Brumation in Bearded Dragons

Understanding the Mystery...

Written by Denise R. Bushnell in June, 2008
Page 3 of 6

Signs of Brumation continued

Some will simply eat less and less as days pass, while others may just abruptly stop eating altogether, with no warning at all. Any attempts to coax them into eating will be met with stubborn refusal, no matter what tasty items you might offer, and attempting to force feed them will result in their refusing to open their mouths, no matter what you do.

If you think that your Bearded Dragon may be attempting to brumate, and they are being extremely stubborn about refusing to eat, its best to let them be, as their going into full brumation with food in their stomachs may make them extremely ill.

Left to their own devices, Bearded Dragons will simply nap on and off, until the last meal that they’ve eaten is fully digested, and they are able to have a bowel movement. This will empty their stomachs before they go into a deep sleep, since going into full brumation with food left in their digestive tracts may cause the food to rot inside them while they sleep, which can cause an extremely serious infection.

Where food during brumation is concerned, its best to let your Beardie make his own decision, as he is the best judge of whether he should eat or not. Forcing food on them may make you, as an owner, feel better, but it definitely is NOT better for your beardie, so let him make his own choices.

Actual Brumation

Once the time comes, and your Beardie has decided to brumate, there is little that you can do to stop him. However, there are many different degrees of brumation, and every Bearded Dragon is different, as far as how they choose to brumate.

Some Bearded Dragons will go into a deep sleep, and won’t wake up at all, for weeks on end, until its time for them to wake up and remain awake. Others will wake up periodically, either on their own, or if their owners wake them, and then go back to sleep again. Still others may just take long naps. And others may not actually go into a deep sleep at all, but will just refuse to eat anything. It all depends on each individual Beardie, and what his instincts tell him to do. It may take you a year or two to discover what is normal for your particular beardie, so you know what to expect from him.

Just as an illustration of the many possible brumation habits of each individual Bearded Dragon, I will use my own three as examples. All three are kept inside my home, in the same room, in identically sized tanks. They all have exactly the same lighting, the same tank temperatures, and even exactly the same cage furniture, arranged in the same manner. However, they all brumate differently, and at different times each year.

Charlie, my youngest male, who is nearly 4 years old, will go down, without fail, during the last part of November, and will remain asleep, except when I wake him to bathe him, until around the middle of February. When I wake him to bathe him, sometimes he will wake up, although he will be very cranky, and sometimes he will sleep right through his bath, no matter what I do. I have to watch him very closely when bathing him, to make sure that his head stays above water to prevent him from aspirating any water into his lungs, or he would drown. During this time period, Charlie will refuse to eat anything at all, and will not even accept fluids from a feeding syringe, which is why I make sure to bathe him every week to ensure that he stays well hydrated.

Eden, my only female, who is also nearing 4 years old, never brumated at all until this past winter. She began being finicky with what she would eat around the holidays last year, and finally went into brumation just after Christmas. However, when I woke her to bathe her, she would usually eat, if I offered something that she especially liked. Then she would simply nap, on and off, for a couple of days, until she had a bowel movement to empty her stomach, before going back to sleep until her next bathtime. She repeated this cycle until she finally woke up, on her own, during the last week of January, and she’s been awake ever since.

Ming, my oldest male, at 5, insists on doing his own thing. He never really goes down into a true brumation, but prefers, instead, to take extremely long naps, which sometimes last for days, on and off until Spring. He will wake up, on his own, between naps, and will wander around for a couple of days, checking things out, before going back down into a sound sleep. He also seems to enjoy some “out time” with us during the periods when he’s awake, and when I bathe him, he will usually drink his fill while in his bath. However, he refuses to eat anything at all during the time when he’s brumating, and he never drops more than a few grams of weight. At our house, we have a standing joke concerning Mingie....he won’t really go into a true brumation because he’s so nosy, and he’s afraid he’s going to miss something!

So, as you can see from the above illustration, all beardies are unique individuals, and may be completely different in the ways that they choose to brumate, even if they live in the same house, and the same environment.