Why Does My Bearded Dragon Eat My Hair?

If your bearded dragon has tried to eat your hair, you’re not alone! There are tons of bearded dragon owners out there who have also dealt with their pets acting like their hair is a delicious treat!

So why does my bearded dragon eat my hair? While we don’t know exactly why bearded dragons enjoy eating their owners’ hair, it’s important to try to keep them from doing so to avoid problems with the digestive system.

Read on to find out whether or not it’s okay for your pet to eat your hair, as well as the health problems that can develop from eating it.

Is It Okay for My Bearded Dragon to Eat My Hair?

While some bearded dragon owners theorize that your hair might smell delicious or look like worms to your pet, there isn’t any research out there to explain exactly why bearded dragons seem to like eating their owners’ hair so much.

However, you should do what you can to keep your pet from eating your hair because it can be very difficult for your pet to digest–it could even become impacted.

What is Impaction?

Impaction is similar to constipation, but much more severe. It occurs when a blockage in the digestive system develops and is unable to pass through, causing pain and other problems. If you catch it soon enough, you should be able to treat it at home. However, in some cases expert care from a veterinarian is necessary.

Imagine how painful an undigested lump of food or other material stuck in your system would feel, and you’ll understand why impaction can make your pet less active and interested in food.

Even worse, the impaction can push on your bearded dragon’s nerves and cause it to lose control of its back legs. Because of this, if you notice any symptoms of severe impaction, get your pet to a herpetologist veterinarian as soon as you can!

Symptoms

There are quite a few symptoms of impaction, both physical and behavioral. In a mild case, your pet will be more uncomfortable than anything else. But when an impaction becomes severe, it can lead to paralysis and even death.

While you’ll be able to easily see the physical symptoms, you’ll have to know your pet’s daily activities and patterns pretty well to pick up on the behavioral aspects of impaction. 

Physical Symptoms

  • Problems walking
  • Shaky back legs
  • Weight loss
  • Pain or tenderness in the belly
  • Lumpy spine
  • Visible bulge from impaction
  • Regurgitating food

Behavioral Symptoms

  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite or rejecting food
  • Lack of activity
  • Not defecating on a normal schedule

How Does Impaction Happen?

There are a few common causes of impaction. Although hair isn’t one of the most common, it can definitely be difficult to digest and lead to impaction. Here are the most frequent reasons bearded dragons suffer from impaction.

The Wrong Substrate

Typically, impaction happens as a result of using the wrong substrate. Sand is one of the worst choices because it can be easily eaten by mistake when hunting feeders or eating other food if it’s not contained in a bowl. The sand can then build up and form a hard lump in the digestive system.

Instead of sand (along with all particle-based substrates like Calci-Sand and pellets), choose reptile carpet, ceramic tile, newspaper, or paper towels. These are less likely to be ingested in the first place, but if your bearded dragon eats some paper towel or newspaper, it won’t be as difficult to digest as sand and other small, hard particles.

Problems With Feeder Insects

One problem with feeder insects is that they sometimes have hard exoskeletons that can be hard for your bearded dragon to digest. Mealworms, super worms, and crickets are a few examples of feeders that can wreak havoc on your pet’s digestive system, especially if they’re too large.

You should never feed your bearded dragon any insects that are wider than the space between its eyes. 

Unregulated Temperatures

If you don’t have a warm enough basking area for your bearded dragon (95 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit), it may be lacking the heat it needs in order for its body to function and digest food properly.

Since bearded dragons are cold-blooded, they rely on the heat in their basking area to help their digestive process along. Without enough heat, not only will your bearded dragon deal with impaction, but it’s very likely that other health issues will develop as well.

Additionally, never feed your pet too close to bedtime. You’ll want your bearded dragon to have access to the heat and light of its basking area for at least an hour after it eats. If you feed your bearded dragon right before bed and then turn off the lights, they won’t get a chance to digest until the morning and can easily become impacted. 

How Can I Treat Impaction at Home?

If your bearded dragon only has a mild case of impaction, there are several steps you can take to treat it at home and quickly get your pet feeling better. First, check out your pet’s vivarium. Are the temperatures set correctly? Is your UV light working properly? Have you chosen a safe substrate? If not, adjust your bearded dragon’s environment accordingly.

Warm Baths

A great way to help the digestive process along for your pet is to give it a warm bath. You should already be letting your bearded dragon soak once a week or so to help it stay hydrated, so a warm bath isn’t really anything special.

Just be sure that the water is comfortably warm but not hot, and fill it to the height of your bearded dragon’s shoulders. Then let your pet relax for about 20 to 30 minutes (a little longer than a typical soak). 

Most bearded dragons actually prefer to poop in the water, and it’s easier on you to clean up a mess in the bathtub rather than in the vivarium, so this solution is beneficial for everyone. 

Massages

You can also add in a little massage during the bath to move things along for your bearded dragon. Keep in mind that you need to be extremely gentle with this massage, especially if your pet has been having issues with its back legs–that means there’s already pressure on its nerves, so you don’t want to add to any pain your bearded dragon is feeling. 

First, slowly stroke your pet’s sides from head to tail. Do this while your bearded dragon is standing in the bath. Never force it to lay on its back or its side; always allow your pet to stay upright.

This is because bearded dragons have a lot of trouble breathing when they’re on their backs. When they’re impacted and already feeling uncomfortable, the last thing you want to do is cause them more trouble.

After stroking your bearded dragon’s sides, you can stroke its stomach with a little bit more pressure. Start at your pet’s chest and move downward towards its vent. Repeat this downwards motion and see if it helps your bearded dragon relieve itself.

Laxatives

If you haven’t had any luck with the warm baths and massages, you can try a natural laxative such as fruit. The three most highly recommended are pumpkin, apple, and prune. Rather than purchasing the actual fruit, you’ll want to get the baby food puree version with no sugar added.

Just a teaspoon of any one of these options is enough for your bearded dragon.

If your pet isn’t willing to eat the fruit, you’ll need a syringe to either put the food directly into your bearded dragon’s mouth or drip it onto your pet’s snout, where it will instinctively lick it off. Of course, if you’ve tried all of our home remedies and nothing seems to be working, it’s best to take your bearded dragon to the vet. 

Conclusion

If your bearded dragon has been eating your hair, there’s no reason to panic–but you should definitely try to keep your pet from doing it! Continually eating hair or other substances like sand or the hard exoskeleton of feeder insects can cause impaction. 

Impaction, a health issue similar to constipation, refers to an indigestible lump in your bearded dragon’s digestive system that can cause discomfort and even partial paralysis. If your bearded dragon develops impaction, it’s important to watch your pet’s symptoms, both the physical and behavioral ones. 

You can help out its digestive process with warm baths, massages, and laxatives if your bearded dragon is only dealing with mild impaction. In more serious cases, you’ll need to take your bearded dragon to the vet. 

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