Bearded dragons can suffer from dehydration. In captivity, careful husbandry is required to avoid this problem.
Bearded dragons originate from the desert regions of Australia and have adapted to survive with low water consumption.
Even though this is true, it’s vital that you provide your bearded dragon with corrects amounts of water to avoid dehydration.
In this post, we will cover the signs, treatment and prevention of dehydration in bearded dragons and as well as looking at how serious dehydration really is.
Read On to Learn…
What Is Dehydration In Bearded Dragons? Is It Serious?
Water is required for all metabolic and biological processes. Dehydration occurs when water intake is not sufficient to replace the water used by physiological processes, either due to inadequate water consumption and absorption or excessive loss of water in biological activity.
Dehydration can range from a mild issue to a serious problem and in extreme cases, even death.
Some of the health issues that bearded dragons may encounter if exposed to dehydration for a continuous basis are:
- Shedding problems (dysecdysis)
- Kidney disease
Your bearded dragon may become dehydrated if it does not have access to enough water or does not consume water when it is available.
Other causes of dehydration are illnesses that will require the body to use more water for healing processes, diarrhea or loose stools can result in an excessive loss of water and the demands of reproductive activity such as egg-laying can also dehydrate.
What Are The Signs Of Dehydration In Bearded Dragons?
Understanding the signs of dehydration in your bearded dragon can help to spot an issue early.
The benefits of this are that you can then rehydrate your bearded dragon early and before serious health issues arise.
So, what are the signs of dehydration in bearded dragons? The signs of dehydration in bearded dragons are:
- Wrinkled skin (pinch test)
- Saliva tackiness
- Urate changes
- Flaky skin
- Sunken eyes
- Lethargy and decreased appetite
Let’s now take a deeper look at the signs of dehydration in bearded dragons…
1. Wrinkled Skin (Pinch Test)
If your bearded dragon appears to have wrinkles in its skin that are not normal for it, it may be a sign of dehydration.
Dehydration can cause a loss of elasticity and make the skin hang loosely from the body. Other things that can cause skin wrinkles are:
- Age – young bearded dragons can have loose skin to make room for a rapidly growing body
- Position – particular body positions can create the perception of wrinkled skin, when assessing skin for dehydration make sure the bearded dragon is laying straight
- Underweight – animals that have lost a lot of body condition can have loose skin, assess the body score of your bearded dragon to rule this out
If you can rule out the other reasons for wrinkles, you can then perform a “pinch test” on the skin.
Pinch various areas of the loose skin and observe how quickly it bounces back to the original position. If it takes a long time, your bearded dragon may be dehydrated.
2. Saliva Tackiness
If you can observe inside your bearded dragon’s mouth, look for the consistency of the saliva.
If the saliva is sticky and stretched between the upper and lower mandible with a “double-strand” appearance.
The thickening of saliva is a universal sign of dehydration amongst animals and it is a response to lack of fluids in the body.
If your bearded dragon is indeed dehydrated, there will be a lack of fluids available for bodily functions. Digestion in particular needs fluids to process properly.
A lack of fluids could result in constipation. Symptoms of constipation include:
- Dry fecal – some blood may be present
- Straining and uncomfortable while trying to defecate
- Cloacal (vent) prolapse
It’s also vital that you know the difference between impaction and constipation.
Check out our new post that covers all you need to about Impaction in bearded dragons…
4. Urate Changes
With a lack of water in the body, excrement will most definitely be affected. Reptile excrement is made of 3 parts: fecal, urate and urine.
Urine is usually a small amount of excrement in a healthy bearded dragon as it is mostly excess water with other urine waste in the urate, dehydration may result in no urine present at all.
Urates may be reduced, but only marginally and fecal can be dry and hard.
If an animal is dehydrated, it will compensate by reducing the amount of fluid in its excrement. The body will be in survival mode and will be trying to preserve any fluid it can.
5. Flakey Skin
As reptiles, it is a normal process for bearded dragons to shed their skin. Shedding issues caused by dehydration can be hard to pinpoint as bearded dragons shed individual scales instead of the entire skin in a single shed, such as snakes and geckos do.
So shedding in bearded dragons always looks a little patchy and messy.
If a bearded dragon is dehydrated you may find the shed takes longer than usual or you have retained the shed. This is called dysecdysis.
A retained shed may be around the tail, toes or eyes in particular. Retained shed left untreated can cause serious issues as the shed may build up and constrict areas.
