Is My Bearded Dragon Dying?

Have you noticed that your bearded dragon who has been fit and healthy suddenly display odd behaviour?  Is your bearded dragon showing signs of brumation but this time seems different?  Could your bearded dragon be dying?  What are the clear signs your bearded dragon has died?

I have kept bearded dragons for many years now.  I have found that bearded dragons are amazing little characterful creatures, each with their own personalities.  But at the same time they are all very similar when it comes to growth and development, seasonal and cyclical changes. These patterns make it easier for us to quickly identify when something is up with our beardies.

Often it’s something to do with our husbandry which is fixable.  For this reason its always a good idea to go back to basics and check the heating, lighting are on point. Replacing bulbs where necessary. Consider removing loose substrates as these can sometimes exacerbate health problems. Think about if there has been changes to their habitat, this can have an on their stress levels which will in turn affect their behaviour. Review their diet, has something changed, are you over supplementing?

Take a look at categories relating to health, habitat and diet.

However, there does come a time in the life of your bearded dragon though where they will complete their life cycle and unfortunately die.

My first experience

My first experience of this was many years ago when one of my bearded dragons suddenly became very lethargic and uninterested in anything. His skin became dull and he stopped eating.  All the signs pointed to brumation although it was a little early for him. I wasn’t convinced that’s what was happening here. I did a google search of what might be happening but my search was fruitless.  All I kept getting was posts about bearded dragons being sick but I didn’t think he was sick.

I took him to the vet where she gave him a welfare check and weighed him. She reassured me that he was physically well but he was old. One week later he died aged 9 years old.  When another of my beardies (who was also healthy and of similar age) began presenting in the same way several months later I knew that she too would soon pass, and unfortunately she did.

Is my bearded dragon dead or dying? – What else could it be?

There is so much information available on caring for your bearded dragon and how to tell if your bearded dragon is sick.  There is however nothing that really explains that your bearded dragon doesn’t have to be sick to die since it can just be a natural event. To put it simply it can just be old age.

The life cycle

SHEDDING

The life cycle of bearded dragons involve periodic changes in their behaviour and appearance. Many of which follow a cycle, for instance shedding and brumation. These changes are often easy to identify because when a bearded dragon is shedding they may go off their food and/or become less tolerant of being handled. However, it is obvious they are shedding because along with these behaviours their appearance will have dulled and their skin begins to flake away.

If you want more in depth information on shedding see how to care for your shedding bearded dragon.

Brumation

It’s not so easy to tell what’s going on if they’re about to go into brumation but they will often appear lethargic and uninterested. They may go off their food but will still appear healthy looking and shouldn’t lose weight. These two points remaining healthy and not losing weight are extremely important, and will often distinguish brumation from everything else.

The first time they go into brumation can be worrying, especially for new owners but subsequent brumation will follow a similar pattern.

If you’re unsure that brumation could be affecting your bearded dragon take a look at what is bearded dragon brumation? 

Illness and DISEASE

Illness and disease will change the behaviour and appearance of your bearded dragon. A sick bearded dragon will exhibit some signs of dying and if left untreated in most cases will eventually die. If you’re in any doubt or think your bearded dragon is sick get them to a specialised vet or herpetologist. The longer you leave them untreated the longer your beardie will suffer needlessly before eventually dying.

See article my bearded dragon looks sick for a more in depth look at disease and illness that can affect bearded dragons.

If your bearded dragon is not experiencing any of the aforementioned events.  Or if you are familiar with your beardie’s behaviour, you may be beginning to think that their behaviour appears to mimic brumation but this time it’s different………….

Could it just be Old Age?

In the wild the average lifespan of a bearded dragon is 3 – 4 years and in captivity the average age is around 8 -10 years. Although some have been known to live to 14+ years.  If your beardie’s age is similar or above and all has previously been well with your beardie it is possible that they have just naturally reached the end of their life.

What are the signs: My bearded dragon is dying or dead?

