Bearded Dragon Impaction

What is Impaction?

It is a blockage in the digestive track 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 defecate on a regular basis. If you notice that he\she has stopped defecating for a few days it could become a serious issue that can cause fatal issues. 

bearded dragon not pooping

What are the Symptoms?

  • 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 impaction.
  • Dragon could walk funny or struggle to walk at all.
  • Constant small poops.
  • Liquid poop that comes in drops at a time.

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 help 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. A indicator that the spot is to 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 constipated

Improper Food and Size – Food that is too large could get stuck in their digestive track and cause impaction. Food should be the same size than the space between your bearded dragon’s eyes. Some food items may not be easy to digest and should not be fed like meal worms for instance. Meal worms 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 substrate 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 those one buy in the stores.

bearded dragon impaction

bearded dragon not pooping

What About Treatment?

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 constipation

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.