Toes are prone to this issue and it could result in amputation of a toe.
To find out more about shedding we recommend you head over to our full easy to follow bearded dragon shedding guide…
6. Sunken Eyes
This symptom of dehydration is another one that is mostly universal across all animals.
The skin around the eyes is the closest to the underlying bone of the eye socket. Lack of fluids make vessels more prominent and can result in dark or sunken eyes
7. Lethargy and Decreased Appetite
Bearded dragons are prey species, so they rarely show any signs of illness as this is going to make them a target in the wild.
If your bearded dragon becomes noticeably lethargic and immobile and no longer wants to eat, you should see a vet immediately.
Illnesses can be advanced by the time a bearded dragon shows these symptoms.
Lethargy is a general symptom for many illnesses and ailments, but can also signify dehydration when coupled with the other signs indicated above.
Recommended Reading: The 15 Reasons Your Bearded Dragon Is Sleeping A Lot…
How Can I Treat Dehydration In My Bearded Dragon?
Mild dehydration can be reversed at home with knowledge and care. If your bearded dragon is showing some extreme symptoms including complete loss of activity, see a vet.
Vets can administer fluids to animals that are severely dehydrated via feeding tubes or subcutaneous injections and this can be the difference between life and death.
With this being said, there are many ways to help and rehydrate mild dehydration in bearded dragons.
So, how can I treat dehydration in my bearded dragon? You can treat dehydration in your bearded dragon by:
- Oral fluids
Let’s take a closer look at the treatments for dehydration in bearded dragons…
Below I will outline some of the ways you can help your bearded dragon ingest some fluids in case they are dehydrated.
If you are concerned the dehydration is more progressed you can source a natural electrolyte powder to incorporate into the water you will use in these methods.
Look for an electrolyte solution that has a natural origin and no added sugar.
You may find this in a pharmacy or else your local vet clinic or pet store may have one designed for animals.
Placing your bearded dragon in a shallow bowl of warm water may encourage it to drink.
Make sure the water level does not come up over its shoulder, as the risk of water getting into its ear canal could result in an inner ear infection.
Make sure the water is warm, as if it is too cold you cause more damage by encouraging your bearded dragon to shut down.
Monitor the temperature and keep it warm if it is in the bath for a long time and never leave it unsupervised.
Splash your fingers around in front of the bearded dragons face encouraging drinking.
You can also mist nearby surfaces where the water droplets will roll down. Moving water is more appetizing and natural to a bearded dragon.
Also, mist over the animal’s head as droplets moving down its nose may encourage it to lick and clean up the water.
Here’s a handy guide that shares how to mist a bearded dragon (step by step)
4. Oral Fluids
It’s not uncommon for bearded dragons to sit with their mouths open, particularly while basking at high temperatures.
This is a good time to administer oral fluids. Use a syringe or a dropper to inject the water directly into your bearded dragon’s mouth.
If you are comfortable with high skilled handling of a bearded dragon, involving opening their mouths you may also do this to get water directly in their mouth.
This can be unsafe if you do not have the experience, if you have not done this before it is best to see a vet rather than cause more stress to the animal.
How Can I Prevent Dehydration In My Bearded Dragon?
While it’s great to know the signs and treatment for dehydration in your bearded dragon, it’s also vital to understand how to prevent dehydration in the first place.
So, how can I prevent dehydration in my bearded dragon? You can prevent dehydration in your bearded dragon by:
- Regular bathing
- Daily misting
- Water bowl provision
- Water bowl training
- Dripping system
Now, let’s look closer at these simple ways to keep your bearded dragon hydrated…
1. Regular Bathing
Regular bathing for your bearded dragon can be beneficial for many reasons.
Bathing takes the pressure off the digestive system and stimulates defecation. Many beardies prefer only to pass fecal in the bath, making for easy cleanup!
Bathing also assists in the shedding of your bearded dragon, reducing the chance of dysecdysis and shed constriction.
Bathing also offers a perfect opportunity for a bearded dragon to have a big drink of water.
Not all bearded dragons will drink this way, but many might. You should aim to bathe your bearded dragon 2-3 times a week for up to 30 minutes at a time. Ensure you maintain a warm temperature during the period of bathing.
2. Daily Misting
As a desert species, bearded dragons are not used to experiencing much rain or precipitation.
