The thought of writing this article is already making me sad. So, I can’t imagine what you are going through if the vet has asked you to euthanize your bearded dragon. In other words, the vet asked you to take away its life in order to end its suffering.
Taking away your pet beardie’s life sounds horrible, but in some rare cases, this is the most humane thing you can do to end your beardie’s suffering. In this article, I’ll go over why and when you should think of euthanizing bearded dragon, the most recommended method of euthanization as well as a very interesting case study, where the vet lost hope but the beardie came back stronger!
So, let’s get started!
Why & When Should You Euthanize A Bearded Dragon?
Reptiles often get diagnosed with diseases that are incurable. Well, some of the diseases are curable but if diagnosed too late, there’s nothing the vet can do. Bearded dragons are no exception to this.
There are some diseases that are deadly for bearded dragons. If your beardie gets diagnosed with any of these health issues, the vet might find it really tough to cure the bearded dragon. Moreover, with time, the beardie will lose its health, appetite and become more lethargic.
In such cases, the vets often recommend to euthanize the bearded dragon, meaning stopping its life force as humanely as possible only to end its suffering.
Never think of euthanizing your bearded dragon until a vet has given his consent. You should always check with a vet first no matter how sick your beardie seems to be.
Now, let’s take a close look at what are some of the deadliest diseases for bearded dragons.
What Diseases Are Deadliest For Bearded Dragons?
In this section, I’ll talk about some of the most common diseases of bearded dragons that are mostly responsible for euthanization. I am not saying that these diseases are incurable, however, if diagnosed at a later stage, the vet might fail to do anything.
Metabolic Bone Disease
According to vcahospitals.com, Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD) might be the most common health problem of pet bearded dragons. MBD is often seen among young & juvenile bearded dragons that are not older than 2 years.
- feeding improper diet
- Lack of calcium in diet
- diet including high amount of phosphorus, low amount of calcium and vitamin D3
- Lack of proper UVB lighting setup
- facial bones getting softer
- swelling as well as softening of the jaw
- Legs starting to tremor while the beardie walks
- Hind limbs getting swollen
- In worst case, the beardie will fail to push itself up and walk in a normal stance. They’ll often crouch very low to the ground
Also known as the ‘Stargazing disease’ or ‘Wasting disease’ Adenovirus is also very common among bearded dragons, especially when they are young. This virus causes gastrointestinal infection as well as fatal hepatitis. Young bearded dragons that are diagnosed with ADV typically fail to survive longer than 3 months.
- When a healthy bearded dragon gets exposed to the feces of a carrier bearded dragon
- When a healthy beardie shares the same habitat, food dish, food, etc. with a carrier dragon
- Basically, ADV is extremely contagious and can transmit through touch easily.
- Lethargic behavior
- Not interested in food
- Can get paralyzed in worst cases
Parasites, more commonly Pinworms are mostly seen in the intestinal tract of bearded dragons. In most cases, the parasites don’t show any signs. You can only detect their presence from the feces of the dragon. I have talked more about pinworms in this article.
- The parasites transmit from a carrier bearded dragon to a healthy dragon
- Loss of weight
- Lethargic behavior, loss of appetite, etc.
Gastric Neuroendocrine Carcinomas
This is a recently found disease among young bearded dragons. When diagnosed with Gastric Neuroendocrine Carcinomas, the bearded dragon experiences anorexia, lethargy, loss of appetite, weight loss as well as vomiting. In some cases, the vets also saw clinicopathologic abnormalities among a few bearded dragons.
This is still a recent disease. Scientists are still performing studies to find out more about it. Here are some research publications I’ve found regarding Gastric Neuroendocrine Carcinomas:
- Gastrointestinal Disturbances in a Bearded Dragon (Authors: David Perpiñán, Kari Addante, Elizabeth Driskell)
- Gastric neuroendocrine carcinomas in bearded dragons (Authors: J M Ritter, M M Garner, J A Chilton, E R Jacobson, M Kiupel)
- A Gastric Neuroendocrine Carcinoma Expressing Somatostatin in a Bearded Dragon (Authors: Jeremiah Lyons, Shelley J Newman, Cheryl B Greenacre, John Dunlap)
My Recommended Way To Euthanize A Bearded Dragon
The least painful way to euthanize a bearded dragon is to take it to the local veterinarian. The vet will inject the right amount of medicine to put the bearded dragon to sleep peacefully. The death will be the least painful.
I personally don’t recommend euthanizing any pet at home. All the options you can try at home are painful, some are more severe than the others. Also, as the owner, I think it will really put a mental strain on you if you’ve to be the one to euthanize your beardie.
So, if God forbids you need to euthanize your bearded dragon, ask a professional vet to do it for you.
