Why is sand so dangerous for beardies?

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Why is sand so dangerous for beardies?

Postby MungoAster » Tue Sep 05, 2017 9:05 pm

[TOPIC AUTO-LOCKED DUE TO INACTIVITY]

So recently I was awaken to the truth that repti-sand, sand substrate and calci-sand (any form of sand) is bad for bearded dragons. Impaction, choking, all were symptoms of a bearded dragon living in a sandy environment.

But... wait, don't they live in our Aussie desert? The definition of 'sandy environment'? They're ground dwelling creatures, no? So why is this a 'life-threatening' big deal that sand substrate should be "INSTANTLY REMOVED FROM ANY AND EVERY TERRARIUM!!!!"

:banghead: It's like saying a goldfish will die in dirty water... :banghead:
They live in a desert with sand, they should have evolved to tolerate it by now?

Besides both my 6 or 7 month old beardies live in terrariums with sand. (Repti-sand and Calcium substrate) And I've had them both for 5 months. Surely they should be showing symptoms, right? My female, she licks more than usual (not in an alarming way), and she licks up a few grains a week, so whats the big deal?

Finally, go to youtube, look up bearded dragon enclosure. That's right. They ALL HAVE SAND! :banghead: So if it's such a big problem, why is everyone still "killing" their bearded dragons with sand?" :banghead:

Your thoughts.
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Re: Why is sand so dangerous for beardies?

Postby kyleena29 » Tue Sep 05, 2017 9:53 pm

In the wild they actually live on gravel and rocks. It's not a sandy desert like you imagine. While many beardies can probably do fine on sand, it can collect in the gut and build up from there. It's a precaution and not worth the risk. It's a way to prevent impaction and/or death. We also suggest feeding bugs that are raised to be fed. You could ask why not just feed bugs caught in the wild after all, that's what the wild ones do. But we know the answer to that one, to prevent and lower the risk of parasites. It is ultimately up to you as the owner whether to use sand or not. Is there a risk to sand? Yes. Is there a 100% chance of impaction? No. If you want to prevent potential hazards then most decide sand isn't worth it.
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Re: Why is sand so dangerous for beardies?

Postby ClydesGirl » Wed Sep 06, 2017 4:17 am

The "desert" in Australia is not sandy. It is more like gravel and dry, packed clay/dirt. Could they still get impacted from it? Probably and some likely do! Beardies face MANY more dangers in the wild than they do in the comfort of our homes. In the wild, they can be eaten by predators and birds of prey. They can eat toxic insects and plants. They can get infections from bites from insects or other animals. They can get parasites. They can starve or get dehydrated due to drought or a lack of available food sources. But in the comfort of our homes, we have a responsibility to care for them and to protect them from the dangerous things they might have been exposed to in the wild. They are our pets and we have an obligation to keep them healthy and safe.
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Re: Why is sand so dangerous for beardies?

Postby AHBD » Wed Sep 06, 2017 4:18 am

Children's play sand is actually safer than the calcium sand. Calcium type sand will be eaten regularly by some dragons...not all, but some will ingest more than is safe to ingest. It turns in to a sludgy/cement type mix that is VERY hard to pass.

Regular sand is not appealing to them so they are far less likely to eat it. And yes, dragons live on SOME sand in Australia, along with hard packed dirt, rocks, scrub grass.

Some breeders keep their dragons on sand....Tammy from Draggintails is a 25 year breeder with fantastic, healthy dragons. Her dragons sell here in the states as well s several other countries and she is well known among breeders. She keeps her dragons on sand and states on her website she has never had a dragon become impacted.
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Re: Why is sand so dangerous for beardies?

Postby kingofnobbys » Wed Sep 06, 2017 5:20 am

This will help put the range of habitats in the natural range of central bearded dragons (and Rankins) into context .

Image

Very little of it is sandy (like the Sahara) and none of it calcium sands.

Mostly the soil is ancient highly weathered clays .... known as bull dust. Dry it's like concrete.
Last edited by kingofnobbys on Thu Jul 12, 2018 5:45 am, edited 3 times in total.
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EWSs : Gutzy (F) 27Sep19, Fluffy (F) rescued injured by lawnwacker 14Nov17, Wriggles (F) - injured rescue, over 8 yrs old, RIP 2Feb16 old age. Lucky juvenile (M) - cat attack rescue (lost r-eye, broken r-lower jaw), fatal SI RIP 21Jul2010.
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Re: Why is sand so dangerous for beardies?

