As a previous dog and cat owner, yearly trips to the vet were a normal thing. We assumed that would be the same for our new bearded dragon, and we were surprised at the number of beardie owners who disagreed with this.
Opinions online varied from never to every 4 months and everywhere in between. Wow, you’d think this would be a straightforward question with a clear and specific answer!
There are 4 times a bearded dragon should see a vet. New bearded dragons should be seen within the first week of ownership. Yearly exams are needed to check for parasites and general health. A parasite check is also needed prior to brumation. And always check with a vet if you suspect any health issues.
How to Take Your Bearded Dragon to the Vet.
What kind of vet sees bearded dragons?
When it comes to this question, We’ve found there are three answers.
First are the general dog and cat vets who honestly have no business seeing your beardie. Just because they say they can doesn’t mean they can. If they don’t have the experience and training, they shouldn’t be your beardie vet.
Add to this the special testing and lab gear a qualified vet would have. Our vet can perform lab tests on-premises and the results are immediate. Plus, they understand them because they performed the test. A traditional vet, at best, has to send these tests out.
Second is the vet, who has some experience with reptiles, but it’s not their specialty. They do it because there are enough customers to support them in gaining a cursory knowledge of the subject. These will do in a pinch but are for sure not our first choice.
The third is an exotic pet or “herp” vet. Short for a herpetologist, a herp vet specializes in reptiles. This is what you want. These vets have extensive special training. They typically have a lot of experience with bearded dragons. They also have access to the right equipment and medication that will be needed if there is a problem with your beardie.
Having the right medication on hand is critical. There have been at least two times when this simple thing came to our beardie’s rescue!
How to find a herp vet
In this day and age, start with Google. Between Google, Google reviews, and Yelp, you can have a really good start on finding a great herp vet in your area without ever leaving your home. I wouldn’t stop the research here, though.
Another really great resource is the Association of Reptilian and Amphibian Veterinarians website. They have a vet finder there that will point a lot of you in the right direction!
Our best advice is to reach out to local breeders. You will find that many of them have a favorite vet on call. If you talk to more than one, you will also likely find that they all use the same one. That’s a great indicator that that vet is one worth using.
Once you find a possible vet, it’s a good practice to ask them some basic questions.
- Ask if they have a care sheet or husbandry guidelines. Now bump that against what you already know to be right. If it matches up, that’s a good start.
- Ask how much experience they have with bearded dragons. How often do they see them? How many have they seen in recent years?
- Ask if they are equipped to do all needed testing in-house. That ranges from taking blood and x-rays to examining fecal samples.
- Ask them what ailments they’ve treated and how they go about it. Ask them for a few specific stories. An experienced vet will easily be able to share common treatments if they’ve truly seen a lot of beardies
- Be nice! It’s not an interrogation. And don’t come off as the “I already know everything because I’ve been doing research online” bearded dragon owner. A good vet will know a vast amount more than you or us. Let them do their jobs!
Next, we’ll discuss how often to see your new herp vet. But even if you don’t go see them regularly as recommended, it’s really important to find one.
If you ever have an emergency it will be important to know where to call. Do your homework now even if you don’t plan on seeing them.
When should my bearded dragon see their vet?
Within 48 hours of bringing them home.
What?! In the first 2 days?! Yes, in the first two days. Getting a baseline established for your beardie’s health is important.
It’s also important to catch any possible issues early. Ideally, you’d like to start your beardie off with a clean bill of health. If, for some reason, they don’t get one, it’s critical to catch possible problems early.
In our opinion, it’s worth the cost of the visit just to know they are okay and don’t have any hidden issues.
Once that first visit is under your belt, schedule yearly checkups with your vet. There really isn’t a reason to go more often than that. Remember to do this even if they seem healthy and happy.
It’s better to have a checkup and not find something than to skip a checkup and miss something that turns out to be serious!
Some vets will also recommend a fecal exam once every 6 months. Due to the commonality of parasites in bearded dragons, this is something to consider. If you use crickets as your feeders, it’s even more important. Crickets almost universally carry parasites that pass on to your beardie. Just one more reason to get to know the dubia roach!
It’s important to remember that most emergency vet trips are caused by the owner. Impactions (see our full article on those here), wounds, hygiene issues, drops, improper food, and many other issues are caused by the owner.
If we are careful and attentive, we can do a lot to prevent almost all the reasons our beardies may have to see the vet for an emergency visit!
What happens at a vet visit for your bearded dragon?
Your first visit and your yearly exams will look very similar. During these visits, the most common examinations and tests are:
- Check of their general physical appearance and well being
- Check for dehydration
- Check for proper weight for their size and age
- Check for mouth rot (infectious stomatitis)
- A thorough check of the eyes, nose, and ears for infection, parasites, and fungus
- Check of the cloaca (the cavity at the end of their digestive tract that holds waste before being excreted)
- Check for fungus on the skin
- Rectal temperature is taken
- Stool sample tested for parasites (pinworms, etc)
- Possible x-ray or blood test if a problem is suspected
- Bearded dragons do not need vaccines or preventative medication of any kind
This simple and thorough examination will provide your vet with a vast amount of important information about your bearded dragon. This information can then be used to direct the care of your beardie.
Do they need more water? More baths? Is their diet good? Are they getting enough vitamin D, calcium, and other nutrients? Are they getting enough UVB light? Knowing these things will help you to provide the best possible home for your scaly little friend!
Are yearly vet visits a conspiracy?
An alarming number of people online will say that regular vet visits aren’t needed. They’ll tell you to only see a vet if there is a serious problem and treat everything else on your own.
These people insist that because they have never had a problem, you won’t either.
This is terrible advice. It’s like me saying that I’ve run across the expressway a bunch of times and never got hit by a car so everyone else should too. It’s totally safe!!!
Don’t base your beardie’s care on what another person’s severely limited experience tells them. These people will say they’ve never had a problem, so why incur the expense of going to the vet?
The problem is that these same people don’t change their story until they have had a problem, and then it’s too late! It’s once a year.
Vet visits aren’t that expensive. You owe it to your beardie to go.
And here’s my stern statement for the day. If you can’t afford a vet visit, you can’t afford to have a pet. Period. Owning a pet comes with certain responsibilities, and their health and well-being are at the top of the list.
If you can’t afford a vet, then don’t get a pet. Doing so is selfish and can lead to heartbreaking results. Wait until you can afford it, and then get one. Stern statement complete!
Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Take your beardie to the vet yearly!
Sources and Further Reading
What does an annual checkup with a herp vet cost?
Depending on your vet and your location, a routine yearly exam, including a fecal exam, will run between $70 and $130. Saving up $10 per month should cover your vet bills for the year as long as you don’t run into any emergencies.
Can I get sick from my bearded dragon?
As long as proper hygiene practice is followed, this is highly unlikely. In other words, wash your hands before and after handling your beardie. Make sure their feces is cleaned out of their enclosure ASAP. Do these two things and you should be okay!
Can my bearded dragon get sick from me?
As with the above question, proper hygiene is key. Washing your hands both before and after you handle your bearded dragon should become a deeply ingrained habit. But no, your beardie cannot typically catch your ailments.