Signs that a Bearded Dragon is Dying

  • Their skin looks grey or dull looking – but they are not shedding.
  • They become lethargic, uninterested and  unresponsive – but they are not in brumation.
  • They will stop eating.
  • The eyes appear sunken or droopy.
  • They may spend more time in the cool end.
  • If they are attempting to move they may drag themselves along –  This can be distressing to witness.
  • They appear to have “given up”.
  • Their breathing will become very shallow.

Signs that a Bearded Dragon has Died.

  • The eyes are closed but not completely closed.
  • Their mouth/jaw looks unnaturally limp.
  • There is no movement and they will be unresponsive.
  • They are very limp when handled.
  • It will look like they are sleeping but their appearance is different to how they would look normally when sleeping. See photo below.
  • Breathing will cease, although this may difficult to tell.
  • They may have a yellowy colour to their skin and eyes that wasn’t present before. They may look slightly un-natural. Their beard and underside may stay black (though this doesn’t always happen).

What does a bearded dragon look like when they have died?

Below is picture of one of my beautiful bearded dragons after he passed away. He was showing no signs of illness, was previously healthy but been acting as though he was beginning to brumate. This time however it just seemed different.  This was not his normal brumation  behaviour.  I took him to he vet and explained that he just didn’t seem “right”. The vet gave him a welfare check and weighed him and reassured me that he was not sick he was old. Not long after he peacefully passed.

R.I.P Beautiful Boy.

If you feel that this post has not answered your question please feel free to leave a comment and I will do my best to answer. Alternatively you can join our Facebook Group – Bearded Dragons Rock for assistance from us and others who may have experienced similar things.

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22 thoughts on “Is My Bearded Dragon Dying?”

  1. Hello,
    My bearded dragon is 3 years old. She laid eggs about a week-2 weeks ago. She’s been eating normally. And I’ve misted her everyday. However, she’s been spending a lot of time under her rock, which I will bring her out to feed her and mist her. Yesterday I noticed her eyes are slightly sunken in and the fat pads on her head are sunken. She hasn’t lost any weight in her stomach. But I immediately put her into a warm bath and she drank. She pooped a very small amount today and it was all one color-like a grayish tan- and a bit runny. I’ve been misting her and checking on her constantly since then. Her eyes are still alert. But she has refused the veggies I put out for her today, as well as the superworms. Yesterday she only ate 3-4 dubia roaches and maybe a cricket. Is she just dehydrated?

    1. Hi Abi,
      There’s a few things that could be going on from the sounds of it. Firstly, since you’re on the page about bearded dragons dying, I’d like to say that at aged 3 years she shouldn’t be dying… So with that out of the way, what could be going on here?

      1/ She’s probably exhausted. Egg production requires a lot of energy and laying the eggs requires even more energy. She’s probably been digging and the exertion of actually pushing out the eggs is energy intensive too.
      2/ She’ll be lacking calcium and possibly protein as the egg production will have used up a lot of those resources.

      She’ll need to be kept warm and have plenty of UVB light available, so make sure your heating and lighting is up to scratch. Bearded Dragon Lighting will give you some tips on that.
      She doesn’t require misting, although there’s nothing specifically wrong with it occasionally. But misting does not help them stay hydrated unless the misted droplets run down towards their mouth and they drink it. They don’t absorb any water through their skin or cloaca. Should I Mist My Bearded Dragon? will give you some more tips on this 🙂

      At the moment we don’t have any articles about bearded dragons that have just laid eggs, although we are putting one together. The main thing is, make sure her heating and lighting is up to scratch and if necessary you can hand feed her if she’s feeling exhausted. She’ll take a few weeks to get her energy back and the fat pads will take a little while to come back up too. Feed her a diet high in calcium and additional protein for a few more weeks. Which Live Foods Can Bearded Dragons Eat? can help here, as well as What Vegetables Can Bearded Dragons Eat?. That last one also has tables at the end to help you decide which vegetables have the best calcium ratio. You may also want to dust her veggies and live food with a good calcium supplement for a few weeks to help her restore her calcium levels.