Postby EllenD » Wed Sep 06, 2017 6:06 am

Yeah, the Australian "desert" is not at all like a desert you're thinking of, there's little to no sand...But there's a large factor you're not considering in the first place, and yes, you've been putting your beardies unnecessarily at risk this entire time you've had them on sand, and here's why (btw, any reputable breeders you search for on YouTube do not have sand in their enclosures at all, they are typically stacked white melamine board or wood enclosures with either newspapers down or nothing down so they can easily clean and disinfect the bottoms...Any enclosures you see with sand are just amateur owners taking the same unnecessary risk):

Bearded dragons in captivity that have proper lighting, temperatures, and diet typically live between 8-13 years or longer...Bearded dragons in the wild only typically live between 2-5 years...You can bet that this is due to wild predators, parasites, and yes, impactions from eating things like rocks, dirt, etc. So if the Australian desert did in fact contain sand like the Sahara or the Gobi, well, let's just say you don't see any bearded dragons living in those types of deserts. They naturally live on hard, solid ground made of rocky terrain and a variety of vegetation, no sand. So if you absolutely insist on unnecessarily putting your beardies at risk then so be it, but you also need to worry about the sand inside that tiny, stagnant enclosure you have (in comparison to a large, open desert, anyway) being a magnet for bacteria, fungi, and parasites to thrive and cause illnesses in addition to the impaction risk...

So my question to you is WHY DO PEOPLE INSIST ON USING SAND AS A BEARDED DRAGON SUBSTRATE IN TBE FIRST PLACE, WHEN THEY'RE VERY AWARE THAT IT COULD KILL THEIR PET, AND IT'S MUCH HARDER TO KEEP CLEAN AND FREE OF MICROBES? Seriously, because "you like how it looks"? It's not because you want to keep them on their natural substrate, and it's not because it's safe for them. So why? And btw, Calcium Sand/Reptisand (same thing) is not a natural substrate, it's a man-made death trap that turns into rock when it gets wet.
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Re: Why is sand so dangerous for beardies?

Postby ClydesGirl » Wed Sep 06, 2017 6:19 am

EllenD wrote:So my question to you is WHY DO PEOPLE INSIST ON USING SAND AS A BEARDED DRAGON SUBSTRATE IN TBE FIRST PLACE, WHEN THEY'RE VERY AWARE THAT IT COULD KILL THEIR PET, AND IT'S MUCH HARDER TO KEEP CLEAN AND FREE OF MICROBES? Seriously, because "you like how it looks"? It's not because you want to keep them on their natural substrate, and it's not because it's safe for them. So why? And btw, Calcium Sand/Reptisand (same thing) is not a natural substrate, it's a man-made death trap that turns into rock when it gets wet.


I never understood the desire to keep beardies on sand in the first place. Even if it weren't potentially harmful, it is impossible to keep clean. I am quite happy that beardies are content to live on easy-to-clean surfaces like shelf liner and tile, because cleaning is SO MUCH easier!

I recently got a couple of fire skinks and they need to be kept on four inches of soil/coconut husk/moss because they are burrowers and spend most of their time underground. Let me tell you, it is a PITA to keep up! Much prefer the shelf liner I have in my beardie and uro vivs!
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Re: Why is sand so dangerous for beardies?

Postby kingofnobbys » Wed Sep 06, 2017 6:43 am

I've beardies and bluetongues, the bluetongue love coco-fibre mixed with playsand and gumtree leaf litter and live burrowing through it.
Water skinks were similar to the bluetongues.

I replace the skinks' bedding completely fortnightly.
CBDs: Cleopatra & Caesar born 28Jan19.
Puff (RIP 10Dec15),Rex (RIP 16Mar17),Toothless (RIP 26Nov17).Peppa (RIP 22Mar19).
EBTSs : George & Mildred (born july 2010).
EWSs : Gutzy (F) 27Sep19, Fluffy (F) rescued injured by lawnwacker 14Nov17, Wriggles (F) - injured rescue, over 8 yrs old, RIP 2Feb16 old age. Lucky juvenile (M) - cat attack rescue (lost r-eye, broken r-lower jaw), fatal SI RIP 21Jul2010.
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Re: Why is sand so dangerous for beardies?

Postby AHBD » Wed Sep 06, 2017 8:37 am

Actually no, not everyone is very well aware of the risk on children's playsand , and a number of people use it. I already mentioned a top breeder....not a noob breeder. Look up draggintails website. I've also kept dragons on sand in some of my tanks, 24 years no impactions. I don't go out of my way to recommend it but I don't hound people who prefer to use it. If you keep a nice childrens plastic shovel handy and you have a nice large tank it's easy to scoop and there is no odor. Pooping on slate tile [ tile being very unnatural ] gives the dragon a chance to smear it all through the enclosure + all over themselves. Beardies are just messy though. :)

https://www.beardeddragon.org/useruploa ... _small.jpg

A sick or very small beardie shouldn't be kept on sand, just like they shouldn't be fed large prey items and they need more specific care.

Realistically there are more injuries to beardies from people dropping them or beardies leaping from furniture or being loose in the house but we don't tell people not to carry their dragons or let them out in the house. You just check on them + are careful with them.

Clydesgirl, my fireskink + the one I had before poo in the same spot every time, super easy to clean.
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Re: Why is sand so dangerous for beardies?

