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Bearded dragons are sturdy creatures that can live 10 years or longer, but they are susceptible to illness and disease. Common bearded dragon diseases include metabolic bone disease, stomatis, respiratory infection, mites and tail rot. Adenovirus and impaction also are common bearded dragon diseases. Bearded dragons also are susceptible to certain bacterial and fungal ailments that are associated with a warm, damp environment. In most cases, many of the common bearded dragon diseases are preventable and treatable.
Metabolic bone disease, one of the most common bearded dragon diseases, is caused by a deficiency or imbalance of vitamin D3, calcium and phosphorus. A lack of calcium in the dragon's body can be a result of insufficient exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light or consumption of foods that are high in phosphorus and oxalates. The animal's body will try to compensate for the calcium deficiency by drawing it from the bones. The bones then become weak and brittle, resulting in fractures. Symptoms of metabolic bone disease include softening of the lower jaw and lumps along the legs, tail and back.
Stomatis, also known as mouth rot, is an infection that usually is caused by poor diet and the presence of parasites. Its symptoms include a loss of appetite and a whitish substance coating the soft tissues of the mouth. Left untreated, the condition can lead to bleeding gums and tooth loss.
A respiratory infection is characterized by wheezing, a lack of appetite, difficult breathing, puffing of the throat and mucus excretion in the nose and mouth. Respiratory infections often occur in pet bearded dragons that are kept in poor cage conditions. Prolonged exposure to low temperatures and high humidity also can lead to a respiratory infection.
There are internal parasites that live inside the body and external parasites that live on the body, and both types can wreak havoc on the bearded dragon's health. The presence of parasites might indicate a poor diet. Internal parasites can drain the body of nutrients, resulting in weight loss, diarrhea and a lack of appetite. External parasites such as ticks and mites can transmit disease and weaken the immune system. They also can cause itching and skin irritation.
Bearded dragons can suffer from impaction when they consume indigestible food or material and the digestive tract becomes blocked. The condition is similar to constipation, only worse. In severe cases, it could prove fatal if surgery is not performed to remove the material.
Adenovirus is a viral inflammation of the digestive tract. Its symptoms usually are vague, but a bearded dragon with adenovirus normally exhibit a loss of appetite. Bearded dragons that are one to three months old are more likely to be affected.
Although the mechanics of yellow fungus are still uncertain, it is believed that the condition is caused by a yeast infection that develops after a bearded dragon has been treated with antibiotics. The illness is characterized by yellow fungal patches on the skin. Yellow fungus is fatal if not treated.
Tail rot is characterized by a darkening of the tail, a lack of appetite and lethargy. It is usually caused by injury to the tail. Tail rot also can occur when shedding skin does not come off, because the skin can build up and constrict the flow of blood. A pet owner can prevent this condition simply by removing the shed skin and any items that might cause potential injury.