Being a first-time bearded dragon owner can be tricky. To make things simpler, we will focus on one thing that frightens many owners – the notorious gagging noise.
Bearded dragon gagging noise – what does it mean? If your bearded dragon is making a distinct gagging noise, chances are it is getting ready to throw up. Yes, bearded dragons can throw up, and in fact, there are several reasons why. However, before turning the panic mode on, keep in mind that not every throwing-up episode indicates health issues.
In this article, we will discuss throwing up in bearded dragons – the causes, potential underlying causes, and solutions. We will also tell when it is time to take the problem to the next level and call the vet.
COMMON REASONS FOR GAGGING AND THROWING UP IN BEARDED DRAGONS
There are various reasons for gagging and throwing up in bearded dragons. Some are benign and harmless, while others are troublesome and warranting veterinary attention.
Reason number 1: Salmonella infections
Salmonella is a notorious bacterium capable of causing gastrointestinal problems. Interestingly, reptiles can usually carry Salmonella without experiencing any health issues. However, if the Salmonella load increases or the beardie’s immune system weakens, the presence of the bacteria will cause an ailment. The two telltale signs of Salmonella infections are vomiting and diarrhea.
Reason number 2: Dehydration
As unusual as it may sound, bearded dragons can, in fact, throw up if highly dehydrated. Beardies are not keen drinkers meaning they can quickly become dehydrated if the air in the enclosure is not humid enough or if you do not practice regular misting and bathing.
Reason number 3: Dietary indiscretions
Dietary indiscretion is the term used to explain your bearded dragon ate something it was not supposed to, like, for example, a substrate particle. It is also possible that your beardie ate something edible but hard to digest. For instance, beardies love feasting on mealworms, but their exoskeletons pose a challenge for the bearded dragon’s sensitive tummy.
Reason number 4: Overfeeding
Bearded dragons are well-known for their voracious appetites, especially when offered something they really enjoy, like sugary fruits or fatty superworms. However, same as in people, overeating in bearded dragons will exert too much pressure on the belly and trigger gagging and vomiting.
Reason number 5: Intestinal parasites
Intestinal worms and parasites are pretty common in bearded dragons. However, most healthy beardies have robust immune systems and can efficiently keep the parasite numbers under control. However, if the immune defense is compromised and the number of parasites increases, it will cause health issues manifested with gagging, vomiting, diarrhea, appetite loss, and dehydration.
Reason number 6: Digestion issues
When it comes to digestion, mammals depend on digestive juices and microorganisms. Bearded dragons are different – they depend on temperature and lighting. Simply put, a bearded dragon living in a tank with inadequate temperature and lighting will be incapable of processing the food and eventually start gagging and throwing up.
Reason number 7: Impaction
Impaction is another term for obstruction. Sadly, this is a common and potentially fatal issue in bearded dragons. The most common cause for impaction is eating the substrate particles, which can easily lodge in the intestines. A bearded dragon with impacted intestines will frequently gag and throw up.
But what if, after gagging, my bearded dragon is throwing up mucus?
If, instead of undigested food, your beardie is frequently gagging and throwing up mucus, there are two possible reasons.
Reason number 1: Respiratory infections
Respiratory infections in bearded dragons are pretty common. Usually, they occur as a result of high humidity levels within the enclosure. Respiratory infections can also be spread from one beardie to another. Sadly, RIs are potentially life-threatening and, if left untreated, can have fatal consequences.
Reason number 2: Drinking dirty water
Just because bearded dragons are not keen water drinkers, it does not mean you do not have to be vigilant about the hygiene of their drinking water. To make sure your beardie is not drinking dirty water, you need to replace the water in the dish on a daily basis. It is also essential to use filtered water or treat the tap water with a special conditioner for reptiles before serving.
HOW CAN I HELP MY BEARDED DRAGON IF GAGGING OR THROWING UP?
The general rule of thumb is to have your beardie checked by a veterinarian specializing in reptiles if it has thrown up more than once or frequently gagging without being able to produce vomit.
It is highly recommended to collect your bearded dragon’s vomit in a Tupperware container and store it in the fridge until the vet’s visit. Your vet can run some tests on the vomit, and the results will be helpful for the overall assessment.
While waiting for the results from the vomit analysis, there are several things you can do to help your bearded dragon feel more comfortable:
- Bathe your beardie – bearded dragons that love bathing will find this activity relaxing and soothing. Plus, the lukewarm water may help with tummy issues.
- Offer some baby food – baby food is nutrient-dense and healthy but sensitive enough not to cause tummy troubles. We recommend choosing a baby food formula with organic ingredients like butternut squash, sweet potatoes, or pumpkin.
- Check the ambient parameters – make sure the temperature, lighting, and humidity levels inside the tank are within the normal range and keep the enclosure as clean as possible.
OUR FINAL THOUGHTS ON BEARDED DRAGON GAGGING NOISE
Watching your pet throw up is stressful – the gagging, the retching, the effort, it all looks like it is too much. However, throwing up is usually scarier than it actually is. Namely, sometimes a beardie may vomit because of benign issues – like overeating or lapping water too fast.
If your bearded dragon frequently gags with or without actually throwing up, we recommend going to the vet’s office. Best-case scenario, your beardie will be fine, and the visit will put your mind at ease, and worst-case scenario, your vet will be able to start treating your beardie.