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Bearded dragons are hardy creatures, but even the most resilient lizards can have unfortunate cases of broken limbs. There are many reasons as to why they may break a leg and even why they have a higher risk of breaking bones than they should.
Can a bearded dragon break its leg? Yes, bearded dragons can break their legs. It can happen from a fall during activity, from another dragon biting their leg, or from metabolic bone disease.
No matter how careful you are with your bearded dragon or how much you pamper it, sometimes injuries are unavoidable. Should you encounter a leg break, this article should help.
Common Causes of Leg Breaks in Bearded Dragons
- Metabolic bone disease – Bearded dragons commonly suffer from metabolic bone disease when they have extremely low calcium levels or when their calcium to phosphorus is imbalanced. It should be 2:1.
- Falling from heights – If let loose, a beardy could cause injury when jumping from too high of a ledge. They could also be dropped by their owners, potentially causing more than just a leg break.
- Bite from another dragon – If your beardy is within the space of another particularly aggressive or territorial dragon, it may be bullied. Especially if they’re both males and/or the other dragon is bigger and older.
The jaw of a bearded dragon is certainly capable of breaking the leg of another, especially if it is smaller and younger. Chances are it will be trying to get away as well which leaves the legs wide open to attack.
How to Help Your Bearded Dragon with a Broken Leg
With limb injuries such as a broken leg, the less you manipulate it, the better. The only cases where you would ignore this advice is if you see the bone protruding through the skin and there is laxity to the joint.
If this is the case, then try to immobilize the limb as best as possible while you get them to the vet. The vet should always be your first call if you suspect an injury as serious and painful as a broken limb.
Make sure your bearded dragon is confined to an area where it won’t move around too much and injure itself further.
It isn’t recommended to splint or use a tongue depressor to stabilize the break. Here is what should be done for most dislocations and open fractures.
- Wrap the area with a lot of cotton batting (make sure any open wounds are wrapped with sterilized non-sticking materials)
- Cover the cotton with Vetrap (link to amazon), available online, or at a pet shop.
This will immobilize the fracture and dislocation until professional help can be reached. Regularly check the toes to make sure they aren’t swelling from too tight of a bandage.
If a bone is protruding through the skin, then you will need to clean and flush this area. Then:
- Use sterile saline such as a contact lens saline
- Use a squirt bottle to flush out the wound gently
- Flush until you remove all sand dirt and debris
- Use hydrogen peroxide to flush it once (optional)
- If you are against hydrogen peroxide because of tissue destruction, use an iodine solution.
- Never use both hydrogen peroxide and iodine together. The mixing of these two substances can be explosive.
Can Bearded Dragon’s Bones Heal Once They’re Broken?
The anatomy of a bearded dragon can be quite delicate at times, and under some circumstances, they can break some bones. It wouldn’t make much sense for these dragons to be so vulnerable in the wild. But evolution has provided some extraordinary benefits to bearded dragons that allow them to overcome easily broken bones.
Can bearded dragon’s bones heal once they’re broken?
Yes, especially if:
- the dragon is still young
- the fracture isn’t too serious
In these cases, the fracture will heal with enough structural and nutritional support. However, it is best to always get to a vet to do an X-ray to make sure the bone has a good chance of healing.
However, one of the most common diseases that can occur for pet reptiles is known as metabolic bone disease which is caused by a poor environment and diet. If metabolic bone disease is the reason for the broken bone, healing may not be so simple.
Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD) in Bearded Dragons
This disease is what causes bearded dragons’ legs to get weak. The legs will start trembling, and the dragon’s bone density will start to thin resulting in more fragile bones. There is a phenomenon where fractures may occur even when there was no trauma to their limbs.
This disease has many varieties that lead to bone deformation, bone pain, loss of height, and gives the person or animal a predisposition to fractures.
The skeleton is always undergoing a process of breakdown and renewal. Since it is always forming and reforming the bones, it means that the skeleton has to constantly adapt to keep its bone health at maximal strength and heal any minor fractures.
Normal bones are rigid, not brittle, and they provide lots of support. The two main components responsible for this are Osteoid and mineral complexes. Osteoid is made up mostly of fibrous protein known as collagen while mineral complexes are mostly made up of calcium and phosphate.
