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Impaction in Bearded Dragons

Bearded Dragon eating a locust

Bearded Dragon eating a locust

What is Impaction?

Impaction is when a bearded dragon’s digestive tract has become blocked. It is a very real hazard that is brought about when the beardie has either swallowed something that is too large, or something that it cannot digest properly.


The following are potential causes of impaction;

  • Feeding your bearded dragon food that is too large – As a general rule, do not feed your beardie food that is larger than the space between their eyes
  • Type of substrate – The type of substrate used in a vivarium is always sure to create a debate. Substrate is arguably the most common cause of bearded dragon impaction and is a heavily debated topic among bearded dragon owners.

Bearded dragons will eat anything, and it is not uncommon to hear of beardies swallowing substrate along with their locusts or crickets accidentally

Many producers of substrate claim that their substrate is digestible. My local reptile shop owner swears by calcium sand. However, there have been many reports of beardies eating the sand and it causing impaction

It seems like everyone is an expert in picking the correct substrate for a vivarium and wants to share their opinion. Speak to experts from your local reptile shop, fellow owners on forums or even a vet and form your own opinion.

  • Basking area temperature – The temperature of the basking area of the vivarium should be between 100-115 degrees. Beardies require this temperature in order to efficiently digest their food. Inadequate basking temperatures can put your dragon at risk of impaction
  • Feeding too many mealworms – Mealworms, crickets and some other insects have hard chitinous shells. It has been known for a bearded dragon to have trouble digesting the shell if not chewed properly first
  • Dehydration – Regularly bath or spray your bearded dragon with warm water. Some beardies drink water but it is very rare. By bathing or spraying your dragon they will absorb the water through their pores
X-ray of a bearded dragon with sand impaction

X-ray of a bearded dragon with sand impaction

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of impaction include;

  • Beardie has stopped going to the toilet – Bearded dragons normally poop once a day
  • Partial paralysis, normally affecting the hind legs
  • Lump on the back near the spine


Impaction can be avoided with good bearded dragon care. However, if it is too late and you fear that your bearded dragon is suffering from impaction, there are some action that you should take;

  • Take your beardie to the local reptile vet – there are some techniques that can be used to remove the cause of impaction, and in time it is possible for your dragon to pass it naturally.
    However the best thing you can do is to get your reptile to the local reptile vet. An experienced veterinarian with knowledge in the treatment of bearded dragons will be able to confirm or appease your worries and provide expert treatment and advice.
  • Give your bearded dragon a nice warm bath and gently massage their abdomen working towards the vent. This has been known to help a beardie pass the impaction
  • Give your beardie a few drops of vegetable oil using a syringe prior to bathing them. This can assist the movement of the impaction further
  • Take your beardie to the local reptile vet – It really is the best thing you can do and deserves a second mention. Your dragon might need to have an enema to clear them out

Other Bearded Dragon Health Issues

  • Respiratory Disease
    Bearded dragons have specific environmental requirements which if not provided correctly can result in disease.Respiratory disease as its name suggests is when your dragon has difficulty breathing.
  • Metabolic Bone Disease in Bearded Dragons
    MBD is made up of a group of disorders brought about by nutritional deficiency. The most common type occurs due to an imbalance of calcium in the body.


Kara on July 17, 2013:

My beaded dragon is a juvenile and I went to get her crickets and they only had medium and she usually has small, a couple of day later I noticed she wasn't pooping at the times she usually does, and on her lower stomach there is a hard spot, what should I do

Kara on July 17, 2013:

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My beaded dragon is a juvenile and I went to get her crickets and they only had medium and she usually has small, a couple of day later I noticed she wasn't pooping at the times she usually does, and on her lower stomach there is a hard spot, what should I do

Paul on May 07, 2013:

This article is useful as a whole but please do not panic if your beardie does not poop once a day as the article suggests. Once a week is normal, possibly every 10 days depending on how veracious an eater they are. If they haven't pooped for 2 weeks+ then its time to get concerned.

Shannon on June 10, 2012:

My beardie is having trouble going to the toilet she hasn't been for about a week when she does try she has a lump on her bum but nothing is coming out I bathed her and massaged the lump but she still cannot poo I'm just really worried about her she has never really eaten her veg I try everyday to get her to eat them but she won't I do sometime get her to eat some I was just seeing if u would be able to help me thank u

Caddman on January 13, 2012:

A reptile store I visited a few years back used rabbit pellets for substrate for all their reptiles. I have used rabbit pellets with my beardie for the past 2 years and he has done excellent with it.

JasonPLittleton on October 11, 2011:

Awesome hub.

Alan Murray (author) from Ipswich, United Kingdom on February 13, 2011:

I like this. A good suggestion. Thanks jdileon12

jdileon12 on February 13, 2011:

TO offer a suggestion, if you feel as if sand is the best substrate for your bearded ( because it is natural for them, and mine anyway love to burrow) a choice is to feed them in separate feeding tanks. It has worked well for me because it is easier for them to hunt, I know exactly how much they eat, it helps me make sure I am socializing them by having to bring them out of their tanks. its also easier so you don't have to remove crickets from their tanks. (I use carpet in their feeding tank).

Mike Morgan on January 19, 2011:

Thank you so much for your information. You probably saved my bearded dragons life. My beardie did not defecate for about two weeks the I noticed a hard lump in his lower stomach I gave him two crickets dipped in vegetable oil and put him in about 100°F water and rubbed the lump towards his vent for about five minutes and as soon as I stopped he started to wiggle his back legs then took the biggest poop I've even seen come out of him and I found two eraser sized sand balls of sand.

kyle on September 07, 2010:

dude you saved my bearded dragon's life thank you, i did not know to look on its tummy and there it was. thank you so much

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