If you’ve never owned a bearded dragon, you may be taken by surprise by its sneezing. Not because of learning that bearded dragons can sneeze but because of how often they can do it.
So, today, we will learn about the causes of bearded dragon sneezing, what this tells you about your reptile’s health status, and what you can do about it. Let’s jump right in!
Potential Causes of Sneezing in Bearded Dragons
Bearded dragons can sneeze for a variety of causes, including:
This typically refers to airborne particles, usually dust or substrate-related materials. Bearded dragons tend to sneeze more when housed on straw bedding because straws can break into smaller particles and enter the dragon’s nostrils.
Fortunately, if your beardie is sneezing because of dust particles in the air, you have an easy fix at your disposal. It also means that the situation is not severe because there are more worrying causes of sneezing in beardies, as you will soon see.
You can eliminate this issue by regularly cleaning your dragon’s enclosure and replacing the bedding whenever it gets too dirty. Also, opt for a different type of bedding if your current one is irritating your reptile.
Respiratory infections are common among reptiles, bearded dragons included. The most infamous culprits include fungi and bacteria, which are often the result of poor husbandry practices.
Bearded dragons require a clean enclosure and regular cleaning and maintenance to stay healthy long-term.
It’s also important to note that respiratory infections are also the result of improper temperatures and humidity.
An excessively high temperature, paired with high humidity, can cause difficulties breathing and even devolve into pneumonia. Dry air (low humidity) can also irritate the dragon’s respiratory system with similar results.
Aside from sneezing, your dragon will also exhibit additional symptoms in the case of respiratory infections, including nasal discharge, wheezing, difficulty breathing, etc.
In this case, you must contact your vet immediately. Respiratory infections are deadly when left untreated.
Allergies and Irritants in the Air or Food
You need to exercise maximum caution when interacting with your bearded dragon because these animals are notoriously sensitive to various airborne irritants.
Artificial perfumes can irritate their respiratory system enough to produce an allergy, and the same goes for contaminated food. If the food contains any allergenic particles, the reptile will react to them immediately.
Reptile Dysbiosis Syndrome (RDS)
RDS doesn’t typically involve sneezing, but it can happen. This condition refers to a digestive problem consisting of the microbiome being destroyed.
This can happen as a result of antibiotic use, having a fiber-deficient diet, and stress. The most common symptoms include lethargy, bloating, cloacal infections, joint inflammation, skin rashes, etc.
So, your dragon will exhibit a variety of symptoms when experiencing RDS. This allows for better and faster diagnosis, so you can begin the treatment immediately for fast results.
You should always act fast in case your bearded dragon experiences vomiting because the animal loses water fast. Vomiting is particularly deadly among reptiles due to the high risk of severe dehydration, acute nutritional deficiencies, and, subsequently, death.
Stress and Anxiety
Yes, bearded dragons can sneeze when stressed or anxiety-driven. These reptiles can become stressed for a variety of reasons, such as poor diets, a new environment, frequent or improper handling, inadequate environmental parameters, etc.
You can tell that your beardie is stressed if it refuses food, exhibits lethargy, and avoids your presence.
In this case, you need to assess the reptile’s condition and look for the primary stressors responsible for your pet’s behavior.
Reptile stress is a notorious killer, so you should do everything in your power to diagnose and treat the issue correctly. And fast.
Diagnosis of Illness That Causes Sneezing in Beardies
There’s no doubt that you cannot really diagnose your beardie’s issue accurately by relying on the sneezing symptom alone. The underlying issue may be more severe than you might expect, so an in-depth examination under professional supervision is necessary. Contact your vet to perform an accurate assessment of your beardie’s health status via:
Veterinary Exam and Consultation
The diagnosis process may include a variety of procedures, depending on the reptile’s health status and any additional symptoms aside from the sneezing itself.
- A fecal exam – The procedure aims to identify any parasite or bacteria that may be responsible for the effects being observed.
- Bloodwork – Extensive bloodwork may also be necessary to diagnose specific disorders that don’t show in regular screenings.
- X-ray – Something as simple as an x-ray can reveal any potential object trapped in the reptile’s nostrils if any. This is typically the first procedure in line because it’s the simplest and may eliminate the need for a more extensive diagnosis.
- Biopsy – Biopsy is necessary if the cause of sneezing still eludes the expert, in which case the extraction of some nasal tissue may be useful.
