Impaction is one of the conditions that frequently
causes the death of bearded dragons. In the case of a major impaction,
the animal will not be very mobile, and one or both back legs may appear
paralyzed. If the impaction is higher in the digestive track, the front
legs may also be paralyzed. A lower impaction that is only affecting the
back legs can continue to grow until the front legs are also affected.
When experiencing impaction, a bearded dragon's digestive tract is blocked
by a solid or semi-solid mass.
Causes of Impaction
Surprisingly, some of the things that can contribute to
this serious condition may not seem dangerous, but to a bearded dragon's
delicate digestive tract, these things could be lethal:
If a bearded dragon eats food items that are too large
to properly move through their digestive tract, it will get stuck and
act as a roadblock to anything behind it. The best prevention for this
is to remember that any item fed should be smaller in size than the space
between the bearded dragon's eyes.
Some food items may not necessarily be to large for the digestive
tract, but simply may not be easily digestible such as:
- large crickets
2. Improper Temperatures
To thrive and be healthy Bearded Dragons need the temperature
in their living environment to be maintained at a specific temperature.
Keep in mind that the surface on which a bearded dragon basks, (after
eating), should be maintained at a temperature between 100 to 115 degrees,
in order for them to digest their food properly. If a bearded dragon is
fed a food item difficult to digest, and is not provided with the proper
temperatures in order for him to digest that food, this can create an
3. Dangerous Substrates (material used as bedding in their
Bearded Dragons like to eat anything they find in their cage.
Many substrates can pose a risk. Some materials have been reported to
have caused impaction. Some of these materials are Calci-Sand, any type
of pellets, and several dried plant-based substrates which are also known
to present a high risk. Many companies that produce materials used as
substrates for reptile cages, claim their products are completely digestible.
However, before trusting a substrate, do some research and find out what
results other experienced reptile owners have had with these products,
since they have actually used them firsthand.
There are a few signs that you may notice. One of the first
indications is that your pet will stop going to the bathroom regularly.
Other signs include:
- the inability to excrete regularly
or straining when trying to go to the bathroom
- slight leg trembles
- dragging one or both
the back legs
- not walking properly
- you may also see a slight bump
along the spinal area.
These signs are not necessary a problem, because every animal
is different, but if you see them and the pet is not acting like his normal
self, be sure to pay attention. This may be an indication that something
serious may be developing below the surface.
An indicator of a more serious problem is the partial leg paralysis.
The hind legs will have less mobility or the dragon will drag his legs.
Of course it may not necessarily be from impaction, but is definitely
a problem which needs your immediate attention.
If from impaction, the paralysis you are seeing is because
the stomach empties out into the intestines lying right along the middle/upper
spine. This puts pressure on the spine, as reptiles do not have disc between
the vertebras that protect the spine like other animals. Lower impaction
will usually display a slight raised area along the mid to lower back
or you can feel it in the abdomenal area. Do not push along the spine
right now or force your pet to move his legs, as it may injure them. Let
your bearded dragon move his legs when he is ready, do not force them,
as this can cause permanent damage.
What is generally suggested is that with the earlier stages of a mild impaction,
you may be able to offer your bearded dragon some relief by giving him a warm
bath and gently massaging his abdomen. Massaging gently down towards the vent
may assist your bearded dragon in moving an impaction down through his digestive
tract, so that he can pass it.
It is also strongly recommended that you go with your pet immediately
to a veterinarian that specializes in treating exotic animals.