Bearded dragon in Naperville, IL.

The team at Naperville Animal Hospital love animals of all kinds. Whether they have four legs and a tail, feathers and a beak, or like to shed their skin periodically, our veterinarians are proud to care for them all. 

We like to consider ourselves the Naperville exotic veterinarians. As the local experts in exotic pet care, we want our fellow animal lovers to understand that knowledge about how to care for a non-traditional species is important in ensuring a healthy, happy pet. 

While there are many exotic pets you may choose to take on, perhaps one of the more commonly selected species are bearded dragons. Learn more about bearded dragon basics and find out how enjoyable exotic pet ownership can be.

Species Basics

Bearded dragons, affectionately referred to by their fans as “beardies,” are well known and typically quite friendly lizards. They adjust well to life in captivity and tolerate being handled by their humans. 

Originally hailing from Australia, bearded dragons eat both plants and insects. They are considered easier to care for than many reptile species and often make a good choice for those new to exotic pet care. There are eight known species of beardies, with Pogona vitticeps being the most common in the United States.

Bearded dragons naturally dwell on the ground and in trees. They grow to be up to 20 inches in length and live up to 12 years. They are diurnal (active during the day) and need about 12 hours of light each day. 

Bearded Dragons and Husbandry

Success in caring for a beardie lies in being sure that you are providing everything that your pet needs not only to survive, but to thrive. Bearded dragons need:

  • An appropriately sized tank (4-6’ x 2” x 2-3’)
  • A UVB light source
  • An infrared lamp for basking temperatures of 95-105℉
  • Items such as rocks and branches to mimic their natural environment
  • Calcium and Vitamin D3 supplementation
  • Heating pads to keep daytime temperatures around 80℉ in the non-basking areas of the tank
  • A misting source to maintain humidity levels between 30-40%
  • A flooring substrate that cannot be ingested (reptile carpet, newspaper)
  • Fresh veggies like leafy greens, carrots, and zucchini to make up about 30% of the diet
  • Insects such as crickets, mealworms, and Dubia roaches to make up about 70% of the diet
  • Fresh water in a shallow bowl

Bearded dragons do shed their skin several times a year. Bathing your lizard in lukewarm water can help this process. It can also help prevent constipation. 

Beardies are competitive and it is best not to house multiple lizards together. While they may work out a social structure, having more than one together can increase potentially aggressive behavior. 

Beardies may go through a brumation period where they eat less and sleep more. These periods last from two weeks to four months and occur with cooler habitat temperatures. 

Most reptiles can carry Salmonella, and it is important to wash your hands after handling them to avoid contamination. 

When husbandry is good, bearded dragons tend to be very healthy. You will want your pet examined at least annually by expert Naperville exotic veterinarians to ensure health and help to prevent problems like metabolic bone disease. Knowing your pet well will also help tip you off to signs of a problem so that you can seek care. 

Is It a Match?

So how do you know if bearded dragons are the pet for you? 

Because beardies often enjoy gentle handling and are pretty low maintenance once you get their environment correct, they tend to be a good fit for a lot of families. They are a good choice for children as well. 

You will need to consider that they will be around for about as long as the average dog, so they are a bit of a commitment in that regard. Their vivarium does take up some space as well, so be sure that you are willing to redecorate around your new pet.

We are always happy to counsel you on a potential new pet. Be sure to contact us if you have any questions about bearded dragons or other pets. As your Naperville exotic veterinarians, we are here to educate and help you be successful in your animal endeavors.