All new bearded dragon owners have the same question at one point or another….”How long do bearded dragons live?”. In this guide, we will go over the average bearded dragon lifespan and things you can do to keep your new pet healthy.
Bearded dragons, in the wild and in captivity, can have wildly different lifespans than one another. In the wild, predators and harsh conditions can lead to a shortened life expectancy. In captivity, you have a lot of control over the conditions that can contribute to your pet’s health and longevity.
How Long Bearded Dragons Live in Captivity?
Most sources will tell you that a bearded dragon kept as a pet will live for an average of about 10 years. This is mostly true.
Generally speaking, bearded dragons that are kept in healthy conditions will live between 8 and 12 years. While rare, there have been verified cases of bearded dragons living for 15 years or longer.
To give your bearded dragon the best chance at living a longer life, you have to give them the best care possible.
The Case for Keeping Bearded Dragons
Physically, bearded dragons have always impressed reptile hobbyists – and pretty much everyone else. Beardies have a distinctive triangle-shaped head that is covered in spikes. These spikes extend to the underside of the animal’s jaw, forming the namesake “beard.”
This beard can be puffed out in order to intimidate enemies and deter predators. These remarkable reptiles are stocky and stout, with short muscular legs. They usually come in earthy tones of red, yellow, brown, and sometimes green.
Interesting bearded dragon fact: unlike many other lizards, bearded dragons are incapable of regenerating a new tail.
It’s not even all about looks with bearded dragons. They’re also popular because of their unique personality. Many lizards and other cold-blooded creatures don’t pay their human companions much attention (except when they’re hungry). Beardies, however, tend to be very interested in what you’re up to. In fact, they may even track your movements as you walk across the room. Known for being remarkably personable, bearded dragons often form a special bond with their owner or keeper.
Bearded Dragons in the Wild
Bearded dragons are endemic to certain parts of Australia. They inhabit deserts, savannas, and woodlands. As cold-blooded creatures, they naturally spend much of their day basking in the sun to absorb heat. Wild bearded dragons must scavenge for food in harsh environments. This has given them the ability to eat a diverse diet. This is another fun thing about owning own: getting to feed them an interesting array of foods, instead of the same old thing every time.
There are several species of bearded dragons in the wild, with slight differences in size and appearance. The one most commonly used for the pet trade is the central or inland bearded dragon (or Pogona Vitticeps, if you want to be scientific). This variety can grow up to 2 feet in length, though males generally reach a larger final size than females. Note that any lizard kept in a tank that’s too small will not reach its full potential size.
How to Maximize Your Bearded Dragon’s Lifespan
The best way to ensure a bearded dragon grows to its full potential and lives as long as possible is to take excellent care of it.
Feed Your Bearded Dragon the Right Foods
Feeding your bearded dragon the right mix of foods (with the proper nutritional elements) is absolutely necessary for their health and longevity.
Fruits and vegetables are a mainstay for bearded dragons. Give them a wide variety of produce to help them get a nutritionally balanced diet. Here are some things that are healthy for them.
- Sweet potato
- Green beans
- Bell pepper
- Dandelion greens
- Collard greens
- Turnip greens
Just remember to chop or shred these foods as needed to accommodate the size of your bearded dragon.
Insects are a vital source of protein in your bearded dragon’s diet. Baby beardies will eat more insects than produce. As they age, they’ll eat more fruits and veggies. The following insects are safe to feed your bearded dragon.
- Dubia Roaches
- Super Worms
Opt for younger, smaller insects when your beardie is a juvenile. You can graduate to bigger crickets, worms, and/or roaches as your dragon grows.
And for the sake of your dragon’s health, don’t feed it wild-caught insects. Doing so can result in your pet contracting a potentially fatal disease. Feeder insects are gut-fed a special diet that is safe and nutritious for your bearded dragon.
Even if you provide a nutritious and diverse diet to your bearded dragon, you still have to supplement their diet with a bit of a vitamin boost. Deficiency in essential vitamins can lead to dire health consequences, which we’ll talk more about later.
Calcium: Most captive beardies need to be given a calcium supplement. These usually come in powder form, so you can just sprinkle some on top of their food.
Vitamin D3: Some calcium supplements are sold in combination with Vitamin D3. This is because D3 isn’t just a vital nutrient; it supports the absorption of calcium.
Multivitamins: If your bearded dragon is eating a nutritionally dense and diverse array of foods, you will probably only need to supplement its diet with Calcium and Vitamin D3. In some cases, however, you may choose to add a multivitamin formula. This can be helpful if you have a picky pet, who will only eat certain foods. Consult with a vet about this, as you need to be careful about introducing too much of any vitamin to your lizard.
