Home | General Reptile & Amphibian Articles | Hibernation/Brumation in Captive Bearded Dragons and other Reptiles and Amphibians: Request for Information

Hibernation/Brumation in Captive Bearded Dragons and other Reptiles and Amphibians: Request for Information

Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.

Bearded DragonThe process of hibernation (or brumation) in reptiles and amphibians seems subject to a great many factors.  For example, I have noticed that spotted and Eastern box turtles, and other temperate North American species, vary greatly in this regard.  In captivity, wild-caught individuals usually slow down (activity and feeding) during the winter, even if kept warm and given a photoperiod of 12 hours.  Captive-born animals of the same species most often continue to feed throughout the winter.

Green frogs, garter snakes, musk turtles and others, however, usually stay active if kept warm in winter, even if wild-caught.

A recent email from a colleague brought up the subject of bearded dragons.  His animal becomes lethargic and ceases feeding in October, despite a long photoperiod, and high ambient and basking temperatures.  Most bearded dragons in the US pet trade are several generations removed from the wild, yet the tendency to hibernate persists in some.  Many bearded dragons, however, remain active all year.   I am wondering if what we are seeing is related to the natural range of our pets’ ancestors… perhaps those from certain areas hibernate in the wild and retain this pattern in captivity?

A Request for Help

Internal (circadian) rhythms exert their influence on most animals, and an understanding of their workings is vital from both a pet-keeping and conservation point of view.  I would greatly appreciate being informed of any seasonal changes in activity that you notice among your pets.  Please write in and I’ll mention your observations in future articles.

Thanks, Frank Indiviglio.

Some North American turtles are incredibly cold-tolerant, and are being studied to see if the mechanisms they use might be applied to the possible storage of human organs destined for transplant.  The abstract of an interesting The Journal of Herpetology article is posted at:

http://www.jstor.org/pss/1565569

If you’re looking for general care information on bearded dragons, check out my article: Bearded Dragon Natural History and Captive Care.

56 comments

  1. avatar

    Hi Frank,
    Great theories on a topic I feel is lacking in information. With so many people keeping Bearded Dragons these days, it’s surprising to me that this virtual shut-down period isn’t more understood or discussed. Personally, I bought a baby dragon (citrus too..looks amazing) at a local reptile show and raised it through the summer months. Fed it a varied diet of appropriately-sized crickets, silkworms, hornworms, and a variety of canned bugs; along with collard greens, carrots, and some other veggies. Than, around October, he began becoming lethargic, ceased basking and started hiding out in his cave literally ALL the time. He didn’t eat. So, I quickly took him to the vet. It was odd, because despite his “shut-down” my dragon looked healthier then ever and his colors were extremely vibrant. I felt kind of silly taking him into the vet, but I didn’t know what to do. He told me of the little-understood brumation. Meanwhile, my dragon stayed that way to well into March (albeit with no change to lighting schedule or heating, a period of roughly 6 months), at which point he started coming out and resuming normal activity. He looked well fed, and still in excellent shape. I wish I had taken the guy’s info I bought the dragon from at the rep. show, just to see if this was normal for his brood. I would encourage anyone that buys a dragon to keep this in mind, just as a heads-up if/when brumation does occur.

  2. avatar

    Hi Matt,

    Frank Indiviglio here. Thanks for your very useful observations on your bearded dragon. We have so much to learn ….reports like yours are exactly what leads to improved husbandry techniques and a better understanding of natural history – by sharing them you help the field and spur others to think in new directions. I urge everyone to do the same – observe, record and then get your information out to others….more and more, especially since the advent of the internet, important discoveries are being made by people who are not research biologists, but who have passion and interest.

    Great advice concerning checking with the seller about your animal’s history…this is always a good policy. Given the wide range of the bearded dragon, it’s likely that brumation times would vary, or may be absent, in some populations. Also always a good idea to check with a vet when something unexpected occurs.

    Its fortunate that bearded dragons seem to “slow down” in tune with their own schedule…trying to deliberately cool down an animal at a time outside of its normal cycle is difficult. Best to leave the basking light on, as you did, since some animals will use it on occasion – on mild winter days in NY, I have seen red-eared sliders, garter snakes and bullfrogs basking – sometimes against a backdrop of snow covered ground. This will also allow the animal to digest any food it may have eaten. The long length of the inactive period – Oct. thru March, suggests that your animal hails from a region experiencing an extended, cool winter. Animals from milder climates, i.e. as in North Carolina, USA, usually go off feed for 4weeks or so.

    It’s interesting that reptiles usually do not lose much weight during brumation/hibernation, even at elevated temperatures. While working at the Bronx Zoo, I cared for a group of 8 Indian gharials, Gavialis gangeticus, (large, fish-eating crocodilians) for a period of 17 years. They had hatched in their natural habitat, and were held at Madras Crocodile Bank in India prior to being sent to NYC as yearlings. They went off feed each year for 4-5 months, despite high air and water temperatures. They began feeding again in December, when the day length here was very short (they were in an exhibit with a skylight). I spoke with outstanding herpetologist Rhom Whittaker, who was managing the Maras Croc Bank at the time. I learned that the gharial’s inactive period in NY coincided with the winter in their natural habitat, northern Pakistan…this despite being in captivity for 17 years, and being held at warm temperatures. Upon weighing the animals (quite a task once they topped 400 pounds!), I saw that they lost little if any weight.

