Why Is My Bearded Dragon Missing Nails?

If you recently noticed that your bearded dragon is missing a nail, you might be a little freaked out. Why is the nail missing? Will it grow back, and do you need to treat it? Is it necessary to take your bearded dragon to the vet? You’re sure to have lots of questions!

So why is my bearded dragon missing nails? The three most common reasons are that your bearded dragon has been digging excessively, that there are issues with its substrate, and that your pet has gotten into a fight with another bearded dragon.

Read on to find out about the three main reasons why your bearded dragon may be missing a nail. We’ll also give you plenty of information about how to treat a nail that’s been ripped out. Make sure to take a look at our section detailing other common toe injuries in bearded dragons as well!

How Your Bearded Dragon Can Lose a Nail

While it can be pretty worrying to see that your pet has lost a nail or two, it’s actually a pretty common occurrence. In fact, the vast majority of bearded dragons will end up missing a nail at some point in their lives! 

There’s no reason to feel too bad about it–just try to figure out the reason your bearded dragon broke off a nail, and see if it’s possible to prevent the same thing happening again. Below, read about the main reasons why bearded dragons lose their nails.

Excessive Digging

The first reason is excessive digging. If your bearded dragon has been digging too much, it’s definitely possible that they’ll scrape their nails on the bottom of the tank or another surface and rip them off. There are a few different reasons why your pet may be digging more than usual. These include:

– Temperatures That Are Too Hot. Your bearded dragon will attempt to find an area away from the heat by burrowing down under the substrate.

 

– Preparing to Lay Eggs. If your female bearded dragon is gravid (pregnant), she may dig frequently, looking for the perfect place to lay her eggs. Remember that bearded dragons don’t have to mate with a male in order to lay eggs; the eggs they lay will simply be unfertilized.

Digging and scratching while gravid is a normal and natural behavior, so you don’t need to stop it. Instead, make sure you’re providing the right kind of substrate for this kind of digging (read more about substrate under the heading below).

 

– Getting Ready for Brumation. Brumation is similar to hibernation, and your bearded dragon may dig a hole to sleep in before it settles down for the cooler winter months.

Problems with Substrate

Your bearded dragon may also be missing nails due to some issues with substrate that isn’t really ideal for digging and other behaviors. If you use carpet as substrate, there’s a decent chance that your pet’s nails can get caught in the loops of the carpeting and get ripped off that way. Carpet is not recommended as a substrate for bearded dragons. 

There are several great kinds of substrate out there. Here’s a brief overview of a few of them:

– Excavation clay is the number-one choice among bearded dragon owners. It’s very similar to the type of texture bearded dragons would encounter in their natural habitat, and it allows them to dig to their hearts’ content without risk of injury.

Excavation clay also has a very low risk of impaction, which is a condition similar to constipation in which an indigestible lump of material gets stuck in your pet’s digestive system.

You can also have fun with excavation clay, creating hills, caves, and valleys for your bearded dragon to explore. A couple positive negative points to keep in mind are that it’s a bigger investment upfront (although it does last a long time), and it takes quite a bit of excavation clay to cover a large vivarium.

 

– Substrate tiles are also a recommended substrate option for bearded dragons. The best thing about this type of substrate is that there is absolutely zero risk of impaction. It’s also very quick and easy to clean.

The downside is that substrate tiles don’t resemble a bearded dragon’s natural habitat in the slightest, and they also don’t allow your pet to dig. However, your bearded dragon’s claws won’t get caught or ripped off by this type of substrate.

 

– Calcium sand, while providing digestible nutrients, also allows your bearded dragon to dig away. The negative side is that calcium sand requires a lot of regular maintenance, and it does come with a higher risk of impaction.

Aside from choosing a more suitable substrate for your bearded dragon, it’s also a wonderful idea to add lots of tank accessories such as branches and rocks for your pet to climb on and naturally wear down their nails.

Fights With Other Bearded Dragons 

If your bearded dragon lives with others, there’s a good chance they’ll get into fights. It’s natural for bearded dragons to want to establish their dominance, and they may display some aggression in order to do so. Unfortunately, this aggression can lead to injuries such as missing nails. 

In general, it’s not beneficial for bearded dragons to live together. They’re naturally solitary animals and don’t crave companionship. Living with other bearded dragons will cause your pet a lot of stress, which has a possibility to lead to illness. There will also be issues when it comes to claiming territory, food, and other necessary resources. 

Treatment for a Missing Nail

First, don’t panic! A missing nail is not the end of the world for your bearded dragon. Even if it never grows back, it isn’t likely to have a negative impact on your pet’s overall health and wellbeing. Your bearded dragon has 20 nails, five on each foot–it will survive just fine missing one or even a few of them.

Whether or not your bearded dragon’s nail grows back depends on the way it was injured. If the nail was ripped out from the bed completely, there’s only a very small chance it may grow back.

However, if the nail was simply broken off, it probably will grow back. The farther down it was broken, the longer it will take to grow back to its normal length. Regardless, your bearded dragon should be just fine long-term.

If you notice your bearded dragon’s toe bleeding due to its nail being ripped out or broken off, you can stop the bleeding by applying styptic powder. After that, you’ll need to give your pet regular Betadine baths on a daily basis, followed by applying some Neosporin to the affected area.

If infection occurs, get your pet to the vet as soon as possible for expert treatment!

A diet that is high in calcium is also great for strengthening and regrowing your bearded dragon’s nails. A calcium supplement will help to ensure that your bearded dragon gets enough of this key nutrient. You can also include these calcium-rich foods in your pet’s diet:

  • Bok choy
  • Broccoli
  • Collard greens
  • Kale
  • Mustard greens
  • Parsley
  • Swiss chard
  • Turnip greens
  • Watercress

Overall, you can expect the nail to take a few months to grow back, if it does at all. Your bearded dragon’s age and overall health can affect the speed of nail growth. 

Other Bearded Dragon Toe Injuries

Aside from nails falling off or getting ripped out, there are a few other types of injuries that can affect your bearded dragon’s toes. One common occurrence is toes that appear to be stuck together. This is typically because the toes were once broken and fused together during the healing process. If there was a recent injury, blood could also be holding the toes together. 

Bearded dragons’ toes can actually fall off completely. This can be due to a number of different factors, such as problems with shedding, getting a toe caught in the door of its cage, burns, infection, and injury. 

Swollen toes are another relatively common problem that bearded dragons can run into. Swollen toes happen as a result of broken bones, infection, injury, or a retained shed. 

If you notice any of these injuries, it’s a good idea to get in contact with your veterinarian. There’s a chance you’ll be able to treat some of these issues at home, but your vet will be able to give you professional advice and enable your pet to heal successfully.

Conclusion

If your bearded dragon is missing a nail, it’s important not to panic–it’s a very common occurrence and isn’t likely to affect your pet’s health in the long-term.

There are three main reasons your bearded dragon could be missing a nail: it could be digging excessively, there could be issues with its substrate, and it may have gotten into a fight with another bearded dragon.

The most important thing to focus on during treatment of a missing nail is preventing infection. You can do this by providing your pet with a healthy diet, giving it Betadine baths, and applying Neosporin to the injury.

Anytime your bearded dragon has an injury, it’s a good idea to call the vet or take your pet in for a quick examination. When it comes to your pet’s health, it’s always better to be safe than sorry!

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