Causes of a lethargic Bearded dragon

Bearded dragons are often seen as being lethargic and listless. Although a lethargic Bearded dragon should not always cause worry, it is well worth making sure that the cause is not something serious. Here are the 4 important causes why a Bearded dragon might be lethargic.

lethargic Bearded dragon is one that is:

  • Unwilling to eat
  • Lying down, unable to use the legs
  • Staying in one place most of the time
  • Closed eyes and unaware of the surroundings

Also, see the 4 signs of a lethargic Bearded dragon for more information.

Husbandry

One of the main reasons why Bearded dragons become lethargic is that their husbandry needs are not fulfilled. Both the temperature and ultraviolet (UV) lighting plays a vital role in the activity of Bearded dragons. If the temperature is too cold, or there is not enough or adequate UV lighting available to see, a Bearded dragon will become dull and lethargic. I have very often confirmed husbandry by placing a lethargic Bearded dragon outside in full sunlight. If it perks up and becomes interested in food again, then the keeper needs to inspect/rectify the enclosure as soon as possible. Also, see Bearded dragon housing requirements for more information.

Disease

Being sick is probably the most concerning cause for a Bearded dragon to be lethargic. Because lethargy is such a general clinical sign in a sick Bearded dragon, there can literally be anything wrong. Lethargy is a very unspecific and only one of the possible clinical signs of disease. Sick Bearded dragons are often lethargic for a couple of consecutive days. If one suspects a disease being the cause of a lethargic Bearded dragon, be on the lookout for any other signs of ill health. Abnormalities to look out for are any physical abnormalities, diarrhea, anorexia (refusal to eat), skin thickenings or color changes, and exudates from the eyes, nose, and mouth. Falling and complicated injuries without any visible signs can also cause Bearded dragon lethargy.

Physical abnormalities and diseases are best treated by an experienced reptile-friendly veterinarian. In most cases, it will be beneficial to make a specific diagnosis before treatment is instigated. Some lethargic Bearded dragons will, unfortunately, get worse no matter what the treatment is going to be. When seeing a veterinarian, always accommodate a lethargic Bearded dragon with a fresh stool sample sealed in a ziplock or similar plastic bag. Expensive additional tests such as fecal flotation and wet preparations, radiography, and ultrasonography might be necessary to diagnose some of these cases. Treatment will include a combination of parenteral fluids (a drip), antiparasitics, and antibiotics.

Behaviour

While some behaviors might be seen as hyperactivity, others are seen as lethargy. Behavioral reasons why a Bearded dragon might be lethargic are brumation, being full, or part of the shedding process.

Brumation is a period where Bearded dragons go into a semi-slumber state because of colder weather. This is often, but not always, the case with adult Bearded dragons during the colder months of winter. If this is the case, Bearded dragons will spend a lot of their time sleeping and even hiding. Their appetites will be reduced and food is often refused for more than half the week at a time. Brumation behavior in Bearded dragons is normal. In my opinion, nothing should be changed from a husbandry point of view, except that the amount and frequency of insect feeding should be adapted to the needs of the Bearded dragon. Normal activity should return during the late winter to spring.

A full, or satiated Bearded dragon will often be lethargic while spending the most time in the basking area in order to digest its food. This behavior is often observed after a normal or large meal. Full activity should return in a day.

Skin shedding is another reason why a Bearded dragon might be lethargic. Even normal shedding might reduce activity and even cause periods where a Bearded dragon refuses to eat. Shedding will be evident by the sudden dark coloration of the majority of the body and by pieces of dry, dead skin starting to peel in places.