When a female bearded dragon is well cared for, with lots of calcium and vitamin supplementation, gut-loaded insects, and super-nutritious vegetables and fruits, her body puts those extra nutrients into developing egg follicles. These are like eggs, but without the shell so they can’t be laid. So her body carries a bunch of egg yolks that are never going to be absorbed or turned into actual eggs. Eventually the yolks get so large that they break. When this happens, then it causes an infection called Yolk Peritonitis.
Yolk Coelomitis is best known as an illness that affects laying hens, but it is also affects female bearded dragons and other species of egg-laying lizard. It often goes undiagnosed until it’s too late and the dragon dies “suddenly.”
- rapid decline
- high protein diet
- too much nutritious food
- sedentary lifestyle
- small enclosure
Yolk Coelomitis is very difficult to treat once one of the beardie’s yolks have broken, but fortunately you can force the bearded dragon to reabsorb the yolks if you take proactive measures. In this case especially, prevention is the best treatment. The measures to take for prevention are very similar to those one must take for treating or preventing obesity.
Adult female bearded dragons should be housed in large, enriching enclosures that encourages her to explore and exercise. Ideally this should be 4′ x 2′ x 2′ (120 x 60 x 60 cm) or larger. They also require a low protein diet rich in vegetables — 80% vegetables, 20% protein. Fruits should be offered as rare treats, no more than 2x/month. It is also helpful to set aside one or even two days each week when you do not offer any food. You should also allow and even encourage your bearded dragon to brumate during the winter months. This is not cruel; it is essential to her health!
*These rules do not apply to active breeding females. When in doubt, consult a certified reptile veterinarian.*