Page 1 of 1
Practical tips to help keep your bearded dragon healthy during brumation
Reptile brumation occurs in different ways depending on each reptile’s individual bodily processes, from species to species, and is highly influenced by environmental factors as well as the natural genetic instinct present within your reptile. However, it is best described as a period of hibernation and low activity levels, usually brought about by the onset of winter.
In your bearded dragon’s natural habitat, the air temperature will naturally change a huge amount as the environment goes through its annual cycle from summer to winter, or from dry season to wet. But because reptiles require higher temperatures in order to thermoregulate and digest their food, this drop in temperature often causes them to hibernate, or in the case of reptiles, to brumate (differentiated by a difference in metabolic process) in order to retain energy they might otherwise lose.
In captivity, their environment is usually maintained throughout the year, meaning air temperature is generally even all year round. This means that brumation may be delayed or even avoided entirely. However, even the smallest fluctuations in temperature may trigger brumation, and your bearded dragon’s genetic instinct might just trigger it by itself, giving you no way to completely avoid the process.
Getting your bearded dragon ready for brumation
Around the end of summer, you may start to notice a change of behaviour in your bearded dragon. Signs that your reptile might be verging on brumation include digging and burying themselves in their substrate, as well a generally slowing up, and appearing sleepy.
The best thing to do if you notice any of the above changes is to take them to a skilled exotic vet. This is for two reasons: one is that your bearded dragon might be ill (these are also symptoms of various illnesses), and two, a reptile that is healthy is in the best position to survive brumation.
Your vet will likely do a fecal swap on your bearded dragon’s offerings to check for parasites, and this is probably the most important check that can be done. This is because that during the period of inactivity your reptile will be less able to fight off or defend against parasitic infections. Just because your reptile is asleep, does not mean the parasite it, as may eat away at your reptile over the colder months.
Weighing your bearded dragon at this point is important too. A healthy, well fed reptile will be best set to see the winter through as they are unlikely to eat during this time.
If you bearded dragon does not look like giving you a fecal sample, you can encourage them to do so with a warm bath; or, if they will let you, a gentle run around the tummy. You should do this anyway if your reptile looks like brumating as they are best having no fecal matter in their system over the winter, which would otherwise rot inside them.
You can always help an underweight bearded dragon get ready for brumation by gut loading their live food too. These extra nutrients might be vital during their big sleep, helping them to wake up healthy.
Getting your bearded dragon’s environment ready for brumation
Once you are confident that your bearded dragon is in good health, you need to think about their environment. Take a look at optimum brumation temperatures for bearded dragons and change your heating and lighting equipment to the best temperature. Don’t forget to leave a basking spot lamp on in case your bearded dragon wakes, and a little dry food in their bowl might just be a good midnight snack, as well as water.
Taking the aforementioned steps will help you to ensure that during brumation your reptile stays healthy and wakes up a happy bearded dragon at the end of their long sleep. However, do always bear in mind that if you have any concerns at all regarding your reptile’s behavior in the build up to, or during brumation, then the best thing to do is to consult a veterinarian.
BeardedDragon.org thanks Georgina Rayner from Swell Reptiles for providing this great article. Please be sure to check out their site. At the time of publishing, they're having a big sale on vivariums!