Does this sound familiar? You feed your bearded dragon and you enjoy just watching it and everything is great. Suddenly your realise that you did not see your bearded dragon pooping for a couple of days. Now you are worried - how many days has it been since my beardie went to the toilet the last time? How many days without pooping is normal? Has my bearded dragon impacted? What can I do to find out if it is? What can I do if my bearded dragon has impacted?
Yes? Well, you now belong to 90% of all bearded dragon keepers who experienced this situation. What I want to tell you with that is that you should relax. Even though a lot of bearded dragons die from impaction, most of the time it isn´t that bad and the bearded dragon is able to defecate.
However I know that this might be not the answer you want to hear. You probably want to hear facts and how to make your bearded dragon defecate if it hasn´t for a long time. Don´t worry, I got all the answers you need.
What Leads To Impaction
I am sure you already know that a lot of bearded dragons eat substrate and get impacted from that. If not, now you know why most beardie keepers use newspaper, kitchen roll or repti carpet like this as substrate.
Some bearded dragons eat sand when snapping a cricket or when licking their environment. Especially young bearded dragons lick everything. This is to explore their habitat and to "get to know the world". For them it is a way of learning.
However in fact, the amount of sand bearded dragons take in while licking or snapping a cricket is very small. There is one simple reason why bearded dragons eat a lot of substrate and I will get to this later in this article. First I want to explain to you the second reason why beardies get impacted.
Overfeeding Is A Serious Problem
What the majority of reptile keepers do not realise is that they feed their bearded dragon too much. You have to think about this: in the wild bearded dragons sometimes do not find food for days. All they do then is nibbling at some plants until they find the next cricket or locust. Adult bearded dragons should even eat more greens than meat.
Another serious issue is feeding insects that are simply too big. Feeding way to big insects can get your bearded dragon impacted. Have you ever seen a complete dead insect in your bearded dragon´s fecals? This can happen and it means that there are already problems with digestion. The next step might be impaction or injured intestines.
I always compare bearded dragons to carbage cans (of course, I always compare with much love). Those little guzzlers eat everything. It can happen that your bearded dragon eats something while running through your house (if you take them out). So always monitor your beardie.
Parasites can lead to impaction as well. That´s why it is important to bring your vet a stool sample. This way you make sure that your bearded dragon is healthy.
Has Your Bearded Dragon Impacted?
If you have not seen your bearded dragon defecate in three days and you are worried than I have good news for you. This happens from time to time, especially if you don´t overfeed your bearded dragon.
If you bearded dragon has not defecated for more than 5 days, you should definitely visit a vet.
Your bearded dragon might show a black beard. Although this can have several reasons, they often show this if they are not healthy. Further their belly and the area around the cloaca get bigger and hard. Sometimes you might even see your bearded dragon shaking as if it wants to defecate but nothing comes out. If it is really bad your beardie might even throw up.
How To Clear Impaction In Bearded Dragons
What helps 9 of 10 times is a warm bath. Most bearded dragons are able to defecate in the water. However you have to be patient it can go quick but sometimes you have to wait a little bit.
Exercise does help your dragon to defecate as well. I recommend to make the warm bath, as said above, and use enough water so that your bearded dragon can swim a little bit. The exercise combined with the warm water should help. Here is a video of a beardie keeper who did exactly this.
Most owners don´t like to do that, because they are afraid of a little surprise, but you can also help your beardie with a little massage. Gently massage the belly and the area around the cloaca. I know, I know it could get nasty, but sometimes you got to do what you got to do.
If none of this helps, you have to visit a vet. Often times a vet can help without surgery. Trust me, you don´t want a surgery - it can cost more than $1000.
How To Prevent Your Dragon From Eating Substrate
As I said, most people use newspaper or kitchen roll as substrate. However that is not an appropriate substrate for bearded dragons as digging belongs to their natural behavior. They can´t dig through neswspaper.
To prevent your bearded dragon from eating sand you have to make sure that it always has access to a source of calcium. You have to dust feeder insects with calcium every single time you feed. If you don´t have a calcium supplement yet get this.
Further you should offer a bowl with small pieces of sepia bone. This way your bearded dragon can eat some sepia bone if it feels that it needs to balance it´s minerals. Get this sepia bone here.
I hope that this article has helped and I really hope that your bearded dragon stays healthy. All the best!