Your little beardie has it made, right? He's living the dream - you've got the perfect aquarium, full-spectrum lighting and a cozy heat source.
You feed him a good nutritious diet that's healthy for little dragons and you make sure he gets plenty of sunlight.
But then one morning you wake up and you see a bad sign - runny stool! Oh no, what's going on?
How do you treat bearded dragon diarrhea? In this article, I'll show you a few things to keep in mind and talk about possible treatment options.
Check The Stool
Are you sure it's diarrhea?
Your bearded dragon's feces should be firm but soft. The diet influences stool appearance - insects can make it darker and harder.
The urate is the white part of the stool that your dragon excretes instead of peeing like you or me. If the stool itself is firm and normal, but it's surrounded by a pool of liquid, then it's probably just excess water being removed from the system.
If it's mushy or runny, or your dragon is going a lot more often than he used to, it's probably diarrhea.
It's super important to get this taken care of QUICKLY - diarrhea can make your bearded dragon malnourished and dehydrated. If it's from parasites, he could get even sicker and possibly die!
Here are some things you should check.
Check The Diet
If you're a smart bearded dragon owner, you should already have a pretty good idea of what to feed your bearded dragon. However if you need a little bit help, check these articles:
A diet that has too much fruit or leafy vegetables can possibly cause a runny stool. This is because these things have too much water in comparison to the tough fibrous material that makes up plants.
Your beardie needs a healthy mix of plants and insects; an adult needs more vegetables than insects.
Here are some possible dietary reasons for your dragon's runny stool:
Your beardie needs a healthy mix of plants and insects; an adult needs more vegetables than insects!
Wild insects. I know it can be tempting sometimes, but you should NEVER feed any wild insects to your beardie. They probably have parasites and pesticides. Make sure your feeder insects live in clean, sanitary conditions.
Lettuce. I loved sharing my salad with my beardie when I first got him - but the problem is, those things have too much water content. It CAN upset his stomach to be too hydrated. (Even though most beardies would rather die than eating salad.)
Oranges. Besides having too much water, citrus can be hard on your dragon's little tummy.
Tap water. Tap water can contain ammonia, chlorine, fluoride, and heavy metals. Treat your water with something to remove dangerous chemicals.
Another thing to consider is this: Have you recently treated your bearded dragon with any medicine to kill parasites?
These are usually indiscriminate - that means they remove ALL gut flora, whether good or bad! Your bearded dragon needs certain microorganisms to help digest foods and produce vitamins. Consider a probiotic treatment to help your bearded dragon recover.
Temperature and Light
How much light is your bearded dragon getting? Remember, your little dragon loves the sun - they're from Australia, and Australia is famous for being very bright, hot, and dry.
The basking area should be anywhere from 95 to 110 degrees. Even the cool area needs to be at least 80, and closer to 90 is better.
Are you getting enough sunlight? Bearded dragons love the natural sunlight - and if you aren't using full-spectrum lighting, they won't get all the natural vitamin D production they need.
Don't just believe what a temperature stick says - they can be as much as 10 degrees off! Get an infra-red temperature gun for an accurate reading of what things are like where your beardie actually lives.
If you just got your bearded dragon, he might be a little stressed out at the change in his environment.
Stress affects reptiles just like it affects us. They don't like uncomfortable environments; this ties in with what we've discussed about temperature and light.
Make sure your bearded dragon has a safe little place to hide; this will help him calm down and get used to his surroundings.
What kind of cleaning chemicals are you using? Don't use ammonia, bleach, or anything else that's harsh and caustic - the lingering fumes could make him really sick.
If you've checked everything else and you still can't figure out why your bearded dragon has diarrhea, then it's probably parasites. Reptile feces are never supposed to smell 'good' - but parasites like giardia can make stool smell REALLY awful.
Most of the microorganisms that live in your beardie's gut are good for him. A healthy immune system keeps them in check; but when outside factors cause his immune system to weaken (not enough food, improper lighting, unreasonable temperatures, unfamiliar situations) the more opportunistic microbes can run amok - causing serious problems.
Unfortunately, these tiny little devils are invisible to the naked eye, and you'd need a microscope and a healthy education in microbiology to accurately determine which parasite it could be.
The only way to tell for sure is to take a stool sample and present it to a vet who is familiar with reptiles. Get the sample as freshly as possible, seal it into a plastic baggie and put it in your fridge.
If you bought your beardie from an unsavory pet dealer, then it's likely he came home with some unwelcome guests.
The most common parasites associated with bearded dragons are coccidia, roundworms, hookworms, or pinworms. However, it could be anything, from normal food poisoning, to even the adenovirus - an especially dangerous virus common to reptiles.
Does your pet:
Refuse to eat?
Show signs of stomach pain?
Have undigested food in his stool?
Seem tired and lethargic?
Any of these could be signs of parasites.
Consider using a dewormer or parasite treatment. These can help clean out your beardie's system - but remember, they're going to clear out the good microbes along with the bad. Try a probiotic treatment to follow up with.
Your bearded dragon has his own unique personality. Like most reptiles, he's tough, and wants everyone to know it - he'll try to hide illness and disease.
Pay close attention to his habits and his diet. Seasonal changes can lead to changes in his stool frequency and consistency, but it should NEVER be runny.
Ultimately, you should be consulting with a licensed veterinarian who has good familiarity with reptiles. Your bearded dragon is just like a pet cat or dog - he deserves your best care!