Signs of Dehydration
It is a very satisfactory and enjoyable thing to watch a bearded dragon drinking water on its own in captivity, but chances it is not going to start to drink on its own from any still water supply. Offering a bearded dragon water, particularly in the enclosure, is not enough to get it to drink. Continual mild dehydration, including during long or poorly managed brumation periods, can result in, or contribute to, significant health issues and (in extreme cases) death. Health problems may include kidney disease, shedding problems and constipation.
Signs of dehydration may be picked up initially through lack of frequent bowel movements (this is a common cause of constipation), decreased skin elasticity, wrinkling of skin as the level of dehydration increases and tacky mucous membranes. As the level and/or duration of dehydration increases, signs may include sunken eyes, muscle weakness or even gout. Behavioral signs may include decreased body weight and reduced activity.
The pinch test is useful in identifying dehydration in instances where it is not yet overly obvious to the human eye. Gently pinch and lightly pull the skin on the belly. How long the skin takes to return to normal is an indication of the level of hydration. It should pop back almost immediately if well hydrated. This is easy to test on your own hand.
There are multiple means to provide fluids including directly drinking, bathing, misting and moistening food. The articles on this page delve into the various elements of caring for bearded dragons with attention to hydration.
There are a few options to hydrate bearded dragons which can be combined to make up the hydrating routine. No external means of hydrating should replace taking fluids directly by mouth. Mild dehydration is all too common and must be prevented.
How do you get a bearded dragon to drink water?
All captive creatures should be provided with access to water. One of the issues this presents with bearded dragons is that it could be presumed that they are adequately hydrated because water is present in the enclosure, but not all have the inclination to drink from still water and could dehydrate even when able to access it. With this being the case, other means of hydration must be put in place including misting their body, misting vegetation and bathing.
From Misting to Drinking
Teaching your bearded dragon to drink water is essential to ensure it is not totally dependent on you for survival in every aspect. Bearded dragons will often require encouragement to learn how to drink from still water. For those able to teach their bearded dragons to drink from still water the payoff will be a little more confidence that they are not dehydrating if they are able to access water.
Moving water provides far more encouragement than still water which provides the clues as to how to teach them to drink. Misting is an ideal way to start the training process.
Form water droplets to drip off the wall or an accessory. Once it has taken the cue to lick the moisture you could place your hand under the dripping water or spray the palm of your hand in front of the animal and patiently wait. It may take several attempts to get a reaction. Thirst is a great motivator.
Alternatively try misting the floor. When spraying surfaces they will sometimes rub or flatten themselves out into the moisture or more amusingly start surfing around in it.
When misting any area in an enclosure, ensure it is clean first. Water, heat and waste matter can turn into a very unhygienic situation. Once the fun is over, clean up any excess water left.
It may take a few attempts to identify what is the most enticing means to help your bearded dragon to learn to drink water, but the need for it to quench its thirst will aid you in encouraging the lessons to begin.
How often do they drink?
Bearded Dragons World conducted a survey of 73 bearded dragons to identify how often they are drinking water in their captive environments. It was found that 66% were provided continual access to water. Out of those 7% had been observed drinking on multiple occasions, 31% were seen to drink occasionally (less than once a week), 54% had never been observed drinking directly from the water dish and 8% were only observed to drink when assisted.