Beardies are generally healthy lizards, but it is still possible for them to get sick.
One of the most common sickness symptoms is not pooping. There can be several reasons why a bearded dragon is not pooping. From poor nutrition to impaction they can be easily treatable or require a vet visit.
A lizard that has not pooped in over a week can have a serious health problem. In simple cases it can be an incorrect tank setup. In complicated cases it can be an impaction. Either way it should be cause for concern and needs fixing.
Has your bearded dragon stopped pooping and you want to know why?
In this article we share the seven most common reasons for bearded dragon constipation and what you should do to help.
Why Is My Bearded Dragon Not Pooping?
1. Wrong Diet
Bearded dragons are omnivores that get their nutrients from both plants and animals. In the wild these lizards hunt for prey such as small rodents and insects, while grazing on berries, grasses and leaves.
As pets they need a varied diet to remain healthy.
A common mistake made by first-time owners is feeding their bearded dragon the same foods every day at the same time. Another common mistake is feeding the wrong diet.
When bearded dragons grow from a hatchling to an adult their dietary requirements and food preferences change. Babies and hatchlings need a higher proportion of insect protein in their diet to fuel their growth. On the other hand adults should eat more greens, fruits and veggies than insects.
Feeding an adult too much insect protein or feeding a hatchling too many greens can lead to malnutrition, stress, diarrhea, or constipation. All of which affect their normal pooping schedule.
If your bearded dragon won’t poop and is either not eating at all, or is consistently eating only one kind of food, it may not be getting the full range of nutrients it needs.
Make sure their diet has a wide range of appropriate, healthy and nutritious foods that are suitable for their age. A healthy diet contains a good balance of protein and greens – 75% protein and 25% greens for juveniles and 25% protein and 75% greens for adults.
You can also try mixing it up and feeding different foods every few days. Instead of feeding a single type of fruit, vegetable, or insect you should rotate a menu of six different options. Below is a list of suitable foods you can choose from:
- Insects – crickets, dubia cockroaches, soldier fly larvae and hornworms.
- Fruits – blueberries, apples, grapes, bananas and strawberries.
- Vegetables – sweet potato, kale, turnip greens, dandelions, green beans and endives.
Adults do not require feeding as often as hatchlings, but still need 10 large insects every other day and a fresh salad. Check their diet and make sure you are feeding a mix of fresh fruits, vegetables, and gut-loaded feeder insects. Make sure to stick to the feeding chart below to avoid overfeeding insects:
|Hatchlings under four months.||75:25 ratio of insects to plants.|
|Juveniles aged 4 to 12 months.||70:30 insects-to-plant mix.|
|Subadults aged 12 to 18 months.||30% insects and 70% plants.|
|Adults 18+ months||20% insects and 80% plants|
Water and adequate hydration is very important for any lizard’s digestion. Water helps lizards to absorb nutrients, move food through their digestive tract and produce poop.
You may never see your bearded dragon drink from its bowl, but it is still important to provide a constant source of fresh, clean water in their tank. Water bowls not only give them the option to drink, but also increase the ambient humidity within the enclosure which can help prevent dehydration.
Limited water intake can quickly cause a bearded dragon to not poop.
A dehydrated lizard will have trouble pooping because its body is attempting to rehydrate by absorbing water from the poop. This will make the poop hard and difficult to pass.
There are several dehydration symptoms to look out for:
- Loose, wrinkly skin.
- Sunken eyes.
- Very poor appetite.
- No urates in their poop.
- Tacky Saliva.
You might notice your bearded dragon has a hard time shedding and retains pieces of shed skin for several days. You will also notice that if it does poop then the urate (white part of the poop) will be very small or missing entirely.
To cure dehydration you can bathe your bearded dragon 1-3 times each day in a shallow dish with lukewarm water. You can also feed water-dense foods like watermelons, bell peppers, and lettuce for a few days. Some keepers will use an eyedropper to drip water on their snout and lips which they will then lick off!
In some extreme cases of dehydration veterinary care is required.
Always provide fresh, clean water and keep the enclosure humidity between 30 to 40%. A dehydrated lizard will have sunken-in eyes with visible sockets, wrinkly skin that bunches around the armpits and neck, and tacky saliva. Make sure fresh water is provided to prevent dehydration.
3. Extreme Tank Temperatures
All lizards are ectotherms. This means bearded dragons need warm temperatures to gain energy for bodily functions like digestion. Do not forget that these lizards are adapted to the hot Australian outback and thrive in a warm tank setup.
Extreme tank temperatures have specific effects on bearded dragons that can cause them to stop pooping.
Cool temperatures lead to stomach problems, lethargy, and an increased risk of infection. Temperatures that are too cold will slow down a bearded dragon’s digestion. Slower digestion will reduce their appetite and stop them from pooping.
