You most likely know by now how to identify many of your bearded dragon’s health issues and assess the various symptoms it displays. But every once in a while, your beardie may exhibit some unusual symptoms that may confuse you. One of them is mouth yellowing, which can appear seemingly out of nowhere without any obvious cause.
But there are some underlying causes to consider, and we’ll analyze them more in-depth today. So, let’s analyze!
Causes of Yellow Mouth in Bearded Dragons
Bearded dragons can experience yellowing of the mouth (jaundice) for several reasons, such as:
- Poor enclosure hygiene – A dirty or unclean environment can cause bacteria or fungi to grow, which can lead to infections around your bearded dragon’s mouth. You can prevent this issue by cleaning and disinfecting the enclosure regularly, which you should because lack of enclosure hygiene can cause multiple other problems.
- Mouth rot (stomatitis) – Mouth rot is a bacterial infection that can cause a yellowish or whitish buildup around the mouth and face. This is definitely one of the most common and impactful health conditions in bearded dragons and other reptiles in general. Furthermore, mouth rot may also lead to swelling, redness, and a foul odor, as well as more widespread infection. Immediate treatment is necessary to contain the disease and prevent it from aggravating. Keep in mind that mouth rot is also contagious, which concerns you directly if you have more than one bearded reptile in the same habitat.
- Inadequate diet – A poor diet will always lead to nutritional deficiencies, which, in turn, will trigger several potential health issues and symptoms, including yellowing of the mouth. Your beardie should receive a well-balanced and optimized diet that includes a variety of insects, vegetables, and fruits, preferably according to a well-researched meal plan.
- Dehydration – Dehydration can cause your bearded dragon’s mouth to appear dry, yellow, or discolored as the skin around the mouth dries out and causes visible wrinkles. One would argue that dehydration is even more dangerous than nutritional deficiencies, and one would be right. Dehydration is responsible for a variety of problems in bearded dragons and reptiles in general, including constipation, impaction, and organ failure. Providing clean, fresh water and maintaining proper humidity levels in your beardie’s enclosure is critical to prevent such issues.
- Fungal infection – Fungal infections can cause local discoloration and other visible changes around your bearded dragon’s mouth. I recommend contacting your vet if your beardie shows signs of fungal or bacterial infection for adequate diagnosis and treatment.
- Trauma or injury – Mouth injuries, such as cuts, punctures, or abrasions, can cause discoloration or visible yellowing at the wound site. The yellowing effect may be a sign of natural healing or infection, and determining which applies to your particular situation can make the difference between life and death. Fortunately, it shouldn’t be difficult to diagnose your beardie’s condition because infections usually come with a variety of other symptoms.
- Liver disease – Liver disease can also cause yellowing of the mouth and eyes and often comes with a variety of additional symptoms. These include lethargy, lack of appetite, visible weakness, etc. In this case, your vet’s assistance and input can make the difference between life and death.
So, there are quite a handful of explanations to consider here, some of which are obviously more concerning than others. Let’s see how to accurately identify and deal with jaundice properly, depending on the underlying cause.
Symptoms and Signs of Jaundice
First, it’s important to note that jaundice can have many different causes, as I’ve just explained. This means that not all instances of mouth yellowing come with the exact same symptoms; these will vary depending on the underlying condition. Knowing this, we have the following:
- Yellowing of skin and eyes – The yellowish tint noticeable in the bearded dragon’s skin and eyes is a trademark symptom, as you may have guessed. This yellow color is usually due to a buildup of bilirubin, a pigment that is usually processed by the liver, but this only applies to cases of liver disease. In some other cases, the yellowing itself may be the result of local infections due to bacteria, fungi, or even trauma-related coloration.
- Lethargy and weakness – Bearded dragons with jaundice may become sluggish and weak, showing reduced activity levels and spending more time resting or sleeping.
- Loss of appetite – Your beardie may lose interest in food or stop eating altogether, which will invariably lead to weight loss and a decline in overall health.
- Dark or discolored urates – The liquid waste (urates) that your bearded dragon produces, along with the feces, might appear darker or discolored, indicating liver issues.
