Bearded dragons show a wide range of behaviors. As a pet owner, it is very important to recognize these behaviors in order to understand your pet. It is also of high importance to differentiate between what behaviors are normal and the ones that are signs of illness or fatigue. Bearded dragons go into brumation, a similar form of hibernation in reptiles. Many reptiles in the wild do this when the weather is cold and there is a scarcity of food.
Do bearded dragons hibernate? No, bearded dragons do not hibernate. This is because reptiles, such as bearded dragons do not shut down their metabolism completely but rather brumate. That is, brumation is a reptile version of hibernation, or “winter sleep”. It occurs within the same time period, fall and winter, but it is different from hibernation in the sense that reptiles do not shut down their metabolism completely, they just slow it down.
Some different important information such as,
- the description of bearded dragons brumation
- the signs of brumation
- duration of brumation in bearded dragons
- reason for brumation
- weight loss during brumation
- telling the difference between a dying bearded dragon and the brumated ones
- the age at which bearded dragons bromate
- brumation starting period
- what to do when the bearded dragon starts bromating, and
- the end of brumation period shall be discussed below
Description of a Bearded Dragon Brumation
Brumation: hibernation-like state of cold-blooded animals. Animals such as bearded dragons adopt this state during winter. When a bearded dragon brumates, it slows down its activities, its movement is also restricted during cold weather. They may also become sluggish and will be less interested in eating.
They will seek an insulated spot to rest for long periods of time. Burrows, planters, caves and natural decor can make excellent brumating dens for bearded dragons. Whenever you notice that your bearded dragon is eating less or moving less, it may be a sign of brumation.
It is important that you contact your veterinarian to make sure that your bearded dragon is not sick or dying.
The Bearded Dragon Brumation Signs
The first sign of brumation is a radical change in behavior. That includes:
- Frequent hiding
- More naps and “sleepy look”
- Sluggish movement
- Poor appetite
Bearded dragons that are ready to brumate ought to
- appear healthy
- have clean and elastic skin
- have clear eyes
- not have gaping tooth
- other signs of infections.
If your bearded dragon is trying to brumate out of season (in the summer), or it is under a year old, it is highly likely that it is sick and that its behavior only appears to mimic brumation.
Other causes of brumation-like behavior include:
- poor sun lighting
- improper temperature
- vitamin and mineral deficiency
- vitamin overdose (especially with D3) or
It is not something that you should tolerate. The underlying causes should be addressed as soon as possible.
Duration at which Bearded Dragon Brumates for
Bearded dragons brumation depends on a number of factors. It is difficult to predict an exact amount of time that they will hide away for. When kept as a pet, bearded dragons brumate more than they do in the wild, but other variants such as,
- natural conditions and
- geographical origin play a role too.
In extreme cases, bearded dragons may enter brumation in late autumn and will emerge in spring as temperatures rise and the days begin to get longer. Most bearded dragons don’t start brumating until they are at least 10 months to one year old. At an average, brumation can last a few weeks or up to four months.
Reason why Bearded Dragons Brumate
As cold-blooded animals, bearded dragons are unable to increase their body temperature. Thus, their temperature reflects that of their immediate surroundings. This is bad because it means that they struggle to keep warm when it is cold and they can’t cool down when it is hot.
Brumation serves as a survival tactic when behavioural instincts take over to ensure that the bearded dragon survives the winter months. In the wild, as temperatures drop and food becomes scarce, bearded dragons tend to start to prepare early by hiding away and using up less energy.
Should my Bearded Dragons Lose Weight when Brumating?
Bearded dragons shouldn’t drastically lose weight when brumating. However, they may lose a little since they eat a lot less than normal. But since they are fairly inactive too, this tends to balance out so that weight is not lost.
Is my Bearded Dragon in Brumation or Dying?
You can tell if your bearded dragon is in brumation because he may have the following symptoms:
- Sleeping more
- Appetite decreased
- Going to sleep earlier
- Hiding in the shade
- Pooing less (due to eating less)
A dragon wanting to brumate will actively refuse food, or certainly make any eating minimal. That is in conjunction with far more sleeping, or going to bed much earlier.
What if a Few Months Old Bearded Dragon is Trying to Brumate?
According to some opinions, beardies that are under a year old can still enter brumation. In nature, bearded dragons certainly cannot avoid brumation just because they are “too young” for it by our standards.
The main concern about bearded dragons that are younger than a year old is that it does not have the full adult body mass. But, if something happens to be wrong (e.g. parasites) and they enter brumation, they will waste away much quicker than an adult.
To be on the safe side, take your bearded dragon for a vet checkup prior to late autumn, in order to check if it is parasite-free and in good general condition.
What to Do Before the Bearded Dragon Brumation?
There are several steps you can take before and during brumation to make sure that the process goes safely.
- Give it some extra food so it can fatten up a bit prior to brumation time, which would be late autumn.
- Measure your bearded dragon’s weight throughout the autumn to ensure you keep check of the trends if it is gaining or losing weight.
- Test it for parasites.
Parasite infestations can remain completely under the radar until your bearded dragon goes through a period of stress. Although brumation is natural, it poses a significant strain on your pet’s body, which is a perfect moment for parasite development in the case they are present.
Do not take the threat parasites to pose during brumation lightly. It can mean the difference between life and death for some beardies.
What to Do During the Brumation?
The most important thing to do for your beardie during brumation is to let him be. Apart from basic care, bearded dragons should be left alone as much as possible.
- When you notice the brumation signs and you have made sure that your bearded dragon is healthy, you can help him enter brumation by shortening their day. Reduce the lights gradually each week by 30 minutes until you get from the standard 12-14 hours to 8-10 hours a day.
The temperature can go down a bit, but should always remain well in the recommended range. Note that brumation will happen regardless if you shorten your bearded dragon’s day or not. This is only a way to make it more natural (plus save some power).
- If the autumn comes, and your bearded dragon is not showing signs of brumation, do not try to force him into it.
- Don’t get worried if the brumation lasts for months, e.g., November through March. Many owners get anxious and feel the need to wake their bearded dragon up, but you should definitely not do it. If you’ve determined that you have a healthy pet, there is absolutely no need to panic.
- Possible dehydration is a critical concern related to the bearded dragon brumation. Offer your bearded dragon water once in a while by dropping it on his nose. Do not make use of the sprayer because spraying during brumation could raise the humidity in the tank excessively, which could lead to fungal and respiratory infections.
Should I Try to Wake my Bearded Dragon and End Brumation?
Besides the basic maintenance that has been described above, brumating bearded dragons should not be disturbed until they wake up on their own. Studies have shown that trying to snap a bearded dragon out of brumation will only result in prolonged brumation time.
How Does the Bearded Dragon Brumation End?
Brumation will end the same as it has begun in the natural state. Bearded dragons will feel the spring coming and start waking up around the beginning of March. They will start basking more often, and with time, increase their interest in food.
After they are back awake, male bearded dragons will slip into breeding mode, with darkened beards and bobbing heads. They may be unable to focus on food at this point, but that is perfectly normal, especially if there is a female around. By mid to late spring, bearded dragons’ behavior will stabilize and they will continue being their former selves.