How Do You Treat URI In Bearded Dragons? [Prevention, Treatment]

Seeing your dragon sick is probably something that you ‘never’ want. Well, not wanting that is not going to stop that from happening, especially from Upper Respiratory Infection, which you probably know as URI. But how to treat URI in bearded dragons?

The best way to treat URI in bearded dragons is to take them to the vet, where they most probably will prescribe antibiotics. Not only will these medicines stop the infection from spreading, but will also kill the bacteria causing the issue. Plus, it helps a lot in restoring the lizard’s health.

But how would you know that your beardie is suffering from URI in the first place? And why it infects a lizard? Well, it’s time to find that out.

Key Takeaways

  • The most common reasons for URI or Upper Respiratory Infections happening are bacterial, viral, and fungal infections.
  • It’s impossible to cure through home remedies alone. So, medical attention is a must.
  • URI can be prevented with the right food, husbandry, and keeping the reptile away from anything that can make the lizard sick, especially stress and sick reptiles.

7 Signs Of URI In Bearded Dragons

The first step in curing any disease is understanding the symptoms first. Well, it’s pretty much the same when it comes to URI. Now the question is – which symptoms say that your dragon is infected with the disease? Let’s say the symptoms you’ll probably see in them are –

1. Wheezing

If you’re asking for the most common symptoms of respiratory infections, the first name that comes to our mind is wheezing. It’s basically the raspy or high-pitched that you hear during your reptile’s breathing. This mostly happens when the airways are narrowed down, which is triggered by the presence of mucus or inflammation.

Not only this, but an infected beardie might exhibit other different breathing sounds, and for obvious reasons, they’re not normal. Yes, we’re talking about those clicking or cracking noises.

2. Mouth Breathing

When URI starts hitting a beardie’s health, there’s nothing to be surprised to see them gaping or mouth breathing. Like humans, they too use this technique when it comes to increasing their air intake, especially when they’re dealing with diminished lung capacity.

But that’s not always enough to reach a conclusion like URI, is it? Well, if the lizard is showing noticeable movement in the throat and neck muscles, then there’s a chance that it’s having a hard time with URI.

3. Excessive Mucus Or Discharge

It’s the boosted mucus production in the reptile’s respiratory tract that is linked to the URI. Usually, it’s the nose, mouth, or eyes where you’ll mostly notice the excessive discharge coming through.

There can be quite a variation in the color and consistency of the mucus. It can be anything from thick to clear and thin. And the color? You might see it in colors like white, yellow, and green. By the way, don’t forget that it’s the color and consistency of the mucus that indicates the severity of the infections.

4. Sneezing Or Coughing

Whether you’re seeing your lizard sneezing or coughing, both of them can be a symptom of upper respiratory infection. After all, that’s how a reptile’s body attempts to clear the airway from the stuck mucus, irritants, and foreign particles. So, find it totally okay if there is mucus or saliva coming out when your beardie is sneezing or coughing.

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5. Lack Of Appetite

The first thing that most diseases mess with is the lizard’s appetite. Here the blame goes to the virus. After all, it doesn’t only cause Inflammation and mucus accumulation in the dragon’s respiratory system but also makes eating unpleasant. So, clearly, bearded dragons fail to keep their food consumption rate as much as usual.

Plus, they might even have trouble swallowing when they’re feeling unwell. And guess what happens when loss of appetite lasts? Exactly! It’s weight loss that we’re talking about.

6. Lethargy Or Weakness

Are you seeing your bearded dragon lethargic or lacking in strength compared to the regular time, along with the signs we mentioned above? Well, then probably URI has made your lizard its next nest. Under this symptom, you’ll see them becoming less active and curious in their surroundings. Plus, you’ll see no eagerness to engage in regular social interactions.

7. Swollen Or Inflamed Airways

When things are reaching pretty much an extreme level of URI, there’s a chance of the lizard’s airways swelling or becoming inflamed. The easiest way to be sure about this is to check out if the beardie’s throat or airways are becoming red or swollen. Remember, this indicates the respiratory infection is at an advanced level.

One more thing before you jump to the next part. It’s possible seeing variations in symptoms from dragon to dragon. That’s because symptoms often depend on the stage of infection. So, the best thing you can do to be sure about the existence of URI in your beardie is to consult a reptile veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment.

7 Causes Of Uri In Bearded Dragons

No disease comes out of the blue, especially not something like URI. But it’s not any one reason that triggers these infections. There are lots of them, and the list starts with –

1. Bacterial Infections

Most of the upper respiratory infections in beardies are caused by bacterial infections. Though you might not be familiar with their names but Aeromonas spp., Pseudomonas spp., and Mycoplasma spp. are the most common ones triggering URI.

