Bathtime for Ziggy! The Importance of Bathing Your Beardie
I took some cute photos during Ziggy’s bath last week, and decided to take the opportunity to talk a little bit about the importance of bathing to beardie health.
D’awww, isn’t he a sweetie?
Anywhos. Despite the fact that bearded dragons come from relatively arid parts of Australia, bathing is an important part of a captive beardie’s lifestyle, and should be made part of your regular routine. A bath every week or two is a nice way to spend time together, and is beneficial to many aspects of your beardie’s health.
As you can see in the picture above, Ziggy was shedding and had some loose skin attached to his feet. Just tugging off loose skin from your reptiles when they are shedding is generally considered to be a bad idea: you can easily hurt them without realizing it. So a bath is a great way to help loosen up that skin without the risk of inflicting injury — plus it helps to keep substrate and any other material from getting caught up in the loose skin, where it can cause irritation. Humidity is very important to ensuring that your reptiles have healthy sheds (this is why I advocate keeping moist hide areas available to all of your herps), and baths serve the same purpose here.
In addition to the benefits during shedding, a nice warm bath is good for relaxing your beardie, and it helps with digestion. Many beardies prefer to defecate in water, and so providing a bath facilitates that nicely (just be sure to remove your baby from the water once he or she has pooped, so they’re not swimming in their own filth). Cleanliness is, of course, the third benefit of the bath: many beardies are messy eaters and will end up with food smeared on their faces and stuck in their beards. Bathing gets rid of that and makes them all squeaky-clean again (at least until the next feeding time).
Obviously, it’s VERY IMPORTANT to make sure that the bath water is neither too hot nor too cold for your beardie, since they are cold-blooded creatures who will change with their surroundings. Water that’s too hot carries the obvious risk of burns, while water that’s too cold can chill your beardie’s core temperature down to dangerously low levels. You want the water to be just about body temperature — if you stick your fingers in the water and it feels comfortably warm, it’s probably good. If you’re not sure, use a thermometer to determine the ideal temperature range (95-100 degrees Fahrenheit should be just about right).
Baths can either be had in the tub itself, or in a separate container. The water shouldn’t come up higher than the level of your beardie’s chest — they’re not great swimmers and this should be considered a soak, not a swim. On that note, DO NOT LEAVE YOUR BEARDIE UNATTENDED IN THE TUB! Accidents can happen even in a safe and shallow pool, so it’s best to be vigilant.
Baths should last about 10-20 minutes, although it should be noted that some beardies enjoy bathing more than others — it’s just a personality thing. If your beardie finds bathing to be somewhat stressful, shorter baths are acceptable. If your beardie seems to be having a really good time hanging out in the water, you can leave them a bit longer … but I really wouldn’t recommend going longer than a half hour, just because they can’t thermoregulate properly when in water.
Once bathtime is over, give your beardie a pat dry with a soft cloth (watch for rough towels that might catch on their toes and other spiky bits!) and then return your baby to their home. After a nice, relaxing bath they’ll probably find a good spot to go to sleep for a while.
A few safety tips for you and your dragon:
- Wash down the tub or bath container both before and after bathtime. Soaps or cleaning products can injure your beardie, so you want to make sure the water is pure and clean before you put him in. And after he’s done, there’s always the slight risk of salmonella being passed on to a human from a beardie’s feces, so you’ll want to give everything a good scrub and disinfection.
- Be vigilant the WHOLE TIME your beardie is in the tub!
- Monitor bath temperatures carefully so that your beardie doesn’t get too hot or too cold.
- Keep the water shallow — chest-height is good.
- If your beardie poops in the water, clean it up right away so that he’s not swimming in his own filth (and to reduce the risk of passing on salmonella).
- If you’ve got other pets around (like cats or dogs), keep a good eye on them, or lock them out of the room entirely.
Wicker does not understand this “bathing” thing. Wet paws are anathema to fuzzy kitties. (Don’t worry, I was watching him very closely the whole time he was in the room … he just wanted to take a peek at what I was doing, and to be a little camera hog).