Critical Care Steps

When you rescue a bearded dragon who appears to be very bad off, it is VERY IMPORTANT that you don't rush with its recovery. It took a long time for the beardie to get sick and it will take a long time to get it healthy again.


An immediate intake of protein can easily shock a sick beardie's system and send its organs into shock, causing sudden kidney or liver failure. No, no, no, no insects! Even if it seems to want to eat them. NO! Please!

First Step: 

HYDRATION-- for the first 24 to 72 hours, focus on giving the beardie fluids. The best way is to let him drink for himself. Bathe him in warm water and dribble water on his lips. Sometimes I will lightly flick his lips with my fingernail or a toothpick to trigger a licking response. If he can drink on his own, let him. They will NOT absorb water in the bath; they MUST drink to get water.

If he won't drink on his own, then use a syringe to give him fluids. You'll have to firmly (yet gently) push open his mouth and squirt small amounts of water onto his tongue. Try to trigger his drinking reflex by putting the water & syringe tip on his tongue.

Water is good, but Pedialyte is best. You don't even have to buy it since you can make your own:

1 quart warm water

1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt 
Mix well. Store in fridge with lid. 

Plan on about a half cc/mL for every 50 grams of body weight. I do fluids twice a day (10 am and 4 pm, if possible).

** If you cannot get the bearded dragon to drink on his own, PLEASE call your vet and take him in. A daily subcutaneous (under the skin) injection of saline can save his life! I was trained by my vet on how to do it myself so I have a bag of sterile saline and supplies. I usually call my vet or his tech to find out the appropriate dose based on the weight of a beardie.

Second Step: 

BABY FOOD-- for the next 48 hours, I give warm baby food in a syringe. Sometimes I will water it down with my Pedialyte to make it easier to swallow. My first choice is a plain vegetable like butternut squash. If I can't find that, I will use baby food mango or apples.

Again, use a clean syringe and gently push open your beardie's mouth. Some people have used the edge of a clean credit card to help open a reluctant beardie's mouth. If you can put the food & syringe tip on his tongue, he's more likely to swallow it. Try not to force it into the back of his throat because he will breathe it in instead of swallowing. Aspirating (breathing in) food can kill an already sick beardie.

I do two feedings (same times as the water: 10 am and 4 pm) and use about a half cc/mL of food for an adult beardie. For babies, I use about a quarter cc/mL. 1 cc/mL is equal to a teaspoon.

Don't give more than two feedings of baby food if they aren't pooping. You need to watch for the poop. If they don't poop, PLEASE get them to a vet.

**If you cannot get the bearded dragon to swallow any food, PLEASE call your vet and take him in. A vet can show you how to insert a tube down the throat of a beardie and into their stomach. I was trained how to do this and will use it if I have a critically ill beardie who is too weak to keep swallowing.

Third Step: 

BABY FOOD WITH SUPPLEMENTS-- after a sickly bearded dragon has kept water and then food down for 3 to 6 days, I will start adding in some vitamin supplements to the baby food. My first choice (currently) is Repashy's Calcium PLUS (see HERE). I will warm up the baby food and add in a pinch of powder and stir well. If he keeps it down and appears to handle it well, the next time I will add in two pinches. If you have Critical Care from a vet or online store, you can add a pinch or two of that instead of the Repashy.

I do a day or two of enriched baby food before I offer insects. If they can handle the calcium and protein in the supplements, they can handle the insects. Again, you want to watch for poop. If food & water are going in, but not coming out, there is a problem and you need help from a trained reptile vet.

Fourth Step: 

INSECTS-- If a beardie has successfully pooped out the water & baby food I have given, I will then offer a couple insects (roaches or wax worms). Do NOT offer meal worms or superworms in the beginning because the exoskeletons are hard to digest. For a baby, I'll offer two or three small roaches at 10 am and more at 4 pm; for an adult, I'll offer 2 medium roaches or 1 large. If he eats them and poops them out, I'll offer him a few more the next day. You want to watch for a consistent and good looking (not super runny or with blood) poop before you keep adding insects.


You want to make small changes and add small amounts for each step. If you slightly increase the food amount and the beardie becomes lethargic, then scale back to the previous amount. Baby steps forward and Baby steps backward. DON'T RUSH! Rushing will cause extra stress and problems with the sickly beardie and is more likely to cause kidney or organ failure.

If you have any questions, please use the "Contact Form" on the right side of my blog to send me an email. PLEASE do NOT leave a comment below asking for help! I can't respond well to them.

NOTE: I am NOT a vet. This is my plan that I use when I take in Critically Ill Beardies. It is a combination of things I have been taught and procedures I've developed. My vet has questioned my use of baby food instead of Critical Care, but the times when I've transitioned from fluids to Critical Care, the beardies seem to fail instead of thriving.