Bearded dragons don’t like big changes in their environment, whether it’s a trip to the vet or a longer journey. Traveling for a bearded dragon can be stressful, so make sure you plan ahead of time and take care of your dragon’s needs while in transportation.
The length of your journey, how long you’ll be gone, and the environment of your destination are all general factors that will help you prepare. You can then adjust what you’ll need to bring. This post will explain how to transport your bearded dragon, what to consider, and give you some pointers.
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What to Be Aware Of When Transporting Your Bearded Dragon
You should take into account the different temperatures of the environment(s) you will be traveling in, and also how it might affect your beardie. Bearded dragons are ectothermic, which means that their body temperature is determined by external factors such as sunlight or heat bulbs.
For example, if you’re traveling with your bearded dragon and the temperature outside is 60 degrees Fahrenheit, his/her body temperature will be 60 degrees Fahrenheit as well. This is far from ideal.
There are, however, many special precautionary measures you can take to ensure your bearded dragon is comfortable and prepared for travel. Besides that, having a hot enough external temperature is a vital part of a bearded dragon’s digestive system, it is important that it is controlled and maintained.
In other words, if their surroundings aren’t hot enough, your beardie may suffer from digestion problems and impaction. Read more on bearded dragon impaction.
In addition to providing a warm enough environment for transportation, it is essential to do everything possible to reduce the stress that may result from moving them.
Prolonged periods of separation from your bearded dragon’s natural habitat may cause them anxiety, which can lead to more severe/negative health consequences.
Supplies Needed for Properly Transporting Your Bearded Dragon
Traveling with your beardie can be a stressful experience, but if you have the right supplies, and think ahead, you can make the travel a lot easier to deal with, and your beardie will have an easier time too! Here are the essentials you’ll need for your trip!
When picking a carrier, consider size – both for your beardie and your preferred mode of transportation. Carriers should not be too large because they may not fit in a car. On top of that, larger carriers might be harder to secure in a car. If you’re flying, the airline may have size restrictions as well. In general, your carrier should be large enough to allow your beardie to move around but not so large that it becomes difficult to transport.
Carriers have a number of options. Most small pet or cat carriers, especially those with padded bottoms and good ventilation for comfort, will work well for bearded dragons. For shorter trips, you can also use a large shoebox, plastic containers, or Rubbermaid tubs.
Some bearded dragons appear calmer in opaque (non-transparent) carriers, so pay attention to what your beardie prefers. If necessary, prepare an extra towel to place over clear carriers to help your beardie feel more secure.
Fabric carriers could also get torn by your dragon’s claws, causing an injury if it becomes stuck. Finally, make sure that the lid is secure and that your beardie will not be strong enough to push the lid open and flee.
A major concern for the carrier is that ventilation is sufficient. Just like you, your dragon needs to breathe! So make sure that the carrier is ventilated. Make holes in your shoe or plastic boxes for DIY carriers. Ensure the net/ventilation holes in store-bought carriers aren’t too big for your beardie to fit through.
You can ensure that you have made plenty of holes if you choose a plastic container with a tight lid. It’s also a good idea to put holes on at least one side, not only on top of the carrier. This helps your beardie get the airflow it needs!
Travel will most likely worry your bearded dragon out and cause it to poop. Having bedding in its carrier allows for quick clean-ups. When transporting your bearded dragon, use easy-to-manage bedding such as paper towels or newspaper and stack them on top of the towels in your carrier.
Because of the small space, make sure you clean up immediately after noticing any poop (you will definitely smell it in closed areas!) because your beardie will crawl all over it. If this occurs, cleaning up will be more difficult, especially if you do not have access to facilities to thoroughly wash your dragon.
It is recommended that you stay away from wet wipes even though they are sold as ‘smooth’ or ‘organic.’ A damp tissue or paper towel should be able to do the trick.
