Bearded dragons have spiked in popularity over the last couple of years with the species managing to over take leopard geckos and ball pythons to climb from the third most commonly kept pet reptile to the most commonly kept pet reptile in the world. Due to this, there have been a wide range of questions asked by people new to keeping bearded dragons recently but one question that we have seen asked by bearded dragon keepers of all levels of experience is about caring for an emanciated bearded dragon.
An emaciated bearded dragon will almost always need veterinary assistance to help treat the underlying problem that is causing it to eat less. The most common reasons that your bearded dragon can become emaciated include having problems with parasitic infections, tumors, being anemic, having a damaged jaw, and issues with respiratory infections with each needing their own treatment.
We already have dedicated articles going over helping bearded dragons with broken jaws and one going over bearded dragons gagging due to being having a respiratory infection that may be helpful. These both tend ot be less common causes of a bearded dragon being emaciated though and the best way to confirm exactly what is wrong is to book a video call with a veterinarian to have them assess your pet via the camera on your smartphone as it tends to be much cheaper and quicker than a trip to your local veterinarians.
What Is An Emaciated Bearded Dragon?
An emaciated bearded dragon is abnormally thin often due to illness or injury causing problems in your bearded dragons ability to consume food and water. This causes your pet bearded dragon to be weak and more susceptible to secondary health issues due to being so malnurished and weak so an emaciated bearded dragon requires treatment as soon as possible.
It is usually obvious if you have an emaciated bearded dragon even if you are new to keeping the species as a pet as your bearded dragon will look obviously thin and it will struggle to move in the more advanced stages of being emaciated. Thankfully, in the age of social media, there are a number of social media groups online based on keeping reptiles or even specific to bearded dragons where you can share photographs to get confirmation on if your bearded dragon is emaciated or not.
On top of this, a emaciated bearded dragon has a relatively distinct look due to being so thin and weak. Even if your bearded dragon is not technically emaciated yet, a thin bearded dragon that keeps on losing weight is an early warning sign that there is probably a serious problem with your pet bearded dragon that will need you to take action as soon as possible to save it.
Why Is My Bearded Dragon Making Itself Skinny?
There are a number of problems that can cause your bearded dragon to refuse food making it skinny and eventually emaciated. The more common problems range from having problems with parasitic infections, tumors, and being anemic to less common problems such as an injured jaw or a respiratory infection putting your pet bearded dragon off its food.
There are some even less common problems that can cause your pet bearded dragon to be skinny or emaciated too. These include dehydration, bacterial infections, and a couple of types of fungal infection but these do tend to be much rarer than the problems mentioned above that can result in a skinny bearded dragon. Dehydration in bearded dragons is more common than most people new to keeping the species realise too due to many bearded dragons preferring to splash in their water bowl rather than actually drink.
Thankfully, when it comes to bearded dragons it is rare that they will be skinny or emaciated due to the diet that you are offering them as they are omnivores and eat a wide range of food. With some other reptiles that are strict insectovores, being emaciated can be common due to problems with the reptile being fed an omnivore food but this does not effect a bearded dragon ruling this out as a primary cause of your pet bearded dragon being emaciated.
How Can I Help My Malnourished Bearded Dragon?
It can be difficult to diagnose exactly why your pet bearded dragon is emaciated so the majority of people should be getting professional advice from a veterinarian as soon as possible. Treatments for an emaciated bearded dragon range from anti-biotics to assisted feeding to boost their food intake to help them gain weight as soon as possible.
If your bearded dragon is not eating due to having tumors in its digestive system then this can unfortunately result in a fatality but there are a wide range of causes of a emaciated bearded dragon with most problems being treatable provided that you catch it as soon as possible. The longer the problems that can cause a bearded dragon to lose weight are left to develop, the more difficult it becomes to treat these problems so you really do have to take action as soon as possible.
Older bearded dragons can have issues eating their simply due to old age but there are a number of tricks that you are able to implement to help your bearded dragon gain weight. One of the common methods is to use mealworms as a treat food due to their high calorie content and our article on how many mealworms you should feed your bearded dragon may be helpful.
Although they can be difficult to find in some areas, our mealworm vs wax worm comparison may be worth reading as wax worms can be even better than mealworms for bearded dragons in some situations due to their higher calorie content. Just keep in mind that neither mealworms or wax worms are nutritionally complete for your bearded dragon so you will still have to try and integrate other food sources into the diet of your bearded dragon to top up its vitamin and mineral intake.
That brings our article going over how to help an emaciated bearded dragon to an end. You really should be getting professional level advice from a veterinarian on the specific situation for your pet bearded dragon if you do think that it is underweight or emaciated. There are just too many variables at play that can drastically change the required treatment for your pet without professional level advice and when it comes to your pet being emaciated, generic advice is simply not good enough.