Why Is My Bearded Dragon Upside Down?

Bearded dragons spend most of their lives on their feet and stomach. Because of that, it can be alarming if you find your bearded dragon bottom side up. If you find your bearded dragon in this position, immediately place him on his feet and treat the dragon accordingly. Read on to find out some of the reasons why this is happening.

So why is my bearded dragon upside down? There are three main possible reasons why your bearded dragon is upside down: your bearded dragon has a calcium deficiency, metabolic bone disease, or too high of a basking area.

If you suspect that your bearded dragon is upside down from any one of these causes, it is imperative to diagnose and treat the problem right away. To find out more about why your bearded dragon is upside down, keep scrolling.

3 Reasons Why Your Bearded Dragon Is Upside Down

Although there are several reasons why your bearded dragon may be upside down, there are 3 main possibilities that account for most instances of a bearded dragon being on his back. Here are the 3 most common reasons that your bearded dragon is upside down:  

Calcium Deficiency

One of the most common reasons that your bearded dragon is upside down is calcium deficiency. Calcium deficiency causes a number of negative health concerns for bearded dragons, such as muscle twitches or metabolic bone disease.

The reason for this is that calcium performs many vital functions within your bearded dragon’s body. In other words, your beardie cannot function properly without calcium. Here are the most important functions of calcium within your bearded dragon:

  •  Bone matrix mineralization
  • Skeleton formation
  •  Blood clotting
  • Muscle contraction

Some signs of calcium deficiency include:

  • Muscle twitching
  • Decreased appetite
  • Fragile bones

How to Treat Calcium Deficiency

Calcium deficiency is easy to treat once detected. To prevent it from happening in the first place though, always make sure that your bearded dragon is getting enough calcium. Feed him plenty of green, leafy vegetables, such as spring greens, lamb’s lettuce, and timothy hay. However, avoid feeding your bearded dragon spinach since it can block calcium uptake.

Additionally, consider feeding your bearded dragon crickets. Although it can be a bit stomach-wrenching to feed your bearded dragon these hoppity little insects, bearded dragons absolutely love crickets. Sprinkle calcium mineral powders over the crickets before serving to give your beardie extra calcium.

If you have been feeding your bearded dragon high amounts of calcium and he still doesn’t seem to be getting enough, consider checking your heat. Heat is essential for a dragon to absorb and use calcium. Make sure that you are using an infrared lamp, or lamps, that is set between 100 degrees Fahrenheit and 107 degrees Fahrenheit.

Similarly, your bearded dragon needs cooler areas so he can regulate his body temperature as well. Put shady areas in his enclosure that are 78 degrees Fahrenheit at the most.

Reptiles, including your bearded dragon, also require ultraviolet light to absorb calcium properly. Make sure to install a fluorescent strip that emits 10-12% UVB light. You should aim for 2/3 of the tank being covered in the UV light. Monitor the UV with a UV meter. Since UV output decreases over time, you will need to replace the lamp according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD)

Another reason that your bearded dragon may be upside down is because of metabolic bone disease or MBD, which is basically when the calcium deficiency poses long-term health consequences on your bearded dragon.

Metabolic bone disease is caused by low levels of calcium and Vitamin D3. This disease is actually the most common disease for bearded dragons, making it a high possibility that your bearded dragon is upside down due to MBD.

Symptoms for MBD can be difficult to spot. Here are some of the most common ones to look out for:

  • Muscle twitching
  • Swollen legs
  • Fragile bones
  • Permanent deformities in limbs, jaw, spine, or tail

Typically, bearded dragons with MBD find themselves upside down after muscle twitches. These muscle twitches can cause them to turn upside down or fall off a rock or some other elevated surface.

How To Treat MBD

MBD is relatively easy to rectify once spotted. In short, all of the same treatments for calcium deficiency will apply here.

Make sure to up your bearded dragon’s calcium intake. Feed him leafy greens like timothy hay and spring greens. Also, try sprinkling calcium powder on your beardie’s favorite snacks, such as crickets. More so, make sure that you have the correct heating and lighting within your bearded dragon’s cage to ensure that he is absorbing the calcium properly.