    Some new information was published recently concerning snakes and weight retention/loss during food shortages…please look for my article on this topic next week.

    Thanks again, please pass along anything of interest.
    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  3. avatar

    In the 70′s – probably ’73 or so in the Willamette Valley in Oregon I had a turtle which I had positively identified as a red-eared slider. He was got from a local pet store. I put him in a galvanized tub with another turtle that I had caught in the creek. That one had dark skin and small white specks. Anyway, they both escaped. I believe they must have had one or more accomplices,or else turtles are much cleverer than I imagined. The wild turtle I never saw again, but I was very surprised to find the slider under the woodpile in the middle of winter, with snow on the ground. I was afraid he was completely frozen, but we put him in the porch because my father warned me not to warm him up too fast, and he woke up and was just fine.

  4. avatar

    Hello Terry,

    Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks so much for the interesting observation. Turtles are indeed pretty clever…wood turtles I kept would immediately jostle for position at their tubs drain as soon as they heard the valve open to release the water – the first in line was able to snag leftovers that were carried to the drain. When the water had disappeared, each turtle would peer intently down into the drain, to assure that nothing had been missed.

    Your note about the slider hibernating below the wood pile is especially interesting, as this species generally passes the winter underwater. Breathing and cold tolerance are completely below water and on land are radically different processes, so it is quite amazing that the turtle was able to adjust (although red-eared sliders, established in about 40 foreign countries, would be the ones I’d bet on as being able!). The only similar situation I can recall arose in about the same way as did your experience – and in the same time period. When removing animals from their outdoor pen to inside accommodations for the winter (NYC), I miscounted and so forgot 1 green frog (Rana clamitans). In the spring, I found him alive and healthy, below a pile of damp leaves, near a hibernating box turtle…green frogs usually pass the winter at the bottom of a pond.

    Eastern painted turtles can be frozen in a block of ice, and grey treefrogs hibernate below a thin layer of leaves on land…those I have found were hard as rocks. A cryo-protectant prevents cell damage, and is being studied with a view towards human organ storage. Your note is the first I’ve heard of sliders being able to survive in such circumstances…thank you. Your father was correct in having you defrost the animal slowly – a quick change may have killed it.

    The sliders I mentioned in the last post were (still are) housed in a pond near the Bronx Zoo’s reptile house. They basked on sunny days only, throughout the winter. They were apparently stimulated by the sunlight shining through the water, as water temperatures on sunny days were the same as on dark days – about 40 F. Using a temperature gun, I found that a basking turtle’s shell could reach 70 F on mild days – about 20 F above the air temperature. Eastern painted turtles and musk turtles housed with the sliders did not bask in winter.

    Please continue to pass along your thoughts and questions. Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  5. avatar

    hello,
    my name is matthew smiley, ive had a bearded dragon for about 2 yaers but we lost him shotly there after. He has been missing for 4 months. We just found him today in my moms office which its very cold in there and its winter time . When we first saw him he looked almost dead but he started breathing again when we put him under his heat lamp for about 10 or 15 minutes. He was a very darkish black color and we thought there is no way hes going to live but hes up and walking around like the old days so we think he went in to brumation cause theres no way he could live that long in our house.

  6. avatar

    Hello Matthew, Frank Indiviglio here.

    What an interesting story, thank you! I think it’s especially fortunate that he was able to digest whatever food he had eaten before becoming chilled; if food had remained in the lizard’s stomach, he might not have survived (the food lies there and decays). The timing must have been just right.

    His survival is a testament to the good care you must certainly have been giving him…a 4 month dormancy is very hard on any animal…even in the wild many perish each year.

    Sometimes escaped reptiles turn up in the oddest places. A red-tailed ratsnake that I cared for in a zoo escaped his exhibit and was found 11 months later in a large walk-through bird aviary…about 12” longer and much fatter than he had been (they are arboreal, and very fond of small birds!). An escaped black tree monitor was found on a fence in the zoo’s construction yard, in the process of swallowing an English sparrow.

    Please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  7. avatar

    Hello,

    My name is Greg. My bearded dragon seemed to have ceased to grow. He is about 6 to 7 inches long. I have had him for two or three yeaars. I am worried that something is wrong with him. If you could write back and tell me if you know. It would be most appreciated.

    Thank You,

    Greg

  8. avatar

    Hello Greg,
    Frank Indiviglio here. Thanks for your interest in our blog.

    I’d be happy to try to help, but I’ll need a bit more information from you.

    Please let me know what you feed your bearded dragon, the cage and basking site temperature, what type of UVB bulb you use, the cage size and how large then animal as when first received. This will help me to provide you with useful advice.

