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Keeping a bearded dragon can be a fun experience, but it can also be sorrowful when your beardie dies. There have been plenty of reports of bearded dragons playing dead. This often leaves many beardie owners shocked and confused because they don’t know what to do.
So, do bearded dragons play dead?
Technically speaking, bearded dragons cannot intentionally play dead. However, they can experience tonic immobility when exposed to extreme levels of stress. During this period, a bearded dragon goes into a state of inactivity for a few seconds or even minutes. In addition to this, their respiratory rhythm may become sporadic. As such, many reptile keepers often assume their bearded dragons are not breathing.
Needless to say, it’s important to differentiate a dead bearded dragon from a live one. Thus, today we will go over how to tell if your bearded dragon is dead and what you should do.
Why Is My Bearded Dragon Playing Dead?
This is one of the controversial topics that many bearded dragon owners seek an answer to. Understanding bearded dragon behavior can be a bit difficult, especially if it’s your first time keeping these beautiful creatures. They often display behaviors that we are not familiar with, and many at times leave us with more questions than answers.
The thought of losing your beardie can be traumatizing. With that being said, I bet you’d jump up with joy if your “dead” bearded dragon suddenly woke up. When it comes to feigning death, there is still no clear explanation as to why some beardies play dead regularly.
Moreover, most beardie keepers report that their bearded dragons never play dead. On the other hand, some claim that their beardies play dead from time to time. This behavior is commonly displayed when a bearded dragon is in a state of shock.
If your bearded dragon has played dead several times, it means this is part of its behavior. To identify the cause, you need to look back to the events that led to them playing dead. For example, most bearded dragon owners report that their beardies play dead during baths.
In the wild, bearded dragons are more likely to display this behavior when they are being chased by predators. If your bearded dragon is not responsive, you shouldn’t be quick to dispose of them. Instead, take them to a vet to get a clear prognosis.
Ensure that you go to a professional veterinarian who fully understands bearded dragon behavior.
Is My Bearded Dragon Dead Or Brumating?
Brumation is the process by which reptiles such as bearded dragons go into a state of inactivity/deep sleep. It is the equivalent of hibernation in mammals. Bearded dragons go into brumation during certain times of the year. However, not all beardies go into brumation, and some go into brumation for no apparent reason.
When brumating, beardies become physically inactive. Additionally, several changes occur in their bodies, allowing them to conserve more energy. Beardies that are in brumation can slow their metabolism, cardiac functions, and respiratory rate.
As such, they can easily be mistaken for dead. Some bearded dragons have been buried alive only for them to awaken after they are done brumating. It is, therefore, important that you know how to differentiate a dead bearded dragon from one that is brumating.
And as highlighted earlier, the fact that your beardie is inactive does not mean they are dead. Besides, bearded dragons often display signs before going into brumation. If you are an observant pet parent, you will never be caught by surprise.
Nonetheless, if one is unfamiliar with the signs, they can easily assume their bearded dragon is dead.
Bearded Dragon Brumation Signs
By keenly observing your bearded dragon’s behavior, you can tell when they are about to go into brumation. Here are some of the common signs that you should look out for:
Loss of Appetite
A bearded dragon that is just about to brumate will actively refuse to eat. They do this to avoid spending more energy on digestion. Besides, beardies often go into brumation when the ambient temperature is extremely low.
As it is with cold-blooded animals, digestion can only occur when the temperature is conducive. So bearded dragons will stop eating to avoid putting pressure on their digestive system during brumation.
Lethargy is characterized by a lack of energy. Your bearded dragon can become lethargic during and before brumation. During brumation, bearded dragons don’t display any signs of physical activity.
As such, your beardie will sit in the same spot for an extended duration. Ensure that you provide appropriate environmental conditions to keep your bearded dragon comfortable during this period.
If you notice that your bearded dragon spends most of its time hiding, it could mean they are about to brumate. Most reptiles feel vulnerable a few days before going into brumation.
When in the wild, beardies will only go into brumation after they have found a secure hiding spot. They are naturally driven by instinct to do so to avoid being preyed on by other animals.
Decreased Bowel Movements
Since bearded dragons reduce their food intake before going into brumation, you should expect them to poop less. Still, ensure that you clean and disinfect their enclosure to eliminate disease-causing pathogens.
Note: These signs can also indicate parasite infestation and other health problems in bearded dragons. You should avoid making assumptions based on the presence of the above-listed signs. Scheduling an appointment with a veterinary doctor can help you ascertain the true cause of the problem.
How Often Do Bearded Dragons Brumate?
Brumation patterns in bearded dragons vary depending on the climatic conditions. Wild beardies go into brumation once a year during the cold season. Pet bearded dragons are somewhat different in that they can brumate every other year.
Also, some beardies don’t brumate at all. As such, it can be hard to predict when your bearded dragon will brumate next. The best that you can do is to keep a close eye on your beardie for any of the brumation signs listed above.