Always read and follow specific instructions for any vitamin supplements you use. Also, make sure you don’t double up on any supplements. If you’re feeding your beardie a multi-vitamin that includes calcium, don’t use an additional calcium supplement at the same time.
Food to Avoid
Whatever you do, avoid feeding your bearded dragon the following foods. They could be dangerous – and even deadly.
Avocados: Avocados aren’t a good choice for bearded dragon food. They contain a substance that can be toxic to them.
Rhubarb: Be aware that rhubarb is actually poisonous to bearded dragons. Never give them even a small amount.
Glowing insects: Insects that light up (like firebugs) should never be used to feed a bearded dragon. These bugs are highly toxic and can be fatal.
Iceberg lettuce: While nibbling on a bit of iceberg lettuce isn’t harmful in itself, avoid using iceberg as part of your dragon’s everyday diet. This kind of lettuce has very little nutritional value. Over the long term, eating it regularly could lead to vitamin deficiencies and malnutrition. Opt for dark, leafy greens such as kale and dandelion greens.
7 Common Bearded Dragon Killers
In the wild, bearded dragons would be under threat from predators like foxes, dingoes, snakes, and certain birds. Hopefully those things aren’t a problem in your house, because there are still plenty of things that can threaten the life and livelihood of a captive beardie.
1. Impaction in Bearded Dragons
Impaction happens when a bearded dragon swallows something that isn’t actually edible. If it can’t digest the foreign object, the lizard can become impacted – or unable to pass the item through its digestive system.
One of the most common ways this happens is when a beardie accidentally eats a piece of loose substrate. This is why solid substrate, such as repti-carpet, is recommended.
Symptoms of Impaction
Unfortunately, it’s difficult to tell if impaction has happened until it’s too late. That’s why it’s important to pay attention and take action right away if you notice any symptoms.
- Low or no appetite
- Obvious discomfort, particularly in the abdominal area
- Sudden weight loss
- Awkward movements, trouble walking
- Low energy, not moving
If you suspect impaction, take your bearded dragon to the vet immediately. Impaction is uncomfortable and painful, and very unlikely to go away without intervention. Without resolution, the affected animal will eventually die. A vet can introduce a laxative treatment that may help the object to pass. If the situation is severe enough, the impaction might be surgically treated.
2. Metabolic Bone Disease in Bearded Dragons
Metabolic Bone Disease affects far too many captive reptiles. MBD results from a lack of calcium. It can be debilitating and even deadly. Chronic calcium deficiency causes the reptile’s body to respond by attempting to pull calcium from wherever it can. “Wherever” is usually the animal’s bones. This depletion can eventually cause a cascade of potentially fatal symptoms.
Symptoms of MBD
Here are some ways to tell that a bearded dragon may have metabolic bone disease:
- Receding or swelling of the jaw area
- Low appetite
- Abnormal movements, jerking or shaking
- Lethargy, exhaustion
- Bowed legs
- Broken bones
- Weakness, paralysis
Treating Metabolic Bone Disease
If caught early enough, MBD in bearded dragons can be treated. This usually involves administering high-dose supplementation of calcium and medications that can help the calcium to be properly absorbed. These may be given orally or as an injection. In addition, the conditions that led to the diagnosis must be corrected. Proper heat, light, diet, and sanitation have to be improved and maintained to aid healing and prevent a recurrence of the disease.
- The number one thing you can do to minimize the risk of MBD in your bearded dragon is to provide a balanced, nutritious diet. Plenty of protein, phosphorous, and – of course – calcium is necessary to sustain the optimal health of your lizard.
- Ensure consistent, healthy light and dark cycles. Use your lighting system to simulate a natural day/night cycle.
- Next, be sure your bearded dragon is getting sufficient UVA/UVB exposure every day. You can make sure this happens by installing a UV light in the enclosure.
- Make sure you have provided a habitat that is large enough for your bearded dragon to move, grow, and exercise.
- Keep your tank warm enough and provide a suitable heat gradient for your bearded dragon. A bearded dragon habitat must have hotter and cooler zones kept within specific temperature parameters. Without this, the animal cannot properly synthesize nutrients and minerals such as calcium.
3. Infections in Bearded Dragons
An unhealthy bearded dragon could be suffering from an infection. If left untreated, many infections can become deadly. These infections usually originate from being kept in unsanitary tank conditions.