Since bearded dragons are cold-blooded animals, they need heat from the outside to adjust their temperature. So although you don’t really need to set up your thermal lamps while traveling a short distance, there are many other things you can do to ensure the right temperature for your bearded dragon. At that point, a temperature gun or digital temperature with good accuracy will be quite convenient.
You want to have a temperature range of about 65-90°F during transportation for your bearded dragon. Be careful about the temperature of our environment (in a car, bus, or plane) as your planning will need changing, especially for the winter, to bear in mind the colder temperatures outside.
You might not need to provide extra heat for your beardie if the ambient temperatures are around 75°F. You have several options to do this if you need to supply extra temperature: towels, heated packs, a bottle of hot water, or a damp towel to heat. Read more on bearded dragon heating and lighting requirements.
Towels are a great way to insulate your carrier in order to keep heat away. Ensure you’re lined with towels to keep your bearded dragon carrier warm and comfortable.
Chemical Heat packs are easily accessible (sometimes labeled as hand or foot heaters) in travel or outdoor equipment stores. There are also heat pads like gel that you can microwave in pharmacies for a few seconds. These packs are usually hot and cold with a blue gel that can either heat up or cool for injury relief.
This is a great way to keep your bearded dragon’s temperature warm, especially for longer journeys. Make sure that you cover them well with a towel because they can get quite warm. Your towel will avoid scalding your dragon.
Bottled hot water is an alternative to hot packs. You can fill either glass or plastic bottles with hot water. Check that your plastic bottles are able to handle the temperature of the boiling water. The issue with these is that the bottles have a tendency to roll around in the carrier, which can hurt your dragon. It is best if you can safely secure them inside the carrier. Line these with towels to keep your beardie from getting scalded.
Another useful tip is to make a DIY heat pack out of microwave-safe sealable freezer plastic bags with a microfiber towel. Soak the towel in water and squeeze out any excess (just enough so that the towel is damp but not dripping). Place it in a microwave-safe bag with air, seal it tightly, and microwave for a few seconds. Take it out and use a temperature gun or a thermometer to check the temperature.
You want to aim for 90-95°F. The water should heat up quickly, and the air in the bag will insulate it, keeping it hot for longer. This homemade heat pack should keep the correct temperatures for a while, but not for very long (over 45 minutes).
Make sure to keep any heat source well covered to avoid scalding. It’s also a good idea to put them on one side of your carrier so your dragon can move closer or farther away from its heat source as necessary. Always keep an eye on the temperature of the carrier, as smaller spaces can heat up and lose heat faster, especially during long journeys.
Food and Water:
You should bring food that your bearded dragon is used to in order to keep its diet consistent and to avoid stress or digestive issues. For short to medium-length trips, greens and feeder insects can be packed in a small cooler. For longer journeys, you might want to look for a pet store near your destination to get your feeder insects.
Feeder insects prefer to travel with worms or roaches rather than crickets. If these are not a regular part of your beardie’s diet, you should plan on introducing them to them at least 2-3 weeks before your trip. Crickets have a strong odor and can be annoying to travel with.
Freeze-dried crickets are another option, but they are not recommended because they do not provide adequate protein for your dragon. It can also cause impaction if fed on this diet for an extended period of time.
It is not recommended to feed your dragon while traveling because they will not have access to a basking light to aid in digestion. Prepare to set up a makeshift basking spot for your dragon if your trip is longer than three days, as you will need to feed it.
To prepare for the trip, give your dragon a larger meal the day before and don’t feed it on the day of the trip. Remember that if you feed them, they will not be able to digest their meal properly due to the heat from the carrier alone.
Your bearded dragon will need to stay hydrated as well, especially on long trips, so bring a small water bowl or dish in which they can soak for a few minutes to hydrate.
Be sure that your beardie is protected inside its carrier from any sudden braking or movement during transportation. Small movements that you may not notice can cause your dragon to slide in its carrier, causing undue stress or injury. Line the carrier with soft towels to protect it from sudden movements. To create a barrier around your bearded dragon, bunch up the towels on the side of your carrier.