      Hope that helps but feel free to reply back if you have any further questions.
      All the best,
      Steve and Claire.

  2. So I came here because one of my three year old bearded dragons has been quite unresponsive. He runs around the cage and moves a lot but he stays statue still out of the cage. I figured it may be a bit cold since my air unit but I took him out into the summer sun and he still didn’t have anything to do. His eyes are a bit crusty and he hasn’t shed in a while. I give him food but he doesn’t eat, only the other bearded dragon who roams around like normal. As I am typing this he moved about an inch to crawl into the blanket a bit more but that’s all. Now that I think about it his eyes haven’t opened in ages

    1. Hi Axel,
      We presently have several bearded dragons. Some love to be out of the vivarium, but one puffs herself up like a balloon and freezes. She hates being out of the vivarium unless she’s firmly attached to one of us. This isn’t uncommon. Some love it, some hate it. Just be guided by your beardie.

      With regard to your other questions it sounds like he might be having a bit of a shedding issue. Have you considered giving him a bath? This can help with their shedding dramatically as it softens the skin up and lets it shed off easier. If the bathing and shedding doesn’t liven him up a bit he may have parasites or be otherwise unwell. Try the baths for a week or so but contact your vet if it doesn’t help, as he may have something else going instead. For guidance on how to bath your bearded dragon have a look at our article linked. Also you can check out how to care for your shedding bearded dragon which goes into some good detail about sheds.

      Hope that helps,
      Please pop back and let us know how you both get on
      Steve.

      1. Hello, my beaded dragon is almost 9 years old. I have had him these whole 9 years and he has always been the sweetest boy with no aggression. But the past 6 months he was been extremely lazy, always sleeping and only coming out in the morning to eat a little bit. There has also been a few times where he’s gotten really upset and puffed and his beard was black, and lunging at me when I go close to his cage. Every once in a while he will have really runny stool, though I have taken a stool sample to the vet and there are no parasites. Has anyone experienced a similar situation or have any idea what is happening?

        1. Hi Madalynn,
          I have a couple of suggestions that may be the cause. I am assuming that he is otherwise healthy. You may just want to double check your heating and lighting these often cause behavioural changes ,you could try and notch the temps up a degree or two temporarily to see if that perks him up.

          But this could be a stress response. Has something changed in or around his viv? Eg moved house or the room he was in or changed the vivarium, got another pet etc
          Another suggestion is that his eye sight may be failing, this can happen with age. First signs are they don’t seem as coordinated and missing their food. They can become more recluse because they feel vulnerable. If this is happening he may see you as a threat and lunging in an attempt to protect himself. This too will stress him.
          Join our facebook group and post your question someone may have the answer 🙂 http://www.facebook.com/groups/beardeddragonsrock
          Hope that helps
          Claire and Steve.

  3. We have a female dragon between 10-11 yrs old – got her as a baby. Past few months she has been losing weight and eating and moving less and less. She is now refusing food altogether. I’ve tried butternut squash baby food, which is her favorite and she won’t even lift her head. Her eyes are partially closed. She has been on floor in cooler area of her cage for weeks. Extremely lethargic. Also wonder if she is going blind because for several months she had trouble getting crickets that were right in front of her. We don’t have a reptile vet in our area. I don’t want her to suffer so I’ve made an appt with my dog’s vet to have her put to sleep. I have tried everything I know to do and she is not bouncing back, only getting worse. Do you think I should give her one more chance or is it time to let her go. Hard on family as she has been a family member for over 10 years. Thank you.

    1. Claire Compton

      Hi Stacey, This is a difficult one and one I cannot answer for you, I am assuming she was healthy and has not had underlying issues previously. From your description it does appear she has given up and given her age it could be just that. Regarding her eye sight, yes is it possible that her eye sight is failing this does happen in older dragons and could contribute to her symptoms of reduced movement and not eating. The only advice I can suggest is that you get a faecal test done to rule out parasites as this could cause these symptoms too, it’s definitely worth having a conversation with the vet to determine if this is a good idea. Although your vet isn’t a reptile vet and there’s not one nearby, your current vet will probably have contacts they can speak to about your beardie.

