Bearded Dragon Impaction (Constipation)

Impaction is a blockage in the digestive tract and can be caused by various things like unsuitable food, sand, bark, and so forth. Bearded dragons normally have a “poop” schedule and it is important that your bearded dragon defecates on a regular basis. If you notice that he\she has stopped defecating for a few days it could become a serious issue leading to constipation, which if not, solved will lead to impaction.

Bearded dragon impaction

What are the Symptoms of Impaction?

  • Bearded dragons will not be very mobile in case of serious impaction and legs could appear paralyzed.
  • Loss of appetite and paleness might occur.
  • Straining when trying to poop is a definite sign of constipation or impaction.
  • The dragon could walk funny or struggle to walk at all.
  • Constant small poops.
  • Liquid poop that comes in drops at a time, or what looks like diarrhea.
  • When gently pressing no the bottom of the lower abdomen, it might feel like there is a lump, which would be the blockage.
  • Pain in the lower abdomen when touched.

Keep in mind that dragons differ from each other and will not always show symptoms. The best way to avoid impaction is to monitor their bathroom behavior on a constant basis.

What are the Causes of Impaction?

Improper Temperatures – Bearded dragons depend on heat to help them digest their food properly. In the wild, they will usually seek out a warm rock or log to bask on after a meal. The warmth on their bellies helps with digestion, thus your beardie should have a warm rock or log in their cage as well. A fake/real rock that is placed under their basking light will heat up and keep their tummies happy and warm.

DO NOT use heat pads or rocks! These can burn them or cause electric shock. Make sure the basking spot does not get too hot to the point where they can burn. An indicator that the spot is too warm is when they bask, they will lift up their feet or toes because they are burning. The surface on which a beardie basks after a meal should be at a temperature between 98 – 100 degrees. They should be allowed to bask for at least two hours after eating to make sure food digest properly.

Bearded dragon impaction

Improper Food and Size – Food that is too large could get stuck in their digestive tract and cause impaction. Food should be the same size as the space between your bearded dragon’s eyes. Some food items may not be easy to digest and should not be fed like mealworms for instance. Mealworms have a hard outer shell that is hard to digest for bearded dragons.

Bearded dragon impaction

Non-suitable substrates (cage bedding) – Many bearded dragons will try to nibble on their substrate and this poses a great risk. In addition, while feeding your dragon, it will most likely ingest some of the substrates along with the food. Substrates that can also cause impaction are Calci-Sand, pellets, bark, and small rocks. Suitable and safe substrates are tile, certain types of reptile carpet, newspaper, or paper towels.

REMEMBER: Sand is just fine for bearded dragons in the wild because it is very unlikely that they will poop in the same spot as where they eat or sleep. If sand is used, it must be cleaned out daily if one wants to simulate the same condition as in the wild and that is not always possible or feasible. In addition, the texture of the sand in the wild is almost, always different than that one buys in the stores.

Bearded dragon impaction

Bearded dragon impaction

What About Treatment for Impaction?

Soak your bearded dragon in warm water. The water must not be too warm and you should be able to feel it on your wrist, similar to bathing a newborn baby (90 – 95 F) Soak your Beardie for about 25 minutes, and while bathing your dragon try massaging the stomach gently, and remember not to push too hard, they are very sensitive animals. This will help your bearded dragon to defecate. You can also prepare a hot water bottle and have them sit on it each day to stimulate digestion. The hot water bottle SHOULD NOT be hot, only warm. Test it by pressing it against your face, if it burns your face, it will burn them! Rice bags that are warmed up in the microwave will work also; again, make sure that it is not too hot.

Bearded dragon impaction

If the methods above do not work, it would be best to take your dragon for a vet visit. A blockage can cause long-term health problems or even death, if not treated immediately.