Fortunately, Bearded Dragons are pretty hardy reptiles and are less prone to illness than some other exotic pets. Still, there are a number of hazards that could be harmful to or even kill our Bearded Dragons.
Bearded Dragons can be killed by other Bearded Dragons through conflict or due to cannibalism. Some fruits, vegetables, and invertebrates are poisonous to Bearded Dragons and can kill them slowly or outright. Illnesses such as MBD, impaction, and dystocia can also be fatal.
Those are just a few hazards that can kill a Bearded Dragon. Let’s find out some lesser-known dangers to your Bearded Dragon.
Can Other Bearded Dragons Kill A Bearded Dragon?
Yes. Bearded Dragons are solitary animals and should be kept separately. Though it is common to see them being kept together, this is not good for their health.
Dominant Bearded Dragons could prevent a weaker one from accessing food, or from spending enough time basking. Lack of UV light, heat, and food will cause their health to deteriorate (Diehl et al.).
But can one Bearded Dragon kill another outright? While it is rare, the answer is yes, this could happen. Bearded Dragons will try to avoid a physical fight at first, by communicating dominance or submission to solve conflicts.
However, it could come to a physical fight, which would involve scratching and biting. If one Bearded Dragon is smaller, or if many Bearded Dragons gang up on one, then the victim could be killed.
Bearded Dragons Are Cannibals
It’s not just competition for resources that could lead to fights either. Bearded Dragons are actually cannibalistic (Raiti,P,).
Housing them together is not recommended, especially if there is a size disparity between the Bearded Dragons. There is a chance that stronger Bearded Dragons will kill or maim weaker ones and eat them.
Can Stress Kill A Bearded Dragon?
Yes. Ongoing competition for dominance, territory, mates, and food will cause stress for Bearded Dragons that are kept together. Chronic stress is very dangerous.
Chronic stress can also be caused by many other factors that are present for extended periods of time. For example:
- Being able to see another Bearded Dragon
- Being able to see a cat, dog, snake, or other creature
- Not having the right size tank
- Not having enough shelter
- Not having the correct temperature, lighting, or humidity
When a Bearded Dragon perceives danger, the stress hormone corticosterone allows his body to use extra energy to escape attacks. However, it also suppresses other bodily functions like digestion, growth, and immune response.
When corticosterone levels stay high for a long time, this causes damage and could lead to death (Sopinka et al., 2015).
Are There Foods That Can Kill A Bearded Dragon?
Yes. Some foods are poisonous to Bearded Dragons and will cause death directly. Others are harmful, and may cause a deterioration of health which eventually results in death.
Fireflies Are Poisonous To Bearded Dragons
Eating just a single firefly is enough to kill a Bearded Dragon. This is likely to be due to the highly toxic pyrones that have been found in fireflies (Knight et al.). If you live in an area with fireflies, you need to protect your Bearded Dragons from them. Consider surrounding your tank area with mosquito netting.
Can Crickets Kill A Bearded Dragon?
Crickets are generally a good source of low-fat protein for Bearded Dragons. However, there are instances in which crickets can kill a Bearded Dragon.
If The Cricket Is Too Large
A common and dangerous hazard of feeding crickets to your Bearded Dragon is impaction or choking. You should only feed crickets that are smaller than the width between your Bearded Dragon’s eyes.
This is a good indicator of the width of their throat, and so the cricket should be swallowed without issue. If the cricket gets trapped in the digestive tract, your Bearded Dragon could die.
If The Cricket Causes Wounds
Crickets can also cause injuries to your Bearded Dragon. Crickets can bite your pet’s delicate skin and create wounds, which could become infected.
To avoid this, remove any crickets that have not been eaten after a short time.
If The Cricket Carries Parasites Or Toxins
It is very important to buy your live-feed insects from a reputable seller. If you collect insects from the wild to give your Bearded Dragon, they are likely to pass on intestinal parasites.
Also, they could have come into contact with pesticides or other chemicals that could kill your Bearded Dragon.
If You Feed Too Many Crickets
Bearded Dragons are omnivorous, not carnivorous. After one year of age, they require 90% vegetation and only 10% protein.
Unfortunately, Bearded Dragons are often fed far too many insects and not enough vegetation. This leads to nutritional disorders and damage to the gallbladder (Gimmel et al.). Being fed an incorrect diet can lead to a range of diseases and potentially death.
Mealworms And Superworms Can Be Harmful To Bearded Dragons
While Bearded Dragons can eat mealworms, they should not be given too many. Superworms are very large, but similar to mealworms. Sometimes, they could kill your Bearded Dragon.
Mealworms And SuperWorms Cause Obesity And Nutritional Disorders
As mentioned above, Bearded Dragons should be eating 90% vegetation and too many insects are bad for their health (Raiti,P). Also, mealworms are high in fat and low in protein and calcium compared to insects such as crickets (Gimmel et al.).
A diet that is too high in fat can cause health problems including obesity, which is common in pet Bearded Dragons.
Many bearded dragons that are overweight and eat too many mealworms die from liver problems. They can even get diabetes.
