Treating Impaction in Bearded Dragons

James Glover
by James Glover
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QuestionWe are concerned that our Bearded Dragon is suffering from minor impaction. There is a lot of talk about bathing and massaging. How are those things properly done? (randall Rogers - Wisconsin)


A Bearded Dragon's digestive tract is considered impacted when its digestive function is prevented or impaired by a blockage - resulting in less frequent or no passing of feces. This condition can be caused by the feeding of inappropriate foods (over-sized or too difficult to digest); poor choice of substrate or an environmental reason such as low temperatures.

If the impaction is resulting only in less frequent passing of feces, you can attempt to aid the digestive process using laxatives or a warm bath. A vet specializing in reptile health can recommend appropriate laxatives; or you can attempt to dose several drops only of vegetable oil. I have heard it be suggested that gently rubbing the abdomen can also assist.

If impaction has resulted in far less frequent or complete cessation of passing of feces, such a condition can quickly become life-threatening and should always be attended to by a vet who specializes in reptile health. A vet can perform an enema and prescribe laxatives appropriate for your lizard.

Disclaimer: This service is meant to provide advice only and is not meant to replace an appointment with a registered veterinarian. Users should always seek a second opinion. Unfortunately we are only able to answer several questions per week so not everyone gets a published answer. And, unfortunately we can't answer by email.
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Added on June 28th, 2010
I used to have an African fattail that got impacted, the vet said to use the smallest amount of mineral oil, then my bearded dragon had the same problem and the vet said mineral oil. It has no taste so they think it's water and you can just drip a few drops on the tip of the nose and they lick it off. Mineral oil is not absorbed and just lubricates things on it's way out with no harmful side effects. The Fat tail had a giant mealworm living in his intestines that slid right out about 10 hours after lapping up the oil, still alive and it's skin was almost transparent! Thank god I clip their mandibles off before feeding my critters!!!
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Added on April 23rd, 2009
I'm glad you touched on over-sized foods and low temperatures as other contributing factors to impaction because substrates always take the fall. I have crushed walnut shells, which are disliked by some, and I have never, ever had impaction issues with my beardies. I have been using Desert Blend by r-zilla, which I really like.
I also want to add, however, that people should be careful when rubbing their bearded dragons because their bodies are not made the same as ours are. Therefore, if you rub them too hard it might cause permanent damage. So just a piece of advice if doing so.