A lethargic, dark-colored individual that is unresponsive and constantly basking is possibly too cold.
There is also an upper acceptable limit to bearded dragon temperatures.
Bearded dragons that are overheated cannot drink enough water to cool down. These high temperatures will cause dehydration, a symptom of which is not pooping. A lizard that constantly has its mouth open or is lifting its feet from the substrate is showing signs of overheating.
If your bearded dragon is not pooping one of the first things you can do is to check the temperatures in its enclosure. The tank should have a warm side with a 98 to 100°F basking spot and a cool side with an average temperature of 80 to 85°F.
As part of good husbandry you should regularly check the temperatures of your dragon’s tank to catch any problems with heating.
If these temperatures are too cold or too hot then try correcting them and seeing if it helps your bearded dragon to poop. If you find that the temperatures were too high you may need to help your beardie rehydrate.
Use an infrared heat gun to check the tank’s temperatures multiple times during the day and first thing in the morning. The tank should have a hot basking spot of close to 100°F, this can be as high as 110°F for babies. Make sure the cool side has an average temperature of around 80°F and does not drop below 70°F during the night.
4. Wrong Lighting
Another common reason for a bearded dragon not pooping is because of incorrect lighting. The type of lighting you use in their enclosure has a big impact on their health and digestion.
Bearded dragons are desert lizards that are naturally exposed to high levels of sunlight. As a result they have evolved to use UV radiation to metabolize and absorb calcium from their food. As pets they need a UV light in the form of a 10.0 (70 to 100 watt) UVB bulb a substitute for the lack of sunlight they receive.
Without this bulb they cannot absorb calcium into their bones. This can cause metabolic bone disease which is a potentially fatal condition. Not pooping can be an early symptom of metabolic bone disease.
Before bringing a baby home you should make sure you have the correct UVB lights ready to go. This light will need replacing every six months and should be a bulb, not coil.
Make sure that you are using a 10.0 or 12.0 UVB bulb that is turned on during the day and is directly over an accessible basking spot. After six months the UV output of these bulbs fades and the light should be replaced. UVB lights are essential for keeping these lizards healthy.
In some cases a bearded dragon won’t poop because they are not eating enough food.
There is a difference between a bearded dragon being underfed and an individual that is not eating. Underfeeding comes from not giving your lizard enough to eat in the first place and can easily be corrected by providing more food or more frequent feedings.
Once your bearded dragon is given enough food to eat, it should begin to poop again after two days.
Adults being fed fewer than 35 large crickets and less than a ½ cup of salad each week do not have enough food. Baby and juvenile dragons need to eat multiple times per day. It is often best to feed them as many insects and as much salad as they can eat in a 10 minute period.
If a beardie is not eating enough food regularly then the frequency of its poops will decrease. They will sometimes decrease to the point where an owner may not find any poop at all.
You can avoid underfeeding in the first place by regularly weighing your bearded dragon and tracking its weight gain in a journal.
During the first few meals watch to make sure your lizard is actually eating the food. An individual simply refusing food is a sign of a health issue other than underfeeding.
Hatchlings need more food than adults and should be fed multiple times each day. It is often best to feed them as much food as they can eat in a 10 minute period. All food items should be safe, healthy and chopped into bite-sized chunks smaller than the width between their eyes. Fruits and vegetables should be rotated with fresh options daily.
Impaction is a serious health problem in bearded dragons that is caused by a blockage in their intestine. This blockage can be complete or partial, but almost always it prevents poop from passing out.
One of the main symptoms of impaction is not pooping which can then lead to bloating, shock and even death.
Impaction is normally caused by one of two main things:
- Loose Substrate
- Wrong Diet
The most common cause of impaction is from eating their own substrate. Loose substrates like sand, alfalfa pellets, and soil can accidentally be eaten by a bearded dragon as it digs, catches prey, and moves around its enclosure. Sand is especially well known for causing impaction.
If a bearded dragon impacted by its substrate manages to poop the poop will contain large amounts of substrate.
For example, the poop of a bearded dragon kept on sand will be very dry and grainy. If you notice this then you should exchange the substrate immediately for a solid substrate like reptile carpet.
Feeding too much in one meal can also cause impaction, especially overfeeding insects high in chitin like crickets and mealworms. Chitin is fibrous and very difficult for them to digest completely. An individual that eats too many insects at a time can become constipated because of the sudden influx of chitin.
Never use fine, loose substrates like sand and gravel in their tank. If the tank parameters (e.g. temperature and humidity) are within an acceptable range then check your bearded dragon for signs of impaction. You can gently massage their stomach to feel for a hard mass, which would indicate a blockage. Alternatively you can check their poop to make sure it does not have gravel or sand in it.
During the winter bearded dragons go through an extended period of dormancy which is called brumation. During this time they will retreat to a burrow and enter a hibernation-like sleep. They use brumation to help conserve energy until the weather warms again and they can hunt prey.
