What Are Bearded Dragon Fat Pads
Learn what bearded dragon fat pads are, where to find them and how the fat pads can give you a good indication of your dragon’s health
And Where Can You Find Them?
December 27th, 2021
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There’s a lot of confusion about what bearded dragon fat pads are actually for. Many people online state they relate to whether your bearded dragon is a suitable weight, over-weight or under-weight. Others state they give a good indication of hydration status for a bearded dragon. In reality, both are semi-true. But they’re not good indicators at all because they vary dramatically from dragon to dragon.
What Are Bearded Dragon Fat Pads For?
Bearded dragon fat pads are similar in many ways to the hump on a camel. Bearded dragons live in a very scarce water environment and will often go for a long time without eating or drinking, depending on what food and water is available.
When there is an excess of water available, either through juicy bugs or through drinking the dew drops off of leaves in the environment, bearded dragons will store this water in the form of fats in their fat pads. It would be rare for puddles to form in the bearded dragon’s natural environment, so they don’t generally drink from standing water.
When water (and therefore food) becomes scarce again, the fat pads are used to keep the bearded dragon’s water and electrolytes in balance. The fat is broken down, releasing nutrients and water to help the dragon survive.
This cycle of topping up fat pads, then use them, goes back and forth repeatedly in nature. But in the captive environment it’s unlikely they fat pads will need to be broken down all that often. Seeing sunken (or used) fat pads on a captive bearded dragon usually means something is not quite right with them. We’ll investigate this later in the post.
Where Are Fat Pads On A Bearded Dragon?
The fat pads on a bearded dragon are found on the tops of their heads, above their eye sockets. They’re little bulges that protrude and look, literally, like little pads underneath their skin.
Bearded dragons also have pads at the base of their tails. Both of these areas are used for the same purpose – the temporary storage of water and nutrients in the form of fat.
Do All Bearded Dragons Have Fat Pads?
All bearded dragons have the areas available for the fat pads, though not all show prominent bulges on their heads. Most will have some form of fat-pad in their tail unless they’re becoming ill or dehydrated.
But some bearded dragons don’t show the fat pads as bulging like others. The best we can tell from our experience is simply that some don’t seem to store as much fat as others. We’ve had two bearded dragons, fed the same diet, same access to water, same temperatures and lighting – in fact same environment (we don’t recommend co-habiting of course). One has very healthy looking fat-pads, the other always shows quite sunken. But the rest of her is healthy and happy, so fat-pads aren’t the be all and end all of bearded dragon health.
What Should Bearded Dragon Fat Pads Look Like?
Bearded dragon fat pads should, in most cases, look like small bulges on the top of their head. You shouldn’t be able to see the fat pads in the tail as such, but you may be able to feel them. You’ll possibly notice them more if they’re not there – as the base of the tail then looks quite skinny and doesn’t follow a nice smooth line from the body into the tip of the tail so much.
What Causes Sunken Fat Pads On A Bearded Dragon?
Firstly, it’s important to remember that each bearded dragon is different and each one looks different too. Not every bearded dragon has prominent fat pads, particularly the ones on their head. Some do appear slightly sunken naturally.
The key to using the fat pads to determine the health of your bearded dragon is to look at the longer term trends in how your bearded dragon’s fat pads appear.
If your bearded dragon has had good plump looking fat pads until recently then it’s likely something has changed and your bearded dragon may need some medical attention.
The most likely cause of sunken fat pads on the bearded dragon’s head is actually dehydration and not lack of food (although lack of food can lead of course to dehydration, since bearded dragons get most of their hydration through food). If this is likely there’s a few things you can do to help reverse dehydration;
- Give them a bath – they won’t be rehydrated by the bath itself as they do not absorb water through their skin, but they may drink some of the bathwater.
- Feed them vegetables with a high moisture content such as watermelon, cucumber etc. Strawberries and other fruits can be given in moderation to help entice them to eat the more watery vegetables.
- Use a dropper to place small drops of water on the tip of their nose. Bearded dragons will often lick this off. It’s a slow way to help rehydrate but is quite effective if you have the nursing patience.
- If your bearded dragon is severely dehydrated and you have consulted a Vet who’s told you to syringe feed your bearded dragon then this can be a way to help rehydrate them. But it’s imperative that they’ve been assessed by a qualified Vet first.
If your bearded dragon has newly sunken fat pads, but looks plump and suitable weight otherwise, it’s possible they’re gravid (pregnant) and are using up a lot of their reserves in producing eggs. Female bearded dragons can lay eggs even if they’ve never been with a male.
If the sunken fat pads are sudden and you’re concerned about changes in behaviour, such as lethargy, off food etc., then it’s best to consult your local bearded dragon qualified vet for some guidance.
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