Mealworms Shells Are Hard to Digest
Mealworms also have a hard outer coating made of chitin. Chitin is very difficult for the Bearded Dragon to digest, and could build up in the digestive tract and block it. This is called impaction and could kill your Bearded Dragon.
Large Mealworms Can Cause Choking And Compaction
As with all food that you give your Bearded Dragon, ensure that the mealworms are not wider than the space between their eyes. This will reduce the chance of death by choking or impaction.
Mealworms Can Injure Your Bearded Dragon
Worms are able to bite and cause injuries to your Bearded Dragon, which could become infected. Superworms in particular have quite strong jaws.
Remove any uneaten worms from your pet’s habitat after 20 minutes or so to reduce the chance of wounds.
- Read our article “Why you should not feed your bearded dragon mealworms” here to learn more.
Fruits That Can Kill Bearded Dragons
Fruits can cause many health problems in Bearded Dragons and are not generally recommended as part of their staple diet.
They are high in sugar and contribute to obesity, as well as a loss of interest in eating healthier foods (Boyer, T.).
As a result, all fruits can play a role in the death of a Bearded Dragon and should be fed only as treats. However, some fruits are very dangerous and can kill your Bearded Dragon directly.
Rhubarb contains very high levels of oxalic acid, and is actually poisonous to many animals. It could kill your Bearded Dragon outright.
Avocados can also kill Bearded Dragons if they eat a large portion. They contain large amounts of oxalic acids, which prevent Bearded Dragons from absorbing calcium.
Watermelon is not as toxic as the other fruits on this list, but can be harmful. It is high in phosphorus, which again will disrupt your Bearded Dragon’s ability to absorb calcium, leading to other health issues.
Also, it is full of sugar which can cause obesity, and water which can cause diarrhea. It is ok as an occasional treat, but more will cause harm.
Citrus fruits like orange, lemon, and lime are highly acidic and harmful to your Bearded Dragon. Not only do they contain a lot of oxalic acid and sugar, but citric acid too.
This can really irritate your Bearded Dragon’s digestive system and cause diarrhea. Diarrhea can cause dehydration to the point of death.
Vegetables That Can Kill Bearded Dragons
There are many vegetables that are safe for your Bearded Dragons to eat. In fact, your Bearded Dragon should be eating up to 90% vegetables as an adult.
However, some vegetation can be harmful to or even kill your Bearded Dragon.
Onions are extremely acidic and will burn the mouth, throat, and digestive tract of your Bearded Dragon. This could prevent them from eating other foods.
It can also denature some of the digestive enzymes in their stomachs. This will prevent them from absorbing nutrients properly.
Spinach, Beet Tops, And Chard
These vegetables kill Bearded Dragons indirectly. They are high in oxalates, which bind calcium and prevent the Bearded Dragon from being able to absorb it.
This is very dangerous as it can lead to calcium deficiency and metabolic bone disease, which is incredibly harmful and even fatal.
Lettuce is seen as being a healthy snack, but in fact, it is devoid of nutrients. For this reason, it is low in calories, but will fill up your Bearded Dragon without delivering any nutritional value.
Furthermore, it also causes diarrhea, which is very bad for your Bearded Dragon’s health. Other, darker leafy greens like kale are better alternatives.
Overeating Can Kill Your Bearded Dragon
Obesity and nutritional deficiency are two very common problems found in pet Bearded Dragons. This results from Bearded Dragons being fed too many insects, too much fat, and too much fruit.
In this way, Bearded Dragons can become both fat and nutritionally deficient at the same time.
Obesity causes many health problems that can lead to death. Constant overfeeding causes enlargement of the coelomic fat pads.
The fat pads can increase in size until they take up half the coelomic cavity (Boyer.T). This puts the organs in the abdomen under a lot of pressure.
Can Parasites Kill A Bearded Dragon?
Yes. Parasites can kill Bearded Dragons and may also be harmful to humans and other pets who come into contact with them (Rataj et al.).
Parasites are more commonly found in Bearded Dragons that have been wild-caught. Feeding insects that were wild-caught can also cause parasitic infections.
Endoparasites such as pinworms, coccidia, and flagellates that reside in the digestive tract can cause constipation (Schmidt-Ukaj et al.).
Isospora amphiboluri is a coccidian parasite that is endemic to captive Bearded Dragons in the USA. Its severity can range from fairly harmless to fatal, especially in juvenile Bearded Dragons (Rivera).
Ectoparasites such as mites and ticks can also be harmful or even deadly. Ectoparasites usually bite through the skin of the Bearded Dragons and consume blood.
When this happens, they can introduce diseases, as well as weaken the Bearded dragon significantly. The snake mite Ophionyssus natricis is common in captivity.
It causes dehydration, disease, and can even kill Bearded Dragons (Wozniak and DeNardo).
What Illnesses Can Kill Bearded Dragons?
Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD)
Metabolic Bone Disease is a common health complaint among pet Bearded Dragons. It is very dangerous, and while it is curable and preventable, the damage done by MBD is not reversible and can kill your Bearded Dragon.
