Bearded Dragon Flipping On Its Back? – But Why…
It doesn’t take a genius to work out that a bearded dragon shouldn’t ever be flipped upside down. But why is a bearded dragon flipping on its back you ask. This is very unnatural behaviour, specially for a captive or pet bearded dragon. It is still very unclear on the exact reason this happens, but researchers believe that when a bearded dragon has flipped onto its back it’s usually health related issues. These health related issues will commonly affect its balance and will sometimes cause bearded dragons to roll off basking rocks, flipping on its back or fall backwards when climbing.
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There are a number of health issues which could be related to a bearded dragon flipping on its back such as; bacterial or viral infections, head trauma, dehydration and hypocalemia. All these health issues have the ability to cause balance issues.
I should stress that if you see any potential signs of these health issues, then please visit your local veterinarian as soon as possible.
Bacteria and Viral Infection
A great example of a bacterial infection for bearded dragons is “Yellow Fungus Disease” (YFD). This is the most common fungal disease for captive reptiles, and is easily noticeable by the change in colour of skin. Bearded dragon which have this disease will have yellow, brownish skin colour, with crust on the surface, which over time appear to get larger. Other patches of crust may appear all over the body at random.
One of the main causes for Yellow Fungus Disease is due to unhygienic living conditions. This is most commonly seen in bearded dragon enclosures which house more than two reptiles. When breeding, some breeders may house many bearded dragons in the same enclosure, which is fine as infants, but they grow very quickly and produce more waste by the day.
Mix this overload of waste product and an over crowded enclosure and you can already start to see where the problems begin. Bearded dragons grow at a very fast rate as juveniles. One body part that also remains pretty sharp are their toenails. Although bearded dragons skin develops to be pretty tough, juveniles actually have very soft skin, which is easily torn.
Juveniles are very playful, so you will commonly find they clamber over each other all the time. Kicking and pushing their way past other house mates. Sometimes this can cause damage to their skin. Cut and grazes can be overlooked as non threatening, however open wounds leave bearded dragons vulnerable to infection, just like Yellow Fungus Disease.
Yellow Fungus Disease causes severe stress for bearded dragons which can lead to side effects such as nausea. It’s this side effect of nausea that causes a bearded dragon to become disorientated, and acquires loss of balance, which can lead to a bearded dragon flipping on its back.
All reptile are exposed to some sort of factor which can cause lumps, bumps, bruising and swelling. For example climbing apparatus, but that’s not always the case for head traumas. There is one condition which scientists believe is only found on bearded dragons.
This medical condition is known as Aneurysm Syndrome.
Aneurysm Syndrome is the medical condition for blood blisters or blood cysts, which are naturally found behind the head. Aneurysm is defined as an enlargement of an artery. Which in this case is at the back of a bearded dragons head. The enlargement causes the blood vessel to weaken, at which point rupturing, causing a blister via internal bleeding.
Internal bleeding is very had to stop. It usually takes surgery to treat such traumas under the skin. The rate of which blood is lost can again cause nausea and balance difficulties. The signs may not be evidently noticeable, but this can still affect them enough to cause a bearded dragon to flip onto its back.
This is an obvious one really. Dehydration is the main cause of headaches and dizziness for humans. And this is do different for reptiles. Naturally, bearded dragons do have a higher water threshold than humans, bases on their natural habitat and living conditions. Bearded dragons have become accustomed to dry landscapes with high temperatures. Their bodies have evolved to use water resources wisely.
Make sure your bearded dragon has fresh water every morning. The temperature of the enclosure will be hot enough to evaporate the bowl of water within a day or two. Sometime bearded dragons can be clumsy as accidentally tip their water bowl over. You should refill this as soon as possible, however it’s nothing too serious to worry about if you have vegetable and plantations for it to feed on. In the wild, vegetables and plantations are a huge percentage of a bearded dragons water intake.
Lack of water will cause dizziness and as a result can cause a bearded dragon to fall onto its back. This will also cause a lot of stress due to the fact they find it very hard to right themselves.
Finally we have hypocalemia. Hypocalemia is a health issue as a result of too much exposure to Vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 is a crucial vitamin for a bearded dragon to live a healthy life. It has loads of benefits, however in high doses can cause serious risk to health.
Bearded dragons naturally absorb Vitamin D3 from the sun. This is one of the reason they bask during day time hours, and has benefit to their digestion system. As well as this, bearded dragons get Vitamin D3 from the foods they eat. Sometimes the calcium level in a bearded dragons blood becomes so high that it becomes sticky or sludgy. And this causes some serious problems.
Blood which has become sticky struggles to pass through a bearded dragons veins. This means the oxygen levels begins to decrease as the blood can’t pass through the body as quickly as usual. Oxygen levels will slowly start to decrease all around the body, including the brain.
Lack of oxygen to a bearded dragons brain can again cause nausea and dizziness, and will prevent them from achieving usually simple tasks. Walking can become slow and stumbles may be seen. In some cases balance is lost and will causes the bearded dragon flipping on its back. In a more serious case, this can cause death if not treated promptly.
What health issues are caused by a bearded dragon flipping on its back?
Bearded dragons do not have moveable diaphragms like humans and many other animals do. This means their lungs do not inflate through a contracting muscles joined to a diaphragm. Instead they have intercostal muscles which are joined in-between their ribs to the lungs. In a similar motion to a diaphragm the ribs will expand, causing the lungs too drawn in air.
A problem arises when a bearded dragon is on its back because its internal organs will naturally relax, and can fall into obscure positions which obstruct these intercostal muscle from contracting. Thus meaning the bearded dragon can not draw in any air.
When this happens the build up of pressure inside the bearded dragons body in greater than the pressure inside the lungs, and its this imbalance that causes the collapsing of lungs. If this isn’t corrected promptly there is a serious risk of death to bearded dragons.
Please, if you see any signs of health issues, visit a trainer professional or your local veterinarian for further advise and treatments.
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