Are you a new beardie owner? Have you had times where you wondered what was going on with your bearded dragon? You probably have had times when your bearded dragon began exhibiting strange and unusual behaviors like not wanting to eat, acting lethargic or lazy.
For most owners, the conclusion is usually that their beardie is sick. While it is possible for them to get sick, this is not the only reason they behave in such ways. Especially when it is winter or falls. Chances are that your bearded dragon is getting ready to go into a state known as brumation.
So you’re asking: what is brumation?
Bearded Dragon Brumation Explained
Are you familiar with the word hibernation? I guess you are. Brumation can be seen as the reptile version of the same process. This is a state usually adopted by cold-blooded animals and is usually during the winter period.
Unlike other mammals like bears, their body does not shut down completely. Instead, it undergoes a period of reduced activity and dormancy. During these periods, a beardie’s interest in eating is reduced. They go as far as going into a secluded spot for isolation. Source
Why Do Bearded Dragons Hibernate?
Like any cold-blooded animal, bearded dragons do not have the ability to increase the temperature of their body. The consequence of this is that their temperature will reflect whatever temperature is released by their surroundings. This also implies that it will always be a struggle for them to keep warm whenever the weather is cold.
On another hand when it’s hot, they can’t cool down. Winter periods are when this behavioral instinct is evident because of the cold. Also, with the winter comes less food for those in the wild. This allows them to use up less energy and thus less food. Another reason these dragons brumate is when they are in replication.
How Long Will Brumation Last?
How long a beardie will brumate is not predictable. As there are many factors that impact brumation. Generally, for those in wild, they tend to remain in their hideout all through the winter. Once it is spring, they will begin coming out as the temperature is now expected to warm up.
When in captivity, the conditions are different. In such cases, factors to be considered are other variants such as the breed of the beardie, gender, age, and prevalent natural conditions. On average, a bearded dragon is likely to brumate for a period of few weeks to 4 or 5 months. This can take place every few years for some dragons and others brumate year after year.
Signs That Your Bearded Dragon Is In Brumation
It can sometimes be difficult to tell if your bearded dragon is in brumation. So if you’re not sure, here are some common symptoms.
Bearded Dragon Sleeping More
Since brumation is a survival tactic by bearded dragons to conserve energy and as such slow the consumption of its nutritional reserves, it is only natural that they will sleep more often. And for longer periods than is usual.
Go into Hideout
Brumation is a time where beardies are going to be more vulnerable to attack. They usually resolve to seek shelter and shade during this state. This is also the case when they in the wild, hiding away from predators while at rest.
Lack of Appetite
This is one sign that can be very worrying for bearded dragon owners. Beardie owners are advised not to force them to eat when in such a state, as any attempt to do so may results in severe ailments as a result of the food getting rot inside their bellies.
Reduced Bowel Movements
This is only naturally owing to the fact that their food consumption will reduce. If there’s less food going inside, the direct result is less food coming out.
It is very likely that during brumation, you will experience a change in behavior with your beardie – like becoming easily agitated. They can get nasty during this period. But, don’t worry about getting a bite from them – they won’t. But it is still best to leave them to themselves and handled less. Source
How To Care For Your Beardie During The Brumation
The truth for every beardie owners to have in mind is that the moment the instinct for brumation sets in, there is nothing much that can be done to stop it. Your goal at this point should rather be to allow it to happen and see how you can care for them. Here are some tips to bear in mind.
Lighting and heating
Most of the time, bearded dragons brumate as a result of the cold associated with winter. This is why in the wild; they usually burrow into the dirt, not just to hide from predators, but for warmth. It is thus wise to ensure that lights and heats are moderately on, particularly in their basket spot.
These lights and heat are also necessary for proper metabolism and digestion in case they wake up and eat.
Another reason why these dragons bury themselves during brumation is for their body, via their vent to draw up moisture to maintain hydration until the spring season comes.
So when in captivity, it will be necessary to place them into a warm bath from time to time. This activity should last for about 15 minutes to ensure they are hydrated. This should be done at least weekly. Dry them up after this bath and get them back to their tank.
While you don’t want to force them to eat, it is recommended that there is always food available for them in case they wake up and want to eat. Ensure that the quantity of food you provide for them this period is smaller than the usual. This is because they will seldom poop and as such you don’t want the food to go rotten inside of them.
Remember, there is nothing much you can do to stop them in this state. Any effort you do may only yield a negative result. It is best to allow them to be on their own while they go through this cycle. Avoid too much physical contact with them. In fact, the only time you want to handle them is when it is time to re-hydrate them by through a warm bath.
Watch for Weightloss
It is ideal to know the weight of your beardie before brumation. If during brumation, they appear to be losing weight, something wrong may be going on and should be addressed to avoid any unwanted outcome.
Just because they are brumating is not a reason to lose weight. Even if this happens, it should only be a few grams. Anything more than this is a sign of some form of ill-health.
Final Words On Bearded Dragon Brumation
It is important to state here that brumation is not something to get you scared. It is only natural that bearded dragons undergo this cycle.
But, not all beardies brumate – some might never during their lifetime. If yours does, allow them to go through their natural instinct. As long as you’re sure that the signs (as mentioned above) are not those for problems or illness, then all is well. If you’re not sure, do well to call the attention of a vet.
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