MBD occurs when your Bearded Dragon is not getting enough calcium. This can be because of nutritional deficiency of calcium, deficiency of Vitamin D3, or lack of UVB light (Diehl et al.).
All these factors contribute to healthy calcium absorption in Bearded Dragons. Also, it can be caused by too much phosphate or oxalate in the diet, which blocks the uptake of calcium.
MBD happens when the body of your Bearded Dragon attempts to draw calcium from the bones to keep the organs functioning. Females who also need calcium to make eggs are at greater risk.
When calcium is drawn away from the bones, the Bearded Dragon will become weak and deformed.
Eventually, bones will break and the skeleton and organs will begin to fail. This will kill your Bearded Dragon (Marshall).
- Read our bearded dragon metabolic bone disease guide here if you want to identify and treat this disease properly.
Mouth Rot (Stomatitis)
Mouth rot or stomatitis is a common disease that can kill Bearded Dragons. Mouth rot usually occurs when there have been tiny cuts to the mouth area, which allow infections to take hold.
However, there are various causes. Mouth rot will cause pain, redness, and swelling around the mouth. This will progress to affect the throat and bones of the head.
Pneumonia can also occur, followed by a systemic infection carried by the blood (Benato).
There are many infectious pathogens that can cause stomatitis. Common viruses include Herpesvirus and Ranavirus. Many bacteria such as Aeromonas, Pseudomonas, and Salmonella species can also cause severe mouth rot (Benato).
Fungal stomatitis such as Emmonsia species’ can enter cuts in the mouth while eating wild-caught insects. The infection can progress and kill bearded Dragons in around 1 week (Raiti, P).
More common fungi that cause stomatitis are Candida albicans, Aspergillus, and Penicillium (Benato).
- If you fear that your bearded dragon has mouth rot, we highly recommend reading our mouth rot guide here.
Adenovirus (Star-gazing Disease)
Adenovirus is a common and highly contagious disease that can kill Bearded Dragons. It can spread both by direct contact, as well as contact with a secondary vector such as surfaces.
Adenovirus doesn’t always make Bearded Dragons very sick. Some Bearded Dragons are carriers and seem healthy in themselves.
It is much more dangerous in young Bearded Dragons. Adenovirus can kill hatchlings within days (Kim et al.).
Egg binding occurs when a female Bearded Dragon is unable to lay her eggs. The process of laying eggs is called oviposition and should not be interrupted.
When eggs become trapped inside the female, they essentially die and form a necrotic mass of dead tissue inside the mother’s body.
This leads to gas buildup and infection, and eventually death if the eggs are not removed.
When a female is eggbound, she is likely to feel very sick and will stop eating. You will observe that she is going through egg-laying behaviors such as digging in the substrate.
You may even be able to feel hard masses in her abdomen by touch. A vet will be able to see these with an X-ray or ultrasound.
The eggs will need to be removed either by induction of oviposition using hormones or by surgery (Efendić et al.).
Impaction occurs when something blocks the digestive tract of the Bearded Dragon. The result is a build-up of matter in the thorax or abdomen and can kill your Bearded Dragon.
The spinal cord of Bearded Dragons runs very close to the digestive tract. Because of this, as an impaction builds up, it puts pressure on the spinal cord.
The result is that impaction often causes paralysis of the back legs. It can also develop to paralyze the front legs too.
Of course, a Bearded Dragon experiencing impaction will also not be digesting any food and will effectively be starving. They will also be constipated so you won’t see them poop.
You should of course take your Bearded Dragon to the vet if you suspect impaction. However, it can also be very effective to give them warm baths and gently massage their bellies to help get things moving if the case is not too severe.
Read our article on impaction in bearded dragons here to learn how to avoid impaction and how to help your bearded dragon properly if it is impacted.
Can A Bad Tank Setup Kill A Bearded Dragon?
Yes. Providing the correct habitat for your Bearded Dragon is essential to keep them safe and healthy.
Your choice of substrate is very important. Dry sand is not recommended for Bearded Dragons. Sand can be ingested alongside insects and other foods.
The sand is indigestible and causes impaction, which can be fatal.
We highly recommend reading our guides on substrates for bearded dragon:
It is very important to provide adequate UVB lighting in your Bearded Dragon habitat. Exposure to UVB is essential for Bearded Dragons to make Vitamin D3 and successfully absorb calcium.
Without UVB lighting, they can develop Metabolic Bone Disease, which can be fatal. Read our lighting guides here:
- Beardie Lighting Guide
- Should you get a heat mat for your bearded dragon?
- Do Beardies need heat at night?
Providing a heat lamp to create hot basking spots and cooler areas within the habitat is essential.
If it is too cold in the tank, your Bearded Dragon will not be able to digest his food properly and could develop an impaction, which is very dangerous.
It is very important to provide a nesting site for gravid females. If there is no appropriate nesting material, a female Bearded Dragon may interrupt laying and become egg-bound.
This could kill your Bearded Dragon.