Not only can they infect your reptile’s respiratory system, but also trigger inflammation along with mucus production. These bacteria can slip into your beardie through contaminated water, surfaces, and even other sick reptiles.

2. Viral Infections

Who told you that bearded dragons can get URIs due to exposure to bacteria only? Count viruses on that list too. When you’re asking your vet about this, they’ll probably take the Adenovirus, as it’s the most notorious virus to get something like that done. 

And where it’s coming from? Well, beardies show respiratory symptoms from adenovirus infections when they’re somehow coming in contact with contaminated environments.

3. Fungal Infections

Fungal infections too can play the role of the culprit when it comes to infecting a beardie with URI, especially fungi like Aspergillus spp. FYI, it’s the inhalation of fungal spores that can lead to respiratory tract colonization and, later on, subsequent inflammation.

Thanks to poor ventilation, excessive humidity, and improper enclosure hygiene, it becomes easy for fungal infections to intrude into the reptile’s body.

4. Parasitic Infections

Mites and Lungworms are just two examples of parasites that can wreak havoc on your lizard’s respiratory system. Not only can these parasites directly affect your pet’s respiratory system but also can weaken the immune system to a huge level. They can leave the dragon so vulnerable that bacterial and fungal infections get easy access later.

5. Environmental Factors

Can you too be a reason for your pet battling with URI? Well, yes, if you’re leaving them with poor husbandry and poor living circumstances, it can make any bearded dragon more susceptible to respiratory diseases like this.

When a beardie is bound to live in a place where temperature gradients are improper,  humidity levels and ventilations are inadequate, and the enclosure is dirty, it’s tough to save the lizard from URI.

6. Stress

Stress is the oldest nemesis of bearded dragons, as nothing works better than it in

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lowering the lizard’s resistance to disease. There are tons of reasons that can trigger stress in a beardie. But the most common ones are unnecessary or excessive handling, abrupt changes in its habitat or diet, and extreme temperatures.

handling bearded dragon

7. Poor Nutrition

How and what you’re feeding your beardie also has to do a lot with URI affecting it. Malnutrition and poor feeding habits not only increase the chances of respiratory infections in beardies but also makes them sick more frequently. That’s because a poor diet that lacks key nutrients can destroy the immune system’s ability to fight off infections.

How To Cure URI In Bearded Dragons?

If you think that curing URI is your vet’s ‘one-man job’, then you’re wrong. It’s going to take both veterinary care and your supportive measures. But you always need to start with –

1. Veterinary Examination

If you’ve got any doubt that your beardie is having a respiratory infection, take it to the vet immediately. To find out what is causing the trouble, the reptile vet will conduct a series of tests. Yes, we’re talking about physical examinations, diagnostic procedures, such as fecal examination and radiography. They’ll probably even go for culture or swab testing.

2. Medications

After looking at the diagnostic findings to reach the best course of treatment for your beardie, the vet will prescribe the required medications. There’s a high chance antibiotics being on the suggestion list. And if there are any traces of fungal infections, they’ll prescribe antifungal medications for sure.

In case you’re thinking about viral infections, let us tell you antiviral drugs are not much available for reptiles. Depending on the condition of the lizard, the vet will say which specific medications should be used, their dosage, and the period of treatment.

3. Environmental Management

With the right medication, what matters the most for a beardie’s speedy recovery is proper environmental conditions. So, make sure its enclosure has been thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.

And we guess you already know that these lizards need a specific temperature gradient and a certain range of humidity levels. So, ensure that as well. Keep the temperatures of the basking spot around 95°F (35°C). And for a cooler zone, try to keep it around 80°F (27°C). This will support the immune system and keep the dragon comfortable.

Plus, to avoid the accumulation of potentially dangerous microorganisms inside the cage, make sure the proper ventilation system has been installed.

4. Enclosure Hygiene

While the treatment is going on, keeping the enclosure’s hygiene on point is more than important. So, make sure that you’re keeping the cage clean and getting rid of any leftover food or excrement. It’d be best if you can disinfect the enclosure before letting the beardie be in there again

5. Maintaining Proper Hydration

The vets will do their job. But there are certain things that only you can pull off, especially maintaining proper hydration of your lizard. Make it easy for the lizard to have clean water all the time. And if you’re seeing that your lizard is not showing enough interest in having water, try giving it water orally and use an injection if needed. But do it under the suggestion of the vet.

