Welcome to the worst time of the year for bearded dragon owners – brumation! The period of constant worry for whether or not your beardie is okay and the time when you spend weeks to months without holding your pet.
Brumation is one of the most significant events for bearded dragons. While most people deem it a period of rest, it’s mostly a defense mechanism to heighten their chances of survival, and I could bet on a big sum that beardies do not enjoy it one bit! It’s important to be conversant on this topic, so that you and your bearded dragon may go through the ordeal peacefully and safely.
Brumation is a period of intense rest that is triggered by a lack of resources. It is a time when beardies – and even more reptiles – slow down their metabolism to preserve the nutrients they have in a period of lack till there is availability. It occurs during the winter season when there’s a shortage of heat, UV rays, and food which are detrimental for beardies to survive.
Brumation is a vast topic with several questions under it. This discussion seeks to upgrade you from a beginner level to an expert so that you can handle your dragon’s brumation period like a pro! Let’s dive.
Do Beardies Hibernate? – The Differences Between Brumation & Hibernation
As we have discussed earlier, brumation is a period where bearded dragons undergo systematic rest. It varies from hibernation, but both categories share a common ground; both are triggered by a change in environment and lack of resources, and are rest-inducing.
However, they have standard differences that set them apart; while hibernation is experienced by majorly warm-bodied animals, brumation is experienced by reptiles. So, technically speaking, bearded dragons do not hibernate.
This table will help you differentiate between brumation and hibernation so that you can catch a clearer view!
|Species; majorly reptiles
|Species; majorly warm-blooded animals
|Induces several periods of rest that enable the animal to wake and move around when necessary
|Induces a deep, deep sleep completely halting the possibility and necessity of movement
|The animal can drink water and (rarely) eat food
|The animal does not drink or eat
|Is induced mostly by changes in temperature and changes in light
|Is induced by majorly a change in environment, temperature, hormonal balance, and systematic behavior
|Animals can wake up to change positions or to seek a suitable temperature
|Animal remains dormant through the duration
|Survives by slowing down metabolism
|Survives by slowing down metabolism and using up stored body fat
|Body temperature is maintained and regulated
|Body temperature completely drops
|Metabolism is significantly reduced
|Metabolism is mildly reduced
|Drastically reduces appetite in preparation for brumation
|Includes preparatory feeding months before hibernation
At What Point Do Bearded Dragons Brumate? What Are The Triggers?
Brumation is welcomed by a change in climate specifically when winter commences. It gets extremely cold for bearded dragons and shortens the amount of heat that they essentially need to digest food. In response to this, the dragon will prefer to make do with preserving its energy for as much as possible, thus entering brumation.
Here are the factors that lead to brumation in bearded dragons:
A Significant Change In Temperature
The beginning of brumation is signified by a drop in temperature. From the regular sizzling heat of their natural habitat, the temperatures drop significantly during the winter season. Since bearded dragons need heat to maintain the proper body temperature and metabolism, they must recline into brumation to manage the resources they have until the winter season passes.
A Change In The Amount Of Sunlight
During winter, bearded dragons will also experience a scarcity of sunlight which is a result of the differences in the duration of night and day. Since the days are shorter, vitamin D is highly limited, and thus, their well-being is at serious risk. Beardies require brumation to reduce their rate of metabolism and preserve as many non-essential vitamins as possible.
A Shorter Day Cycle
Beardies are highly attuned to their surroundings, and when there is an obvious change in the day/night cycles, they can pick on it accurately. This means winter is close and thus, they must prepare for brumation. This is why there isn’t a specific period worldwide for beardies to brumate. Brumation can occur at any time depending on the seasons accustomed to that place.
Once these three consecutive signs are perceived by your beardie, it may take the hint and prepare itself for brumation.
At What Age Do Bearded Dragons Enter First Brumation?
Beardies experience brumation majorly when they’re fully grown adults or at least 6 – 7 months of age. Hatchlings are not mature enough to endure brumation because they haven’t developed the proper mechanisms to carry out the task. In the wild, hatchlings born during brumation die easily due to the lack of energy to carry their bodies through the cold.
Note that brumation is not a one-size-fits-all event, but a survival mechanism for bearded dragons when the need arises. It’s possible for your beardie not to brumate at all and this would be dependent on your climate. If you seek to manually induce brumation for your beardie, you must check in with your veterinary doctor or a reptile specialist located in your area for an accurately made decision on whether you should carry out the procedure or not.
Brumation is a tricky and delicate period for both beardies in captivity and those in the wild. A lot of bearded dragon owners have lost their pets through this process due to one misstep or the other. So, you must be gravely thorough in taking care of your dragon during brumation.
How Long Do Bearded Dragons Stay In Brumation?
