You are well-familiar with how annoying and aching ear infections can be. It is like your whole head could explode only because the ear is inflamed and infected. Well, imagine how your bearded dragon feels when going through an ear infection.
Can a bearded dragon have an ear infection? Yes, your bearded dragon does have ears, and yes, it can get ear infections. In fact, ear infections in beardies are pretty standard, especially if the tank conditions are unclean and inadequate and the bearded dragon’s immunity is compromised. The exact symptoms and severity depend on the location, and if the inner ear is affected, there will be neurological symptoms too.
Keep reading if you are a bearded dragon owner and want to learn more about an ear infection. In this article, we will explain everything you need to know about ear infections in beardies – from causes and symptoms to treatments and prevention.
THE BEARDED DRAGON’S EARS
Before going through the details of ear infections, let’s answer a popular question – do bearded dragons even have ears? Obviously, the answer is yes – beardies have ears. However, they do not follow the typical protruding appearance as in mammals.
The bearded dragon’s ears are simple wholes – there are no external lobes and no external sound-collecting structures. However, despite the ear’s simplicity, bearded dragons have excellent hearing senses.
The ears in bearded dragons are positioned on either side of the head and much further back than the eyes. They feature a thin membrane that crosses the ear hole and is recessed.
In terms of function, the ears are similar to ours – the membrane transmits the sounds to the inside, where there is a liquid whose vibrations stimulate the sensory cells and transmit electrical impulses through the auditory nerve for future processing.
The middle ear is covered with a tympanic membrane, and the inner ear consists of a fluid-filled cochlear duct. Same as in humans and other pets, the inner ear is responsible for the balance.
Basically, despite the striking outside differences, the ears work the same in bearded dragons as they do in humans and other pets. Therefore, it is expected to be susceptible to the same medical ailments.
CAUSES OF EAR INFECTIONS IN BEARDED DRAGONS
Ear infections in bearded dragons develop from bacteria and fungi from the beardie’s enclosure. Ear infections are made possible by two conditions – poor tank hygiene and inadequate living conditions.
Obviously, the poorer the hygiene in the tank, the more likely it is for pathogens to develop, spread, and eventually cause problems. Keeping up with the tank’s cleanliness is imperative for preventing bacterial and fungal infections.
Bearded dragons depend on the ambient temperature to maintain normal body heat. Therefore they need a temperature gradient in the tank with one cooler and one warmer end. Inadequate ambient temperatures lead to various diseases and decreased defense mechanisms.
The ideal humidity in the bearded dragon tank is 20-40%. If you practice regular misting and have a water dish inside the enclosure, the humidity can quickly spike up (which is quite common and easy in tanks). Once the humidity is high, bacteria and fungi find it easier to develop and spread.
Surprisingly, while shedding, bearded dragons also shed their ears. If the shedding process is stunt because of humidity or other issues, and the skin above the ears cannot shed, the remaining skin piece causes irritation. Over time, the irritation evolves to inflammation.
Diet is directly linked with your bearded dragon’s overall health and, therefore, its ability to fight off infections. The critical thing to remember about beardie nutrition is that in captivity, these lizards do not get as varied a diet as they would in the wild. To stay healthy, your bearded dragon needs different leafy greens, squash veggies, fruits, flowers, and insects.
EAR INFECTION SYMPTOMS IN BEARDED DRAGONS
The exact clinical manifestation of ear infections in bearded dragons varies based on several factors, including the infection’s location (outside, middle, or inner ear) and its severity. Generally speaking, these red flags are likely to indicate ear infection issues:
- Discharge from the ear
- Swelling of the tympanic membrane
- Development of brown or black spots in the ear
- Impaired or lost hearing ability
- Loss of balance or drunk, wobbly walking
- Head tilting.
The initial phases of ear infections are hard to spot, meaning if the above-listed signs are present, the condition is relatively advanced. In more practical terms, this indicates you need to seek veterinary attention as soon as possible.
EAR INFECTION TREATMENT IN BEARDED DRAGONS
As with any other infection, the mainstream treatment is antibiotics in case of bacterial infections or antifungals in fungal infections.
However, before determining the right treatment, the vet will perform a thorough checkup and evaluate the underlying reasons for ear infections.
Once the vet prescribes antibiotics or antifungals, you will need to apply them according to the recommendation and, of course, schedule a follow-up once the treatment is finished.
PREVENTING EAR INFECTIONS IN BEARDED DRAGONS
Ear infections are easy to prevent as long as you follow some simple steps and rules, including:
- Tank hygiene – keep your bearded dragon’s enclosure clean and tidy by daily spot cleaning and thorough monthly cleaning
- Temperature control – the proper ambient temperature is critical for bearded dragons, so it is advisable to invest in a high-quality digital thermometer for long-term temperature monitoring
- Humidity control – the prevent high humidity conditions (which are common in tank enclosures) you need to buy a reliable and quality digital hygrometer
- UV light presence – UV lighting is critical for bearded dragons because it promotes a robust immune system, thus decreasing the risk of infections
- Diet – the proper diet is also vital for supporting a strong and healthy immune system capable of fighting off pathogens and preventing infections.
Ear infections in bearded dragons have two leading causes – bacteria and fungi. Depending on the infection’s location and severity, the symptoms range from mild discomfort to pronounced neurological deficits. Swollen eardrums, smelly and dark-colored discharge, and hearing loss are also commonly observed signs.
If you notice any of these red flags, talk to your trusted vet and schedule an appointment. The vet will determine the right treatment strategy. While waiting for the appointment, there is one thing you need to remember – never use human eardrops without the vet’s permission.