6. Offering A Proper Diet

Undoubtedly, it’s the food with the right nutrient that can speed up the recovery process more than anything. So, make sure that you’re putting that on the table. Try letting the beardie have vegetables, greens, and insects filled with protein.

Don’t forget to dust the food with calcium and vitamin supplements your vet has suggested. After all, it adds the required amount of nutrients that your lizard is probably missing in its regular food.

7. Steam Therapy

Have you heard of steam therapy? Well, this is something that can help you lizard a lot in alleviating congestion and respiratory discomfort. All you have to do is create a steamy environment.

For this, you can use a nebulizer or can simply place the lizard in a container with warm, damp towels. By the way, before you try this out, make sure you’re consulting with the vet first. That’s because not every beardie is made for this.

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8. Regular Follow-Up Visits

To fully cure your lizard’s URI, follow-up visits to the vet are a must. It’s them who can monitor the progress of the treatment and suggest if there’s any kind of adjustment required in the care plan.

How To Prevent URI In Bearded Dragons?

Prevention is always better than cure. Because you often won’t see it coming. So, it’s better to stay cautious with –

1. Right Enclosure Setup

The frequency of a beardie becoming sick depends a lot on where you’re keeping it. So, build an enclosure that caters to its unique requirements. For obvious reasons, it has to be spacious along with having appropriate ventilation. Plus, its temperature and humidity conditions should also be favorable for the lizard.

Make sure you’re providing it with a warm, dry, and well-lit basking area. In case you’re not sure if the temperature is on point or not, try using a thermostat designed for reptiles to maintain the ideal temperature.

2. Temperature And Humidity

staying healthy in the wrong temperature and humidity level is nothing but impossible for bearded dragons. So, it’s important to let them have an atmosphere that comes with a warm area where temperatures should be around 95° F and a colder area of 80° F.

And the humidity level? Well, that should be something like 30–40%, with the exception of shedding seasons.

3. Clean And Disinfected Enclosure

Get rid of any waste, such as feces, uneaten food, etc., from the enclosure on a regular basis. Plus, clean it well on a regular basis with disinfectant. And make sure that the disinfectants you’re using are specifically appropriate for reptiles.

4. Quarantine And Hygiene Practices

In case you’ve got more than one beardie, you better keep the new reptile members isolated for at least 30 days. This is the best way to prevent the spread of diseases. And if you’re seeing a sick one, keep it in quarantine and get it the required medical attention.

By the way, don’t forget to wash your hands thoroughly before and after, whether you’re touching the reptile or cleaning its habitat.

5. Nutritious Diet

If you want to see your beardie with a healthy immune system, keep feeding it a balanced and nutritious diet. Always keep vegetables, leafy greens, and gut-loaded insects on the menu. For an extra drop of calcium and vitamin, you can dust their food with supplements as well, after consulting with the vet, of course. 

6. Regular Veterinary Check-ups

To keep track of your lizard’s health, regular veterinary check-ups got no other alternative unless you yourself are a medical expert on reptiles. These regular check-ups will make it easier for you to monitor the lizard’s health and catch any problem in its early stages.

7. Minimize Stress

Stressed bearded dragons are more prone to URI than unstressed ones. Avoid or at least lessen the occurrence of potential stressors, whether it’s rapid changes in setting, overcrowding, excessive handling, or loud noises. And Make sure your beardie’s enclosure has hiding places so that it can calm itself when stress hits hard.

8. Proper Handling Techniques

With poor handling techniques, you’ll do nothing but stress out the lizard. So, to avoid that, learn proper handling techniques in the first place. Otherwise, along with increasing the chances of injury, you might lead it to stress-related health issues, especially URI.

9. Avoid Contact With Sick Reptiles

Be cautious about introducing your beardie to other reptiles, especially those you believe can possibly be sick. It’s best to stay away from sick or infected reptiles to prevent contracting an infectious URI.

Before We Go…

URI can be deadly if you’re not taking the right initiatives on time. But sometimes, it can still be too late. The only choice left then is to put the lizard down. But that too doesn’t come for free. And if you’re interested to know how much it might cost you, feel free to check out my post- How Much Does It Cost To Put Down A Bearded Dragon? We believe your answers are waiting there.

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Muntaseer Rahman

About Author

Hello, I’m Muntaseer Rahman, the owner of AcuarioPets.com. I’m passionate about aquarium pets like shrimps, snails, crabs, and crayfish. I’ve created this website to share my expertise and help you provide better care for these amazing pets.

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