You can also wrap a seatbelt around the box or secure it with bungee cords. If you are the one driving, take extra care not to drive too fast or make sudden brakes and accelerations to avoid startling your bearded dragon.
Checklist for Transporting Your Bearded Dragon
A quick list of what you’ll need is given below, which includes everything you’ll need to take proper care of your bearded dragon. It will adjust based on the length of your journey. A quick trip to the vet, for example, will not necessitate bringing most of these items.
- Leash and harness that can be adjusted
- Newspapers, paper towels, bath towels, blankets, and Carrier as bedding/substrate.
- Cleaning materials
- Heat sources, like as hot pads or warm water bottles
- Local Veterinary and Pet Supply Store Contact Information
- Snacks, vitamins, and supplements
- Enclosure or tank
- A thermometer/temperature gun, UVA/UVB light, and a basking light/heat lamp are all recommended.
- a bowl of water
How To Transport Your Bearded Dragon in a car
Traveling with your bearded dragon in your very own car is less stressful because you will be able to control many variables to keep it comfy and secure.
Pack the Supplies and get your beardie prepared for travel:
Based on the situation at your final destination and the length of your journey, you may need to pack everything your beardie will need to stay healthy and comfortable, such as food, proper heat and lighting, its water bowl, tank, substrate, cleaning supplies, a thermometer, and your beardie’s furniture or accessories.
Always double-check your bearded dragon’s needs during travel, as outlined in the preceding section. Make certain that all requirements are met, particularly in terms of ventilation, safety, and temperature.
Check for any restrictions in your final destination:
You should always check the exotic animal restrictions in your final destination, especially if you are traveling across state lines or entering another country.
It is also a good idea to check out all of the local pet supply stores and vets in case you need to stock up on supplies or have your beardie checked out when you arrive.
Heat up your car beforehand:
During the winter, especially when the temperature drops below 65°F, you should definitely turn on your car’s heat to maintain a comfortable 70-75°F during the journey. Before you bring your beardie’s carrier inside, make sure your car is nice and toasty. This is done to avoid sudden temperature changes, especially when it is already very cold outside.
Have your heat packs ready in your carrier before making the trip from your front door to the garage, as a sudden drop in temperature can be extremely dangerous for your bearded dragon, even if it is inside the carrier.
For longer journeys, turn on your car seat warmer so that the heat from the carrier does not escape too quickly due to the cold seat. During the summer, you can also cool the seat first to prevent the opposite from happening and your beardie from becoming overheated.
Secure the carrier:
To prevent unnecessary movement, use a seat belt or bungee cords to secure the carrier. While the car seatbelt was not designed to completely protect a carrier or box in a major crash, it may be useful in such cases.
It goes without saying that one should always drive cautiously, especially when transporting a pet. Because pets (particularly bearded dragons) cannot react to car accidents in the same way that humans can (for example, by extending their arms for protection), you should be extra cautious when driving to avoid this.
Even small, sudden accelerations or brakes that seem insignificant to humans can cause stress in your dragon’s carrier. So, when driving, take extra precautions to ensure that your dragon has a comfortable ride.
Sunlight in the car:
Even in cold weather (such as winter), always take precautions to avoid direct sunlight hitting your carrier in the car. Even though it might help if you are losing heat in the carrier, it can quickly lead to overheating due to the heat packs inside, especially if you are not closely monitoring the temperature. It’s best to avoid it entirely and instead rely on safer methods of warming up your bearded dragon during the trip.
Try to give your beardie some natural sunlight exposure on long trips where you can get out and stretch to help it with its vitamin D3 and heat needs. Make sure they are safe once you take them out by providing them with a harness in case they try to flee.
How To Transport Your Bearded Dragon in a Plane
Transporting bearded dragons in airplanes is fraught with danger and should be avoided in general, especially if you cannot keep your dragon’s carrier with you in the cabin. It may also be subject to plenty of restrictions. If it is unavoidable, ensure that you take all necessary precautions to keep your beardie safe.
