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?
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
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.
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.
If you feel that this post has not answered your question please feel free to join our Facebook Group – Bearded Dragons Rock for assistance from us and others who may have experienced similar things. We’ve been overwhelmed by the comments we’ve received on this post and thank everyone for their contributions and questions. We are closing comments on this post now though as it’s becoming too unwieldly for new visitors to the page. Please do join our Facebook group if you have any questions and we’ll try to help you there.