    Thanks, I look forward to hearing back from you, Frank Indiviglio

  9. avatar

    Hello Frank,

    Thank you for writing back. I use a 40 watt heating bulb for my dragon. I use crickets and lettuce to feed him. He was only about 3 inches when we first got him. The cage is around 30 gallons. The basking site temperature is about 75-80 degrees.

    Lately there has been a new problem though. My dragon is seeming to be more lazy than usual. He just wants to sit on his heating rock and just stay there.

    If you could write back as soon as possible that would be very appreciated because I am worried about my little dragon’s life.

    Thanks again,
    Greg

  10. avatar

    Hello Greg,

    Frank Indiviglio here. Thanks for getting back to me.

    Even though they are such common pets, bearded dragons require a great deal of very specific care if they are to thrive. You will need to make a few major changes in order to help your pet out.

    Your basking temperature is much too low…it should be raised to 110-120 F. You can do this by using a stronger bulb (perhaps start with a 75 watt Halogen bulb, which will also supply Ultaviolet A radiation) and by building up some rocks to bring him closer to the bulb. If your home gets very cool at night, a ceramic heater can be used. The ambient terrarium temperature (the temperature away from the basking site) should range from 80-90 F.

    Ultraviolet B radiation is vital to your lizard’s long term survival. The Zoo Med 10.0 is ideal for bearded dragons.

    If you’d rather use a single bulb to provide UVB and heat, I suggest a Mercury Vapor. Please be aware that these must be used in a ceramic fixture, as they build up a great deal of heat.

    “Hot rocks” are not very good to use with bearded dragons…the lizards tend to stay on these too long, especially if air temperatures are cool. I suggest you use lights as described above.

    Lettuce is a very low quality food for reptiles. You should offer your lizard a mixed salad of kale, romaine, dandelion, collard greens, mustard greens, grated carrot, yam, squash and similar vegetables (avoid spinach). Crickets should themselves be well-fed for 2 days with a high quality commercial cricket food before being given to your lizard. They should be alternated with waxworms, canned grasshoppers and canned silkworms.

    Try to gradually shift your pet to a diet consisting of 50% Zoo Med’s commercial juvenile bearded dragon food, using the above recommendations as the balance of the diet.

    Vitamin/mineral powder should be added to the diet 2-3x weekly.

    Your lizard may be entering a hibernation period, as mentioned in this article. In that case, it may not begin to feed for a time. However, the changes outlined above should be put into effect as soon as you are able, to rule out low temperature as the cause of his inactivity.

    Well, I’ve given you quite a bit to do…sorry, but all is really necessary if you are serious about keeping your pet properly.

    Please check out my article on bearded dragon care when you have a moment, and please be in touch if you need more information.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio

  11. avatar

    hello,
    i am sad to report that my lizard died.

  12. avatar

    Hello Greg,

    Sorry to hear your sad news. If you decide to get a new pet, please be in contact ahead of time and perhaps I can offer some suggestions.

    Best regards, Frank

  13. avatar

    Hello, I found your article very good. I myself have a 1 yr old dragon who is in brumation. He is about 14 inches head to tail and sleeps all winter in a shoe box that i cut out for him lined with paper towels. It is on the cool side of his tank. My setup sia 75 gallon tank with 2 24″ 10.0 UV lights and a 75 watt basking bulb that hovers between 100-110F.

    He entered brumation around late Nov. and he still seems to be deep in it. My question is how long does it typically last?

    Thanks,

    Josh B.

  14. avatar

    Hello Josh, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks for your kind words and for the information on your bearded dragon. We have much to learn about brumation and the effects of internal and external factors – each piece of new data helps.

    A colleague reports that his bearded dragon remains largely dormant for 6 months, beginning in October, and I’ve run across other accounts listing periods of 3-5 months. It seems unrelated to the conditions in which the animal is kept, and may be controlled by genetics, i.e. an internal “clock” (circadian rhythm). Given that the bearded dragon has a huge range and that various populations experience winters which vary in length, it follows that captives vary in this regard also (depending upon their origin within the species’ range).

    I don’t have enough information from bearded dragon owners to be sure about the foregoing, but my experience with other species leads me in that direction. For example, wild-caught musk turtles from North Carolina go through a shorter dormancy period in captivity than do musk turtles resident in New York.

    The dormancy period seems to remain stable over time for most if not all species. In one case, Indian gharials (fish-eating crocodilians) under my care maintained the same dormancy period for over 17 years (and I expect are continuing to do so…I should track down their current location and find out).

    Thanks again…please keep me posted, I would appreciate any further information you could provide as time goes on.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  15. avatar

    Thanks, I hope its not too much longer, i kinda miss the bugger! Anyways, thinking about the situation after posting, I would also like to ask if its possible for him to grow more, he’s pretty small compared to some dragons ive seen. He is about 1 year old, started brumation at about 9-10 months old.

  16. avatar

    Hello Josh, Frank Indiviglio here. Thanks for your comment.