A brumating dragon will occasionally emerge from its burrow to eat and drink, though it only needs a fraction of the food and water it usually does.
When a lizard brumates its metabolism slows dramatically.
This reduced appetite and food consumption greatly decreases the frequency of poop and bowel movements. Brumation is a natural process that most keepers experience at some point, though a bearded dragon that won’t poop can be concerning for new owners.
A bearded dragon not eating or pooping, acting lethargic and sleeping more may be entering brumation.
If the weather outside is getting colder, your lizard is not losing weight and you see no signs of injury, then brumation is the likely cause for why a bearded dragon won’t poop.
The best thing to do for a brumating dragon is to allow them to enter and complete brumation. Unfortunately the exact length of this process varies from a few weeks to a few months and there is no real way to predict it.
Healthy lizards will not lose a significant amount of weight while brumating and will start eating and pooping normally shortly after reawakening.
Bearded dragons are more likely to brumate as winter approaches. If your husbandry practices are excellent, but your dragon is acting lethargic or hiding excessively it may be getting ready to brumate. As long as your lizard is not losing weight then you should allow them to enter and complete brumation.
How To Make A Bearded Dragon Poop
It is important to get your bearded dragon pooping and back to regular bowel movements as soon as possible. Husbandry mistakes are the most common reason why a bearded dragon will not poop. Often the best way to make them poop again is to:
- Bathe your bearded dragon twice a day in a warm bath for 15 minutes each time.
- Use an eyedropper to drip a diluted electrolyte drink such as Pedialyte onto your dragon’s snout.
- Use a syringe to feed a mix of pumpkin puree and water.
- Feed water-dense foods like watermelons, bell peppers and lettuce with drops of olive oil on top (0.1 mL of oil per 100 grams of your lizard’s weight).
- Make sure the tank’s temperature is between 80°F and 100°F.
- Remove any loose substrates like sand, alfalfa pellets and soil.
- Reduce the amount of insects like crickets and mealworms you are feeding.
Below is a complete table of reasons, symptoms and treatments that can help to make a bearded dragon poop again!
|Reason For Not Pooping||Treatment|
|Wrong Diet||1. Make sure the ratio of insects to plants you are feeding is right for their age.
2. Rotate vegetables and fruits daily to make new salads.
3. Dust all insects and salads with a vitamin and calcium supplement powder.
|Dehydration||1. Bathe your lizard twice a day in a warm bath for 15 minutes at a time. The water should be warm, but not hot and shallower than your dragon’s shoulders.
2. Use an eyedropper to drip a diluted electrolyte drink such as Pedialyte onto your dragon’s snout.
3. Use a syringe to feed a mix of pumpkin puree and water.
4. Increase the tank’s humidity to 40%.
5. Repeat steps 1-3 twice a day until your dragon starts pooping.
|Wrong Tank Temperature||1. Use an infrared thermometer to check the tank’s temperature multiple times during the day and first thing in the morning.
2. Adjust the temperature as needed to maintain a basking spot of 98 to 100°F and a cool side with an average temperature of 80 to 85°F.
3. If your lizard is too cold you can also use a heating pad for immediate relief.
4. For a hot lizard then provide a large, shallow dish of cool water for them to soak in.
|Underfeeding||1. Adults being fed fewer than 35 large crickets and less than a ½ cup of salad each week do not have enough food.
2. For hatchlings increase the frequency of feeding and for adults increase the quantity of food each meal.
|Impaction||1. Soak your bearded dragon in a warm bath for 15 minutes twice each day.
2. Gently massage their stomach after removing them from the bath.
3. Feed vegetables with drops of olive oil on top (0.1 mL of oil per 100 grams of your lizard’s weight).
4. Repeat steps 1-3 if your bearded dragon won’t poop after 24 hours.
5. If another 24 hours passes without pooping then take them to the vet immediately for further examination.
|Wrong Lighting||1. Fix a 10.0 or 12.0 UVB bulb from between 70 and 100 watts above a basking rock.
2. Change the UVB bulb every six months and do not use a coil.
There are seven common reasons why a bearded dragon won’t poop and each one has its own solution.
If a bearded dragon stops pooping then the most likely cause is a problem with husbandry. This can either be dietary problems or an incorrect tank setup.
Your first step to relieve their constipation should be to identify potential causes as soon as possible and then to begin addressing and eliminating the underlying problem.
Check your bearded dragon’s diet, enclosure, and care regularly to catch any potential equipment malfunctions or husbandry shortcomings that may lead to poop problems.
In some cases a bearded dragon not pooping may need veterinary care. This is especially true for cases involving impaction or severe dehydration. Most other causes of constipation can be quickly and easily fixed at home.
If you are still unsure why your beardie is not pooping then we recommend taking them to an exotic vet for a professional diagnosis.
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