- Swollen abdomen – In some cases, a swollen abdomen can be a sign of liver disease, aside from the standard digestive problems like constipation or impaction.
- Discolored or bloody stools – Abnormal feces, such as discolored or bloody stools, can signal liver problems that require immediate veterinarian assistance.
- Behavioral changes – A bearded dragon with jaundice may exhibit behavioral changes, such as irritability, aggression, or depression, depending on the level of discomfort and the severity of the underlying issue. In many cases, behavioral changes come before any other visible symptoms, so get accustomed to your beardie’s natural behavior, so you can learn to identify the abnormal one.
Now that you know how to identify the condition, how about preventing it? There’s no denying that prevention is, or should be, preferable to treatment, so let’s start with that first.
Prevention Tips for Bearded Dragon Yellow Mouth
Now that you know what’s causing your beardie’s yellow mouth in most cases, it’s time to look at the top prevention tips to help you circumvent the issue altogether. Some of these include:
- Maintain good enclosure hygiene – It’s only natural that we begin with this point, given that it’s the most important by far. Regularly clean and disinfect your bearded dragon’s enclosure, including all surfaces, decorations, feeding dishes, and main dwelling areas, to prevent the growth of bacteria and fungi that can cause infections. It’s as simple as that.
- Proper diet – Provide a balanced diet that includes a variety of insects, vegetables, and fruits, according to your beardie’s needs and preferences. Keep in mind that the dragon’s diet changes as it matures, with adults eating considerably more plant-based meals compared to babies and juveniles. A good diet will support your bearded dragon’s overall health and prevent potential nutritional deficiencies that can contribute to a weaker immune system and various nutritional deficiencies.
- Clean water – Your beardie should always have access to clean, fresh water for proper hydration and a healthy digestive system. Replace the water dish daily and keep it clean to prevent the growth of bacteria or other harmful pathogens.
- Appropriate humidity – Fortunately, bearded dragons don’t need high humidity levels to thrive. A 30-40% range should do in most cases. I recommend consulting a care guide or veterinarian to determine the ideal humidity levels for your specific bearded dragon specimen based on its natural environment.
- Regular health checks – Take your bearded dragon to routine health check-ups to identify any potential issues early on. The vet will look for signs of swelling, discoloration, or other abnormalities around the mouth, eyes, skin, or anywhere else of interest. I’m telling you, nothing beats prevention.
- Avoid stress – A stressed beardie is one subjected to a weakened immune system, which comes with the obligatory high risk of infections and parasites. Provide your reptile with a comfortable, well-structured environment with appropriate hiding spots and temperature gradients to manage and avoid stress, which is often the same as avoiding health problems altogether.
These prevention methods should do the trick in most cases, but not always. So, what then? Well, then we move on to the next section.
Treatment Options and Veterinary Care
So, you’ve done everything by the book, but your beardie has still contracted a health problem. What now? Now you have the following treatment options, depending on your beardie’s health issue:
- Antibiotics – Antibiotics are the go-to medication when dealing with bacterial infections like mouth rot (stomatitis). However, it is essential to follow your vet’s prescribed treatment course to ensure the infection is fully treated with minimal health risks. Remember, antibiotics kill both the good and the bad microorganisms present in your beardie’s digestive tract and body. So, the dosing and duration of the treatment matter, depending on the infection’s severity and your beardie’s age, size, etc. Probiotics may also be necessary to counteract the damaging effects of the antibiotics and restore your beardie’s natural beneficial flora.
- Antifungal medications – For fungal infections, your veterinarian may prescribe antifungal medications to tackle the infection fast and effectively. The same reasoning applies here as it does in the case of antibiotics.
- Fluid therapy – The notion of ‘fluid therapy’ is a bit pretentious, I’ll admit it. In essence, it refers to rehydrating your beardie properly if it’s dehydration that’s causing or contributing to your pet’s yellow mouth syndrome. If standard measures like replenishing the water dish and increasing environmental humidity don’t work, contact your vet. The reptile professional may administer fluids intravenously to rehydrate your pet faster.