Check if the airline allows it:
To prepare for flying your bearded dragon, you will need to conduct extensive research. Find out first if the airline allows it and what kind of requirements you’ll need (papers, veterinary clearance, permits, etc.).
Check restrictions in your final destination:
It’s important to check with your final destination to see if there are any restrictions on bringing in an exotic animal. Some states or countries may outright prohibit it. You should look up the nearest exotic animal vet in your destination and keep their contact information on hand in case of an emergency.
Check the transport conditions:
Next, determine whether you can bring the carrier as a carry-on (with you in the cabin). This is the best option because you can keep a close eye on your dragon while it is flying.
Otherwise, you may be required to check in your carrier (which will be placed in the plane’s cargo). If this is the case, you must thoroughly inspect the plane’s cargo or reconsider air travel entirely. Putting live animals in a plane’s cargo is often dangerous. You can also hire professional pet movers as an alternative.
Check with the airline to see if their cargo is pressurized and heated. Remember that your bearded dragon will require the proper temperature at all times in order to help it regulate its own body temperature. It’s also a good idea to ask about whether they can securely fasten your beardie’s carrier so that it doesn’t tumble or fall.
Again, triple-check that all of these conditions are met, especially when flying cargo, to avoid a potentially fatal situation.
Ensure your beardie’s comfort:
Once everything is in order, you should ensure that your bearded dragon travels in comfort and at the appropriate temperatures. Soft towels or hand warmers can be used to line your carrier.
Check with the airline to see if they will allow portable heat packs (if they have batteries, they will not be allowed in the cargo) and pack a few extras. You can use the above-mentioned quick homemade heat pack made from a wet towel.
Label your carrier properly:
Don’t forget to properly label your bearded dragon’s carrier with your contact information. It’s also a good idea to include your veterinarian’s contact information (with permission). Airports can be extremely busy, making it easy to lose your beardie, if they have your information plastered all over them, you can be contacted immediately!
Tips For Short Length Trips
The most common reasons for traveling with your bearded dragon are trips to the vet or taking them somewhere to be boarded. Both are typically short trips, so planning for safe transportation is a simple matter.
Short trips of 1-2 hours to places like the vet will require the use of minimal equipment. Typically, all you’ll need is a carrier and some heat packs. Just make sure your beardie has the right amount of ventilation, temperature, and safety. However, it’s a good idea to be prepared for any unexpected events.
For example, pack an extra heat source or some food if it’s winter, in case something out of the blue happens, such as your car breaking down.
You want to avoid being too cold (below 65°F/18°C) or too hot (above 90°F/32°C). You can do this by checking in on your beardie at regular intervals throughout the journey. With just a little bit of preplanned and making your beardie comfortable you’ll find that the journey was way easier than you thought!
Tips For Medium Length Trips
Your beardie will survive for less than a day without food or water. In fact, most bearded dragons can go without for a few days. That is, with two exceptions, you will treat a medium-length trip the same as a short trip.
The first is to keep the temperature stable. For this, we like to use heat packs/hand warmers. They can last up to 8 hours and provide consistent heat during that time. It’s also a good idea to keep a few spares on hand just in case.
The second step is to look for beardie poop. It’s not uncommon for a trip’s stress to cause your beardie to poop. When this occurs in a small enclosure, such as your travel carrier, it is critical that it be cleaned out as soon as possible.
If you don’t, your bearded dragon will walk all over it and make a way bigger mess than you already have.
The bad news or good news is that bearded dragon poop STINKS! If you’ve properly ventilated your carrier in the small enclosed area of your car, you’ll know exactly when they pooped. Just make sure to come to a halt and clean it up.
For their sake, as well as the sake of the breathable air in your vehicle!
Tips For Long Trips
It’s important to keep in mind that your carrier will be warmed up to a comfortable temperature while in transportation. It will not be heated to a temperature suitable for basking. This is critical.
Bearded dragons rely on spending a significant amount of time in their basking area to aid digestion. They simply cannot digest their food without this higher heat. They are in for some difficulties if they are unable to digest their food.
