Owning a bearded dragon can be a fun and exhilarating experience, especially if you are someone who loves reptiles. They can have quite the personality and they can become quite the companion once they have learned to trust you.
With that being said, there are many times where you might feel as if you may not know what you are doing when it comes to caring for a bearded dragon.
After all, there isn’t as much information about bearded dragons as there is about other animals, including cats and dogs. This can make it somewhat hard to try and determine what kinds of situations constitute as normal for your bearded dragon and which ones are genuine problems.
Especially when you factor in how much bearded dragons can become stressed and how stress affects them, it can be quick to assume that there is something wrong with your bearded dragon.
Thankfully, many of the more worrisome conditions can actually be explained by conditions that are relatively easy to treat and care for, and some conditions that may not even require external care at all. A good example of this is when bearded dragons turn pale.
To most pet owners, a change in coloration is something to be concerned about. Animals should not change colors unless they are chameleons or other animals that try and blend in with their surroundings, right?
The truth is that bearded dragons will change colors for a number of reasons, including stress. In a number of cases, your bearded dragon turning pale is not a sign of trouble as much as it is a sign that your bearded dragon is going about its life as normal.
The following are some normal and expected examples of when a bearded dragon will turn pale, but it does not inherently mean that your bearded dragon is in danger, such as when warm-blooded pets turn pale from a lack of adequate blood flow.
The most common reason bearded dragons turn pale is actually because they are shedding.
Healthy and Normal Reasons for Your Bearded Dragon to Turn Pale
You may not realize it, but much like other animals, bearded dragons can and will shed their skin every so often. If you adopted your bearded dragon as an adult, this may be your first time seeing this, as adult bearded dragons do not shed very often.
If you adopted your bearded dragon at a young age, then you can expect to see this often as bearded dragons are actively growing.
For reference, young bearded dragons can shed as often as every few weeks and still remain within the boundaries of healthy, while adult bearded dragons will shed a couple times a year. Any more frequently than this and it may be a sign of frequent skin infections or damage to the skin in some other capacity.
The actual process of shedding can take up to two weeks at most. During this time, bearded dragons can become fussy, not wanting to eat or be held. This is normal and to be expected, so you should not worry about it too much.
You should try and let your bearded dragon shed its skin normally, though you can help it along by misting it once a day while keeping the tank at the right humidity.
Before it sheds, its skin will become dulled in color and the top layer of skin will be white and pale. Bearded dragons shed in patches of skin at a time, rather than all at once, so it is okay for these areas to appear patchy in nature.
These patches typically come in steps, with the head coming first, then the legs, and with the tail being the next big portion besides the body.
After a week once the skin has been shed naturally, you can remove stuck skin with tweezers or a toothbrush, but aside from this, you should leave the bearded dragon to go about its normal shedding process.
Bearded dragons will also turn white if the basking segment of their tank is a bit too hotter than normal.
Much like how bearded dragons will darken their skin in the colder segment of their enclosure to absorb more heat if they get a bit too cold, bearded dragons will lighten their skin in the basking segment if it is becoming too hot for the bearded dragon’s tastes. This will allow the light to reflect and the bearded dragon will absorb less heat.
While this is most common in the basking segment of the enclosure, it can also happen during the night hours or if the environment has become very hot for some reason. Some bearded dragons will also turn pale simply to convey their mood, although this can be harder to read and you should not assume that being pale is due to mood alone.
You should always make sure to check for other signs, such as lethargy or a lack of appetite.
These are all the normal, expected, and healthy reasons why your bearded dragon might feel the need to become pale. Especially if you are raising a bearded dragon from a young age, you can expect to encounter this at least once or twice in the lifespan of your dragon, at least during the shedding process.
For the most part, a temporary pale color in addition to a normal range of fussiness is completely normal for your bearded dragon to go through and it is not indicative of a more serious problem.
What is indicative of a more serious problem is when your bearded dragon turns excessively pale, becomes lethargic, and has no interest in eating at all. This can be a sign of something far worse.
When Paleness Means Problems
If the paleness is combined with other problems, such as lethargy and a lack of appetite, or if it came on considerably suddenly and is not attributed to basking in the heat lamp, then it can be a sign of something serious going on.
More often than not, it means some of the worst and can be an indication that your bearded dragon may be reaching the end of its lifespan. This is especially the case if the bearded dragon’s beard is black, but everything else is pale.
There are a few causes for this, starting with the potential of an impaction. An impaction, to put it simply, is when there is a blockage in the digestive system caused by something that shouldn’t be there. In bearded dragons, the most common causes of impaction include eaten substrate, large objects, and some types of live feeders.
If you think your bearded dragon may be impacted, you need to take it to the vet as soon as you can, because while bearded dragons can go without food for weeks, even months at a time, when the bearded dragon is affected this much, it is a sign that it is reaching its end.
Another cause of sudden paleness can be parasites. If it is a case of parasites, there will be other symptoms that you will come across, including abnormally odorous feces, bloody feces, and weight loss despite eating relatively regularly.
If you suspect that this is the case, when you take your bearded dragon to the vet, you should request a full fecal check so that the vet can rule out, discover, and/or treat any parasites that are found.
Finally, one of the more unfortunate causes of problematic paleness is because your bearded dragon is simply becoming too old and is reaching the end of its life.
If you know for a fact that your bearded dragon is over eight years old, it may simply be a sign that it is time to give your bearded dragon the best last days that it could ask for, as this is a sign that your bearded dragon is dying of old age specifically.
As with most animals, when your bearded dragon ages, its organs will age as well, and there are times when the cause of death will be the age-related deterioration of organs, which can temporarily result in these kinds of conditions before the end of your bearded dragon’s days.
If you know your bearded dragon is simply old, such as being older than 10, it may not be worth the extreme stress that being moved out of the enclosure, into a car, into an unfamiliar environment (even if you have been to the vet before), and being examined by unfamiliar people, only to then either be brought back home in the car or to be operated on.
It is just not worth it if the problem is not treatable without inflicting even more changes in the bearded dragon’s lifestyle through medication and potential recovery from an operation. At this point, it becomes a matter of determining risk versus the benefits.
These are all aspects to consider if you want to know why a bearded dragon could be turning pale. Bearded dragons, throughout the course of their lives, will likely turn pale more than a few times. It is when that paleness is uncalled for or accompanied by other problematic symptoms that it becomes a sign that something is very wrong.
I have a bachelor’s degree in construction engineering. When I’m not constructing or remodeling X-Ray Rooms, Cardiovascular Labs, and Pharmacies, I’m at home with my wife, two daughters and a dog. Outside of family, I love grilling and barbequing on my Big Green Egg and working on projects around the house. Growing up, I had pet dogs, cats, deer, sugar gliders, chinchillas, a bird, chickens, fish, and a goat.