      I hope this helps, Sorry we can’t give you a more specific answer.

      We wish you all the best, please let us know how you get on.
      Claire.

  4. Emily Averill

    Hey there,
    I’m looking for some advice with my beardie please. He is 8 years old, I have his tank at 100 degrees in the hot area, about 90 slightly over and about 80 on the cool side. He has a basking area and a 1 month old uvb tube bulb. He has stopped eating and has drastically lost lots of weight within the past couple months. He 100% stopped feeding himself. He doesn’t really move much except when I put him in his basking area he flops out and sometimes onto his back. I’ve found him many times on his back with his eyes slightly open and black beard. He always seems to be grey with droopy eyes. 1 month ago I brought him to the vet, he did a blood test and found Ali was low in calcium. My vet said to force feed my guy twice daily and give a calcium supplement and bath. Ali has not improved at all but my vet said I shouldn’t see an improvement for months and I should keep force feeding and giving calcium supplement he supplies.
    Can you please give me some advice and if you think Ali is just dying of old age? Or if you think my vet is wrong (I don’t really trust him tbh)? Ali really doesn’t seem to want to live anymore and I don’t want to keep forcing food and calcium on him and watching him suffer… thanks, Emily.

    1. Hi Emily,
      Firstly let me say I’m sorry your dragon is ill at the moment, and to be fair he does sound quite ill at this point in time.

      Given that the vet has done blood work and discovered that his calcium levels are low, it’s quite likely that he has MBD – this will mean that his calcium levels in his bones are quite depleted and it will take a while for the supplements to restore this, so I agree with the vet that it will take quite some time, patience and perseverance to help him recover.

      I’m concerned that you’ve discovered him on his back a number of times. This is never a good sign at all. Flipping on to their back is a common symptom of Atadenovirus because it affects their neurological system. However, unless your Beardie has been in contact with an infected individual fairly recently it’s very unlikely to be this since Atadenovirus tends to kill dragons quite quickly. The blood work may well have looked for this too and found it negative.

      Given that flipping on to their backs is a neurological symptom, there could potentially be other electrolytes out of balance, but again the blood work would probably have flagged this. It’s possible therefore that your Beardie has given up on himself, because in nature they don’t want to make themselves vulnerable in this way to predators.

      Prior to changing the UVB 1 month ago, how old was the previous UVB bulb? UV lamps should be changed every 6 to 9 months as their UV production decreases dramatically after this age and you won’t be able to tell. In addition to the correct UVB he needs supplemental calcium and Vitamin D3 regularly and a balanced diet that doesn’t contain too many calcium blocking agents ( we have a list of good vegetables in our “Bearded Dragon Diet” section ). You may want to look into some Reptoboost for him while he’s ill. The vet may have already recommended this by the sounds of it as they’ve asked you to bath him regularly.

      You may want to ask the vet to do a faecal test to check for parasites if he hasn’t done that already, although if the vet is an exotic / reptile vet then he’s probably already done this too.

      It’s not necessarily an indication that he’s specifically dying at this point, but he is definitely very very sick. It is possible that with love, attention and medical help he can recover, but it’s not going to be easy.

      Personally, I’d be recommending persevering for a few more weeks at least and keeping in touch with the vet. It may be worth another blood test in a couple of weeks to see if his calcium levels have improved at all. If they have but his symptoms haven’t resolved then something else may be going on. At which point the discussion with the vet needs to be had about the potential prognosis and what course of treatment will be the kindest thing.

      Apologies that I can’t give you a definitive answer, this is a very difficult situation for you.

      We wish you all the best and hope that he pulls through. Please let us know how you both get on.

      Steve and Claire.

      P.S. You could have a quick look at our article “My Bearded Dragon Looks Sick” for some other possibilities as to what might be wrong, but I think you’ve covered most of the likely scenarios with your vet.

