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Bearded Dragon Impaction: Signs, Causes, & Treatment
When you own reptiles, it can catch you off guard when something suddenly goes wrong. You won’t see as many signs as you will with mammals, so it can be a little tricky to figure out the problem and how long it’s been going on. Impaction is a potentially dangerous issue that causes a blockage in your beardie’s digestive tract.
While it’s treatable, it can be hazardous if the issue goes unnoticed. Detecting problems early on helps with everything from quick treatment to prevention in the future. Let’s learn exactly what you’re looking for so you can act fast.
What is Impaction?
Impaction is essentially a horrible case of constipation. Waste gets bound up inside your beardies’ intestinal tract, and then they cannot eliminate as they should. If you notice that your dragon hasn’t passed a stool in quite some time, impaction might very well be to blame.
If they go too long without going to the bathroom, wastes can build up inside—which eventually leads to death. It’s one of the most common death causes in bearded dragons, so it’s absolutely imperative to know when it’s happening.
What Causes Impaction?
There are a few factors that can contribute to impaction. Mainly, food, temperature, and substrate contribute to impaction if balance is off. It’s important to keep all components just right to make sure your bearded dragon has an adequate environment.
Symptoms of Impaction
Your beardie might be suffering from impaction if you notice:
Impaction can easily lead to the inability to use back legs, so they might drag themselves with their front. If impaction has reached this point, it will probably require more care than a warm bath and massage.
This condition is time-sensitive, so if you notice any symptoms, you need to act right away. Your vet will likely prescribe an enema or laxative to help them pass the mass.
How to Help Impaction
If you suspect impaction is a problem for your beardie, you can try some things at home to see if they will pass the stool. When the situation is still mild, you might be able to help at home. If you can’t, it’s imperative to locate an exotic pet vet.
Your beardie might not pass the stool right away, but this process should speed things up. If you notice no change, make sure you contact a vet without hesitation. They might be able to give you some more tips or tricks you can try at home—or advise that you bring them in for an exam.
On top of these steps, you can check basking temperatures and food intake. Change things up, if needed. You can go over your normal care routine with your vet to see if they suggest doing anything differently.
If you follow all of the right steps to proper care, impaction shouldn’t be an issue for your bearded dragon.
When to See a Vet
If you have tried to take care of the situation at home without success, it’s time to see an exotic vet. If you have never taken your beardie before, exotic vets can cost a bit more and be a little trickier to find in some areas. Call around to different clinics to see if they work with reptiles.
Impaction can eventually lead to death if there’s no resolve. So, locating a vet before you even try any at-home methods is crucial. They will be able to guide you on how to proceed. Since impaction is such a leading cause of untimely death for beardies, it’s always best to be safe rather than sorry.
If you suspect your bearded dragon is impacted—or even mildly constipated—there are ways you can help. However, if the impaction is advanced, you will assuredly need the help of a professional.
If you can’t resolve this issue at home, or if you think your beardie is in pain, contact your vet immediately. Impaction can be life-threatening and isn’t something that can wait for long.
Featured image credit: Mariposa Veterinary Wellness Center in Lenexa, Flickr
Ashley Bates is a freelance dog writer and pet enthusiast who is currently studying the art of animal therapy. A mother to four human children— and 23 furry and feathery kids, too – Ashley volunteers at local shelters, advocates for animal well-being, and rescues every creature she finds. Her mission is to create awareness, education, and entertainment about pets to prevent homelessness. Her specialties are cats and dogs.