Common Types of Bearded Dragon Infections
While there are certainly other infections that are possible for a bearded dragon to contract, the following are some to watch out for.
Atadenovirus: Sometimes called adenovirus, stargazing disease, or wasting disease, this awful affliction most commonly attacks the stomach, liver, and intestine. Mostly affecting younger beardies, atadenovirus usually causes weakness, fatigue, and a loss of appetite. If allowed to go untreated, this condition is almost certainly fatal.
Respiratory infection: Respiratory infections, such as pneumonia, can cause a host of symptoms in a bearded dragon. These include: shallow or quickened breathing, mouth-breathing, sneezing, and other signs of general poor health (such as lethargy and decreased appetite). Such infections can be caused by a virus, bacteria or fungus, as well as parasites. Respiratory infections are generally treated using antibiotics. These may be administered orally, by injection, or both. Hospitalization may be required in extreme cases.
Infectious stomatitis: Also called “mouth rot,” infectious stomatitis is not as common as some of the other items on this list. However, it can afflict bearded dragons and is something to be aware of. This is a bacterial infection affecting the tissues in and around the mouth and jaw area. Telling signs of this condition include discharge from the mouth area, swelling of the jaw, and general lack of enthusiasm. Mouth rot is treated internally and topically, with antiseptic mouth rinse as well as injected antibiotics.
As with all the other conditions and illnesses, prevention is always preferable. You can greatly minimize the risk of your bearded dragon contracting a dangerous infection by taking good care of his or her habitat.
- Remove feces from the cage as soon as you see it.
- Don’t leave uneaten food sitting around in the tank. This includes both produce and insects.
- Change the water often. Make sure there is always fresh water available for your lizard.
- Clean and sanitize the enclosure and anything inside of it often. You can purchase specially formulated products to help you do this without introducing any harmful substances to your bearded dragon habitat.
5. Parasites in Bearded Dragons
There are a few different types of parasites that your beardie could be playing host to. Some are fairly harmless. Others, not so much. The most common parasite found in bearded dragons is probably pinworms. These tiny worms take up residence in an animal’s intestinal tract and siphon away nutrition for themselves.
An external parasite problem for bearded dragons comes in the form of tiny mites. These invasive bugs can cause your lizard lots of distress by burrowing into their scales, leading to irritation and pain.
To prevent parasites, follow all the aforementioned sanitation rules. Next, limit contact with other reptiles – unless you’re sure they’re parasite free.
6. Vitamin Issues in Bearded Dragons
Too much, or too little, of any one vitamin could be detrimental to your pet.
That long word simply means your lizard is getting too much vitamin A. If you supplement your bearded dragon’s diet with vitamin A, make sure it’s in natural (versus manmade) form – and that you don’t overdo it.
Symptoms of vitamin A toxicity include:
- Swollen eyes
- Swelling in the throat, and other areas of the body
This condition is marked by a deficiency of thiamine, or vitamin B. It can result from a poor diet, specifically a lack of fresh veggies. Symptoms may look similar to those resulting from Metabolic Bone Disease, and include weakness, shaking, and loss of energy.
If you suspect any issues with vitamins in your bearded dragon’s diet, you might want to consult with a local vet.
7. Egg Binding in Bearded Dragons
Egg binding, also known as dystocia, only happens to female bearded dragons who are carrying eggs. If a pregnant female cannot find a good place to lay her eggs, they’ll stay inside her body. The problem comes when these eggs continue to grow, becoming too big to ever pass through. This can eventually kill her.
Symptoms of Egg Binding
To detect egg binding, look for the following symptoms.
- Swollen abdomen
- Anxious or frantic behavior
- Digging, searching
If you suspect this could be happening to your bearded dragon, make sure you have provided a proper place for egg-laying. Then, get in touch with your veterinarian.
Many cases of egg binding occur because the owner didn’t realize his or her bearded dragon was a female. Find out whether you have a female early on so you can avoid this.
Treatment for Egg Binding
If caught very early, simply providing a laying spot for your bearded dragon may suffice. If not, veterinary intervention will be necessary. This might include medication or other treatments, and possible surgery depending on the severity of the situation.
Anytime your bearded dragon behaves unusually, pay attention. Any weakness, constipation, loss of appetite, lethargy, or unusual movements could be indicative of an underlying condition. It’s important to seek professional care for your animal as soon as you suspect something might be wrong. A veterinarian can properly diagnose the problem. When caught early enough, many of these life-threatening conditions can be corrected.