Bearded Dragon Respiratory Infection: Causes and Treatment

In bearded dragons, respiratory infection (RI) is caused by a bacterial infection in the lungs. It is a common disease that every bearded dragon experiences at least once in their life.

Bearded dragons develop a respiratory infection due to a number of reasons such as incorrect lightning and temperature, incorrect basking temperatures, wrong substrate, high humidity, prolonged psychological stress, and poor habitat conditions.

Infections in beardies can be very tricky to treat and require supportive care during treatment. It’s tough for the owners to notice any signs in the initial stages because bearded dragons are very good at hiding illnesses.

In the wild, bearded dragons try their best to hide any symptoms of weakness. If a beardie shows any symptom of illness, it will be perceived as a weakness by a predator.

Symptoms and Diagnosis of RI in Bearded Dragons

Common signs of respiratory infection in bearded dragons:

  • Weight loss due to decreased appetite.
  • Gaping of the mouth
  • Bubbly, stringy or sheeting mucous appearing on the sides of the mouth.
  • swollen or bloated body
  • Breathing difficulties (open mouth breathing).
  • Wheezing or clicking noise when breathing.
  • Sneezing or snorting.
  • Puffing up their throat constantly.
  • Lack of energy.
  • Black beard for more than 6 hours.

Your immediate action should be to take your pet to a vet and correct the environmental problems if your bearded dragon is showing signs discussed above.

Note: Respiratory infection in its early stages is fairly easy to cure but can be fatal if fully developed.

Causes of URI in Bearded Dragons

Knowing the causes of bearded dragon respiratory infection is very important. It will help you in making the necessary adjustments in case something bad happens. Below are the main causes of upper respiratory infection in bearded dragons.

Wrong Temperatures & Humidity Levels

Too high or too low temperature and humidity levels are probably the most common causes of respiratory infections in bearded dragons.

A drop in temperature and rise in humidity can lead to many health issues including RI. Make sure you do your research in understanding heating and lighting.

Wrong Substrate

Certain substrates should never be used with a bearded dragon. For example, mulch or bark that not only causes impaction but can also lead to respiratory impaction due to the fact that they retain humidity.

Poor Bathing Practices

bearded-dragon-getting-a-bath

When bathing your dragon if the water level is too high your beardie can breathe it in and aspirate it in their lungs leading to respiratory infection.

You’ll need to keep an eye on your bath level to make sure it doesn’t get too high and block your bearded dragon’s vents.

Bearded Dragon RI Treatment

Take your bearded dragon to a vet immediately if you suspect any signs of upper respiratory infection. The vet will evaluate your dragon for systematic antibiotic therapy. If the antibiotics and environmental corrections don’t work, the vet may suggest doing a culture and sensitivity. Depending on the conditions of the bearded dragon, the vet may also perform a trans-tracheal wash.

If you can’t get to the vet right away then at least do the following. Below are a few suggestions you can do to hopefully mitigate (or potentially cure) the infection.

Raise Cage Temperatures

Raise cage temps by 3-5 degrees. It will help dry up the excess moisture in their lungs.

Give Them a Slurry with Serrapeptase

A slurry with serrapeptase is extremely helpful in treating respiratory infections. Serrapeptase is a silkworm enzyme that thins mucus and prevents/fights bacterial infections in the lungs.

Help Drain Mucous

If your bearded dragon appears to be congested, put them up on a towel or folded blanket with their face angled downwards to allow mucus to flow from their neck.

Use a Dehumidifier

High humidity is one of the main causes of respiratory infections in bearded dragons. We recommend using a dehumidifier If you struggle to maintain humidity levels under 40% then. The dehumidifier will help in absorbing the extra moisture from the tank.

Use a Fogger

A fogger transforms liquids into a vapor that can be inhaled directly into the lungs. It can help buy you time and cure bearded dragon who has very weak URIs however, it shouldn’t be used as an alternative to seeking medical attention.

How to Prevent Respiratory Infections

You should follow the recommendations below whether or not your bearded dragon has had a RI.

Of course, if you feel your bearded dragon is suffering from RI, take them to a certified veterinary professional right away. Otherwise, follow my suggestions for keeping them healthy below.

Ensure Humidity is Correct

bearded-dragon-tank-humidity

Make sure humidity levels never exceed 40%. Bearded dragons are used to a dry climate as arid desert dwellers, and too much moisture can prove deadly to their inept lungs.

Keep an eye on the humidity levels in your pet’s vivarium at all times. The ideal humidity level for beardies is between 30 and 40 percent, but never higher.

This level will most closely resemble their natural environment in Australia.

We recommend investing in a reliable hygrometer to ensure that the humidity in your dragon’s setup is appropriate.

Minimize Stress

Constant stress weakens your beardie’s immune system. Whether you’ve recently adopted them, relocated them to a new tank, or exposed them to any other major life changes, it’s crucial to be aware of the stress they may be experiencing. Constant stress can eventually lead to respiratory infections in bearded dragons.

Clean & Disinfect the Tank

cleaning-bearded-dragon-tank

Because moisture, mold, and other nasties can accumulate over time, I strongly recommend you to deep clean your bearded dragon’s tank at least once every three months, preferably once a month if possible.

Maintain Correct Temperatures

proper-bearded-dragon-cage-temperatures

Your bearded dragon’s cage needs to have two sides in its enclosure. One warmer and the other cool side. The hot side should be between 95 and 105 degrees for adults and 100 to 110 degrees for baby dragons. Anything warmer or colder than that could prove fatal to your beardies health.

Conclusion

Bearded dragon respiratory infection is a serious disease. It can be fatal if left untreated. However, there is no need to worry if your dragon’s tank is set up correctly and the diet is right. Also, make sure you at least understand the symptoms and causes of respiratory infection in bearded dragons so you could take necessary actions on time if anything bad happens.

About Tariq Aziz

I am working as Chief editor at MY BEARDIES. I have been working in the publishing business for over a decade now. I love reptiles and I love talking about them. I have years of experience in herpetoculture. I have cared for many reptiles including bearded dragons, geckos, and skinks since childhood. Follow me on: Linkedin | Instagram | Twitter

5 thoughts on “Bearded Dragon Respiratory Infection: Causes and Treatment”

  1. I noticed some brown discharge on the side of my beardies mouth. It has been there for a couple weeks and I didn’t think much of it. Then when I put her on my shoulder to do our daily snuggles, she seemed to click and wheeze when she breathed. She was always stressed and nothing seems to cheer her up anymore. I am unaware that it could be my fault, and it hurts me to think that it is. The temperature of her tank is fine at 105 degrees, but she always lays under the ground on the cold glass all day instead of being under her heat lamps. I don’t know where I am going wrong. We scheduled an appointment for her later this week. I don’t know what will happen or how fatal her problem is. Any tips for me?

    Reply
    • Hi Kylie
      Taking your bearded dragon to a vet is definitely the best option. Also make sure humidity level is under 40%. We also recommend raising the temperature a few degrees.

      Reply
  2. Quick question, not that I will but is it possible for a respiratory infection to go away on it’s own if I changed his environment drastically to the appropriate levels and make sure everything else is perfect?

    Reply
    • Changing the environment as mentioned in the post will surely help but you will still need to take your beardie to a vet just to be on the safe side.

      Reply
  3. While I agree with pretty much everything else, I need to stress that not EVERY bearded dragon will get a respiratory infection in their life. I have had many dragons come in and out of my doors and I’ve only had to treat 1.

    My 14 year old personal dragon has never had one either. Something has to be off in the environment for this to develop typically.

    Reply

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