As the days grow shorter and colder, many animals begin hibernation. But what about reptiles? Do bearded dragons hibernate?
Kind of. In this blog, we’ll discuss reptile brumation. Read on to learn the signs of brumation, how to care for your brumating reptile, and more.
What is Brumation?
Put simply, brumation is the reptilian version of hibernation. When the weather cools down, cold blooded animals that rely on the sun’s warmth to regulate their own body temperature can’t survive like normal. They slow down, dropping their heart rate and breathing. They may seek shelter by burrowing or climbing into a crevice or cave.
This makes perfect sense for wild reptiles, but what about pets? Is pet bearded dragon brumation common? After all, the temperature of their tank should be kept about the same year-round.
Surprisingly, captive bearded dragons often go into brumation every year. There are a couple different theories as to why.
Some people observe their bearded dragons going into brumation during June, July, and August – winter months in Australia, where beardies are from. This has led to speculation that bearded dragons have some sort of internal clock that tells them when it’s time to start brumation, regardless of their current environment.
Other people find that their beardies only go into brumation when the weather begins to turn cold – sometime between October and February in the Northern hemisphere. This would make sense because heat lamps are often turned off at night, allowing your beardie to experience the natural temperature fluctuations that come with the seasons.
Whichever theory you think is more accurate, it’s important to know the signs of brumation so you’ll be prepared when it happens.
Reptile Brumation VS Reptile Disease
Brumation is a perfectly natural and safe time in your reptile’s life. Unfortunately, common signs of reptile brumation can also be signs of illness. These include:
- Sluggish movement
- Lack of appetite
So how can you tell if your reptile is brumating or sick?
That’s a good question.
If your reptile is showing signs of brumation but it’s not the right season for it, they’re probably ill. If it is the right season, it’s probably brumation.
But reptiles can also be sick during cold weather, when brumation typically occurs. For this reason, many experts recommend taking your bearded dragon or other reptile to the vet for a stool sample when they start showing signs of brumation.
We always recommend talking with your vet if you have any concerns about the health of your reptile. They’re experts, after all!
How to Care for Your Reptile in Brumation
Caring for a reptile in brumation is pretty easy. Still, there are a few things that may be different from their normal care. Let’s go over them now.
While brumating, reptiles often won’t eat much, if at all. However, they will try to eat more than usual right before brumation starts so they’ll have energy reserves.
You can offer food during reptile brumation, just don’t expect them to eat much. They should also have a source of clean fresh water.
Lighting and Heat
We recommend keeping the heat and light in your reptile’s enclosure on if your pet is still eating. Once they start refusing food, leave the lights on for two weeks to allow them to digest everything properly. After that, you can turn off the lights and heat.
If they eat any food during this time, be sure to turn the lights and heat back on for that day so they can digest properly.
Monitoring Your Reptile
Reptile brumation typically lasts 1-3 months. During this time, it’s best to leave them alone for the most part. However, you still need to keep an eye on them to make sure they stay healthy.
The most important thing to pay attention to is their weight. It’s normal for bearded dragons to lose up to 50 grams during brumation. This number may be different for other species.
If your bearded dragon starts looking thin, we recommend contacting your vet.
Want to Learn More about Reptile Care?
Whether you’ve had reptiles for years or are just starting out, there’s always more to learn! We’ve written several articles about various aspects of caring for reptiles of all sorts.
Learn more about reptiles in general or find a topic specific to bearded dragons or geckos. Your reptile will thank you!