Bearded Dragon Impaction: Causes and Solutions

bearded dragon impaction

Impaction is a serious health problem, and many bearded dragon owners dread it.

Impaction is a serious health problem, and many bearded dragon owners dread it.

If you are a new pet parent, and you’re scared that your beardie is suffering from impaction because it isn’t passing stool, you have every reason to be scared.

Impaction can cause long-term health issues or even death if left untreated hence the fear that comes with it.

Is bearded dragon impaction a death sentence? Or is there a solution?

What Is Bearded Dragon Impaction?

Bearded Dragon Sleeping

Bearded dragon impaction refers to the blockage of your bearded dragon’s digestive system by a hard mass.

It prevents bowel movement and can lead to problems like loss of appetite.

It can even cause death if left untreated.

Difference Between Impaction and Constipation

Bearded dragon impaction and constipation ultimately result in a lack of bowel movement, but they are not the same condition.

In impaction, there is a blockage, while in constipation, there is difficulty in digesting food.

Constipation could be a result of various factors such as marked dehydration or lower than normal temperature.

Impaction on the other hand arises when a mass that doesn’t digest blocks the digestive tract.

This hard and indigestible mass could be anything such as a substrate, rock, sand, or the exoskeletons of insects.

Signs and Symptoms of Bearded Dragon Impaction

It will be easier to recognize the signs and symptoms of impaction if you are used to your pet’s normal behavior.

Lack of early detection is what leads to the death of bearded dragons from impaction, so this is another reason why you should be close to your pet.

Lack Of Poop

The major sign of impaction is the lack of poop.

If your beardie has gone for longer than is normal for it without any sign of poop, then you should be concerned.

Baby beardies would poop daily, but adults don’t poop that frequently and can go for up to a week without any poop.

If you haven’t seen any poop and you suspect impaction, watch the way your pet walks.

Changes In His Gait

Impaction causes paralysis in the hind legs and so would result in a shaky and awkward gait.

It can cause paralysis to the front legs as well if the impaction is in the upper digestive tract.

So check for the gait generally.

A Bump In Their Back

Paralysis of the limbs is linked to impaction because of the proximity of their intestines and their spine.

During impaction, their spines are also under pressure and it becomes obvious due to their lack of intervertebral discs.

You can point this out as a bulging between their vertebrae or as a bump on their back.

A More Pronounced Tender Belly

A protruded belly or tender belly is also a pointer to impaction.

Your pet would look generally unwell, lose appetite and weight during impaction.

Regurgitation, lethargy, or lack of activity when your pet isn’t hibernating are also signs of impaction.

Causes of Bearded Dragon Impaction

Particle-Based Substrate

There are some good substrates for use with your bearded dragon, and there are also bad ones.

Loose substrates like sand and pellets are examples of bad substrates for this animal because of the ease at which they cause impaction.

Bearded dragons consume these substrate materials as they eat their meals and over time, it builds up and causes a problem.

When purchasing substrates, it’s best to stay clear of the types that are likely to cause impaction.

Some manufacturers claim that their loose substrate is digestible.

It’s just a way to make sales.

Stick to what is approved for use and safe for your pet such as newspaper, reptile carpet, ceramic tiles, etc.

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The size of the food you give to your pet, and its makeup can cause impaction.

As a general rule, never feed your pet beardie any meal that is larger than the distance between its eyes.

Meals larger than that are too big and could get stuck in its digestive tract.

Insects such as mealworms have hard exoskeletons, and it can be a problem to digest.

They build up over time and can also cause impaction.

So to prevent this, don’t feed these types of insects to your baby bearded dragon. Even when feeding them to your adult beardie, do so occasionally.


The right temperature helps with digestion, and so if the temperature of your bearded dragon’s enclosure is below optimum, it could lead to digestion problems.

To avoid this, keep the basking temperature of the enclosure between 95 and 1050F, keep it higher at 105 to 1100F for baby beardies.

To further ensure they get proper food digestion, let them stay in their basking spot for at least an hour after every meal.

This means you should avoid feeding your pet at night because of digestion problems that may come up.

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Treatment for Impaction

See The Vet

Depending on the severity of the symptoms, you may have to see a reptile vet right away for intensive care.

The vet would perform some examinations on your pet and come up with a plan depending on the results.

The vet may perform an enema if other treatment options are not being effective.

If an enema doesn’t yield any results as well, surgery may be needed.

Warm Bath

Bearded dragons love to pass stool while in water.

You can try doing this to help stimulate the passage of feces. Heat the water to 1000F and place your reptile buddy in it.

Continuously add warm water to the bath to maintain its temperature.

Observe your dragon for about 30 minutes as this is enough time to trigger stooling.

While in the bath you can also gently massage your pet’s stomach and cloaca.

Doing all of this should help resolve the impaction.

New Type of Food

If your bearded dragon is suffering from impaction, then you should avoid giving them any meals that may be difficult to digest.

Replace such meals with soft and easy to digest food.

Olive Oil

Olive oil would help in moving the bowel along.

Place just a few drops on their nose so they can lick it off.

Use just olive oil and not vegetable oil.

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By gently stroking your bearded dragon’s side from the head to tail, you can help to dislodge the blockage and free up the intestines.

Be very gentle as you do this to avoid causing further damage.

You can also massage the abdomen with a bit more pressure this time.

Press on the chest in a bid to encourage the passage of feces and dislodge the blockage.

If it doesn’t work, stop so you don’t cause harm to your pet.

Keep your pet upright at all times because, on their backs, they have difficulty breathing.

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Check The Basking Area Temperature

If the temperature of the basking area drops, your pet would have a hard time digesting food.

Lack of digestion means no poop and it’s unhealthy.

So check the temperature of the basking area regularly to ensure it’s within healthy limits.


Surgery is usually the last point of call if none of the other treatment options seem to work.

This way the vet can take out what’s causing the blockage and free the digestive tract.


Bearded dragon impaction is a serious condition and is one of the causes of death in bearded dragons.

It can rise from minor to fatal in a short while, and the chances of your pet’s survival depend on how fast you act.

When you notice any changes in behavior, try to resolve it with any of the home remedies such as massage, warm bath, or temperature adjustment.

Consult a vet if you can’t deal with it by yourself.

Impaction is common, and also easy to avoid.

It all comes down to the type of meals we feed our beardies, and the type of environment we provide for them.