    Your bearded dragon likely does have some growing time left. The species’ maximum size is about 24 inches, but this varies quite a bit – animals from some populations top out at 14-16 inches in length, while others grow larger.

    Once he becomes active, you can feed more heavily than you would a lizard that remained active all year – every other day, or small meals 5-6 times weekly. Just be sure to stop feeding him 7-10 days before his usual brumation time, so that the last meal will be completely digested (please touch base with me as that time nears).

    You should provide the lizard with a varied diet, and not rely solely upon crickets (crickets used should themselves be well fed, please see my article on Cricket Nutrition). Offer the lizard a salad composed of kale, dandelion, cucumber, yams, romaine and similar vegetables, commercial bearded dragon diets and live crickets, waxworms, super mealworms and wild-caught insects (the Zoo Med Bug Napper is a useful insect trap). Canned insects are an excellent means of increasing dietary variety. Powder the food with a vitamin/mineral supplement once or twice weekly.

    I suggest that you spray your lizard lightly with water every few days, as he may continue to drink during brumation.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  17. avatar

    Hey, I bathe him once a week during brumation, in his active months (i think april to Dec.) i feed him a 50% cricket, 50% escorole/kale/collards/endives, and fruit as treats. I’ll try and keep you updated I am expecting him to become active going into April. Thanks.

    ~Josh

  18. avatar

    Hello Josh, Frank Indiviglio here.

    It’s very good that he is eating vegetables; many refuse to. Try to mix in some of the other items mentioned to add some variety…given that he has a good appetite, most should be accepted.

    Good luck and best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  19. avatar

    Hi Frank, Just wanted to update you on my Dragons situation. He awoke about 10 days ago and was very active and had quite the appitite. The past few days though, he refuses to eat and just sits under his basking bulb all day. I hope he’s not sick. Is this normal? Also he started shedding around his face and head, maybe thats the reasoning behind this? Im not sure, just wanted to fill you in. Thanks,

    Josh

  20. avatar

    Hello Josh, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks very much for the update; it’s very helpful to have reports from as many people as possible.

    Sometimes lizards fresh out of hibernation tend to eat too much in a short period of time. In the wild they would need to do so, in order to gear up for defending territories and/or mating, but captivity it doesn’t work out so well. Also, in their rush to feed they may swallow substrate, resulting in a blockage.

    Check that he is passing feces and fast him for a few more days. If he remains lethargic or starts to decline in condition, or is not passing feces, you’ll need to have him examined by a veterinarian to check for a blockage or other problem.

    Good luck, please keep me posted,

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  21. avatar

    wELL HE’S BACK TO HIS NORMAL CYCLE, ONCE HIS SHEDDING WAS FINISHED AROUND THE MOUTH AND EYES, HE WENT RIGHT BACK TO NORMAL.

  22. avatar

    Hello Josh, Frank Indiviglio here.

    I apologize for being so long in responding. The delay was caused by a technical difficulty which has now been resolved.

    Thanks for getting back to me on that…very useful to have as much information as possible on dormancy cycles.

    Good luck and enjoy,
    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  23. avatar

    Hi there.

    I have a bearded dragon that I fed yesterday and he had some super worms and a little lettuce. I have been feeding the superworms rommaine lettuce to gut load them. He is about 5 years old and really healthy but I went down to check on him today and he was laying in his water bowl and not really responsive. He would respond to back strokes but was super dopey and his dulap area was really black as well as behind his skull and under his eyes. He hasnt gone dormant for a year and a half. Is it possible he is sick? I cant tell now if he is sleeping or dead? He doent look like he is deep breathing but when he has gone dormant his breathing was super shallow. Can a lizard go dormant like that within 24 hours? He was doing some weird gaping earlier and I wonder if perhaps he has a lung problem. Would he go dormant with his mouth slightly open? Its a behavior I havent witnessed before and Im trying to get an insite to it. I havent changed anything about his care of late. When a beardie is in dormancy should he respond to some sort of stimulus to see if he is still alive or not? Please help.

    Jordan

  24. avatar

    Hello Jordan, Frank Indiviglio here. Thanks for your interest in our blog.

    Unfortunately, the symptoms you describe could be related to any number of problems. Dormancy will usually be fairly regular, at approximately the same time each year, and comes on gradually, so I do not believe that is involved here.

    Impactions caused by swallowing substrate, or long-term buildup of chitin from a diet high in super mealworms could possibly be involved….the only way to be sure would be to have radiographs taken by a veterinarian. I suggest a vet visit as your next step. Please let me know if you need a reference to a veterinarian in your area; I maintain a list and may be able to offer some assistance.

    Gaping can indicate a respiratory ailment…such is most common if humidity is too high or temperatures are too low. However, gaping is also sometimes associated with parasites and impactions, as well as less known ailments. Again, a veterinary diagnosis is essential.

    Nutritional problems can build up over years and then suddenly manifest themselves. Please write back with the details of his diet. If the diet was limited to super mealworms and romaine, nutritional deficiencies are almost certainly involved in your lizard’s present condition.

