Bearded Dragon - Pogona vitticeps
Please note: These are general recommendations; they are not meant to be construed as veterinary advice, and may not be appropriate for your pet. Be sure to schedule a visit with your local veterinarian to discuss the best care for your animal!
Bearded Dragons are medium sized lizards with big hearts and lots of spines! They are often considered quite docile and social, although their spines can look intimidating! Bearded Dragons are native to Australia. A full grown Bearded Dragon can reach almost two feet in length (including tail), and they can live more than 10 years!
Bearded Dragons mostly eat insects when they are young, and mostly eat plants when they get older! It’s important to offer a variety of food to make sure their nutritional needs are met. Crickets, mealworms, dubai cockroaches, and other insects benefit from ‘gut loading’ prior to feeding to make them more nutritious; this means feeding the insects for a day or two prior to feeding the insects to your dragon. Be sure not to give your dragon any fireflies; they are toxic! Dark leafy greens and veggies are excellent sources of nutrition and hydration. Many dragons will also require calcium supplementation and vitamin supplementation, but be sure to talk to your veterinarian about how to supplement appropriately; it’s easy to over supplement, and finding the right balance can be tricky!
Like all animals, Bearded Dragons need a dish of fresh water every day. This may be used for drinking or for soaking! Soaking in a shallow dish of lukewarm water a few times a week can help a dragon stay well hydrated, and encourage them to defecate. Careful; their bathtub is also their toilet! Be sure to clean up thoroughly! Additional drinking can be encouraged by misting vegetables before feeding, or even putting a drop of water on the dragon’s head!
Bearded Dragons naturally need a lot of sunlight, so indoors they require ultraviolet (UVB) lighting to act as the sun! These lights usually need to be replaced every 6 months or so, because the UVB output will decrease even if the light still looks like it is functioning normally. The placement of the light is important as well; wire screens can reduce how much light reaches your dragon, and glass can block UVB light entirely! Generally lights should be kept between 12-18 inches above the cage floor.
Like many reptiles, Bearded Dragons can get Metabolic Bone Disease (also called nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism, which is much too long to say) if they don’t get the right amount of calcium and phosphorous in their diets, or if their UV lighting isn’t working. Be sure to talk to your vet about proper diets, vitamins, and cage set-up!
Bearded Dragons are reptiles, so they are ‘cold blooded,’ which means they rely on the temperature of their environment to regulate their body temperature. Bearded dragons need a basking spot in the cage where they can relax and enjoy the heat (up to 100 degrees during the day!) but they also need a cooler area of the cage (around 75 degrees) for when they are done basking. By moving between warmer and cooler areas, Bearded Dragons can make sure they keep their internal heat just right.
There are a variety of good options for heating elements in a cage, but “hot rocks” and other heated surfaces can cause burns; it’s safest to have any heat coming from above and out of reach of your dragon!
Bearded Dragons kept on sand are at risk for impactions. They tend to eat some of the sand when they eat their food, and the sand builds up in their bellies. Because of this, alternatives such as clean newspaper or reptile carpets are safer options.
Be sure you wash your hands well after playing with your dragon to make sure you don’t get germs! Salmonella is particularly of concern for reptiles. Salmonella can live on and around your reptile without actually affecting your animal, but still is a risk to people. We cannot completely get rid of the salmonella in most cases, so it’s very important to always make sure you wash your hands after handling a reptile, and do not allow a reptile to roam freely in the house!
Dr. Chuck recommends Bearded Dragons go to the veterinarian at least once per year to make sure they are healthy and happy!