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Brumation in bearded dragons can vary considerably among individuals. An otherwise healthy bearded dragon, over one year old, will usually display common behaviors indicating the approach of its dormant period. An individual will become increasingly lethargic and spend more time sleeping. The bearded dragon will usually cease basking in warm areas, and retreat to cooler areas of its habitat. Feeding will slow, or even halt, but without a significant loss in weight.
This behavior is often mistaken for illness instead of brumation in bearded dragons. If an individual is less than a year old, the behavior may be suspect as bearded dragons do not normally begin brumation until later in life. Lethargy and loss of appetite accompanied by a noticeable weight loss can be symptoms of an illness. If bowel movements change consistency or have an unpleasant odor, a parasite infection might be to blame. A trip to the vet for a fecal exam might be in order.
Not all bearded dragons brumate, though the large majority of them do. There is considerable variety in behavior among individuals in the brumation of bearded dragons, both in the period proceeding it and during the dormant period itself. In the wild, brumation is a response to changing environmental conditions. A domesticated bearded dragon may become dormant even though it is kept in constant conditions year-round. Multiple dragons housed in the same habitat, under the same conditions, are likely to have individually unique timing in brumation.
Owners sometimes try to facilitate brumation in bearded dragons. When a dragon's behavior indicates that a dormant period is approaching, the owner may gradually lessen its exposure to light and reduce the temperature of the habitat. The pet is bathed, both to assure proper hydration and encourage a pre-dormancy bowel movement. Entering into brumation on a full stomach leads to infection. The general consensus, however, seems to be that the bearded dragon is best left to itself for the process.
Concern is sometimes expressed among owners about the duration of brumation in bearded dragons and how to recognize any complications. A dragon might enter a deep sleep and not stir for a period of weeks if not months. Another might take naps ranging from hours to days during the dormant period and otherwise be awake though less alert than usual. Some dragons will not enter a deep sleep but will refuse food for long periods. As long as it is well hydrated and free of parasites, the bearded dragon will pass through this phase healthy and with ease.
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