It’s probably best not to feed them while traveling unless you’ve devised a plan to provide a basking spot (which should always be under a light, not the result of a heating pad).
Wait until you’ve reached your destination. You can set up a temporary home for them there, complete with a basking lamp. They’ll be able to get their feeder insects once that’s in place.
If you will be in transit for more than three days, you should find a way to set up a traveling basking area. Once again, this should always be a light, not a heating pad. Heating pads can burn your bearded dragon and do not do a good job of warming their bodies to aid digestion.
A pad essentially just heats their bellies. Heat is distributed throughout their body when they bask under a lamp. This is required for proper digestion.
One piece of advice for your feeder insects. Worms will be a lot easier to transport. Butter worms and horned worms are both great choices. They’ll be less of a bother than crickets or roaches if you keep them in the cooler with your greens. Our complete guide to using worms as feeders can be found here.
Waxworms are an excellent choice for feeders on a trip. If you must use crickets or roaches, choose roaches if possible. There’s a really long way to explain this, but the short version for travelers is that roaches are easier, less smelly, and far less annoying than crickets.
Some people recommend using freeze-dried crickets. This is not something we recommend. In fact, this type of food is almost never recommended by us. Although many beardies enjoy freeze-dried crickets, they are a poor source of protein and can cause impaction.
This is especially true if they are the only protein source for a long journey. Regular freeze-dried crickets can overload your bearded dragon’s ability to digest the cricket’s hard, indigestible exoskeleton.
The last place you want to be on a trip is looking for an exotic vet to help with an impaction. Avoid freeze-dried feeders in favor of live feeders.
What pre-trip feeding looks like is an often overlooked feeding tactic for trips.
As mentioned in the digestion section above, you will not be providing basking temperatures while on the road. This means your bearded dragon will require adequate time and temperatures to digest their last pre-trip meal.
That means they should have a big meal the day before you leave, but nothing on the day itself. The day before you leave, give them a few more feeders and as many greens as they want. Then give them a full day to relax and digest.
Do not feed them or place them in their carrier on the morning of your travel day. They aren’t human, despite the fact that they appear to want a meal for the trip. They can’t digest that meal because they’re in their carrier!
Don’t forget their regular supplements just because you’re on vacation.
Remember to pack calcium and vitamins for them. Don’t cut corners on these just because you’re on vacation! You probably don’t need to give them while traveling (you won’t have enough UV light – see below – so calcium will be wasted if given in transit), but once there, resume their normal supplementation schedule.
Bearded dragons require daily doses of UV light, as stated in our complete guide to bearded dragon lighting and heating. This assists them in converting dietary calcium into a form that their bodies can use. A healthy beardie requires vitamin D on a regular basis, which UV light provides!
Light at the destination:
Some forum users suggest that allowing direct sunlight while driving can meet this need. We strongly advise against it!
The sun is scorching, and your poor bearded dragon is without a fan.
It’s hot, as anyone who has sat in a car seat after it’s been in the sun can attest. It’s far hotter than is healthy for your bearded dragon. In fact, it has the potential to be lethal very quickly.
Do not leave your beardie or carrier in direct sunlight in your car, just as you would not leave your vivarium at home. Even in the dead of winter, this can be deadly! Temperatures can and will quickly rise.
Keep an eye on your carrier and make sure it is never exposed to direct sunlight. This is easy to forget on long drives when the monotony of the journey can lull us into a semi-conscious state.
When you, as a human, notice that things are getting too hot, it is too late for your bearded dragon! Please be cautious with this!
Also, as with any animal, do not leave them alone in your car! Even on a cold day, the sun can raise the temperature inside your car to unbearable levels.
That’s all there is to it. Everything you need to know about keeping your bearded dragon safe and happy while traveling.
Keep in mind that they rely on you for everything! Take good care of your beardie and stay safe on the road! When done correctly, you’ll have fond memories of your beardie road trips that you’ll treasure for years!