Postby Taterbug » Wed Sep 06, 2017 9:27 am

Sand impaction is a symptom - it's not the direct cause. Your goldfish comment that seems a bit sarcastic (?) is actually apt. Goldfish and dragons suffer from the exact same problem... one that is often not what gets the attention. Inferior care.

Dirty water for a gold fish will kill it, alibet slowly. Goldfish are hugely messy and kept in undersized and under filtered tanks. Most pet goldfish probaly have miserable lives.

Same goes for dragons. Most cages are incredibly small, lack mental and physical enrichment, and have inferior light and heat. Dragons living like that are not going to be healthy. Exercise and fitness are a big part of healthy digestion. Poorly animals are going to be more at risk of illness and complications.

Healthy animals don't have the same risk level. One of the reasons vets and many people on forums like this don't recommend sand and loose substrate etc is that is is way way way more common to see unhealthy pet dragons than it is to see healthy ones.

For both dragons and goldfish these care problems are chronic. They won't die overnight. Instead they will more likely suffer a mediocre life.
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Re: Why is sand so dangerous for beardies?

Postby AHBD » Wed Sep 06, 2017 9:37 am

As far as healthy or unhealthy dragons, this forum is full of cases of dragons sick [ lots of gout, neorological issues, cancer, etc ] and or dying of unknown causes that are kept with all the recommendations that include the best lights, fancy cages and tile flooring. There are very ill dragons on these forums daily, most of them not kept on sand. [By the way Tater, I didn't know if you were referring to a dragon kept on sand as if that was one of the criteria of a mediocre life ? ]

Stimulation, lots of climbing areas and even going outside in a nice safe enclosure or area [ I have both outdoor cages as well as a partially open, windowless breezeway that my dragons can frolic in. Everyone has to figure out how to give our captive animals the best life that we can. My open breezeway:

https://www.beardeddragon.org/useruploa ... _small.jpg
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Re: Why is sand so dangerous for beardies?

Postby Taterbug » Wed Sep 06, 2017 5:44 pm

Nah, sand alone isn't a hallmark of poor care. I think it tends to be along for the ride more often than not, for the same reason any pet ends up with crappy equipment - it's in the kit.

I would also guess that the ratio of sick to healthy dragons in this site is biased. It's where people come when they have a problem.
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Re: Why is sand so dangerous for beardies?

Postby EllenD » Thu Sep 07, 2017 7:02 am

Im not disagreeing with any of you, but still, we all know that sand (playsand or otherwise, obviously calcium sand is not even a consideration, or shouldn't be) can be an issue, and it's an "unnecessary risk" that people take, usually just simply because they like how it looks...so the question remains, "Why put your beardie on sand in the first place?" Or better yet, "What is the ADVANTAGE to keeping your beardie on sand that OUTWEIGHS THE DANGERS AND RISKS"?

If someone posts that their beardis hasn't pooped in 3 weeks and then they post photos of their enclosure full of playsand, everyone commenting here will have the same first thought and comment...
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Re: Why is sand so dangerous for beardies?

Postby AHBD » Thu Sep 07, 2017 7:42 am

Some of my dragons that were on sand had a good time digging if they were in the mood. The 300 gal. aquarium that I have pictured in my other post had about 5" or so of it. The untreated 2X4's were laid on top of cinder blocks and they would hide down there + snuggle up within the cave they dug out at night. [ BTW, the newspaper was in that spot because one dragon always poo'd there + it made for an easy clean up ] I eventually added top soil to the mix of sand, too.

If I wasn't home all day any poo in the sand was easy to clean , not with a scoop that has slots in it,[ which lets some dirty sand fall back in ] but as I mentioned in my other post I used a small shovel to lift the poo and a good bit of surrounding sand right out for easy clean up.

And I think that when someone posts about impaction it is usually associated with improper size of bugs and/or not enough hydration.

I would not try to persuade people to use sand, but I don't think it's necessary to insist that someone change from using sand, unless they've just set up a new tiny baby on it or a new rescue dragon that is not well + has unknown health conditions. But many beardies really enjoy having it in their tank to dig around + burn off energy which is a benefit to the beardie and an owner who may be gone for a large part of the day, so the sand provides some excitement/stimulation and a cozy, made to order snuggle spot to sleep.
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Re: Why is sand so dangerous for beardies?

Postby Taterbug » Thu Sep 07, 2017 7:51 am

I don't care for plain sand* myself but I do use a loose substrate and I personally think it's cruel not to offer them the opportunity for digging. Same goes for climbing. A setup like abhd describes where the dragons have access to something diggable as well as places to get away from it is ideal to me. Plopping them in a spartan tiled tank is no better than plopping them in a tub of sand.

The "advantage" or end goal is enrichment. Giving an animal access to appropriate stimulus that offers novelty, variety and most importantly free choice leads to better mental and physical health. A perfectly safe life isn't always a happy and fulfilling one.
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