KEEPING YOUR BEARDIE WELL HYDRATEDAs I mentioned, when Bearded Dragons go into brumation in the wild, it is a common practice for them to burrow under things in their environment, or to bury themselves in moist soil to ensure that they receive enough hydration for them to survive until Spring. Beardies have evolved, over the years, to be able to take in a certain amount of moisture throught their vents, which is enough for them to exist on while in a dormant state.
However, when we keep Bearded Dragons in captivity, it is not a good practice to add moist soil to their tanks or enclosures, since doing so will raise the humidity within their living area to unhealthy levels, which may result in their contracting an Upper Respiratory Infection. Therefore, irregardless of whether your Bearded Dragon brumates within a “hide”, or whether he chooses to burrow under whatever sort of substrate that you have on the bottom of his tank, he is not going to be able to absorb the amount of moisture that he needs in order to remain healthy and well hydrated until he awakens.
Because of this, it will be up to you to ensure that he takes in enough fluids for him to survive and remain healthy during the time that he is brumating.
The easiest and most effective way to do this is to remove him from his tank, once a week, and give him a 20-30 minute soak in warm water. For a bathing container, I prefer to use one of those large plastic “Kritter Keepers” with the neon lids that you can buy in pet stores. Fill the bottom with an inch or two of warm water and place him in there. These containers are perfect for bathing containers, since they’re small enough to put them almost anywhere, so that you can remain close enough to supervise them while they’re in the water.
When you remove your Beardie from his “hide” to bathe him, he may or may not wake up for you. If he doesn’t, its still fine to give him his soak, as long as you monitor him closely, for the entire time that he’s soaking, to make sure that his head and nostrils remain above water. If you allow his head to go under while he’s asleep, he may aspirate water into his lungs, which may cause pneumonia, or he may even drown, so watch him very closely. He’s depending upon you to keep him safe.
You only need an inch or two of water in the container. Make sure that the water is covering his vent area, if you choose to prop him up on something, so you don’t have to hold him. He will take in whatever moisture that he needs through his vent during the 20 or 30 minutes that he’s soaking.
If your Bearded Dragon chooses to wake up, he may still just take in water through his vent, or he may lower his head underwater, on his own, and choose to take a long drink that way. As long as he’s awake, its fine to allow him to put his head under....it will only cause a health problem for him if he should slip under while he’s sound asleep.
Once he’s had his weekly soak, you can return him to his tank or enclosure. If he’s still sound asleep, return him to the same place that you found him, but make sure that you dry him well first, as putting him back while he’s still wet may cause a fungous infection in his scales. If he is awake, you should still pat him dry, but you can place him on his basking spot for a few minutes to ensure that he is completely dry. When he’s had enough basking, he’ll return to his sleeping place on his own, or he may choose to walk around a bit before returning to sleep. Let him choose what he wants to do, and when to do it.
If he seems hungry, you may offer some food, but if he isn’t interested, don’t force the issue. He’s the best judge of what his body needs at the time. If does decide to eat, remove his “hide” temporarily, to force him to bask, and make sure that his basking site temperatures are adequate for him to digest his food. If he still insists on going back to sleep, you will need to wake him and give him another good soak in a day or two, to promote a bowel movement to empty his stomach. If he doesn’t go, then wait and try again the next day, until he does. You can’t allow him to go back to sleep for a long period of time until he empties his stomach. Once he has a bowel movement, then you can allow him to do as he wants until its time for another weekly soak.