    In terms of gut-loading, super mealworms are best fed a mix of high protein baby cereal, corn meal, tropical fish flakes and carrots, yams and other vegetables. They should only comprise a small portion of your lizard’s diet…please write back if you would like more information concerning a balanced diet for bearded dragons.

    Good luck and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  25. avatar

    Frank,

    Well I went down today to check and I now know our poor lizard has passed away. Its a shame because he was a good pet. We varied his diet with onions and carrots and romaine, fruit as well as different leaves from our plants out in the gardens. But we definately only fed him superworms the last year because the pet store stopped stocking crickets, and he was regular in his bowel movements in fact the day he got sick he had a BM, it looked normal. He was 6 years old so he wasnt old by any means but we did rescue him from an owner that kept him cold and fed him only romaine for 2 years. Thank you for your help and we will look at replacing Larry with a baby one.

    Jordan

  26. avatar

    Hello Jordan,

    Frank Indiviglio here. Sorry to hear of your lizard’s passing.

    A nutritional deficiency was most likely involved, especially give its early history…these can take years to manifest, which complicates understanding and treating such conditions.

    Please be in touch when you acquire a new animal…I’ll help with planning a balanced diet, so that your new pet will get off to a good start.

    Good luck and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  27. avatar

    Hi there.

    We have a new lizard in the house and its a beardy. A small one compared to the old one but he is growing for sure. You had said you could help out with a diet for the new one, please let me know if the offer is still good. On e other thing I had to ask is is it alright to feed the lizard with beef. He readily takes it and we are feeding him suppliments with his salads, as well as crickets, no super worms as of yet. Thanks in advance for your reply.

    Jordan.

  28. avatar

    Hello Jordan, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Nice to hear from you again.

    I do not recommend feeding beef to your bearded dragon. Bearded dragons have evolved to feed upon insects and various plants; beef, pink mice and vertebrate foods are not well-digested. Also, whole insects provide a far more nutritionally complete meal (exoskeleton, internal organs, gut contents) than do bits of beef.

    Your bearded dragon’s diet should be comprised of a wide variety of insects and vegetables; prepared bearded dragon diets and canned insects can be used to provide important dietary variety. Please see my article “Bearded Dragon Care and History in Captivity” for specific suggestions.

    Enjoy your new pet and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  29. avatar

    hi there i have a 3-4 month old bearded dragon and he seems to be started to eat less and sleep more is this normal for one so young?

    Thanks Darren

  30. avatar

    Hello Darren, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks for your interest in our blog.

    Young bearded dragons may become lethargic as the seasons change, and eventually enter a period of hibernation.

    Unfortunately, with a young animal it is not possible to tell if this is the case, or if it is ill, as you do not have a prior winter period as a guide. It is most likely just slowing down in preparation for cooler weather, but only a veterinary exam can rule out a coincidental illness.

    Good luck and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  31. avatar

    Hi Frank

    Thank you for the responce, I was thinking that this was the case just wanted to be sure. He seems fine in every other way he is still eating just not as much as he was last week. His poo seems normal from what i read on websites. He is running round alot in his viv and is always banging on the glass to come out and get attention, he seems to love beeing handled and runs around on the sofa, after a while of beeing out he runs up on my shoulder and seems to snuggle in and starts to fall asleep lol. This is the first bearded dragon i have had (first reptile) and i think there lovely. Im sure there will be many questions i have as time goes by and i wont hesitate to ask you them if you dont mind.

    Many Thanks again

    Darren

  32. avatar

    Hello Darren, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks for the feedback.

    If the lizard begins to slow down more, it would be best not to handle it until the activity levels return to normal.

    Please make sure you are aware of their need for high UVB exposure and a hot basking site, and feel free to write in if you need further information.

    Good luck and enjoy,

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  33. avatar

    Hi Frank

    I am running a 10% UVB strip light (on for about 12-14 hours a day) and a 100W Basking lamp, temp at basking point is between 100-105F is this about right?

    Kind Regards

    Darren

  34. avatar

    Hello Darren, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Sounds very good; UVB florescent bulbs are generally most effective at a range of 12 inches or so…after that their output declines sharply. Bearded dragons will climb rock piles if you need to build up the basking site, just be sure that the rocks are secure, and place the base rock on the terrarium bottom, not the sand, so that the lizard cannot burrow beneath it.

    Good luck and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  35. avatar

    Hi Frank here we go again,
    My lizard I thought was slowing down to hibernate and it is as though it has quit eating all together. Is this something to do with his night time temperature. I cant think of anything else that could go wrong. He is in bad shape and again I feel as though he is about to expire, Should I keep his heat on during the night also?

    Any help would be nice.

    Jordan.

  36. avatar

    Hello Jordan, Frank Indiviglio here.

    If the lizard is hibernating, then it’s normal for him not to feed, even if the heat is kept on at night. However, it’s difficult to distinguish the winter slowdown from illness, especially if this is the first winter you’ve had him. If you think he is in bad shape due to an illness, then yes, leave the heat on at night until you can bring the lizard to a vet for tests. Spray lightly once daily as well.

