The 4 Leading Causes Of Impaction In Bearded Dragons

 The 4 Leading Causes Of Impaction In Bearded Dragons

What Causes Impaction In Bearded Dragons?


Impaction in bearded dragons is a serious problem that occurs when they are unable to defecate due to blockage in their bowels. Ingesting substrate, hard shelled food, and improper tank conditions are the leading causes of impaction.

Signs Of Impaction


  • Loss of appetite


If your beardie has stopped eating completely and is not in their brumation cycle, it could be suffering from impaction. They won’t be feeling well at all, so they probably aren’t going to be eating. They are completely blocked from some sort of mass. 


  • Not passing any bowel movements


This is the most obvious sign of impaction. If you have tried soaking your beardie in the tub everyday and it still is not passing a bowel movement,  it is in fact impacted.


  • Less mobility


Impaction is going to occur near the back legs. If your beardie is walking less or unable to utilize its back legs at all, it could be impacted. 


  • Feeling lumps on their sides


If you pick up your bearded dragon or feel his sides, you will be able to tell if it is impacted or not. If your critter is impacted, you are going to feel a very hard lump near the bowls. This mass will be easy for you to find and is the most obvious way to tell if your beardie is impacted. 

What Causes Impaction


There are several different reasons why your bearded dragon could be impacted. It could come from the food they eat, how often they eat, substrate, and improper tank conditions.


  • Accidentally ingested some substrate


The substrate is the flooring that you use for your bearded dragon tank. Sand is a common substrate that is used that could definitely cause impaction. When the bearded dragon has to hunt and take a bite out of its food, it could accidentally pick up some substrate. Their mouths are wet and sticky too, so the substrate will definitely be ingested. Pellets can also be ingested on accident causing impaction. Having a loose substrate will increase the risk of impacting your bearded dragon. 


  • Feeders that are too large


Your bearded dragon could be impacted by eating something that is just too big. The rule of thumb when feeding a beardie is that the object has to be the same or less than the width of its eyes. When bearded dragons are babies, it is important to get them the smallest crickets at the store because their heads and mouths are just way too small to take on a full grown cricket. 


  • Eating too much of hard shelled food


Feeders with hard shells can also cause impaction. Crickets and superworms are a nice crunchy meal for your beardie, but it can cause a serious problem if fed too often. The shells might not be broken down enough when your bearded dragon takes that first bite. The shells could still not be broken down enough by the time they reach the bowels and can slowly cause blockage over time. You can definitely feed your bearded dragon these insects, but within reason. 


  • Improper tank conditions


The environment in your terrarium can have an affect on your bearded dragon’s digestive tract as well. The heat actually helps them digest their food. The ideal temperature you want your terrarium to maintain is between 85-95 degrees Fahrenheit. For babies, they need temperatures from 105-110 degrees Fahrenheit. The basking spot in their terrarium needs to be around these temperatures for most of the day. 

How To Fix Impaction


Luckily, there are several ways you can clear your bearded dragon out. The strategies to clear your beardie out range from olive oil to going to the vet. Here is a list of what you can do from the cheapest method to the most expensive method.


  • Olive Oil is great to use because you most likely have it in your home already and it is safe for your beardie to ingest. It will help clear out any blockage in its system.
  • Time in the bath can help your beardie too. You will just have to keep your bearded dragon in the bath a little longer and maintain the warm water. Massaging their sides as well can help push the blockage through.
  •  The final option is the vet. This is the most expensive option, but it might be necessary if olive oil and a bath don’t work. They can perform surgery for impaction and put your beardie on a new diet to prevent impaction from occurring again. The vet might try an enema or a laxative before they do surgery, but if those don’t work, you’re looking at a vet bill of up to $400-$1200. 

How To Prevent Impaction 


While it may seem so easy for your beardie to become impacted, it is also easily preventable. Here are some ways you can prevent impaction and potential vet bills.


  • Be cautious of the substrate you use. A reptile carpet or mat are going to be safe options to prevent impaction. 


  • Feed your beardie more than just hard shelled insects. Feeding your bearded dragon greens, fruits, and vegetables is important too because they contain some water. The watery diet can help move the food right along through the bowels. There are soft shelled insects like butterworms that you can give to your beardie as well. Feed your beardie insects that are also the appropriate size. No longer than the width of the head is the rule of thumb. 


  • Give regular baths. The warm water from the bath actually helps soothe your beardie and makes the release easier. A bath a few times a week in warm water will help clean out your bearded dragon. 


  • Maintain the terrarium temperature. As long as the basking temperature remains between 85-95 degrees Fahrenheit, the environment of the tank will not cause impaction. 

Wrapping Up


Impaction can be a serious issue if you let it go on for too long. You need to follow the preventatives as much as you can, but sometimes things still happen. At some point in time, your bearded dragon could end up impacted. If you catch it early, it can be a free and easy fix. If you wait too long or are extremely worried about it, the vet and surgery will always be an option for you. 

Jade Messieh

Proud bearded dragon, tortoise, crested gecko, and green tree python mom. I've always been passionate about animals and hope to help other reptile & amphibian enthusiasts along their journey!

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