The purpose of this blog is to share general information and is written to the author's best knowledge. It is not intended to be used in place of veterinary advice. For health concerns, please seek proper veterinary care.
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Bearded dragons are a wonderful reptilian friend that one can own, but along with owning them, you need to be mindful of what they need to survive.
Unlike cats and dogs, it can be hard to find research on them to help you give them the best home that you can, meaning that you need to put a lot more work into learning how to care for them.
One of the biggest things that you need to be aware of is the fact that bearded dragons are unlike most pets in the fact that they are cold blooded. This means that they do not source heat from themselves in the same way that cats or dogs would, but rather, the temperature of their bodies is dependent on the environment around them.
In one sentence, if you are cold, then your bearded dragon is going to be cold, and if you are warm, then so is your bearded dragon.
What this means for you is that you need to make sure your bearded dragon’s enclosure has an area that is colder than the rest of it and an area that is warmer than the rest of it. This temperature gradient will allow for your bearded dragon to adjust its temperature to its liking, whenever it pleases.
If you aren’t sure whether or not your bearded dragon is comfortable, you will want to try and look for signs that your bearded dragon is cold. They are cold blooded creatures, so they also present signs of coldness far more differently than how warm-blooded animals such as cats and dogs would.
Recognizing the Signs of Coldness in Bearded Dragons
When a bearded dragon is cold, its body will generally prepare for resting and sleeping, and potentially even hibernation. However, hibernation is considered the extreme end of being cold and comes after prolonged exposure to temperatures that are too low for your bearded dragon to sustain itself on.
General signs of coldness will begin with a slowness in the way your bearded dragon moves. Your bearded dragon is going to move less, and when it does move, it is going to move somewhat slowly.
On top of this, their bodily functions will slow down as well, which may not be as apparent as the fact that your bearded dragon will not be moving around as much.
Typically, this will come across as a lack of bowel movements and a decreased appetite, as your bearded dragon will not process its food as much as it should be, so it would have no need to eat it and there won’t be anything coming out of it either.
This is normal if your bearded dragon is moving over to the colder side of its tank to go to sleep or to rest, but if your bearded dragon does not have the option to move to a warmer portion of its enclosure, problems can occur. For instance, the undigested food will begin to break down and rot in the bearded dragon’s gut, which will be deadly.
Additionally, if your bearded dragon has already gone to sleep because of inappropriately cold temperatures, your bearded dragon may not wake up again, which is also incredibly dangerous. If your bearded dragon has been without adequate heat, you may want to risk the stress by bringing it to your vet to make sure that it is okay.
As a rule of thumb, because bearded dragons live in desert-like environments where it regularly becomes cold for 12 hours at a time, a few hours of uncomfortably cold temperatures in your bearded dragon’s enclosure is not going to be dangerous. Once cold temperatures persist for more than 24 hours, more severe health problems will set in.
For the most part, you should use your own judgment to determine whether or not your bearded dragon is simply hanging out in the colder portion of its tank and lazing around, or if it is too cold for too long, now that you know what the symptoms of being cold are and what they can progress into.
Setting up Your Bearded Dragon’s Tank
The tank for a bearded dragon needs to have three separate temperature “zones” for optimal health, since a bearded dragon needs to alter its temperature through its environment.
On one end of the tank, you need to have an area that is somewhat cooler than the rest of it, and on the other end of the tank, you need to have a heating lamp so that your bearded dragon can warm itself up.
The middle of the tank will be a more moderate temperature zone for your bearded dragon, where it is neither trying to cool itself down to rest or it is trying to warm itself up to digest and become more active, and this should be one of the parts of the enclosure your bearded dragon spends more time in.
A bearded dragon’s recommended temperatures will depend on the age of your bearded dragon. As a rule of thumb, bearded dragon’s need to have a warmer environment when they are younger, and as they grow older, you can turn down the intensity on the bearded dragon’s hotter end of the tank.
A baby bearded dragon will need to have a basking area between 95 and 110 degrees Fahrenheit and a cooling area between 80 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. A juvenile bearded dragon needs to have a basking area between these temperatures, but it will want a basking area that is closer to 100 degrees Fahrenheit instead.
An adult bearded dragon needs to have a basking area between 90 and 93 degrees Fahrenheit, and the cool-down area needs to be between 80 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit as well, just as with the rest of the bearded dragon age ranges.
During the night, you can allow the coolest portion of your bearded dragon’s tank to drop down to 70 degrees Fahrenheit, but not any lower than this.
Remember to make sure that you have a proper monitor for your bearded dragon’s environment so that you can make sure to adjust the temperatures as necessary. The portion of the bearded dragon’s tank between the cool portion and the heated portion doesn’t need to be any specific temperature, and it should be between the two ranges of hot and cold.
There are specific heating lamps that you can purchase, as heating lamps are fairly common between reptiles and amphibians alike that need to have tropical-range temperatures. For the cooling area, you can look for a weaker heating lamp that will get the temperature between the area it needs.
For nighttime temperatures, there are specific nighttime bulbs that are designed to emit light closer to moonlight while also keeping the temperature of the enclosure closer to that 70-degree range.
This is the equipment you will need to keep your bearded dragon happy, healthy, and comfortable in your home. If you cannot provide this type of equipment for your bearded dragon, then a bearded dragon may not be the best pet for you, as it is very important to regulate the temperature of your bearded dragon’s habitat.
You will also need to make sure that the enclosure has both UVA and UVB lights for your bearded dragon to absorb. Much like people, you need to make sure that your bearded dragon can absorb sunlight the way it would in the wild.
One of your jobs as a pet owner is to try and make sure that you can recreate your bearded dragon’s real-life environment as best as you can. Bearded dragons are native to Australia and the desert life, meaning that it can be difficult to recreate that kind of environment in your own home.
What Can You Do If Your Bearded Dragon Is Cold?
Whether there is a power-outage and your bearded dragon no longer has access to its heating lamps or it is winter and it is even more difficult to keep the bearded dragon’s tank at a proper temperature, you may come across a time when your bearded dragon’s environment is not to the temperature standard that it should be.
There may come a time when you need to warm your bearded dragon up, or put in extra effort to keep it comfortable.
Your main goal, especially during winter, is going to be to keep your bearded dragon from brumation. Brumation is the term for hibernation in bearded dragons, and is a natural occurrence in the wild when seasons change.
The problem is that bearded dragons in home environments may not have the fat stores to be able to survive an attempted hibernation.
A few ways that you can warm your bearded dragon up is to place a heat mat, perhaps with a towel over it to keep from hurting your bearded dragon, inside its tank until you can replace the lamps.
Similarly, you can use grain pillows that you can place in the microwave to heat up for your bearded dragon, and these can last several hours at a time.
You can also use bottled water in a similar fashion, but again, you need to be mindful of making sure that they aren’t so hot that they can burn your bearded dragon.
These are not always the most effective solutions, but in an emergency where you need to keep your bearded dragon warm for several hours while you try to get access to a lamp, they will help keep your bearded dragon in a safe temperature range.