Beardies stay in brumation for as long as they need to stay. There is no supposed time frame for when this happens and there is no routine either. So, your dragon can rest for different time frames each brumation period. However, the range for a normal brumation is between 2 weeks – 4 months. It is rare and almost abnormal for dragons to enter brumation that lasts more than 4 months. If your beardie has been brumating for more than four months, wake your pet up and contact your vet immediately.
How Do I Tell If My Beardie Is Preparing For Brumation? – 5 Tell-Tale Signs
Brumation in bearded dragons is a little tricky to trace. It’s so random that your pet beardie may never experience it at all. This is because dragons in captivity don’t necessarily need to brumate since they’re kept in enclosures that can be tweaked to complement their surroundings. There are heating pads to lift the temperature during the winter, consistent UV light rays, Vitamin D, and food supplies.
Still, because brumation is a very natural phenomenon, there’s every possibility your dragon may go through one, and it’s best to be prepared for it!
Here are the symptoms of brumation that your bearded dragon will experience during the process:
1. Your Dragon Will Be Lethargic
Lethargy is similar to fatigue and is a state of reduced activity. If your bearded dragon is lethargic, it will react much slower than usual, and be generally uninterested in its environment. This includes physical and emotional responsiveness toward you or its terrarium.
2. Your Dragon Will Eat And Poop Less
Beardies prepare for brumation differently than animals that hibernate. Instead of eating a tremendous amount of food to increase body fat, beardies would prefer not to eat at all to ensure that food doesn’t rot in their bellies during brumation. Due to the lack of food, there will be a scarcity of beardie poop! So, a significant loss of appetite and excretion is experienced.
3. Beardie Will Bask Less Each Day
This is one of the easiest signs to pick on because beardies literally cannot cope without basking. They need the heat to stay alive by all means. So, if your bearded dragon visits the basking spot fewer times than it should or doesn’t visit it at all, it’s probably getting ready to brumate. When you notice this, take a quick check of the physical health of your dragon to ensure that no injuries are preventing it from moving freely, or visit the vet for a full check-up to ensure the likelihood of brumation.
4. Beardie May experience Irritability Or Aggression
While this is uncommon, it’s a secondary symptom of brumation in bearded dragons. In some cases, the beardie may experience stress and be totally irritated by this. You may experience more blackening of the beard and defensive opening of the mouth when brumating.
Another secondary pre-brumation trait is random digging. Beardies in the wild hide underneath the soil, rocks, or dirt to remain safe while they sleep. It’s simply an imprinted genetic habit for dragons to dig around when they’re close to brumating. If you find your dragon digging, and you’re sure it doesn’t need to lay eggs, it may be seeking a nice spot to sleep.
4 Effective Ways To Prepare Your Beardie For Brumation
If you’ve noticed the tell-tale signs of brumation, and you’re sure (or not exactly sure) that your dragon is about to be a sleeping beauty, here are the things you must do to ensure everything goes smoothly:
Take A Fecal Sample
Fecal samples are a must if you want your dragon to be entirely safe. If a bearded dragon falls ill before brumation, it could die from the sickness due to its immune system not being as active. The illness literally eats away its internal system slowly; it’s horrifying. So, confirm that you quickly take fecal samples so that your beardie will be either treated or directly good to go!
Guarantee That Your Beardie Has A Shaded Spot To Hide
Your dragon requires a dark area to rest during brumation. So, you must make sure that there is a hut for it to crawl under. It could be made out of any durable material but must be big enough to cover your pet completely so that no light from the UVB gets in.
Provide Water For Your Beardie During Brumation
Your dragon may wake up at any time to rehydrate before going back to sleep. So, you must ensure that there’s available clean water for it to drink from. If the humidity levels rise as a result of placing water in the enclosure, put rice in a sock and place it inside the tank to bring it down a notch.
Tweak The Light on/Light Out Timing
If you’re in areas that experience winter or colder seasons similar to it, your dragon will perceive this and naturally get into brumation. Note that if you’re using a thermostat that is automatically wired to maintain certain temperatures and light durations, your dragon may not need to brumate at all.
During brumation, you can deduct 2 hours from the daytime light (UVB) to imitate your pet’s natural habitat. Put on the light an hour later, and put it off an hour earlier. This will help your dragon settle into its resting period easier.
How To Ensure Your Beardie Experiences A Danger-Free Brumation
There are several things you have to consider for your beardie to pass through brumation healthily. However, there are things you must completely detest from doing to prevent otherwise.
Avoid Prodding Or Handling Your Sleeping Pet
Touching or holding your dragon while it’s in brumation can cause it to enter panic mode. Due to its dormancy and reduced nervous activity, it can experience a seizure and die from it. It’s important to never wake your beardie when it’s sleeping unless in an emergency.
