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As a bearded dragon owner, you have to be prepared to learn new things about your pet reptile. Moreover, beardies are interesting and intelligent, so they will always surprise you with new behaviors. For this reason, you should consider familiarizing yourself with common bearded dragon behaviors.
If your bearded dragon has ever gone into a state of inactivity, the first question that probably came to your mind was: do bearded dragons hibernate?
Bearded dragons don’t hibernate. However, they go into a somewhat similar state called brumation. During this period, bearded dragons become inactive, thus allowing them to conserve energy.
Many reptile keepers often confuse brumation with hibernation since both have almost the same effect on animals. Before we proceed further, let us define brumation in greater detail. From there, we will discuss the difference between brumation and hibernation, how long bearded dragons are in brumation, how often they go into brumation, and the most common signs of brumation.
What Is Bearded Dragon Brumation?
Brumation is a survival behavior that bearded dragons employ during cold seasons. In the wild, brumation allows beardies to survive harsh seasons when food is scarce.
Captive bearded dragons also go into brumation because it’s an instinctive behavior. It is associated with slowed metabolism and heart rate. This process occurs naturally and won’t harm your bearded dragon in any way.
Nonetheless, ensure that you provide your beardie with proper care during this period to prevent post brumation health problems.
What Is the Difference between Brumation and Hibernation?
Brumation and hibernation cannot be used synonymously since they are experienced by different types of animals. Besides, brumation is often described as a hibernation-like state, meaning the two terms are not the same.
The main difference between hibernation and brumation is that hibernation occurs in warm-blooded animals. On the other hand, brumation occurs in cold-blooded animals. However, both states give animals an added advantage when faced with harsh conditions.
Do All Bearded Dragons Brumate?
When in captivity, a bearded dragon may or may not go into brumation. Also, not all bearded dragons brumate at the same time. The variation is brought about by the difference in climatic conditions.
Most bearded dragons enter brumation between late autumn and early winter. Pet beardies often have unpredictable brumation patterns. If your bearded dragon suddenly becomes inactive, you need to check in at the vet.
How Long Does Bearded Dragon Brumation Last?
Bearded dragons can brumate for two or three weeks and may at times stay in this state for up to four months. The time taken to complete brumation may vary depending on the ambient temperature. Brumating beardies are more likely to wake up from brumation when there is an increase in temperature.
With that being said, bearded dragons that live in colder regions may brumate longer than those in warmer areas. There are other factors that can shorten or prolong brumation in bearded dragons.
Bearded Dragon Brumation Signs
Beardies exhibit unique behaviors when they are about to brumate. Being able to identify the common signs of brumation can help you offer the best care for your beardie. If your beardie has never gone into brumation, it can be stressful to see them inactive.
However, if you are familiar with the signs, you will be better prepared. Here are some of the signs that you should look out for:
Lethargy is often attributed to health complications in bearded dragons. Nevertheless, it can also be exhibited during brumation. In fact, it is one of the major signs that will tell you your beardie is about to brumate.
Your bearded dragon may also become sluggish, so you shouldn’t force them to play. As stated earlier, lethargy can occur if a bearded dragon is sick. A visit to the vet can help you know the true cause of lethargy.
Beardies in brumation may lose their appetite, leading to reduced food intake. Some may fail to eat at all when in this state. This should, however, not worry you since they can obtain energy from the fat reserves in their bodies.
The lack of appetite is a result of reduced metabolism. Also, brumation slows down the digestion process, meaning the beardie will take a longer time to digest its food. Consequently, they won’t eat as often compared to when they are not brumating.
Both wild and pet bearded dragons spend most of their time hiding. When in the wild, they seek shelter under rocks or logs. They may also bury themselves in the ground.
In captivity, beardies conceal themselves inside artificial hideouts in the terrarium.
Since beardies eat minimal amounts of food when they are brumating, they will experience reduced bowel movements. As such, you may notice that there is not as much poop in the enclosure.
Still, ensure that you change the substrate regularly to prevent fungal and bacterial build-up. If you don’t know how often bearded dragons poop, check out our article on healthy pooping frequency.
What You Should Do For Your Bearded Dragon During Brumation?
The brumation process makes bearded dragons vulnerable. And since they eat less often, their immune system is likely to weaken with time. This can increase their chances of getting bacterial infections.
To prevent this, you should see to it that your bearded dragon is well taken care of. In case it’s your first time caring for a brumating beardie, the tips below can assist you greatly.
Take Your Bearded Dragon for a Vet Check-up
You should do this just before brumation to ensure that your bearded dragon is in good health. Besides, most bearded dragon diseases may present some of the signs that we listed earlier. The veterinarian can help you determine whether your beardie is brumating or sick.
Underlying parasite infestations can harm bearded dragons during brumation. Your vet will provide you with appropriate medication to eradicate both intestinal and ectoparasites. Experts recommend that you take your bearded dragon for regular check-ups even when they seem okay.
Gradual Temperature Reduction
The fact that your bearded dragon is brumating because it’s cold does not mean you should warm them up. Leaving the temperature level as it is or increasing it can cause your beardie to wake up from brumation. All it takes is a slight increase in their internal body temperature.