    Good luck and please keep me posted.

    A happy and healthy new year, Frank Indiviglio.

  37. avatar

    Well that is the end.

    The lizard died this morning. Its like the other one, he stopped eating as much and slowly just quit. I had kept introducing salads and crickets to him but he just would not eat them. So I figured he was going into hibernation. NOPE he was sick. I wonder if it is the sand that I use in the bottom of the tank I have had a couple of articles that say no unless he was eating a mouthful a day. He wasnt. The only noticeable difference in his behaviour was the lack of droppings, but with no food he likely had none to excrete. Im at a loss this is the second one I have lost in a year. Same sort of conditions. What do you figure has gone wrong?

    Jordan

  38. avatar

    Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Sorry to hear the bad news. The deaths are probably unrelated – I see from past notes that your last lizard was received from someone who had fed it improperly for some time – a long term nutritional deficiency was likely.

    Sand can impact bearded dragons, but in addition to the amount of sand consumed there are other factors – the type of sand used, as well as the lizard’s diet and how well hydrated it was; please write back with some details and we can review the situation. Unfortunately, only an autopsy can provide a definite answer, however.

    Please let me know the lizard’s full diet, supplements, UVB source, temperatures, etc., and I’ll provide some thoughts. Also, it’s always good to lien up an experienced reptile veterinarian before purchasing a lizard – without fecal and other tests, we’re really limited to guessing when something goes wrong – in your case, for example, no real way to have been determined if the slowdown was due to the season or an illness.

    Good luck and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  39. avatar

    I found this website quite helpful. I just received a Bearded Dragon this week from a friend that was going to get “rid” of it. I took it in.

    His name is Socrates and I usually have him inside his tank while I am at school but I lizard proofed my room (found a way to hide dangerous cables and other hazards under the rug. Also blocked the bottom of my bed from entrance therefore he is always in plain sight.) I am a very warm guy that likes to keep his room at about 75 degrees daily. Under the stand where his tank is I set up a heating rock food tray and a water tray and the first 2 days were great since his previous owner did not let him lose much as soon as I placed him on the ground he ran on about and I left him do so for a couple of hours. Later I found him chilling by my huge mirror I picked him up and placed him on the spot where the heating rock is located, he got the idea, I saw him eat and then leave and later I saw him return to the rock and hung out there all day. But about a day ago I noticed that he found a very cold spot in my room and he goes there and he sleeps, it is a corner in my room behind the bed (in plain sight but really cozy). So I have a couple concerns,

    If he is in brumation should I allow him to lay there asleep and not bother him?

    My room is usually at around 75-80 degrees with a small heater, but I live in Indiana, Indianapolis and temperatures usually drop at about 0degrees Fahrenheit, the question is should I allow my room to get a little colder?
    And does the outside temperature have any effect on how long he will be dormant, here we usually don’t heat up until the end of march.
    Thank you.

  40. avatar

    Hello Chris, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks for your interest in our blog and the kind words.

    It’s best to keep him in a terrarium, especially during the winter. They are usually fine at 75 F if not feeding/dormant, but if the animal is moving from cool to warm spots in the room problems can arise (dormancy length/temp depends on where in the range the animal’s ancestors originated, and as we don’t know that it is best to stick with what has worked in the past). No need to lower the temperature; spray him daily but he will not likely eat. The outside temperature should not effect the length of his dormancy – this seems tied to an internal clock; they usually begin feeding in March, regardless of the weather.

    A few other points on some things you mentioned – I wouldn’t use a hot rock – overheating accidents are common and it is not a natural way for the animal to warm up. Once he becomes active, provide a UVB bulb and an incandescent basking light for heat/UVB. Bearded dragons usually will not take water from bowls, but rather lap drops from rocks, plants, aquarium glass etc.

    Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  41. avatar

    My son received a bearded dragon this last March for a birthday gift, all has been fine with him until now…he basks on a log, sleeps under shade of a plant with a under tank heater, and feeds daily on crickets, carrots, or meal worms. I have used the calcium powder approx. once a week and keep fresh water for him. He now has taken up residence under his log and when touched raises his head up and opens his mouth. It appears he is not breathing but as he lowers his head he begins but it appears to be labored…He is still excreting waste (seen in terrarium). I read it is good to bathe once a week during the “dormant” period I just need to be sure that this is what is happening, it seems early from the reports I have read. He is approx 9 months old and was purchased from a pet store that raises their own.

  42. avatar

    Hello Tammy, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks for your interest in our blog.

    Dormancy usually starts during cool season, so if you are in the southern hemisphere it is possible, less likely in northern. However, the labored breathing is not a sign of dormancy; may be a respiratory infection.

    Please send details as regarding temperature and UVB exposure and I’ll review, but its best to bring the animal in for a vet exam at this point.