- Culture and sensitivity – This procedure is useful in cases of suspected respiratory infections. The procedure is designed to reveal the nature of the pathogen responsible for the infection to ensure targeted treatment and fast recovery.
Diagnostic Testing for Respiratory Infections and Other Illnesses
Respiratory infections are a major cause for concern because they are the deadliest. Fortunately, these are fairly easy to diagnose, even without a professional’s assistance.
The common symptoms of respiratory infections include leaky eyes and nose, sneezing and coughing, wheezing, visible difficulties breathing, lethargy, signs of stress, etc.
If your bearded dragon showcases several of these symptoms, you need to act fast because respiratory infections can become deadly.
If you cannot diagnose the dragon’s condition accurately and fast, call your reptile vet. In the case of professional diagnosis, consider all of the procedures we discussed earlier.
Treatment for Sneezing Bearded Dragons
If your dragon’s recurrent sneezing doesn’t go away within a couple of days, the following treatments may be necessary:
Antibiotics for Respiratory Infections
Only the vet can prescribe the proper antibiotics based on your beardie’s condition. Please remember 2 things in this sense. The first is that different pathogens require different antibiotics.
The second is that reptiles have a more sensitive gut microbiome compared to mammals; even mild antibiotics can destroy the animal’s intestinal flora, leading to dysbiosis and even death.
These 2 points show that only a professional can accurately identify your beardie’s issue and recommend the right antibiotics (and their respective usage guidelines) for safe and smooth recovery.
De-Stressing the Environment
If your bearded dragon doesn’t have any respiratory infections, seek to correct all of the other problems that may be responsible for the animal’s sneezing.
- Unstable environmental conditions – Tweak the temperature, lighting, humidity, and aeration to their ideal values. This alone can eliminate your beardie’s chronic sneezing.
- Change the bedding – If the bedding breaks down constantly and produces smaller particles and dust, remove it completely. Consider paper towels, reptile carpets, or coconut coir as your primary options. These are hygienic, safe, and easy to replace and aren’t known to cause sneezing.
- Keep the enclosure clean – Reptiles aren’t exactly dirty animals, but they do require regular cleaning to remain healthy and comfortable. You should clean your beardie’s habitat at least once per week to remove poop, food leftovers, and dirty substrate. Just be mindful of the cleaning frequency. Too rare leads to health problems due to excessive bacterial accumulation. Excessively frequent cleaning can stress the dragon in the long run.
- Create a stress-free habitat – This is rather vague, I admit, but you should un-vague it. Find out why your bearded dragon looks stressed and work to correct the issue accordingly. Stressed dragons experience health problems, lower quality of life, and shorter lifespans than those kept in pristine conditions and good mental health.
Care Tips to Prevent Sneezy Dragons
When it comes to sneezing bearded dragons, the best approach comes in the form of prevention.
In this sense, you have the following preventive methods:
- Proper humidity, temperature, lighting, and ventilation – These are the key parameters to consider when looking to keep your bearded dragon in optimal health. Always assess the reptile’s main parameters to make sure they don’t deviate from the ideal range.
- Clean the cage regularly – We’ve already discussed the topic of cage cleaning, which should include mild tank maintenance, depending on how dirty your pet dragon is. As already stated, be mindful of the maintenance frequency, since bearded dragons don’t like to be disturbed too often.
- Offer proper nutrition to maintain optimal health – Bearded dragons are omnivorous animals, which makes them trickier to feed compared to carnivorous reptiles. That’s because you need to find the right balance between animal and plant-based nutrients, especially since the bearded dragon’s nutritional requirements change over time. Juveniles tend to eat 80% animal protein and 20% veggies and plants, while, for adults, it’s the other way around. Keep a journal of your dragon’s meal plan details, size, and frequency over the years.
- Handle your pet gently and with care – Bearded dragons aren’t fond of frequent or rough handling, which is a staple among reptiles in general. Always handle and pet your bearded dragon when the animal appears to be in good mood. If it prefers to be left alone, respect its wishes. Stress is always the prime mover in terms of long-term health problems. Keep your bearded dragon happy and in good health and your pet will experience improved quality of life and a considerably longer lifespan.
I would say that, in the majority of cases, bearded dragons sneeze because of dust accumulation or improper bedding. Especially if you don’t observe any other symptoms that may suggest additional health problems.
Even so, always assess your dragon’s health more in-depth, even if sneezing is the only visible symptom.
Early treatment often makes the difference when it comes to respiratory infections or bacterial or parasitic infestations.