If you don’t want to interfere with your beardie while it’s brumating, you should decrease the enclosure temperature. Remember, this should be done gradually to allow for digestion.
Moreover, beardies are incapable of digesting their food in low-temperature conditions. This means the food in their digestive tract may rot, resulting in gastrointestinal problems. Decreasing the temperature rapidly can have other effects on your bearded dragon.
Seal the Enclosure
To avoid disrupting your bearded dragon’s brumation routine, you should cover the walls of the enclosure. You can use a blanket or pieces of cardboard to reduce the amount of light getting inside the terrarium.
This will allow the beardie to sleep more comfortably without coming out of brumation prematurely. Caution should be taken when using blankets since they can smother the beardie. Ensure the blanket is placed such that air can freely move in and out of the enclosure.
Provide Them With Hiding Spots
Bearded dragons in brumation feel safer when they position themselves in a hidden place. In addition to this, hideouts offer the ideal temperature conditions for brumating beardies. This is one of the reasons why bearded dragons prefer hiding in the cooler regions during this process.
You can place one or two hideouts inside the enclosure depending on how large it is. The Zilla Reptile Habitat Décor Hideout can be an excellent addition to your bearded dragon’s terrarium. It not only has a naturalistic design but also offers enough room underneath for adult beardies to brumate.
Monitor Their Weight
A lot of changes take place inside a bearded dragon’s body when they are in brumation. Most of which can have a negative effect on their health if proper husbandry is not provided. For starters, you need to keep a weight chart that can help know how much mass the beardie has lost.
You can start by weighing the bearded dragon before they enter brumation. Using the initial value as a reference point, you can take more measurements weekly throughout brumation. Bearded dragon owners should also perform physical examinations to check for signs of dehydration and infections.
Provide Clean Water
You can prevent dehydration by providing your bearded dragon with fresh water. Like most pet reptiles, bearded dragons get most of their water from food. And since they rarely eat during brumation, they are more susceptible to dehydration.
Always remember to change the water daily to prevent possible contamination. Additionally, you should go for a shallow water bowl to lower the chances of your beardie drowning.
Bearded Dragon Care After Brumation
Once your bearded dragon has woken up, there are a few things that you can do for them:
Increase the Temperature Gradually
As you did during brumation, the temperature level should be adjusted gradually. By increasing the temperature, your beardie will become more active. The UVA/UVB light should also be increased bit by bit.
Give Them a Warm Bath
Baths can help with rehydration, thereby restoring the beardie’s health. Apart from that, it will help you wash off pathogens that may be on the bearded dragon’s skin. Beardie parents should use lukewarm water that is between 85°F and 92°F.
If you’ve never bathed your bearded dragon, be sure to check out our article on the best way to bathe a bearded dragon. Not only can baths help with hydration, they can also prevent bacteria buildup and illness.
Now that your beardie is hydrated, you can offer them food. However, you should only provide a few insects and greens. Your bearded dragon may require some time to regain its appetite.
Additionally, you should allow them to raise their internal body temperature to facilitate digestion.
Take Your Bearded Dragon for a Walk
You can help your beardie stretch its muscles by taking them for a stroll around the yard. I bet they will have a great time walking around in space after staying inactive for weeks.
For safety purposes, ensure that you have them on a leash. The Adjustable Lizard Leash is specially designed for bearded dragons, so it can be an ideal choice for beardie keepers.
Bearded Dragon Weight Loss During Brumation
It is not uncommon for bearded dragons to lose weight during brumation. As a matter of fact, your bearded dragon won’t experience any health complications due to weight loss. This only applies if the beardie in question is healthy.
Sick bearded dragons should not be allowed to brumate as this may have detrimental effects on their health. Beardie owners should properly feed their pets before they go into brumation.
Do Bearded Dragons Become Aggressive After Brumation?
There have been cases of bearded dragons displaying aggressive behavior after brumation. Male beardies are more likely to become aggressive than their female counterparts.
Since brumation often occurs before the breeding season, it is believed that beardies get aggressive due to hormonal fluctuations.
Nevertheless, this behavior is only exhibited for a short period, so it shouldn’t worry you. Just ensure that you limit handling when your bearded dragon is not in a good mood.
Bearded Dragon Brumation Age
There is no specific age for bearded dragons to start brumating. Some go into brumation at an earlier age while others may fail to brumate. Nonetheless, most bearded dragons may engage in this behavior as early as 9 months after hatching.
A basic rule of thumb is that young bearded dragons should not brumate. This is because they have high energy requirements, meaning they need to eat from time to time. If they go into brumation, it can affect their health.
Is It Okay To Wake A Bearded Dragon From Brumation?
It is not a good idea to force your beardie to come out of brumation. This process is completely normal, so you should let nature take its course.
Besides, there is nothing much that you can do once a bearded dragon is in this state. Even if you manage to wake them up, they will still go into brumation. This will only prolong the process.
Bearded dragons are cold-blooded, so they don’t hibernate. They go through brumation which is the equivalent of hibernation. If you are looking to keep your bearded dragon healthy during brumation, the above-listed tips may just be what you need. Proper care should be offered before, during, and after brumation.