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5 Reasons Why Your Bearded Dragon is Pale

If you have a bearded dragon, chances are you’ll notice if it begins to change color. Most lizards can adapt to their environment well – just think about chameleons – but is your beardie really supposed to regularly change its color? In some cases, yes! In other cases, it’s the sign of sickness that needs to be treated right away.

In this article, we’ll go over some of the top reason why your bearded dragon is turning white. We’ll cover five issues in order from mild to serious. Keep reading to learn more about why your bearded dragon could start changing its color.

5 Reasons why Your Bearded Dragon is Pale

Non-Health Threatening Reasons 

1. It’s About to Shed Its Skin

Bearded Dragon showing its tongue
Bearded Dragon showing its tongue | image by Tambako The Jaguar via Flickr | CC BY-ND 2.0

Many reptiles shed their skin when they grow. Bearded dragons are no different. When they shed their skin, it flakes off in patches. You may see patches of skin flake off all across their bodies or in just a few sections.

Shedding is a normal part of the lizard’s growth process. Unlike humans, who replace each skin cell individually, bearded dragons’ new skin grows in a complete layer under the old skin. When it’s time to shed, the old skin sloughs off in a visible layer.

Younger bearded dragons grow rapidly so they shed more often than older bearded dragons do. An adult bearded dragon usually sheds two to three times per year. Young ones can shed as often as every few weeks!

When your bearded dragon prepares to shed, you’ll notice that patches of its skin turn white. This indicates that the old skin has died and is about to fall off. Your bearded dragon may be uncomfortable, but there are things you can do to make shedding less unpleasant.

Whatever you do, never peel away the dead skin! Let the dead skin slough off naturally. It should take between one and two weeks.

You can aid this process by keeping your beardie misted daily and the humidity in its enclosure around 40%. Make sure it has a rock or branch to rub up against to peel off its skin.

If your beardie doesn’t mind being handled, offer it a soak in water. You can gently scrub loose skin with a soft toothbrush too.

2. The Enclosure is too hot

Bearded dragon on a log
A bearded dragon on a log

While bearded dragons don’t have the ability to change their color like chameleons, they can adjust somewhat to hot or cold temperatures. In a hot environment, their skin lightens to almost white.

This is known as the albedo effect. A lighter surface absorbs less heat from the sun and keeps the lizard cool. In colder temperatures, the bearded dragon’s skin will darken so that it absorbs more heat.

If your beardie isn’t shedding but has turned white, check the temperature of its enclosure. The basking area shouldn’t be hotter than 100 degrees F, and the cooling area shouldn’t be hotter than 85 degrees F.

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Turn down the temperature a few degrees and wait to see if your bearded dragon’s color darkens. If not, it might be a sign of illness or old age.

Health-Threatening Reasons 

1. Illness or Parasites

Hand feed bearded dragon
Hand feed bearded dragon

A white bearded dragon that isn’t overheated or in the middle of shedding may be ill. The probability of illness increases if your beardie is acting lethargic, refuses to eat, or has visible parasites in its stool.

Illness can be caused by a multiple of reasons, but in this section, we’ll address parasites. Parasites can be found in a variety of food sources, but they usually enter the food cycle of a pet bearded dragon via live food.

Insects can carry parasites that make their home in your beardie’s intestine. They can attach to the walls of the intestine and eat blood, or they take the first choice of whatever the beardie eats. This is why weight loss is such a common symptom of parasite infection.

If your beardie exhibits these symptoms and you’ve already ruled out incorrect temperature or shedding, go to the vet immediately. It may be a life-threatening issue for your pet.

2. Intestinal Blockage

Bearded dragon eating
Bearded dragon eating

The substrates in bearded dragon enclosures are not meant for food, but many bearded dragons eat them anyway. Bearded dragons use their mouths to scout around and feel for potential food items. When they accidentally swallow substrate or non-food items, they can occasionally get lodged in their intestine.

This is a major issue called impaction. The digestive system is blocked up by an inorganic material that won’t degrade no matter how much digestive juices it is in contact with.

Impaction can be fatal to your beardie, so it’s critical that you get him to a veterinarian as soon as possible. Veterinarians can do several things to encourage the blockage to pass or mechanically remove it themselves.

Either way, it is not something an owner should attempt on their own. Only a licensed veterinary provider should attempt to diagnose or treat a bearded lizard with an intestinal blockage.

3. Upcoming Death from Old Age

Bearded dragon on dead branch
Bearded dragon on dead branch

Bearded dragons normally live to be about 15 years old in captivity, but signs of old age are usually visible starting at age eight or nine. Old age will slow down your bearded dragon quite a bit. They may be more lethargic, less responsive to interaction, and lose interest in food.

Another symptom of old age and a slowing metabolism is that their skin begins to turn white or goes pale. This is not something that you can prevent since it’s a natural consequence of aging.

The best thing you can do for your aging beardie is to keep him or her comfortable until it’s time to pass away. Offer it high-quality food, keep its enclosure clean and well-stocked with enrichment opportunities, and interact with it as much as it is comfortable with.

Many beardies form emotional bonds with their owners and love to be handled. One way to comfort your lizard in its old age is to hold it regularly.

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Your bearded dragon already has a much longer lifespan in captivity than it does in the wild. In their natural habitat, bearded dragons are prey animals which often don’t make it past three or four years of age. By owning a beardie and providing it with a predator-free environment, you’ve dramatically increased its lifespan and lowered its stress load.