  5. Brogan Scotch

    Hey there,
    I’ve had my bearded dragon for 10 years. He is shared by my entirely family, and currently he lives at my mother’s, and I am only there a couple times a month. Today I visited, and he is in really rough shape. He will not open his eyes or move. He looks like skin and bones. He is breathing and seems to respond when he is handled, but he will not take any food or even open his eyes to see there is food. Could this be the natural end for him? Is there anything I can do to help him?

    1. Hi Brogan,
      Sorry to hear your dragon is struggling at the moment. It’s hard to know if it’s the natural end for him without knowing his full history. So I’ll ask some questions and if you manage to get back to this comment thread please feel free to answer and I’ll try a bit more for you.

      Has he been well recently up until the last few months?

      Is his temperature and lighting schedule correct? For example, he should be sitting around the 38 to 40 degrees celsius mark in his basking end and around 28 degrees celsius in his cool end. Lights should be on for 12 hours a day, off overnight for 12 hours – with no red lights at all. You can see more information about this in our quick reference at https://beardeddragonsrock.com/bearded-dragon-lighting/#light_and_temperature_quick_reference.

      Have you changed his UV bulb recently and is he getting enough Calcium supplement? He may not be getting enough supplement if he’s not eating of course, but the UV bulbs are definitely very important. Has his diet recently changed and has his diet been appropriate in the past? More information on diet can be found at https://beardeddragonsrock.com/category/bearded-dragon-diet/.

      Sorry for all the questions, and I’m not trying to suggest you haven’t done the best by him all these years, just trying to ascertain first if all these things are set up right. If they are all correct and nothing has changed except his condition then unfortunately it could well be the natural end time for him. He is of an age where that has to be a suspicion.

      In terms of trying to help him, I suggest a trip to the vet at the very least with a stool sample if he’s pooping to check for parasites. Even the best kept dragons can get parasites from the live food they eat and parasites can make a dragon very lethargic and off their food. By the sounds of it he is losing weight so I’d not be thinking this is brumation as they shouldn’t lose weight when going into brumation.

      The vet may suggest some pureed food syringed gently for him for a few days to get his strength back, as well as some Reptoboost supplement to help him regain strength, but I’d suggest doing all of those things only under vet supervision as you don’t want to make things worse.

      He’s not mega-old at 10 years of age, but he is around the average life expectancy so it is possible that he’s dying. But I wouldn’t want to say for sure without him having a vet check if you can.

      Hope that information helps, please let us know how you get on and we wish you and your dragon all the best.

      Steve.

  6. My bearded dragon was brought home in 2011 for Valentine’s Day, 8 years later he’s always been in excellent health and has always had so much energy. Recently though, his top has become a pale yellow , and his neck and stomach have become black all the way down to his tail. I’m really worried about him, and the vet said to wait a day or two before bringing him in . Any thoughts?

    1. Claire Compton

      Hi Taylor
      Without knowing more information than what you’ve mentioned my thoughts would to rule out the following….
      1 Is heating / lighting right? Have UV bulbs been replaced?
      2 Has he had a poo recently and was it normal looking? He may need a fecal sample to be taken to check he’s not got parasites.
      3 Has anything changed with in his environment recently including food?
      4 Have any new animal / reptile been introduced recently? If so this could suggest disease.

      But It sounds like your husbandry is on point especially as hes always been in good health.

      The key point is that he is 8 years old (thats assuming he was a baby when you got him so could be older) and by what you’ve described suggests the possibility this unfortunately this could be his time.

      Definitely worth having the vet check him first as it could be something else that’s perfectly treatable. Hopefully they’ll give you more answers. We wish you luck and we will hope for the best x.

  7. I got my Beardy when I was 18 years old. I am now 32 years old and worried the end may be near for my little guy.
    He rarely wants to eat, but will eat when I hand feed him. Rarely drinks …and hates being misted.
    He stays in one spot for days and it’s never under his basking spot.
    If the end is indeed near… is there anything I can do to make it less…idk… bad??