    Good luck and please forward more info when you can.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  43. avatar

    Hello,
    We have a bearded dragon, Lizzie, who is a little over 1 year old. She has been very healthy and happy and a great addition to our family. Every morning when I get up, I turn her “night light” off and turn her daytime light on and she usually runs right up to the side of the tank as if to say good morning. For the last few mornings, she hasn’t come up to say hello and has been spending a lot of time under her shell and climbing branches. She has been eating less not very active. She seems to be sleeping. This afternoon, my daughter picked her up to hold her (which she does almost everyday) and Lizzie suddenly opened her mouth wide, stiffened up and seemed to start breathing in a very labored way. My husband immediately picked her up and put her back in her tank, thinking perhaps she was not happy about being handled. Lizzie has never displayed aggresion before and so we don’t think thats what was happening. After he put her in her tank, she remained stiff for a few more minutes – to the point of not stopping herself from sliding off her basking rock in to the sand. As I type this, she has wedged herself between and shell and her basking rock. She doesn’t seem to be breathing abnormally anymore and her eyes are open. Her color is good and her eyes look bright and clear. As I said before, she was completely fine until a few days ago. Her tank during the day time is between 95 and 105 degrees. At night when we turn the day light off, it goes down to anywhere between 65 and 75 degrees. She has a UVB light that we have 12 in above her basking spot. We turn that on for about 2 hrs per day. She eats mealworms, kale and cucumbers. We change her water and wash all of her bowls everyday in mild soap and warm water. She has a large bowl that she climbs in to and lays in every couple of days. She has been in great health for the entire year we have had her up until now. I’ve read all the previous posts and am wondering if she is perhaps brumating? We have an appointment with the vet in the morning but I’m worried about her anyway. Your thoughts?
    Sincerely,
    Jessica & the entire family

  44. avatar

    Approve it: http://blogs.thatpetplace.com/thatreptileblog/wp-
    Hello Jessica, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks for your interest in our blog. The change of seasons could be involved, however judging from the diet you’ve described the animal may have some nutrition-related problems; a calcium deficiency is especially likely – even if you were supplementing its food with calcium and a multi vitamin (?), a more varied diet, with mealworms only used sparingly, would be needed; this is especially important in young animals.

    Taking the lizard to a vet is an excellent decision – after blood tests for calcium levels, etc. (mention diet to the vet), please write back and we can discuss a few useful changes.

    Good luck and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  45. avatar

    Hello Frank,
    Well we just returned from our visit to the vet. It appears that Lizzie is suffering from a calcium deficiency just like you said. The vet gave her 2 shots – one of Vit D3 and one of calcium. He also gave me liquid calcium for her to take 3 times per day. I’m feeding her a supplement he gave me that I’m supposed to mix in with pureed veggies. He told us that we probably caught it in time and at this point its mostly dependant on us staying on top of it as to whether she survives or not. SO – I’m a lizard nurse for the next few days/weeks! We’re headed back to see him again next Tuesday for another check-up and possible 2nd set of shots depending on how she is doing.
    Thanks for your suggestions and concern! Lizards are new to us and there is not a whole lot of info out there…so its so nice to find a community of fellow lizard lovers!
    Sincerely,
    Jessica and family

  46. avatar

    Hello Jessica, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks for the feedback; I’m glad you caught the problem in time. Please check this article on Bearded Dragon Care concerning adding some variety to the diet. It is also important that crickets and other insects be fed a nutritious diet before being given to the lizard…please see Cricket Diets for a bit more info.

    Good luck and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  47. avatar

    Hi Frank … got another lizard hibernation question for you, though not about bearded dragons. I have a lone Lacerta agilis female whom I’d like to hibernate over the winter. She is set up in a naturalistic terrarium. Question is, can she hibernate right there in the terrarium if I just gradually lower the temperature and light level? Should I add some thick leaf litter for her to burrow under?

    On a semi-related note, I’m very much looking for a male for her, but nobody seems to have L. agilis available in the United States. It was a fluke that I even found the one I did. Any sources you might point me to would be much appreciated!

  48. avatar

    Hello Raksha, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Nice to hear from you again.

    Lacerta agilis, the European Sand Lizard is a wonderful animal to work with; unfortunately not much attention is give European lizards here in the states. In all my years in the zoo field I’ve not come across any Sand Lizards. I do hear from specialists breeders from time to time and will let you know if any turn up.

    I have worked with the E. Green Lizard, L. viridis; Sand Lizards can kept in the same manner (the 2 are closely related, hybridize and share similar habitats). In order to stimulate breeding, a temperature of 41 F is ideal, but that is difficult to achieve w/o refrigeration. At higher temperatures it’s advisable to leave a weak basking light, as the lizard might be semi-active; please let me k now what temperature you can reach and I’ll suggest a strategy.

    Additional substrate should be provided – it won’t change the temperature but is more in keeping with their natural behavior; you’ll need to keep the lizard at normal temps for 7 days or so after its last meal to be sure it has digested all. Water requirements will depend on the hibernation temperature.

    Good luck and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  49. avatar

    Yeah, it’s tough to find European herps of any kind here, though I’ve been working on it. :) This one would spend the Winter in my “hibernaculum,” a spare bedroom that gets down to about 50-52 degrees F. I put my temperate colubrids there for hibernation also. For this lady lizard, should I keep a basking light on for a few hours a day over the Winter? Every few days? How about the ultraviolet light? And, any feeding?