Additionally, take your bearded dragon to an exotic pet veterinarian for a check-up if you suspect MBD. Since MBD is painful and dangerous for your beardie, you will want to make sure that he is getting the best care. Talk to your vet and see if they have any other notes or recommendations for your beardie.  

High Basking Area

The last reason that your bearded dragon may be upside down is that his basking area is too high and narrow. Too high and narrow of a basking area can cause your beardie to accidentally fall off the platform, allowing him to land on his back.

If the basking area is too high, the dragon falls a greater distance, which gives him more time to twitch and turn upside down. Similarly, too narrow of a basking area makes it difficult for the bearded dragon to move without falling off, thus increasing the chances of him falling off the ledge.

How to Correct High Basking Area

If you think that your basking area is causing your bearded dragon to fall on his back, then it is really easy to fix this problem. All you will need to do is purchase a different basking area that is neither too high nor too narrow.

Although bearded dragons can still fall off a low basking area, they are less likely to fall on their backs since the fall distance is shorter.

What to Do if You Find Your Bearded Dragon Upside Down

If you find your bearded dragon upside down, it is important to put him back on his stomach immediately. Bearded dragons find it extremely difficult to breathe on their back, and they can even die from suffocation when lying in this position.

The reason for this is that bearded dragons do not have diaphragms like humans. When they are upside down, their stomach pushes directly on their lungs, which constricts their breathing greatly. So, immediately put your bearded dragon back on its stomach whenever he is on his back.

Once you place the bearded dragon back on his stomach, begin to find the cause. If the bearded dragon’s basking area is high and narrow and you found him directly beside that area, then you may simply need to change the basking area.

In addition, you should consider upping your bearded dragon’s calcium intake just in case. Bearded dragons need a lot of calcium, so this is always a good idea to increase calcium intake and check on the lighting within the enclosure.

When to See a Vet

If you find your bearded dragon upside down, it is always a good idea to take him to a vet. Unless it is obvious that he simply fell off his basking enclosure, you will want a vet to check him just in case there is a serious issue behind your bearded dragon’s behavior.

When taking your bearded dragon to see a veterinarian, make sure that you are taking him to an exotic animal vet. Exotic vets have the proper tools and training to deal with the bearded dragon’s unique, delicate, and small body.

Other Causes

In addition to the three reasons discussed above, there are other reasons that your bearded dragon may be upside down. However, these reasons are much less common, and should only be considered once the other three reasons have been ruled out. Here are two other possible reasons, albeit less likely, that your bearded dragon is on his back:

  • Neurological disorder
  • Compaction

Conclusion

If you find your bearded dragon upside down, it is important to put him on his stomach immediately since bearded dragons cannot breathe correctly on their backs. After you have set your bearded dragon back on his stomach, try to figure out the cause.

Most likely, the bearded dragon is on his back due to a calcium deficiency, MBD, or too high of a basking area. Luckily, all three of these causes are easy to fix. Just make sure to keep an eye on your beardie while offering treatment to make sure that he doesn’t fall on his back again and injure himself.

Finally, always consult your exotic pet veterinarian for advice and tips. They will have a better understanding of what your beardie is going through and offer you the best advice for care and treatment.

Sources:

  1.  http://www.animalplanet.com/pets/other-pets/bearded-dragon-stats-facts/
  2. https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Anatomy-of-the-digestive-tract-of-a-bearded-dragon-illustrated-by-a-photograph-of-the_fig5_260306715
  3. https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/bearded-dragons-owning
  4. https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/N9CkM0GVW83bWlFMQcjlnD/how-to-prevent-metabolic-bone-disease-in-bearded-dragons#:~:text=Caused%20by%20low%20levels%20of,%2C%20jaw%2C%20spine%20or%20tail.
  5. https://www.beardeddragon.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=45&t=144583
  6. https://www.reddit.com/r/BeardedDragons/comments/czggq9/bearded_dragon_keeps_flipping_upside_down/