    1. Claire Compton

      Hi Brian, The average life expectancy for a bearded dragon in captivity is around 10 years, your beardie has superseded that by 4 years.
      To have a bearded dragon of that age you are that you are defiantly doing everything right! Sadly though it does seem most likely that this his time, its heartbreaking to witness and you feel so helpless. I have no helpful suggestions other than just keep doing what your doing.
      We wish you all the best and our thoughts are with you x

  8. Tiffany Plunkett

    Why did my pregnant bearded dragon die? She just had 1 litter a month ago waiting on them to hatch. She ended up pregnant again. She had about two more days before laying these. We moved her in her tank where to laI’d twice before no problems. And we found her dwad with her eggs still in her. We didn’t have her light on her for one day. What would have caused her death

    1. Hi Tiffany,
      Firstly I’d like to say that we’re sorry for your loss – it can be hard to lose a pet in this way.

      Secondly, to answer your question, unfortunately that’s something that only an exotic vet performing a post-mortem examination is going to be able to conclusively answer for you. Even then they may not be able to conclusively answer it.

      Pregnancy and egg-laying are very very physically demanding times for Bearded Dragons and it may simply have been too much for her to have a clutch of eggs so close together. The amount of calcium required to produce the eggs for example may have reduced her blood calcium levels to the point where she ended up with a heart arrhythmia that killed her. Or, she may have become egg bound and haemorrhaged internally trying to pass them.

      They’re a couple of suggestions but as I said initially, the only person who can really tell you would be an exotic vet after a post-mortem examination.

      Once again, sorry for your loss.

  9. Thank you, I fear the same is about to happen with our oldest Male dragon unfortunately=( we rescued him from a friend who could no longer take care of him when he was jst about 1 1/2 yrs old. That would have been 9 yrs ago this fall. The last couple weeks he hasn’t shown interest in anything and when he walks it was almost like twitching but now has went kind of jst dragging ( I know he doesn’t have MBD because he gets the same treatment our other 3 bearded dragons get. Proper vitamins, uvb+uva lighting ex ex.) And then today I noticed his eyes are looking as if they are starting to droop. Which is exactly why I started searching the web for answers. Thankfully I found this after 3 hrs looking! I jst wish there were something I cld do for him. He jst seems so sad and its killing my kids =(

    1. Hi Sammie,
      We’re so sorry to hear that, although the symptoms do sound like he has MBD, in your case I agree that it’s probably not. Most dragons with MBD have it because their owners aren’t aware of what it is and something is off with their husbandry. That doesn’t sound like that’s the case with you, you sound like an experienced keeper.

      It’s possibly worth a vet check up and/or a faecal test to make sure it’s not parasites but, unfortunately, a 10 year old dragon is getting quite old and it probably is close to that time.

      At this time there’s really no words that can console you or your kids except to know that, by the sounds of it you’ve given your dragon a great life and had great times with him.

      We wish you all the very best and our thoughts are with you in this tough time.

  10. Claire Tristram

    My neared dragon has stopped eating drinking and changed colour and gone black on tail and chin in past 5 days and she is lethargic can anyone help

    1. Hello Claire,
      There’s a whole variety of reasons why this could be… There’s a few questions that would be helpful to know the answers to in order to form a better opinion on what’s happening.

      We’d recommend an appointment with an exotic vet for definitive advice.

      While you’re waiting, you can join the Bearded Dragons Rock group on Facebook at https://facebook.com/groups/beardeddragonsrock where people can ask the necessary questions to give you some pointers.

      It could be that she’s cold, or impacted, parasite infected or beginning brumating (though this latter one seems unlikely as they don’t normally blacken up before brumating). She doesn’t sound well though, so we definitely recommend a vet appointment. Sadly, she could be at the end of life stage though without knowing her age it’s hard to tell.

      We wish you both the best of luck, please let us know either here or on the FB group how you get on. All the very best.

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