- Nutritional support – If your beardie’s issues stem from an inadequate diet, dietary adjustments, and supplements may be necessary to correct the issue. Speak to your vet about it, as the expert may also suggest a personalized and more effective feeding plan and provide guidance on proper feeding techniques.
- Wound care – If the yellow mouth syndrome is due to an injury, identify the wound site, clean and disinfect the area, apply topical treatments, and contact your vet if you notice signs of infection or the wound doesn’t appear to heal.
- Liver support – If the yellow mouth is associated with jaundice and liver dysfunction, your veterinarian may recommend medications or supplements to support liver health and address the underlying issue safely and effectively. You cannot treat liver disease on your own since this is a complex, dangerous, and often progressive condition that can worsen fast.
- Supportive care – In some cases, your veterinarian may recommend additional supportive care, such as pain management, anti-inflammatory medications, or specific adjustments to your bearded dragon’s environment to increase the reptile’s comfort and peace of mind.
As you may have already noticed, I’ve used the word ‘vet’ quite a lot throughout this recommendations list. That’s because you should always consult your vet even if your beardie’s condition appears mild; you never know the full extent of the disorder without a targeted and professional diagnosis.
Cost of Treating Jaundice in Beardies
The cost of treating your beardie’s jaundice depends on the underlying disorder and its severity and progression. Naturally, there are many moving parts to consider, but here are some overarching price ranges to give you a general idea:
- Diagnostic tests – Expect to pay around $50-$300 or more, depending on the specific tests needed. Your veterinarian may need to perform diagnostic tests to determine the cause of jaundice, including include blood work, imaging studies (such as X-rays or ultrasound), and liver function tests.
- Medications – The cost of reptile-specific medications can vary widely, from $10 to $300 or more, depending on the type, complexity, and duration of the treatment. Depending on the underlying cause, your bearded dragon may require antibiotics, antifungal medications, liver support supplements, or any number of other treatments.
- Veterinary fees – The cost of veterinary consultations and follow-up appointments can also vary based on your location, the specific clinic, and the session’s complexity and duration. Veterinary fees may range from $50 to $150 or more per visit.
- Supportive care and supplies – Additional costs may be associated with supportive care, such as adjustments to your bearded dragon’s diet, enclosure, or other husbandry needs. These costs will depend on the specific care requirements and products needed and can span from several dozen to several hundred dollars.
As a general rule, the earlier you take your beardie to the vet, the lower the associated costs due to the disorder being in incipient phases and only requiring mild treatment. Here’s another reason why regular vet check-ups are always recommended.
Can Bearded Dragon Die from Jaundice?
Absolutely, it can. Even mild conditions, like incipient stomatitis, can lead to more generalized infections, health complications, and death in some cases. The same goes for dehydration, fungal infections, untreated injuries, nutritional deficiencies, liver disease, and whatever else may be responsible for your beardie’s mouth yellowing.
So, for the umpteenth time, don’t ignore your beardie’s health issue, even if it appears mild and manageable. In most cases, it isn’t.
Maintaining Good Oral Hygiene in Bearded Dragons
Every entry point into the body acts as a gateway to germs, parasites, and bacteria. This means that pristine oral hygiene is critical to keep your beardie in good health and preventing jaundice and other mouth-related problems. Some good tips in this sense include:
- Inspecting your beardie’s mouth regularly to identify any signs of incipient mouth problems
- Keep the reptile’s enclosure healthy and clean
- Eliminate any objects or decorations that could cut, slash, or puncture your dragon’s skin and cause even minor injuries
- Adjust the lizard’s diet to prevent deficiencies and ensure optimal nutrient intake
- Keep humidity levels in the ideal range and provide your beardie with a clean and fresh water dish
- Take the beardie to regular vet check-ups at least 2-3 times per year
These points pretty much function as prevention strategies, which automatically makes them extremely valuable.
Bearded dragons aren’t exactly demanding reptiles, but they do need specific living conditions to thrive. Fortunately, the yellowing mouth syndrome is generally easily corrected with the right treatment approach. Just be mindful of the symptoms and take your beardie to the vet before resorting to any DIY treatments that can easily go wrong.