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Bearded Dragon Brumation

bearded dragon

If you’re the proud pet parent of a bearded dragon, you’ve likely heard of brumation but may not be sure exactly what it is. After all, bearded dragon brumation is something that occurs in these animals in their native habitats—not usually in pet reptiles you care for at home. Brumation can be described as the reptile version of hibernation, characterized by periods of lethargy and sluggishness. During bearded dragon brumation, their heart rate drops, their digestive system slows down, their immune system becomes suppressed and they appear to be in a deep sleep.  
Brumation occurs in response to a bearded dragon’s changing environment in their natural habitat—it’s not something that happens to a pet consistently receiving proper care. S, so it’s important to be able to tell the difference 

Is brumation bad for bearded dragons? While brumation isn’t dangerous to a pet reptile, by suppressing normal bodily functions such as digestion, metabolism and immune system function, it can predispose reptiles to developing other illnesses. To avoid brumation, it’s necessary to keep all environmental conditions for pet bearded dragons consistent. Because some bearded dragon brumation signs resemble illness, it’s important to be able to tell the difference.   

Brumation basics in nature 

Why do bearded dragons hibernate? Unlike mammals that can regulate their own internal body temperatures, reptiles are homeothermic—meaning they rely on outside sources to help maintain their body temperatures. During winter in their native habitats, there is less sunlight and less food available that beardies need to keep their body temperatures constant. To survive these changing conditions, bearded dragons enter a state of dormancy in which they require less heat and less food to survive. Pet bearded dragons, however, don’t need to face these changing environmental conditions, as pet parents can utilize things like heat lamps, ultraviolet lights and thermometers to control their pets’ environments and avoid bearded dragon brumation. 
Unlike hibernation, brumation is usually not a long period of deep, uninterrupted sleep. Often, bearded dragons going through brumation wake up for small drinks of water. Even when bearded dragons wake up during brumation, they will often remain very lethargic.  

Signs of bearded dragon brumation While brumation is unnecessary for pet reptiles whose environments are kept constant, it’s important to know the bearded dragon brumation signs. For example, a bearded dragon infected with gastrointestinal parasites may refuse to eat and become lethargic—similar to what occurs during brumation. If you notice any of the following behaviors, you should inspect your pet’s habitat to ensure the temperature and light are appropriate and contact your veterinarian to discuss other potential causes. 
Sleeping more Rather than being awake and active during the daytime, bearded dragons spend most of their time sleeping during brumation. It may be hard for pet parents to tell whether their pet is showing signs of bearded dragon brumation or is dead. The extra slumber experienced by brumating bearded dragons helps them reduce the energy they expend during suboptimal conditions.

Eating and drinking less A decreased or absent appetite is also common during brumation. Bearded dragons rely on fat and other nutrient reserves as energy sources throughout the brumation process and may eat very little reptile food—or even nothing at all. They are usually not thirsty, either, although they may occasionally wake for a sip of water.

Hiding In nature, bearded dragons will often sequester deep in trees or underground during brumation. Domesticated bearded dragons prefer dark hideouts during this time as a way to retain heat.

Moving slowly Lethargy is a natural behavior during bearded dragon brumation. If your bearded dragon is brumating and emerges from their hide for a quick bite or drink, they will likely be moving very slowly.  
If you notice any of these bearded dragon brumation signs, bring them to a veterinarian for a checkup. Regular monitoring of bearded dragon’s health and wellness with annual veterinary examinations is key to your pet’s longevity.

How to prevent bearded dragon brumation

The easiest way to prevent your pet from brumating is to provide them with optimal conditions and a constant environment. As pets, bearded dragons typically brumate in response to lack of ultraviolet (UV) light and dips in environmental temperature. To make sure that your lizard doesn’t go through bearded dragon brumation, carefully monitor both light and temperature to ensure these parameters don’t change.

Bearded dragons typically thrive when daytime temperatures range from 75 to 85°F and nighttime temperatures are 70 to 75°F. They also need a daytime basking spot with a temperature between 88 and 100°F. 

Since temperatures in your pet’s habitat can drop during colder months, keep at least two thermometers in their enclosure to ensure you maintain a proper temperature range. That way, even if the room temperature changes, you can adjust any fluctuations in habitat temperature to maintain a consistent environment. Also, make sure that basking bulbs are kept on the same number of hours a day year-round to help prevent bearded dragon brumation.

There are also some steps you can take around your home to help maintain a consistent environment year-round. Make sure the room in which you house your bearded dragon doesn’t get too chilly from poorly insulated windows and walls. Also, keep your bearded dragon’s habitat out of the direct path of air conditioners or heaters to prevent them from becoming dehydrated.

FAQs About Bearded Dragon Brumation  

No. Bearded dragons enter brumation when they sense changes in their environmental temperature or daylight cycle. Since your pet shouldn’t be exposed to these changes with proper care, they should never need to brumate.

Even in nature, bearded dragons can brumate inconsistently—anywhere from yearly, every other year or only once in their lives. It is impossible to predict the timing of bearded dragon brumation.

No, reptiles do not hibernate as some mammals do. While the terms brumation and hibernation are often used interchangeably, there are a few important differences between the two. Brumation occurs in cold-blooded reptiles, while hibernation occurs in warm-blooded mammals. Hibernation tends to be a deeper and longer-lasting rest than brumation, and bearded dragons going through brumation may still occasionally eat, drink and defecate.

If you keep the conditions in your pet reptile’s habitat at consistent, optimal levels, your bearded dragon should never have to brumate. There is no standard bearded dragon brumation age in nature, but most usually begin experiencing brumation cycles between 10 and 24 months of age.

Most brumation periods for bearded dragons in nature last between one to four months. Occasionally, brumation can sometimes last up to nine months.

Despite your best efforts to keep habitat conditions constant, your pet may still brumate. It can be worrying if your reptile disappears for several months to brumate, and you may even wonder whether your pet is dead. Consult your veterinarian as soon as you notice any signs consistent with brumation.

Unfortunately, if your bearded dragon has already begun their brumation, it’s often hard to get them to stop. If you notice signs of brumation in your beardie, you can try increasing the environmental temperature slightly, exposing them to UV light and misting them with warm water. You want your bearded dragon to emerge from brumation so that they are not likely to develop secondary problems, such as infections. The best thing you can do when you notice bearded dragon brumation is to consult your veterinarian. They can recommend ways to care for your lizard until their bodies adjust.

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Reviewed by Petco’s Animal Care, Education and Compliance (ACE) Team

Petco’s ACE team is a passionate group of experienced pet care experts dedicated to supporting the overall health & wellness of pets. The ACE team works to develop animal care operations and standards across the organization and promote proper animal care and education for Pet Care Center partners and pet parents, while also ensuring regulatory compliance.