If your bearded dragon is turning white, it could be due to shedding, its environment, or possible something health related which could be serious.
Bearded dragons are hardy, easy to care for, and great for inexperienced reptile owners. They love to be handled, are very sociable, and break the myth that all reptiles are just cold-blooded, uncaring animals.
These little reptiles come in many different patterns and colors, but what if your vibrant-looking scaly buddy starts turning white? Is this an alarming condition, or a natural cycle?
Determining when you should take your pet to the vet or not can be stressful and complicated, but most times in a beardie’s life, turning white is a natural phenomenon that can be taken care of at home. You may notice your pet has white patches on the head, limbs, or tail, or maybe he turns white over the entire body.
Most reasons your beardie is turning white require simple fixes regarding temperature, or due to the fact that your pet is beginning to start the shedding process. Here we will discuss the main reasons your beloved little reptile is losing color, and what steps you can take to provide the best care for your animal.
Possible Causes of Bearded Dragon Turning White
If your bearded dragon starts growing white patches over its body, don’t be alarmed because this is typically not a sign of a deformity or a strange skin disease. Most often these white patches show up around the head, limbs or tail, but can also cover the back, neck, and belly.
When the white patches show up, and your dragon still has a hearty appetite and does not show changes to its normal mood or behavior, most likely it is about to start shedding. Just monitor your pet and continue care as you normally would as shedding is a routine process all reptiles go through.
Bearded dragons don’t shed all at once as snakes do, so old skin will come off in patches. You may notice small round pieces of skin in the enclosure from a limb shed or tail shed, or a large piece that has come off his back.
Unlike mammals who constantly regrow skin cells that get replaced at the cellular level; reptiles grow a new layer of skin under their old skin. Once the new skin is complete, the old outer layer peels off in large, thin clumps.
This is a totally natural process that will happen several times over the bearded dragon’s lifetime.
The shedding process should not alter its behavior much, but there may be instances during the shed that your beardie becomes irritated and doesn’t want to be handled as much. That’s okay as long as he is still active and has a healthy appetite.
What You Can Do If Your Bearded Dragon is Turning White
While shedding is a natural process that will happen several times over the lifetime of your beardie, especially when it is young and growing at a much faster rate, there are some actions you can take to make the process more comfortable for your pet.
- Increase or keep the humidity in the enclosure at 30 to 40% humidity during this time. This will aid in making the shed skin more supple and allow it to slough off easier.
- Mist your bearded dragon once a day with clean, purified water or a reptile shedding spray.
- Bathe and soak your bearded dragon while he is shedding. Once the loose skin has softened you can gently rub the shedding areas or even brush with a soft bristle brush to help aid in the removal of the dead skin.
- Make sure your bearded dragon’s environment has branches or rocks to let them help rub off the shed.
Most of the time your dragon will not need any help in completing the shedding process as this is completely natural but employing one or more of the methods above will help your pet be more comfortable during this time.
One thing you should NEVER do is pull or tug the shedding skin off. This could cause pain to your bearded dragon and cause small tears in the skin introducing the possibility of infections.
Let the old skin come off on its own and give your pet some comforting measures like misting or bathing and everything will be fine.
Check out this video by YouTuber LizardGuru giving tips and tricks on what to expect with shedding:
Alternative Causes of Your Bearded Dragon Turning White
If your bearded dragon’s entire body is turning white and it’s not due to shedding, there could be a few causes for this related to temperature. Bearded dragons will darken or lighten their colors depending on the temperature of their environment.
A bearded dragon will turn white or pale if the enclosure is too hot in an effort to reduce the amount of heat they are absorbing. Alternately, they will darken their color if they get too cold in an effort to absorb more heat.
Reptiles are not able to regulate their own body temperatures and must use methods of color change to stay in a comfortable range. Careful monitoring of your pet should let you know if you need to change the temperature of his environment.
Check the temperature in the enclosure. It’s best to have two zones; a basking area where the temperature is higher, and a cooler area where he can hang out to lower his body temperature if needed. The basking area for your beardie should be about 100 degrees Fahrenheit and the cooler area should be between 80 degrees Fahrenheit and 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
If the temperature is too high, this could be the reason your beardie has turned completely white. Lower the temperature by a few degrees, and when your pet has cooled off again, he should return to his natural color.
If after you have adjusted the temperature and your beardie is still white, especially if it has a loss in appetite, it will need a visit to the vet to rule out infections or parasites. If your bearded dragon is turning white while also showing signs of lethargy, this could be a serious indication something is wrong.
More Serious Symptoms of Your Bearded Dragon Turning White
If a bearded dragon turns white all over and presents with a loss of appetite, lethargy, and/or weight loss you will need to take it to your vet right away. These could be serious signs such as impaction, parasites, illness, or your dragon is getting ready to die.
Impaction happens in dragons when they ingest something that is too large for them to digest, or it doesn’t break down enough to pass. Their intestines get blocked, they can no longer digest food or pass feces.
Some substrates like sand, gravel, soil, or mulch can cause impaction. Even though most of these items are regularly sold in pet stores as safe alternatives for substrate, small, loose particles are the worst thing to put into a bearded dragon enclosure.
They explore with their tongue and often “taste” things to see if they are edible. With tiny particles all around it is easy for them to ingest a lot of the substrate that clumps together inside your beardie quickly causing impaction.
If you suspect impaction, you will need to take your dragon to the vet so they can clear that out. Replace any loose substrate with something that can’t be accidentally ingested like ceramic reptile tiles, reptile carpet, or paper products like newspaper and paper towels.
If your dragon is getting up in age, around 8 or 9 years old and it has turned white, is lethargic, and doesn’t eat, it may be about to die. Bearded dragons tend to live between 8 and 15 years as pets and if they present with lethargy and loss of appetite especially with signs of discoloration, you should visit your vet to find out the reason.
If your dragon is younger in age and still showing the above signs of lethargy, loss of appetite, and turning white or pale, it could have a parasite, some illness affecting it, or possibly even damage to internal organs. Either way, a visit to the vet is your best course of action in determining the reasons and getting your scaly baby back on the road to health.
Bearded dragons are one of the most popular pets kept by reptile enthusiasts and are not difficult to care for if you have some basic understanding of reptiles.
As a responsible and attentive beardie owner, proper care and a healthy diet will help prevent most illnesses and causes of them turning white. With the proper temperature and environment, they will keep their vibrant colors.
Also providing them a proper diet of fresh leafy vegetables, gut-loaded insects such as mealworms or crickets, as well as adding calcium and multivitamin supplements will keep your bearded dragons happy and healthy for years to come. When your bearded dragon starts to turn white, proper care and attentiveness will ensure it has a happy healthy life.
Most often the white discoloration is related to the animal as she begins the shedding process, and there is little that needs to be done to make this an easy transition. If altering the temperature doesn’t bring back the solid colors of the bearded dragon after a few days, or if there are other symptoms such as a refusal to eat, or barely moving from one spot, be sure to make a visit to the vet.
Our pets aren’t able to tell us in words what is bothering them, but being an attentive, caring pet owner is all they need to keep them happy and healthy.
Bearded Dragon Care by Kate H Pellham. Bearded dragon: Essential guide to ownership & care for your pet