Bearded dragons should be kept in a safe environment throughout the brumation period. In addition to this, you should avoid housing brumating bearded dragons in the same enclosure. This particularly applies if the beardies in question are males.
Brumation vs. Apparent Death
Even though both phenomena cause bearded dragons to exhibit almost the same behavior, they are in no way similar. Brumation is instinct-driven, while apparent death in beardies often occurs when the animal is terrified.
Additionally, apparent death can occur suddenly, whereas brumation is a gradual process. The other difference that is worth noting is that apparent death only lasts for a few seconds or minutes. Brumation, on the other hand, can last for weeks or months.
The only similarity between the two is that they are the common reasons why beardies are often mistaken for dead.
Do All Bearded Dragons Go Into Brumation?
No, a bearded dragon may or may not go into brumation. Age is one of the main factors that determine brumation patterns in beardies. To elaborate, baby bearded dragons don’t brumate until they reach nine months.
However, this may vary from one baby beardie to another since some may start brumating when they are one year old. Baby beardies should not brumate because it can increase their chances of dying. Moreover, bearded dragons don’t eat during brumation, so your baby beardies may starve.
Plus, baby bearded dragons require more food during the early stages of development. The energy is needed to support their rapidly growing bodies. Adult bearded dragons are less likely to brumate when their enclosure is kept warm throughout the year.
Signs of a Dying Bearded Dragon
Unfortunately, there are scenarios where a bearded dragon is neither feigning death nor brumating. Dying bearded dragons display a range of signs that can be life-saving. If you observe the signs early enough, you can counter the problem.
Nevertheless, beardies often die due to old age, so there is nothing much that you can do. You can avoid most health problems in bearded dragons by taking them to the vet regularly. Below are some of the signs that can help you know if your beardie is dying:
Dying beardies can become unresponsive for weeks and may also fail to eat. Consequently, they will lose a lot of weight, thereby causing other health complications. If your pet bearded dragon exhibits this behavior, you should consider taking them to a veterinarian.
Your bearded dragon’s skin can tell you a lot about its health. A dying beardie’s skin may turn grey even when they are not shedding. This often indicates decreased blood supply to their extremities.
Droopy or Sunken Eyes
Several health issues can cause a bearded dragon’s eyes to appear sunken. The condition may worsen when the beardie is just about to die. However, a beardie’s eyes can also appear droopy or sunken due to dehydration.
Is my bearded Dragon Dead?-Common Signs of a Dead Bearded Dragon
Like all living things, bearded dragons die. Dealing with the loss of a pet can be difficult, especially if you’ve had them for several years. Before disposing of your bearded dragon, you need to ensure that they are really dead.
The signs highlighted below can help you ascertain whether your beardie is dead:
If your bearded dragon is not responsive to touch, it could mean they are dead. The beardie may fail to move even when stimulated. Nonetheless, you shouldn’t make any conclusion without taking the beardie to the vet.
The Skin and Eyes May Turn Yellow
Dead bearded dragons may lose their natural color a few hours after death. The skin covering the underbelly is the most affected since it is more delicate.
As rigor mortis sets in, the bearded dragon’s muscles become stiff, and so does the body. This is one of the common indicators that your beardie is indeed dead.
Dead beardies often have their jaws/mouths partially open. This is not common in all bearded dragons, so it all depends on the position that the beardie was in prior to their death.
It can be hard to determine whether your bearded dragon is breathing or not. This is because beardies can slow their breathing rate during brumation or when feigning death. A visit to the vet is thus recommended.
Common Causes of Death in Bearded Dragons
Bearded dragons have a long lifespan. When given proper care, they can live for 10 to 15 years. Some beardies may live longer than if you pay close attention to their health.
Sadly, beardies are susceptible to a wide range of health complications that can shorten their lifespan.
Impaction is one of the leading causes of death in bearded dragons. It occurs when the bearded dragon consumes indigestible objects, which later block the gastrointestinal tract.
Bearded dragons often get impacted when they ingest loose substrates.
Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD)
MBD is caused by a lack of calcium in the bearded dragon’s body. Calcium is essential for the formation of strong bones and other body tissues. Metabolic bone disease can be fatal if left untreated.
This condition only affects female bearded dragons. If you suspect your female beardie is gravid, ensure that you provide it with proper care to prevent egg binding.
Dead Bearded Dragon Disposal
The best way to dispose of a dead bearded dragon is by burying it. You should choose a burial spot that is unlikely to be dug up by other pets. Most beardie keepers place their dead bearded dragons in decomposable boxes before burying them.
The hole in which you intend to bury the beardie should be deep and wide to accommodate the burial box. Some pet parents opt for cremation, so the final decision will be yours to make.
So, Do Beardies Play Dead?
It is very rare for a bearded dragon to play dead. However, beardies are creatures of habit, so if your beardie has played dead before, it means they’ll likely do it again.
As a bearded dragon keeper, you should be able to tell when your beardie is feigning death, brumating, or dead. If you aren’t sure about what to do, you can take your bearded dragon to the vet.