Drooling is a common behavior in many domesticated animals (especially dogs!), but it may take you by surprise to see your bearded dragon doing it. Good news though–it’s likely not a serious issue; however, drooling can indicate health problems in some cases. Read on to learn about the different causes of drooling in bearded dragons, as well as how to prevent and treat related illnesses and infections.
So why is my bearded dragon drooling? The main causes of drooling are that your pet drank too much water or has a health issue such as infectious stomatitis, mouth rot, or a respiratory tract infection.
The first of these causes is common and nothing to worry about, but if your bearded dragon is showing other symptoms, an underlying health issue may be the culprit. If your pet’s terrarium isn’t maintained properly, it’s much more likely that it will be subject to various illnesses. Gaining knowledge about these possibilities is sure to give you some valuable insight on your bearded dragon’s health.
Drinking Too Much Water
The simplest and most common explanation for a bearded dragon drooling is drinking too much water. The drool you see is a mix of saliva and water, and it’s a way to discharge extra liquid. As long as there are no other symptoms, drooling is a natural process and nothing to worry about.
Along with drooling, you may notice your bearded dragon breathing with its mouth open. This is a sign that your pet has reached its thermal maximum, or its ideal temperature for basking. This is often accompanied by an open mouth and referred to as “gaping.”
Unless it occurs alongside other physical changes or strange behavior, this is completely normal. It’s a natural way for your bearded dragon to dissipate body heat and regulate their body temperature. Lizards often breathe with their mouth open in order to cool off, similar to dogs, because they don’t sweat.
Infectious stomatitis is another possible cause of drooling. It’s a bacterial infection of the gums and jaw bone that affects many different reptiles, and it typically causes changes in your pet’s behavior.
If you notice your bearded dragon is eating less (or not at all) and seems lethargic, infectious stomatitis may be the answer. Other symptoms include white or gray patches around the mouth, as well as production of thick mucus. You may also see some swelling and inflammation. Drooling caused by infectious stomatitis is a result of overproduction of saliva.
Causes of Infectious Stomatitis
Often infectious stomatitis originates from your bearded dragon’s diet. The insects it eats on a daily basis may harbor bacteria, which then lead to an infection. Another possible cause of infectious stomatitis is that your pet’s habitat is too cold.
This has a negative effect on its immune system, meaning it’s harder for it to fight off infections. Finally, your bearded dragon’s habitat may be too humid, also resulting in a less active immune system.
How to Prevent Infectious Stomatitis
It’s very important to monitor your pet’s habitat daily, checking the temperature and humidity as well as your pet’s demeanor. This will allow you to spot any potential problems before they cause negative effects or infection. Bearded dragons originally came from Australia, so their terrarium should mimic the warm, arid climate found there.
For a bearded dragon less than six months old, you’ll want to select one end of the terrarium to be an elevated basking area. The temperature can range from about 95 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit. The opposite end of the terrarium should be about 80 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
It’s crucial for any bearded dragon to have both a basking area and a cool zone. An adult bearded dragon requires temperatures of 90 to 93 degrees Fahrenheit in their basking area and 80 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit in their cooling area. Maintaining these ideal temperatures is a good way to ensure your pet’s immune system functions regularly.
Additionally, make sure to feed your bearded dragon insects that are safe for it to eat. Your pet’s diet should include insects that are low in fat, but have high protein and calcium contents. Make sure that the insects are smaller than the space between your bearded dragon’s eyes. Crickets, hornworms, and silkworms are all great choices for your pet’s daily diet.
How to Treat Infectious Stomatitis
Infectious stomatitis will need to be treated by a veterinarian. The most common treatment is injectable antibiotics combined with an antiseptic solution to rinse your bearded dragon’s mouth. Especially advanced cases may require supplemental feeding, as your pet’s mouth will be in too much pain to eat normally.
Mouth rot is a condition that can cause a discolored or blackened mouth, along with drooling. It is a bacterial infection that affects the mouth and gums. You may notice that your pet’s jaw is swollen or that there are small hemorrhages on its gums. Along with drooling, a mucus similar to cottage cheese in color and texture is another notable symptom of mouth rot.
Causes of Mouth Rot
This infection is most often caused by low terrarium temperatures and unsanitary conditions. Low temperatures lead to a less active immune system, which means your bearded dragon is at a higher risk of falling ill.
How to Prevent Mouth Rot
Keeping an eye on the temperature of your bearded dragon’s terrarium is an easy method of ensuring its habitat is safe and healthy. You’ll want to make sure to set a cleaning schedule that you complete on a regular basis. This means not only cleaning the terrarium thoroughly, but also washing all decor items as well as food and water dishes. Make sure to use a reptile-safe cleaning solution.
Another way to prevent mouth rot is to use a reliable thermometer and humidity gauge to monitor levels in the terrarium on a daily basis.
A quick fix for a basking area that is too cool (below 95 degrees Fahrenheit for a baby bearded dragon, or below 90 degrees Fahrenheit for a full-grown bearded dragon) is to choose a heat lamp or basking bulb with a higher wattage. If needed, you can also add an under-tank heater for additional warmth.
How to Treat Mouth Rot
Mouth rot must be treated by a reptile veterinarian, who will use an antiseptic solution to rid your pet’s mouth of bacteria. Your veterinarian may also inject antibiotics to fight the infection. It’s important to get your bearded dragon to the vet as quickly as possible when you notice any strange symptoms.
Respiratory Tract Infection
Another reason your bearded dragon may be drooling is a respiratory tract infection. This is a very serious infection that needs to be treated immediately. Look out for symptoms such as sneezing, bubbles and drool coming from the mouth and nose, and shallow or rapid breathing.
Other symptoms include discharge that comes from the eyes and nose, open-mouthed breathing, lethargy, and a decreased appetite resulting in weight loss.
Causes of a Respiratory Tract Infection
Respiratory tract infections in bearded dragons have a variety of causes. Your pet may develop a respiratory tract infection due to stress, improper diet, or cold and unsanitary conditions in their terrarium. All of these causes result in an impaired immune system, which causes your pet to fall ill more easily.
How to Prevent a Respiratory Tract Infection
The best way to prevent a respiratory tract infection is to keep your bearded dragon’s terrarium clean and temperature-controlled. A basic daily cleaning routine includes washing food and water bowls, replacing drinking water, and removing any droppings.
The terrarium will need a thorough cleaning about once a month. This consists of removing all accessories and decorations and cleaning them, as well as washing the terrarium with a pet-friendly cleaner. It’s also important to replace the substrate on a monthly basis.
How to Treat a Respiratory Tract Infection
Your veterinarian will be able to diagnose a respiratory tract infection with cultures of your bearded dragon’s oral discharge, or they may take a blood test or X-ray to confirm the infection. Typically these infections are bacterial, so the vet will use antibiotics to treat your pet.
However, if the respiratory tract infection is more severe, it’s possible your pet will need to be hospitalized during treatment to receive fluids and nutritional support.
If you notice that your bearded dragon is drooling, it’s likely that your pet just drank too much water. However, the presence of other symptoms such as lethargy, swelling of the mouth, and discharge from the eyes and nose may indicate that something more is wrong.
The most important thing to do is to keep your bearded dragon’s terrarium at the proper temperatures and clean it regularly. If you do notice worrisome symptoms along with the drooling, it’s essential to take your pet to the vet immediately for treatment.