Impaction, leading to constipation, is one of the most common health issues faced by bearded dragons and other pet lizards. Recognising the symptoms and understanding the appropriate treatments to administer is an important part of reptile ownership.
Causes of Impaction and Constipation
Keeping your pet lizard in optimal conditions is key in avoiding impaction and constipation.
The common causes include:
- Incorrect diet (lack of fibre) or ingestion of foreign matter
- Parasitic infections
Your pet lizard needs fresh water daily. If you have a tropical reptile, you also need to mist their enclosure frequently. One of the dangers with your lizard and dehydration is that he can become so ill and too weak to drink on his own, causing him to become even more unwell and lethargic. If attended to quickly, your pet may perk up immediately and respond very well to initial attempts to rehydrate him.
Bearded dragons and other lizards can become dehydrated if they are not provided with an appropriate drinking water source or an improper diet. Their environment can also lead to dehydration, including high temperature or incorrect terrarium set ups which can absorb humidity.
Our Care Sheets can help you ensure that your terrarium is set up correctly for your reptile companion.
Symptoms of Dehydration
The symptoms of dehydration in your pet lizard range from very mild to severe - depending on how dehydrated he has become - so it’s important to understand the various symptoms that can appear.
Skin - your pet lizard’s skin may lose it elasticity, become dull or wrinkled, dry or flaky. Patches of dry, flaky skin may be noticed, particularly on his head, tail or toes.
Eyes - your pet’s eyes may appear sunken into his skull.
Behavior - your lizard’s behavior may become lethargic and refuse to eat.
If you’re worried about your pet’s hydration, you can very gently pinch his skin between your fingers. If well hydrated, his skin will go back into place near immediately.
Treatment of Dehydration
A novice administering the wrong treatment or fluids to a dehydrated pet can cause shock and even death to your companion. Ideally, especially for those new to the hobby, your lizard should be taken to a veterinarian who can assess both the severity and optimal treatment of his dehydration.
Incorrect Diet or Ingestion of Foreign Matter - Our Care Sheets cover the dietary needs and preferences of specific lizards in greater detail, but there are some rules of thumb for all reptile companions:
- Ensure fresh food is offered at each feeding
- There is no better better food than live feeder insects for most lizards and ffrogs
- Clean away any uneaten food after feeding
- Ensure fresh, clean water is always available
- Use only safe, suitable substrate and other materials within your terrarium
For bearded dragons, there are a variety of high quality, specially formulated options to ensure he is getting all required nutrients. These include breed-specific frozen cubes and dried insects. Blue tongues can also benefit from a regular diet of specific frozen cubes, which include a balanced mix of meat and plant proteins. For enthusiasts with a variety of lizard species, Fruit D-Lite is formulated with all natural fruit ingredients.
Additionally, regular use of lizard supplements and gut loading live insects prior to feeding can help ensure that your pet is receiving adequate amounts of protein, fibre, calcium and other essential nutrients.
Parasitic Infections - Prevention
Just like our other animal companions, lizards can suffer from worm and parasite infections. Parasites which can infect your reptilian pets include:
- Lizard mite - Hirstiella spp
- Stomach worms - Physaloptera
- Cryptosporidiosis - Cryptosporidium saurophilum
Your lizard may become infected with parasites from contact with other reptiles or contaminated objects or living environments, or from eating food which has been infected. If you are introducing a new reptile, they should be quarantined from your existing reptile companions until they have been completely dewormed.
Feeding your carnivorous pet live feeder insects, frozen foods and fresh fuit and vegetables can also minimise the risk of introducing parasites. Safe, available frozen feeders include:
Symptoms of Parasitic Infection
Common symptoms of a parasitic infection include:
- Poor appetite and weight loss
- Vomiting, regurgitation
- Abnormal faecal matter or diarrhea
While worms may be present in your reptile’s faecal matter or vomit, but the absence of visible worms does not guarantee there are no internal parasites.
Treatment of Parasitic Infection
If you have confirmed the presence of parasites in your buddy, there are specific medications and treatments depending on the type of infestation. Your vet will be able to help you diagnose and remedy the parasitic infections found. Diagnosis will be determined by your vet performing a fecal parasite examination as well as carrying out a general wellness check.
If mites have been detected, you can help keep on top of the infestation by using mite and lice treatment spray in your enclosures.
Having an understanding of your pet reptile’s living environment, diet and the signs of poor health are key elements of being a successful reptile keeper. In addition to keeping a well stocked kit with medication and food supplements, having the contact details of a reliable reptilian vet can keep you and your pet on the right track!
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