Brumation has to do with seeking shelter, remaining largely inactive, and ceasing eating, similar to hibernating mammals. Throughout this period the bearded dragon is able to live off their built up internal nutritional reserves.
Do bearded dragons have to brumate? 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. They do of course do this when in captivity as well.
The following information will be addressing issues relating to bearded dragons’ brumation
- introduction to bearded dragon brumation
- symptoms of brumation
- how long does brumation last?
- what to do when brumation begins
- during brumation
- waking up from brumation
Introduction to Bearded Dragon Brumation
Brumation is a word that can still send a shiver of apprehension down the spine of even the most seasoned dragon keepers. And it’s quite understandable why this is so.
The lethargy, lack of appetite, and inactivity so commonly associated with brumation can also be some of the signs of
- much more serious and
- potentially life threatening conditions.
It is because of this that it is so vital that bearded dragon keepers know the signs of brumation. So they can actually help to keep their beloved dragon as happy and healthy as possible.
Symptoms of Brumation in Bearded Dragons
Are you not sure if your bearded dragon is in brumation? Here are few of the common symptoms:
As your bearded dragon needs to conserve its energy to slow the consumption of its nutritional reserves. You’ll find as it enters brumation it will sleep more often, for longer periods of time. And will go to sleep earlier in the day than ever before.
Hiding in the Shade
As a bearded dragon is more vulnerable when practicing brumation, it is common for them to seek shade or shelter. This mimics their survival instincts in the wild. That is, by hiding away from potential predators while they rest.
This is one of the most worrying symptoms for dragon owners. But combined with an increase in sleep, is very much indicative of brumation.
It is very vital to not try and force your bearded dragon to eat during this time. As food left in bearded dragons’ bellies during brumation can simply rot inside them. Leading to all manner of ailments and various vet visits to get them back on their feet.
Reduction in Bowel Movements
This is directly linked to the previous symptom. As with less coming in, there’s also going to be less coming out.
How Long Does Brumation Last for Bearded Dragons?
The average answer most resources state for the length of brumation is from a few weeks up to around four months.
However, in reality this really changes from dragon to dragon. Most especially with some dragons never brumating, while some brumate every few years, and some religiously brumating every year.
How the bearded dragon behaves during brumation can also vary greatly. With some not sleeping at all, merely resting, others sleeping in spates, and some simply having one very long sleep.
Brumation is a process that your bearded dragon has to navigate and learn what works best for them. Thus, if your dragon’s brumation habits changes from their first brumation period to their second, do not worry. As it can often take them a few tries to figure out what they really like best!
What You have to do When Brumation Begins
As a caring bearded dragon owner, it is your job to help your dragon enter brumation. There are several different ways you can do this for your bearded dragon. Put simply, your objective is to mimic the winter environment that causes brumation in the wild.
Lower the Temperature
Over the next two to three weeks, start to gradually reduce the temperatures in your dragon’s enclosure.
You can do this by reducing basking hours, or even using a lower watt bulb for their tank lights, which will give out lower temperatures. This will certainly help mimic the reduction in temperature as the winter months approach.
Also, reduce this until there is no heat at all once the dragon has had its last pre-brumation bowel movement.
Over this period you should also start offering your bearded dragon less and less food. Thus mimicking the reduction of available insects a bearded dragon would face in the wild.
You should also try and reduce this until you offer no food at all. It is important to make sure your bearded dragon has had a bowel movement before entering a total brumation state. As this will ensure their digestive system is empty, and then eliminating the risk of trapped food.
Once you have achieved this, turn off the bearded dragon’s basking bulb and UV light.
Provide a Hiding Spot
Most bearded dragon owners will already have a tank set up that has ample ‘hiding spots’ for their bearded dragon. Particularly, this helps to mimic their natural habitats.
However, if you are new to the world of bearded dragons, it is important to make sure you are offering ample spots for your bearded dragon to hide away during brumation.
This will help closely mimic the underground holes that wild dragons will seek out for protection from predators and the elements.
Cover the Tank
Typically in the wild, bearded dragons will not just hide away in burrows. But will also seal their new home with mud or dirt, therefore creating a completely dark place.
Many bearded dragon owners like to emulate this for their pets by covering the tank in some way, usually with a blanket.
Once you have achieved all these, there is only one thing left to do, leave them to it. It’s just as simple as that. Check on your bearded dragon daily, but on the whole, just let them sleep.
During Bearded Dragon Brumation
Other than checking on them, the only other primary concern for bearded dragon owners is to ensure their bearded dragon is hydrated.
There are a number of ways owners can choose to do this, and it really does come down to personal preference. Typically, a dragon will seek out water when it needs it even if it is still very much asleep.
So the easiest way of ensuring your bearded dragon’s water levels remain topped up is to just leave a dish of fresh water in their tank.
Others opt to keep their bearded dragon hydrated via syringe, gently dropping water into the dragon’s nose. This can be a risky process, however, and is best reserved only for bearded dragons that show a complete disinterest in hydrating themselves. This is because syringe hydration can be a very messy process. And can lead to dampened substrate below your sleeping bearded dragon.
Further, moisture can cause issues such as scale rot or respiratory infections if repeated too often. Thus, if you have no other option than to hydrate your bearded dragon this way, best to place your pet on a towel first.
One of the other methods, which is quite popular among bearded dragon owners, is to place your bearded dragon in a bath once a week. Always support your bearded dragon’s head and make sure it stays out of the water, as they will typically be half-asleep or very groggy even when drinking.
Waking Up from Brumation
While entering brumation can be a slow and gradual process. Therefore, it is not uncommon to wake one morning and suddenly find your bearded dragon up and about and moving again.
Once this happens, it is vital that you turn all the necessary lights back on. And this can be done all at once, or gradually as with entering brumation depending on your dragon’s needs and preferences.
Giving your dragon a bath to simulate natural drinking opportunities is also important. It will give your bearded dragon a chance to rehydrate and clean up, as well as giving you a chance to check them over. Also, it’ll give you a chance to bond with your bearded dragon, as it’s not uncommon for owners to miss their pet during longer brumation periods.
Not to worry if your dragon seems a little out of character for the first few days after it wakes up. Consider this is natural, as they are readjusting to their surroundings. They may also continue to be disinterested in all food for these few days, but don’t worry that will soon change!
It is worthy of mention that bearded dragons love to eat, and once their appetite returns they’ll want to chow down hard.
To conclude, brumation in bearded dragons is totally natural, and occurs yearly in the wild as a method of surviving the winter and preparing for the reproductive season.
Brumation typically happens in bearded dragons over a year old and can last anywhere between a few weeks and around four months.
Some bearded dragons kept as pets may never practice brumation, some may a handful of times, and others will religiously year after year.
They may also change their brumation habits, with some being more active, or sleeping off and on, and others may as well remain still and in a long slumber. While some dragon owners find brumation stressful, it is important to remember that it is a completely natural process.
As long as you are aware of the signs of illness or problems and heed the correct steps for caring for a sleeping bearded dragon. Then they will just wake up as though nothing ever happened. Thus, within a few days your charismatic little companion will be back to normal!