Bearded dragons in the wild will brumate every year during the cold winter months. In captivity, brumation is not always a must to survive the winter months since an artificially heated and lit environment is provided keeping activity at relatively normal levels. Each bearded dragon is not different in their need to brumate, it is their environment which makes them different and influences when, if and for how long the bearded dragon will brumate.
Cues for brumation
Brumation may occur in captivity when it picks up the signals to do so, whether these are environmental or hormonal changes. It could be that temperatures have lowered, the duration of light is reduced or perhaps it is able to see a window or close enough to detect light changes.
How long brumation lasts for and effects
How long the bearded dragon will brumate for, or how deeply it will brumate in captivity is just as dependent on the temperatures, lighting and other environmental cues. It may be as little as slowing down and eating less, voluntarily moving away from heating and lighting sources, or it could be resting for a few days at a time, or full brumation could take place where it does not move at all for months.
Accessories for brumating
Bearded dragons will typically brumate up a tree but some will use a burrow as well. Offering both a branch with foliage (artificial is sufficient) around it and a burrow (purchased or made up by safely stacking rocks, branches or other materials) will provide the opportunity for the bearded dragon to make its own choice. Both should be offered in the cool area.
Care during brumation
Feeding during brumation is very dependent on the level of rest it has attained. There is no need to attempt to feed a reptile in full brumation, however if it becomes active at any time, food can be offered. If food is provided, the temperatures must be taken up to normal during the digestion phase.
Hydration is far more important than food when resting. Maintaining the environment humidity will assist but other hydration may be required. Bathing during full brumation is not required and likely to be quite disruptive to the bearded dragon. If additional fluids are required then misting would be a better option and for the more experienced, opening the mouth of the bearded dragon and lightly misting the tongue should be enough.
Weigh the bearded dragon at the beginning and during brumation. The majority of weight loss will be due to loss of water. Significant weight loss (ie 10%) is of concern and a vet should be consulted.
Effects on the duration of life
There are dangers to brumation where health is not ideal, for those in good health there is potential that the duration of life is extended. However science has not yet proven the impact to longevity of life.
Effects on re-productivity
While brumation can impact some reptile species ability to reproduce, bearded dragons do not depend on brumation to be fertile and can therefore breed regardless.
Health concerns for brumation
Brumation can be an unsettling time for humans as the behavior changes the bearded dragon and may result in lack of appetite and/or months of sleep. Brumation in the wrong conditions has the potential to be fatal. Lower temperatures alone will reduce the effectiveness of the immune system and ability to cope with parasites, injury or other ailments. Protect the bearded dragon by ensuring a vet check prior to winter every year or at the least a fecal sample analysed for parasite levels and treatment applied where necessary.[/fusion_text]