But when rain does come in the wild they will make the most of the water source. Bearded dragons have adapted a head shape that facilitates the collection of water from above.
When misting your beardie you may be lucky enough to see an awesome natural behaviour where your bearded dragon will lower its head and puff out its beard to angle falling water down towards its mouth to drink. Not all captive bearded dragons display this behaviour.
If your bearded dragon does not wish to drink this way you can also mist surfaces around the enclosure that will form running droplets.
We also recommend you check out this post that covers various ways you can offer your bearded dragon water…
The moving water is visually stimulating and mimics early morning dew, which may be an important water source for wild bearded dragons.
If misting inside the enclosure will raise your humidity too much, you can remove the dragon and mist outside of the enclosure.
You may have the opposite problem and wish to raise the enclosure humidity, the misting will also help with this. You should try to maintain the humidity at 35 – 40%
Recommended Reading: Bearded Dragon Humidity – The Ultimate Guide
3. Water Bowl Provision
The most obvious way to provide water to a captive animal is a water bowl. If you bearded dragon drinks from a water bowl, providing a water bowl would be the best way to reduce the risk of dehydration.
The consensus is that fresh water should be provided to all animals at all times.
While this is somewhat true there can also be downsides to the constant presence of a water bowl in a bearded dragon enclosure.
A water bowl may raise the enclosure humidity and cause fungal and pathogen growth.
You may also have a strange issue of your bearded dragon drinking too much. This in fact can cause dehydration itself! High water consumption can cause diarrhea, which if prolonged can cause dehydration.
You may find a comfortable middle ground by placing a water bowl in the enclosure for periods of the day but removing it in the hottest part of the day to decrease the evaporation and subsequent humidity rise.
Make sure the water bowl is placed on the cool side of the tank, away from a direct heat source so as not to encourage bacterial growth. Clean the water every day.
A good quality water bowl is also important. Below we have listed 2 of our favorite bowls that beardies love.
They are both cost-effective and also look great in the tank too. The second one will allow your bearded dragon to actually lay in the bowl which can be great for hydration.
Last update on 2023-11-22 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
4. Water Bowl Training
Bearded dragons do not naturally get water from still water sources. It is contested whether they can perceive stagnant water at all.
Providing a water bowl may not be enough to get your bearded dragon to drink on its own.
You may have to train or condition your bearded dragon to drink this way. This may be a short or very long process or you may find you are never successful but it is worth a try.
You can encourage drinking from a water bowl by sloshing the water with your fingers to create ripples that attract the bearded dragon.
When it comes close, drip water on its nose from the bowl. Repeat this process many times a day.
Your bearded dragon may not ever truly learn to drink from a bowl, but instead, it may be conditioned to where water is in the enclosure, or even conditioned to the sight of the bowl, not the still water itself.
You can test this by moving the bowl around the enclosure or changing the bowl used.
You can also encourage drinking by making the water more appetizing. Adding fruit juice to the water can attract the beardie with the sweet smell and make drinking more enjoyable.
Be careful with this as it may result in a refusal to drink regular water.
5. Dripping System
Setting up a dripping system or water feature above the water bowl will ensure you never have stagnant water.
The moving water will attract and encourage your bearded dragon to drink and is a good road to take if you are unsuccessful with other methods.
A dripping system will mimic the natural drinking habits of bearded dragons the best. It does not need to be constant but set at various times of the day.
A great water dripper is the Nomoy Reptile Water Fountain Dripper. It solves the issue of stagnant water and will entice your beardie to drink more water.
You can check the latest price of the Nomoy water dripper over at Amazon below…
- 【Natural Clean】It provides fresh, clean and continuous flowing drinking water for reptiles and amphibians to simulate natural waterfall...
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Last update on 2023-11-22 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
The diet of an adult bearded dragon should be made up of 80% greens. This is where they will get most of the fluids they need.
To reduce the risk of dehydration you can choose food that has a higher fluid content such as:
- Leafy greens
- Watermelon (seedless)
If you are struggling to maintain optimal hydration for your bearded dragon there are some sneaky tips to get more fluids into their diet.
The most simple being misting the food. Misting the greens portion of the diet will mean fluids are inadvertently consumed when the diet is consumed.
If your bearded dragon has an all-time favourite food, place that item right in the water bowl. The motivation of the yummy food will encourage eating from this bowl and likely getting a gulp of water at the same time.
