition yourself, so you don’t really understand its true profile. Only an expert veterinarian can advise you on the right approach. In some cases, euthanasia may not even be necessary because your dragon’s condition can actually be treatable. You can never know for sure unless you discuss this problem with the vet.
- Hospice care – In some cases, hospice care can be provided for your bearded dragon to ensure that it is comfortable and pain-free in its final days. This may involve medication, nutritional support, and other comfort measures, depending on the available amenities and your requirements.
- Rehoming – If you are no longer able to care for your bearded dragon, rehoming them with a responsible and knowledgeable caretaker may be an alternative to euthanasia. There’s no shame in it, and you shouldn’t deal with any guilt. Different people have different lives and responsibilities, and caring for a sick or dying pet can demand a lot from the owner. If you simply cannot sacrifice the time or money necessary for the job, it’s best to allow someone else to take on the task.
Ultimately, the decision to euthanize your bearded dragon should be made in consultation with a qualified veterinarian, who can evaluate the situation and provide guidance on the best course of action.
It is important to consider all of the available options and to make the decision that is in the best interest of your bearded dragon’s health and well-being.
Not all bearded dragons require euthanasia each time they’re sick, no matter how serious the situation might seem.
These are hardy and resilient animals that can sometimes recover even when all hopes seem lost.
Don’t take this chance away from your bearded dragon by opting for euthanasia when the situation might not entail it.
Always discuss the option with your vet to have a clearer perspective on the matter.