Bearded dragons are undoubtedly one of the cutest pets around and it may be hard to think of anything remotely unpleasant about this little fellow… until you encounter the stinky poops, or more specifically, stinky poops in the bath water! Maybe your beardie has always pooped in the bath, or perhaps it’s become a recent habit. If you’re a new owner, you may be wondering if this kind of behaviour is normal. Whatever the case, let’s consider this intriguing question.
So, why does my bearded dragon only poop in the bath? It is most likely because of one of two reasons: either they have been trained or conditioned to poop only in the bath, or they have some health issues preventing regular pooping and the bath is the only place where it can find some relief.
In this article we will look at some of the pros and cons of your bearded dragon being “potty trained” to poop in the bath, and then we will discuss how bathing can bring relief to a beardie struggling to poop due to health issues such as dehydration, stress, cold and impaction. We will also look at some tips on how to bathe your bearded dragon for best pooping results.
Potty Training Your Bearded Dragon to Poop in the Bath
Firstly, let’s assume that you have not deliberately “potty trained” your beardie to poop in the bath. It’s more likely that this has happened inadvertently over time and now you’ve noticed that it only poops when you put it in the bath.
For whatever reason, it seems your beardie has decided that this is the time and place for evacuation, and so in a way it has been “potty trained”, whether knowingly or not.
At this point it is worth noting that bearded dragons are, to a large extent, creatures of habit who like to have a set routine. Have you noticed how your beardie will sleep or bask in the same spot every day, at more or less the same time every day?
It’s no different with bathing. But remember, bearded dragons are also highly unique creatures. What is ‘normal’ for your beardie, may not be normal for another beardie. The point is that you will get to know the personal preferences of your own individual pet.
Pros of Potty Training Your Beardie to Poop in the Bath
Although it may have taken you by surprise the first time you experienced your beardie pooping in the bath, it’s not all bad. If you think about it, it’s a lot easier to scoop the poop out of the water quickly, rather than trying to clean it off the substrate.
Or you could simply throw the bath water into the toilet bowl and with one flush it’s all gone. Compare this to a soiled, stinky enclosure to deal with!
If your beardie gets used to pooping in the bath, it’s important to schedule a regular bath time. Some bearded dragon owners bath their pets every single day, while others feel that two or three times per week is sufficient.
At this point you may be wondering how often does your beardie need to poop – good question! This all depends on the age of your bearded dragon. Healthy babies tend to poop once per day for the first three months.
Thereafter, in juveniles up to 18 months old, it may slow down to one poop every second day. Adult beardies may only poop once or twice a week, but there are healthy variations, depending on your own particular pet.
Cons of Potty Training Your Beardie to Poop in the Bath
Probably the most obvious downside of having a beardie that poops only in the bath, is that it may struggle if you are not able to keep regular bath times for whatever reason. Maybe you have a hectic work schedule and you just don’t manage to bath your beardie for a few days – so it just has to wait and wait because that’s the only place it feels comfortable to go.
Some beardies have even been known to “glass dance” when they need to go (ie. jumping up and down against the glass sides of their enclosure to let you know they need a toilet break.)
Another possible con of frequent bath pooping is that your beardie may become too moist which can lead to skin problems such as cutaneous mycosis. For this reason some recommend bathing your beardie only when it is dirty, such as when it has crawled through its feces.
Also, some bearded dragons do not enjoy bathing and in fact find it stressful. It all comes down to knowing what your particular beardie wants and likes.
Bath Pooping as a Solution for Health Issues
Let’s face it, nobody likes to be constipated, not even your bearded dragon. In the case of a reptile, we refer to it as impaction rather than constipation. Either way it’s a problem. There are also a few other reasons why your beardie may not have pooped in a while.
These include dehydration, being stressed, or being too cold. Let’s take a quick look at these, before we see how a nice hot bath can help get your beardie’s bowel movements in sync again.
Not Pooping Due to Impaction
Impaction sometimes happens as a result of your bearded dragon ingesting some of the substrate in the enclosure. It’s important not to use sand, gravel, bark or other loose substrate that may cause problems if eaten by your beardie.
Other causes of impaction are incorrect diet or supplements. If you are feeding your beardie worms, make sure they are not too large (they should not be bigger than the width between the eyes of your dragon)
Not Pooping Due to Dehydration
Dehydration can cause a variety of serious problems, one of which is difficulty pooping. Beardies get their moisture from food as well as from drinking. Some bearded dragons prefer to drink moving water, so you might like to install a dispenser.
Often beardies will enjoy drinking while they are bathing, so this is a good time to rehydrate your pet and it may well have a bowel movement at the same time.
Not Pooping Due to Stress
Bearded dragons can become stressed by a new environment, or relocation. Being in the same enclosure with other dragons can also be stressful, or having bigger pets (such as cats and dogs) in the home. As a result of stress, some bearded dragons tend to hold in their poop, or stop eating which causes them to stop pooping too.
Not Pooping Due to Cold
If the temperature in your beardie’s terrarium is too low it may not be able to poop normally. Cold makes bearded dragons lethargic and unable to digest their food properly. Bearded dragons need temperatures between 92 -110°F (33 – 43°C) in their basking spot, and between 75 – 85°F (24 – 29°C) in the cooler area of their enclosure. Night temperatures should be between 65 – 70°F (18 -21°C).
How to Bath Your Bearded Dragon for Best Pooping Results
Most beardies enjoy their bath time and will happily soak, splash and drink in the bath. Here are a few pointers to make the best of this special event, particularly if it is a bath and poop combined.
Bath Tub – Have a separate tub which is used only for bathing. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, as long as your beardie can fit comfortably with space to move around. It’s good to put some adhesive grip strips on the bottom of the tub to prevent slipping.
Temperature – Make sure the water temperature is between 85 – 100°F (29 – 38°C)
Water Level – Don’t make the water too deep – just about shoulder level for your beardie.
Gentle Brushing – Your beardie will probably love a gentle massage with a soft toothbrush.
Dry Thoroughly – After removing your beardie from the water, be sure to towel dry it thoroughly.
Cleaning the Bath Tub – And last but not least, don’t neglect to properly clean and disinfect your beardie’s bath tub.
Now you know that pooping in the bath is not something completely weird or abnormal for a bearded dragon! So relax, but do take a look at whether your bearded dragon may have any underlying health problems such as impaction, dehydration, stress or cold. If you suspect any of these, please do consult your reptile vet or professional breeder.
If those health issues are out of the way, then you may just need to come to terms with the fact that your beardie is a bath pooper and that’s the way it prefers to do things. As mentioned above, every bearded dragon is different, so enjoy your pet as you get to know its own particular personality quirks.