You can even go as far as injecting the insects you feed out with water. Using a syringe and needle you can directly insert fluid into the abdomen of insects.
Wet insects help any supplement powders you may use stick better, increasing the nutritional value as well as fluid content!
Why Is My Bearded Dragons Poop Dehydrated?
One of the firsts signs of dehydration you may notice is dry poop. There are many reasons why a bearded dragons poop could be dehydrated.
So, why is my bearded dragon’s poop dehydrated? Your bearded dragon’s poop may be dehydrated due to a low fluid diet. Dry fecal may also indicate constipation. Check where the fecal is in the enclosure as it may have just dried out under the heat lamp.
When thinking of the diet you construct for your bearded dragon, make sure you provide a variety of greens.
Think about the fluid content of different vegetables and fruit to ensure enough water is passing through the digestive system to promote healthy fecal.
Consider the insects you feed out also. Some insects have a high-chitin and hard exoskeleton that require more water in the digestive tract to digest, and by the time they are passed the fecal may be quite dry.
Reduce the amounts of mealworms and locusts in the diet. Dry fecal is also a major sign of constipation. COnstipation is the very slow movement of matter through the digestive tract.
The longer that matter is in the tract, the more fluids are lost from it so by the time it’s excreted it can be dry and hard!
If you are concerned about how dry your bearded dragons fecal is, make sure you are observing them as they defecate.
Fecal left in a warm enclosure will dry out quickly, especially if under the direct heat source.
Fecals left in a water bowl will, of course, seem very moist and could be hiding a dry fecal. To get an accurate idea of the moisture and consistency of the poop you should try to observe the act!
How Long Can an Adult Bearded Dragon Go Without Water?
As a desert species bearded dragons have adapted to living and thriving on low amounts of water in an arid environment.
With this being said bearded dragons still need water to survive and owners often ask how long an adult bearded dragon can go without water.
So, how long can an adult bearded dragon go without water? An adult bearded dragon can survive without water from 3 days to 2 weeks. Although they can survive, this is still not ideal and bearded dragons should be drinking water every day to he healthy and stay hydrated.
Working out how much water your bearded dragon needs is easy. They need 10-30ml per kilo per day. So an average adult will need about 2 teaspoons of water.
You should be encouraging your bearded dragon to drink daily, but if this is not happening there is no need to panic.
3 days to 2 weeks may seem like a large disparity, but it depends on the activity level of the animal.
A very active beardie will be on the lower end of the scale, while a brumating bearded dragon may be able to survive up to 2 weeks.
Ensure you know the signs of dehydration well and watch for any significant changes.
How Long Can a Baby Bearded Dragon Go Without Water?
Baby and juvenile bearded dragons have many different requirements and they need closer attention to ensure they do not dehydrate.
It’s important for owners to know how long baby bearded dragons can go without water.
So, how long can bay bearded dragons go without water? Baby bearded dragons can go without water for only a few days. They should consume water daily as they have a low proportion of vegetable matter in their diet at this age to provide sufficient fluids. Due to their smaller mass, they will lose moisture a lot quicker.
Baby bearded dragons have an opposite composition of diet than adults. Their diet should consist of 80% insects and only 20% vegetables and fruit.
As a majority of adult bearded dragons fluid comes from their diet, this can be an area of concern for juveniles.
As they consume fewer fluids from their diet you must be seeing them drink daily to ensure they do not get dehydrated.
They may be more are risk of dehydration as they like to bask at higher temperatures to support their rapid growth, exposing themselves to higher temperatures for longer periods.
Their smaller frame will also lose water a lot faster than a fully grown adult. Juveniles also tend to have smaller enclosures which can be harder to maintain temperatures as they can heat up faster.
How Much Water Should a Bearded Dragon Drink Daily?
To help your bearded dragon stay hydrated it will help to understand how much water your beardie needs to consume on a daily basis.
Here’s a guide that shares how much water a bearded dragon needs daily depending on their weight…
Average % Of Water In Bearded Dragon Food
What Should I Do If My Bearded Dragon Stay Dehydrated?
While mild dehydration can often be treated daily easily, dehydration that’s been going on for a while and has increased in its severity may need intervention.
For this reason, if you suspect your bearded dragon is severely dehydrated or has been dehydrated for some while then we recommend that you seek the advice of your vet straight away.
Dehydration can cause many health issues and needs to be addressed as soon as possible so always consult a vet if you are in doubt.
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