Many metabolic bone diseases are defined by how much they reduce bone density, which is measured with radiologic techniques.
How Bearded Dragons Get Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD)
Improper diet is the most common cause of MDB. This consists of being fed low calcium or high phosphorus diets.
You will see some signs that they have MBD if:
- The lower jaw begins to swell
- The facial bones or jaw becomes soft (known as rubber jaw)
- Swelling of the hind limbs
- Legs trembling as they walk
- Crouching low because they cannot push themselves up
If taken to a vet, an X-ray will reveal very thin bone tissue, and possibly fractures that occurred without any trauma.
One type of fracture, known as a Greenstick fracture, will show the bones folding, or bending rather than break apart because the bones are so soft.
Blood tests will also show that the dragon either has exceptionally low calcium levels, or the balance between calcium and phosphorus is disproportionate. Ideally, the balance should be 2:1 in favor of calcium.
If no treatment is received, then the MBD will get worse. It could lead to seizures, muscle twitching, loss of energy, and loss of appetite.
If Another Dragon Breaks Your Dragon’s Leg
The jaws of another bearded dragon could break the bones of other dragons quite easily, especially one dragon is younger, smaller or newer to the habitat.
It is recommended to house dragons that are close in size and age to prevent severe injury from fighting. In serious cases, if an older dragon is aggressive, it could even try to eat younger dragons that are housed with them.
Those that are the same age may still fight, males should never be kept together in the same habitat because they will almost always fight.
How Do You Know If a Beardy’s Leg is Broken or Just Injured?
The only way to know for sure is an X-ray. Nevertheless, some other signs that are good indicators are:
- Swelling around the area
- Not moving the leg
- Ceasing all movement
- Hardening of the Limb
Spinal injuries are also common, but they can heal from them as long as they aren’t too serious.
Does My Bearded Dragon Have a Dislocated Leg?
Bearded dragons can also dislocate their leg. You will be able to tell because they will be limping and when you hold it and test it, it will feel loose. Many people report that when they touch the dislocated leg, it doesn’t cause the dragon pain. It may just pop back into place, but a vet visit is likely.
Under these cases make sure they are confined enough where they don’t have to walk too much to get food and water until you can get them to a vet for an X-ray and look at the specifics.
Spotting Bearded Dragon with a Broken Toe
A broken toe is a fairly common injury for bearded dragons so you shouldn’t fret if you see one of your beardy’s toes turn black and unable to flex. This is a sign of necrosis, and the body will eventually release the toe to fall off so that the dragon will stop being in pain.
The area where the toe falls out shouldn’t bleed at all, but it is always a good idea to give them a bath and clean the area with something like Neosporin just in case.
This can happen to dragons if they fall from a high perch in their tank and fail to land properly. Again, the risk is also increased if they have metabolic bone disease since all limbs and bones become weaker and subject to fractures.
Many bearded dragons in captivity may experience loss of toes over time, especially if they have improper husbandry.
The usual causes of toe loss are:
- Poor circulation
Bearded Dragons Healing Through Shedding
The bearded dragon may even shed as a result of the broken toe falling off so make sure you keep your dragon well hydrated so they can complete this process with no issues.
To shed, bearded dragons build up a lubricating layer of fluid on the outermost layer of their skin. If the dragon is dehydrated, then they may struggle to do so properly. They may shed unevenly, and the skin will be patchy.
Shedding helps heal in many ways; the dragon’s skin may be lacerated by other dragons in its habitat or maybe prey during a live feeding. Many of these shallower cuts can heal easily with regenerated skin and controlled blood clotting.
The Role of Basking in Healing
Another thing that is imperative for your bearded dragon’s recovery is to allow many basking opportunities. This prevents any open wounds from becoming infected. This is because bearded dragons need to keep their body temperature at an ideal rate to get a quick response from their immune system.
Do Bearded Dragons Legs Grow Back?
Unfortunately, the leg will not grow back if lost from breakage. While some reptiles are capable of growing back limbs and tails, bearded dragons cannot grow back either.
For instance, a gecko can drop its tail as bait to get away from predators and regenerate in the future. Bearded dragons don’t have this built-in defense mechanism. Once it’s gone, their leg or tail will be gone forever. On the bright side, most beardies get around just fine after such a loss.