How Long Does It Take To Euthanize A Bearded Dragon?
Vets euthanize bearded dragons by injecting a medicine which can take around 20 minutes to take effect. This is when you can say goodbye to your bearded dragon.
3 Ways Euthanizing A Bearded Dragon At Home
Let me start by saying that I don’t like euthanizing pets at home. These options are messy and somewhat painful for the bearded dragon. Even so, if you need to euthanize your bearded dragon at home due to lack of vets in your area, here are some ways:
1. Smashing The Head With Something Heavy
Though it seems horrible, it is the least painful way to euthanize a bearded dragon at home. It is very messy, takes a strong heart to do, however, the bearded dragon will actually feel the least pain.
When you smash the head, it instantly destroys the brain, thus ensuring the beardie doesn’t experience any pain. To follow this procedure, place your bearded dragon on a hard surface and smash the head with something quite heavy.
I can’t write about this anymore, just writing about it is causing nausea!
2. Decapitation (Experiences Pain)
Though decapitation is not as messy as smashing the head, through this method the bearded dragon will experience pain. After you decapitate the beardie, it will still be alive for a certain period of time. So, the beardie will experience full pain even if it is for a short time.
3. Freezing The Body (Experiences Pain)
I have seen countless arguments and myths regarding this method. This is one of the most popular methods to euthanize any pet. However, needless to say, through this method the bearded dragon will feel severe pain and it is inhumane to do so.
Here’s how people think: Just put the pet in the freezer, the blood will cool down so as the heart rate and the pet will gradually die experiencing no pain.
But that isn’t how the process works.
When you place a bearded dragon in the freezer, the tissue, blood, and other bodily fluids will start to crystalize as the beardie gets colder and colder. This is a quite painful experience. This crystallization starts to form before the bearded dragon gets unconscious, so your pet will feel severe pain before it dies.
Let’s see what American Veterinary Medical Association has to say about this:
“Immobilization of reptiles by cooling is considered inappropriate and inhumane even if combined with other physical or chemical methods of euthanasia. Snakes and turtles, immobilized by cooling, have been killed by subsequent freezing. This method is not recommended. Formation of ice crystals on the skin and in tissues of an animal may cause pain or distress. Quick freezing of deeply anesthetized animals is acceptable.”American Veterinary Medical Association (https://www.avma.org)
An Interesting Case: Vet Lost Hope But Bearded Dragon Survived
The time was October 2020. E-lizard-Beth, a very cute female bearded dragon was diagnosed with Metabolic Bone Disease. Things went from bad to worse and the vet suggested to euthanize her. But the owner (Anne Mee) couldn’t. Anne was committed to nursing the beardie back to health. And fortunately, the bearded dragon now lives stronger than ever. Here’s the original post from Anne Mee:
I had the opportunity of talking with Anne and got some amazing insights on how she brought her beardie back from death’s cruel grasp.
I asked her details about E-lizard-Beth’s condition back in October 2020 and what were the health issues. Here’s what she replied:
“She developed metabolic bone disease. She had only 1%mineralized bone in her body, she was unable to move on her own.”
Which factors were responsible for the Metabolic Bone Disease?
“As a new owner of a bearded dragon I didn’t realize that a UVB will still shine even if the UVB spectrum is no longer good. So UVB lights should be changed every 6 months even if they are still shining.“
How the bearded dragon was brought back to health? What actions did Anne specifically take?
“I hand fed my dragon with mushed meal Worms and calcium supplements for about a month after that she ate mealworms on her own but I How to hold them for her she couldn’t yet catch them on her own. After about another month of that, she was normal again and back to eating veggies as well. Also, we take her outside for 20 mins of direct sunlight a day.“
Here’s a side by side image of E-lizard-Beth back when she was sick vs now as a healthy bearded dragon:
I am sincerely grateful to Anne Mee for her wonderful insights! Also thanks to the model, E-lizard-Beth!
How Do You Properly Dispose Of A Bearded Dragon?
There are several ways you can dispose of a bearded dragon. Here are some:
- Burial: Wrap the dead bearded dragon with a hand towel. Place the wrapped body inside a shoe box. Now go outside and dig a hole. A 2 feet hole should be okay. Bury the bearded dragon inside the hole. You can plant something on the spot to remind you of your beloved friend.
- Cremation: If you don’t have the space to bury your beardie, you can take it to the local vet or local humane society where they will cremate the beardie. You can ask them to give you the ashes if you want.
If there is another healthy bearded dragon inside the enclosure, take it out ASAP and disinfect the tank. Steam cleaning or rinsing & wiping with a beach-water solution should be fine. Follow that with a regular water wiping to rinse off any residue of bleach. This will ensure the enclosure is safe for the healthy bearded dragon.