  50. avatar

    Hello Raksha, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks for the feedback. Your experience with temperate Colubrids will be useful as the Lacerta can be treated in a similar fashion. At 50 F it may move about, so a basking light for 6 hours or so most days would be useful. UVB can be left on if lizard basks; don’t feed but spray animal daily if it comes out.

    Good luck and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  51. avatar

    Thanks, will do! With lots of luck I will find a mate for her next year. :)

  52. avatar

    Hello Raksha, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks…my pleasure. Enjoy and please let me know how all goes or if you need anything,

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  53. avatar

    Hello Frank: I wonder if you could give me some advice about my bearded dragon who has stopped eating. He is one year old – tank is 52 gallon, about 3 inches of playground sand, a basking area, temps at 110 in the day and 60 at night… He used to eat crickets, mealworms, veg and fruit without any issue but about 1 month ago pretty much stopped eating. |Once in a while he will eat from my hand – maybe 2 worms a week but thats it. I have given him warm baths in which he poops but it doesnt seem to help… So, any suggestons? Thanks so much.. Rahim

  54. avatar

    Hello Rahim

    Thanks for your interest. If you are in located in the southern Hemisphere, non -feeding may be due to the semi-hibernation status described in the article. An intestinal blockage can also be involved. Although they live in sandy habitats, captive bearded dragons sometimes become impacted – diet, water intake, type of sand and other factors may affect this. You’ll need to bring the animal to an experienced vet to determine if this is the problem (please let me know if you need help in locating a vet).

    Mealworms are not a great food; best to use only newly-molted grubs (please see this article) or pupae.

    A hot basking spot is necessary, but the rest of the tank should be at 85-90 F and that a strong UVB source is available as well. Nightime temperatures are best kept at 75-80 F; 60 is tolerated at times in the wild, but, on a regular basis, is risky for captives.

    Please let me know if you need any further information. Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  55. avatar

    Hello again Frank: I just wanted to let you know that I took my dragon to the vet. Sure enough he was impacted. They were able to fix him up and I have since taken the sand out of his tank (outdoor carpet now). They also told me to feed him only veg and fruit (so no more crickets and worms). He hasn’t really improved. It’s been a few days and he isn’t eating or the other. There was nothing of concern in his blood tests at the vet. so I guess we will wait and see what happens. Thanks again for your advice… Rahim

  56. avatar

    Hello Rahim

    Thanks for the feedback; glad the vet was able to help.

    He’ll be reluctant to feed due to the trauma, but also, captive Bearded Dragons often refuse plant foods, especially if they have been on insect-only diets. You may need to mix some live food into the salad to entice him.

    Newly molted mealworms are low in chitin, and less likely to cause problems [please see this article http://blogs.thatpetplace.com/thatreptileblog/2008/10/24/making-the-most-of-the-mealworm-some-tips-on-enhancing-the-nutritional-value-of-this-pet-trade-staple/ for info on ensuring a supply. If you try crickets, use 1/2 grown individuals (less indigestible parts) and remove the back legs (a pinch at the “knee” will cause the crickets to shed the rear legs). Black soldier fly grubs http://blogs.thatpetplace.com/thatreptileblog/2011/10/18/black-soldier-fly-larvae-calciworms-as-food-for-reptiles-and-amphibians/ molt often and, while soft, are also safer in terms of chitin/blockages. Eventually, you’ll need to add insects back into the diet in larger quantities (s/w vet first) as animal protein is needed. We can discuss other options when you’re ready.

    You may wish to look into Bearded Dragon commercial diets with your vet as well..if accepted, would likely provide more complete nutrition than plant foods alone.

    For now, main thing is to allow for healing, so avoid insects as advised.

    Best, Frank

    Please let me know if you need any further information. Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

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About Frank Indiviglio

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Being born with a deep interest in animals might seem unfortunate for a native Bronxite , but my family encouraged my interest and the menagerie that sprung from it. Jobs with pet stores and importers had me caring for a fantastic assortment of reptiles and amphibians. After a detour as a lawyer, I was hired as a Bronx Zoo animal keeper and was soon caring for gharials, goliath frogs, king cobras and everything in-between. Research has taken me in pursuit of anacondas, Orinoco crocodiles and other animals in locales ranging from Venezuela’s llanos to Tortuguero’s beaches. Now, after 20+ years with the Bronx Zoo, I am a consultant for several zoos and museums. I have spent time in Japan, and often exchange ideas with zoologists there. I have written books on salamanders, geckos and other “herps”, discussed reptile-keeping on television and presented papers at conferences. A Master’s Degree in biology has led to teaching opportunities. My work puts me in contact with thousands of hobbyists keeping an array of pets. Without fail, I have learned much from them and hope, dear readers, that you will be generous in sharing your thoughts on this blog and web site. For a complete biography of my experience click here.
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