Brumation in Bearded Dragons

Understanding the Mystery...

Written by Denise R. Bushnell in June, 2008
Page 4 of 6

Keeping Your Beardie Healthy During Brumation


Testing For Parasites


Although Bearded Dragons brumate, in the wild, with no help from us and manage to survive just fine, the fact that they choose to brumate while in captivity does require a bit of special care, on our part, to ensure that they remain healthy while in their dormant state.

When kept in artificial surroundings, with controlled lighting and temperatures, beardies aren’t able, themselves, to make sure that they have everything that they need to ensure that they have a healthy and successful brumation, that causes no health problems for them.

One of the most important things that we, as owners, should do, prior to the beginning of their brumation period, is to take them to the vet for a check up, to make sure that all is well, and that they don’t have any type of illness that may worsen due to their not eating while in their dormant state.

One very common ailment, that may not be readily apparent, and which may cause a huge problem for them if they are allowed to brumate with it, is if they should have some type of parasite overload lurking in their digestive tract.

As you know, parasites live off the food that our beardies eat, and sometimes its very difficult to tell whether or not they may have them, when they are eating regularly. However, if a Bearded Dragon has parasites, and they are permitted to brumate, which results ln their not eating for a long period of time, they will usually drop a large amount of weight, due to the parasites feeding off their fat stores, since there is no recently eaten food available for the parasites to feed on.

If your Bearded Dragon has parasites, and they are not eradicated before they go into a full brumation, it can weaken their immune system and may cause them to become extremely ill. Therefore, it is advisable to have a stool sample checked by an experienced reptile vet, prior to the time when your Beardie may be preparing to brumate, to ensure that they are treated for any parasites that they might have, to get rid of them BEFORE they cause your Beardie any serious problems.

A healthy Bearded Dragon, who has no parasites, may brumate for months, and will only lose a few grams of weight, which is not even noticable. However, a Beardie who has an overload of parasites during brumation will drop a great deal of weight, and may become extremely thin and weak, which will put them at risk of contracting other types of illnesses, while brumating, due to their weakened immune system.

If this should happen, your Beardie will most likely require a vet’s intervention during his brumation period, to ensure that he is getting enough nutrition to keep him alive until he awakens, which can be very time consuming and very expensive. The best way to ensure that this never happens, is to do yourself and your beardie both a favor, and have them tested BEFORE its time for them to brumate!

Providing a "Hide" for Your Beardie


In most cases, Bearded Dragons who are going to brumate will go down for their period of sleep on the cool side of their tanks or enclosures, as they rest better in cooler temperatures, away from the warmth of their lights. Many will attempt to burrow under any “cage furniture” that they may have, or under their substrate in order to do this. You can make their period of brumation much more comfortable and restful for them, and convenient for you, if you provide them with some sort of a “hide”, placed on the cool side of their tank or enclosure.

This “hide” should be large enough to cover their entire body, but small enough that they will feel snug and safe during their period of deep sleep.

The “hide” that you provide can be as ornate or as plain as you like, as long as you provide them with something, so that they can feel safe, protected and comfortable.

Many pet stores and online suppliers carry a large number of different styles....some made out of natural rock, or resin material, which look very nice, or even those that look like a cave, whose tops can double as a basking site, with silk or plastic vegetation attached to them. These will dress up their tanks, and can be used year round, but they can also be a bit pricey. Or you can simply provide them with an appropriately sized cardboard box with an entry hole in one end, placed upside down in the cooler end of their tank.

How plain or fancy you choose to go is totally up to you, and your own tastes.

Your beardie isn’t going to care one way or the other, as long as he has a darkened protected area, away from his lights, to do his sleeping in.

I should note also, at this point, that some keepers advocate shortening the amount of time that your Beardie’s lights remain on, in order to simulate the shortening of the days during the winter season. If you choose to do this, in order to save on electricity, I see nothing wrong with that, as long as their lights remain on for at least 8 hours each day, and, as Spring approaches, you slowly increase the length of time that their lights remain on , to simulate the longer days that come once the winter season passes.

Many keepers feel that this is a way to have some control over the amount of time that your beardie will brumate. However, I’ve discussed this with quite a few experienced keepers, and most of them agree that this really has no bearing on the length of their brumation, when they are being kept under artificial lighting. Your Bearded Dragon will decide when to go into brumation, and how long he’s going to sleep, and what you do with his artificial lighting isn’t going to make a whole lot of difference, one way or the other. Another case, in point, of their little biological clocks at work.