Do Not Feed It Tough Foods
In cases where your beardie desires to eat, ensure that you only provide soft foods like hornworms that can be digested easily. Crickets, roaches, and super worms take a little longer to digest or get excreted and it’s highly likely for your pet to go back to sleep before they can poop it out. This could cause serious complications and infections to your beardie.
Never Place Crickets Inside The Tank With Your Beardie
Some people put food for their dragon inside the tank so that when it wakes up, it can eat and go back to sleep. It’s already all shades of wrong to leave food inside your dragon’s tank for such long periods, but even worse is that the “food” are crickets!
Crickets are notorious for biting bearded dragons, causing injuries to them, and transferring pathogens that can cause serious complications. It’s even rumored that crickets specifically love to eat out the eyes of easy prey! Please, do not put crickets in your beardie’s tank while it’s in brumation.
5 Red Flags You Should Never Ignore When Your Beardie Is Brumating
Now that you understand the instances that lead to and the tell-tale signs of brumation, you easily know what to expect. However, you must also take note of the brumating process; It’s important to know what to look for so that you can ensure the safety of your bearded dragon.
1. Weight Loss
It’s not normal for bearded dragons to lose obvious weight while brumating. If you start to notice dips and a general depreciation of mass, there must be something wrong. Quickly visit the vet for proper evaluation.
Brumation involves breaks now and then. Your dragon should wake up after at least 2 weeks. Beardies need this break to either change their sleeping position to a more comfortable spot or to rehydrate (sometimes to even eat) before they return to sleep. If your dragon does not move at all for more than 2 weeks, consult your vet immediately. There’s a great possibility that something has gone wrong, and it’s best to have it sorted out as soon as possible.
Your bearded dragon can get dehydrated during brumation. Most of the time, beardies only take breaks (wake) when they need to be rehydrated, even more than they would need food. Take note of your dragon’s skin; does it look wrinkled? You’d have to pinch it for a clearer answer. Hold it for a few seconds and release it. If it forms pits or holds the shape of the pinch, you need to rehydrate your beardie.
Try the soaking method to properly rehydrate your bearded dragon and get it back in shape, but only do this when your dragon hasn’t rehydrated in more than 3 weeks and there is an overwhelming need. Otherwise, you can instead mist your beardie when it wakes up for its regular breaks.
Although rare, bloating during brumation occurs when your beardie eats before brumation without excreting the contents. Digestion is critically reduced during brumation, so much that it is almost completely halted. This means that un-excreted food can rot in your beardies belly and cause a build-up of gas. This immediately results in bloating and can be highly dangerous to your pet. If you notice the belly area looking too stiff or overly rounded, contact your veterinary doctor immediately for analysis and treatment.
5. Labored Breathing
Sometimes, respiratory problems go unnoticed especially if the illness is mild. During brumation, it can worsen since metabolism is low and there is a shortage of helpful vitamins. If your beardie is breathing heavily, whether you can hear or see the heavy breathing, it has possibly contracted a respiratory disease and should be treated effectively before it worsens. Respiratory problems can be fatal if it’s not treated instantly.
Post-Brumation Care – What To Do When Your Beardie Awakes
After brumation, your bearded dragon will need to adjust to its normal livelihood gradually. A lot of monitoring will be required from you so that no red flags go unseen.
Gradually Increase Your Beardie’s Food Quantity
Coming out of such long periods of inactivity, your pet could easily develop stomach problems if faced with a hefty meal. Start by feeding it little amounts till it builds up to the regular amount in 3 days. This will allow your pet to adjust and prevent it from constipating, bloating, or suffering from indigestion.
Feed Your Dragon High-Quality Foods
Beardies come out of brumation not exactly looking their best. Enough of the nutrients preserved for brumation has been spent up, so it’ll mostly look thinner and malnourished. Ensure that you’re feeding your beardie nutritious greens like collard and dandelion greens, and high-fat treats like hornworms to replace the lost fat. Just be careful not to feed your beardie too many fatty treats. Also, for the first few weeks, avoid watery and low-value veggies and fruity treats at least until your dragon fully recovers.
Give Your Beardie A Bath
Soaking your dragon in water is a great way to help it to rehydrate. It also refreshes its skin, rejuvenates the digestive system, and improves the function of the nervous system. After your beardie has woken up, give it a nice soak for 15 minutes at most to help it recover from its beauty sleep.
Monitor Your Dragon’s Behavior
You must place a good eye on your dragon at all times after brumation. Sometimes, bearded dragons develop illnesses during their resting period. So, it’s important to ensure that your dragon is safe from falling into illnesses as it may be too tedious for it to handle. If you notice that your pet is still lethargic even after coming out of brumation, contact your veterinary doctor immediately for a physical exam so that you catch the problem early before it worsens.