Bearded Dragon - Paralysis, Jerking and Twitching



When you feed your bearded dragon food that is too large it can cause problems with their spinal cord. When food pieces are too big, it puts pressure on the spine and they cannot digest their food fast enough. If this pressure lasts too long, permanent damage will occur. This can cause some big health problems for your bearded dragon. The types of problems you can expect are long-term paralysis or even death. If you think your dragon has eaten something too big and seems to struggle to stand properly, you should take him/her to the vet ASAP, they can fix the problem with medical treatment if it is attended to immediately.

If you are wondering how big your bearded dragon’s food needs to be, it should not be bigger than the space between their eyes.

Unhealthy bearded dragon

If you notice that your dragon extends the back legs when they bask, it is normal for them to do so. Try to touch their noses, bodies, or legs to see if they move their legs to the normal position. If not, something might be wrong and veterinary care should be a priority!

Impaction – Another major cause of paralysis is impaction or severe constipation. The build-up of a blockage in the intestines can cause pressure on the spine, which then leads to paralysis. It also causes immense pain, so in order to avoid the pain, they stop moving their back limbs. The best treatment is to relieve the blockage as soon as possible, but once permanent damage has been done, it cannot be reversed.

Metabolic Bone Disease – When MBD affects the spine, it can eventually lead to curvature in the spine and thus paralysis. This is the more severe MBD, and it is unfortunately incurable.

My dragon ate something too big and seem paralyzed, what should I do while I contact a vet?

Get him/her into a position where the stomach will hang down instead of pressing against the spine. You can do this by folding a small towel/blanket into a donut shape and let him/her lay on it with the stomach positioned inside the hole. If your hands are free, hold the dragon with both your hands, back, and front legs secured in your hands, leaving a small space in between for the stomach to hang down. A warm bath while supported in your hands, so no pressure is on the stomach helps, with the pain and discomfort, as well as to help relieve some of the pressure.

Jerking or Shaking

The most common cause for jerking or shaking is due to vitamin deficiencies, or in rare cases, overdose. Calcium and Vitamins are the glue that holds them together and plays an important part in their well-being. Without it, you will get a sick pet in no time. Too much is not great as well and will also cause problems.

Beardies need calcium for strong bones and vitamins not only strengthen their immune systems, but help keep their brains, muscles, and ligaments healthy. UVB rays also help them to absorb and create these vitamins and thus a good idea to make sure that your light is always working correctly.

When constant jerking or shaking occurs, you should seek veterinary help ASAP!

Long-term dehydration can also cause jerking and/or shaking, so it best to get them hydrated ASAP and keep them that way.


Twitching is most of the time a sign of MBD (Metabolic Bone Disease), and will usually start with the tail tip or their heads. Give them a health check as soon as possible and make sure they are getting the right amount of supplements before things get out of hand.

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