Bearded Dragon Impaction: The Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

Bearded Dragon impaction is a serious health concern for Bearded Dragon keepers. If left untreated impaction can lead to serious health concerns and in extreme cases cause fatalities.

In this article, I am going to discuss in depth the details of what impaction is, what causes it, the symptoms, and how to treat it.

What Is Impaction?

Impaction is when a hard undigestible mass is blocking the digestive tract. Impaction is a fatal condition and needs to be treated as soon as identified. 

I recommend calling your veterinarian expert immediately if you suspect your Bearded Dragon is suffering from impaction.

What Causes Bearded Dragon Impaction?

The four most common causes of impaction in Bearded Dragons are loose-particle substrates, improper environments, improper diets, and dehydration.

But Bearded Dragons can become impacted even with all the right husbandry techniques. They may just eat something they’re not supposed to.

Loose-particle substrate

Loose-particle substrate (LPS) is the leading cause of impaction. Because when beardies are hunting for their food, they’ll eat everything they fit in their mouth.

Examples of LPS to avoid are sand, soil, wood shavings, and gravel. If these substrates are consumed then it can lead to impaction.

I recommend substrates such as reptile carpets, excavator clay, and ceramic tiles. 

Improper Environment

For your Bearded Dragon to digest their food properly, they need a basking spot. The temperature of the basking spot varies depending on the age of your beardie.

Bearded Dragon Basking Spot Temperatures
Bearded Dragon AgeBasking Temperatures
Baby Bearded Dragon105°F – 110°F (40°C – 43°C)
Juvenile Bearded Dragon100°F – 105°F (38°C – 40°C)
Adult Bearded Dragon95°F – 100°F (35°C – 38°C)

If the environment is at the incorrect temperatures, your beardie will be unable to digest their previous meal, eventually leading to impaction.

Protip: It’s good husbandry to regularly check the levels within your Bearded Dragon enclosure such as humidity, temperature, and UVB output.

Improper Diet

If Bearded Dragons eat food they’re not supposed to like avocados, oranges, and food items too large to swallow, they’ll become impacted.

Avocados and oranges can’t be digested by Bearded Dragons, meaning over time it’ll block the digestive tract.

Foods bigger than the space between a Bearded Dragons eyes are too large to move through the digestive tract and can block it.

To achieve the correct portions to feed your Bearded Dragon. It’s recommended to offer them food for a 15-minute timespan and any leftover food is to be removed.

Dehydration

Dehydration doesn’t get spoken about enough regarding Bearded Dragons being impacted. If your beardie is dehydrated, a urate plug can block the passage of feces.

Unfortunately, this is a common cause because due to Bearded Dragons being desert dwellers, sometimes people think no water is needed. This isn’t the case, you should always provide a fresh water dish daily and do regular misting to keep your beardie hydrated.

Symptoms of Bearded Dragon Impaction

Being able to identify if your Bearded Dragon is suffering from impaction is important to be able to do. However, the signs aren’t always easy to spot. Below are the four most common symptoms of impaction.

Constipation

The first sign of impaction is constipation, when your beardie begins to halt their bowel movements it’s an early sign something is wrong.

The bowel movements of Bearded Dragons will depend on the individual, it’s down to you as a responsible owner to identify this. 

A common rule I go by is a baby Bearded Dragon should defecate every day and juveniles and adults will be around once a week. 

Bloating Around The Belly

When your beardies digestive tract is blocked, it’ll stop any future meals passing through it too. Meaning they’ll become bloated around the area affected. This will be an obvious lump on their spine or inflation of their bellies.

Loss Of Appetite

Bearded Dragons tend to lose their appetite when they’re impacted. This is because they know they’re unable to digest the meals, so they will stop eating altogether to prevent any further blockage.

In severe cases, your beardie will begin to regurgitate their meals in the hope it clears the blockage from the other way.

Partial Paralysis In Legs

Because of the location of Bearded Dragons’ intestines, it can lead to paralysis when they’re impacted. The intestines are near the spine. When something is too large and blocks the passage, it swells and presses against the spine, leading to paralysis.

How To Treat Bearded Dragon Impaction?

If our beardies have missed a couple of bowel movements, there are a few things we can try to help get the process going before we panic.

Important: Before attempting any home remedies for impaction, I recommend contacting your veterinarian for expert guidance.

Bathe Your Bearded Dragon

Bathing offers benefits to your Bearded Dragon’s health such as improved hygiene, shedding assistance, and digestive health.

The warm water heats your beardies and helps get whatever is blocking the passage moving.

Here is a step-by-step list of how to safely bathe Bearded Dragons:

  1. Fill the container with water at a temperature of 90°F-100°F (32°C – 37°C), and ensure the water level is not higher than your beardies knees, and elbows
  2. Place Bearded Dragon into the container, with a cloth for them to stand and get a grip on
  3. Let them soak and supervise them for 15-20 minutes
  4. Remove them and then dry them
  5. Place under the basking bulb to allow them to warm up

Gently Massage Your Bearded Dragon

When massaging your Bearded Dragon it’s important to take care and apply small amounts of pressure. 

If the impaction is pressing against the internal organs or spine, massaging can do more damage than good. For this reason, I recommend attempting massaging only 3-5 times and if it doesn’t work, stop.

To correctly massage your Bearded Dragon, hold them securely and gently apply pressure to their abdomen then slowly roll your fingers down their body.

Raise The Habitat Temperature

As I’ve mentioned already, Bearded Dragons need external heat sources to be able to digest their food properly. If the temperatures within the enclosure are too low they’ll be unable to do this leading to impaction. 

Summary

Although experiencing your pet becoming impacted is a stressful time, there are things we can do to help fix it.

How to treat impaction:

  • Give them a bath
  • Massage them
  • Raise the habitat temperature

Remember, always contact your vet for expert advice on what to do if you suspect any of your animals are sick.