Something that bearded dragon owners often worry about is Yellow Fungus Disease or YFD as it’s shortened down.
It’s often debated whether or not you can cure this condition. Some people say there isn’t a cure but others believe that if you catch it early and treat it quickly, you can cure it.
One thing that everyone seems to agree on, however, is that it’s important to diagnose and treat yellow fungus disease in bearded dragons as soon as you can.
With this in mind, it’s important that all bearded dragon owners know what signs to look for so you can spot this fungus in bearded dragons in its early stages.
Before delving into the signs, symptoms, causes, and treatments, let’s explore what this infection is exactly.
What Is Yellow Fungus Disease?
Referred to by scientists as CANV (Chrysosporium Anamorph of Nanniziopsis Vriesii), Yellow Fungus is an aggressive infection affecting both the deep and superficial tissue. In the worst cases, it can affect the bearded dragon’s internal organs.
When bearded dragons have Yellow Fungus Disease, their scales will become discolored. They’ll then break off to reveal ulcerated tissues that are extremely sensitive. Bearded dragons suffer due to the exposed tissue being inflamed, swollen and painful.
How Is Yellow Fungus Disease Caught?
It’s hard to know when bearded dragons catch this illness because the first signs aren’t visible for weeks or months. This means you can’t know the exact time or cause of the disease.
It is tricky to know how infections happen when you care for a pet so well. Here are some of the possible causes of yellow fungus in bearded dragons.
If your husbandry is poor, a bearded dragon can develop a weaker immune system. Things like low temperatures, poor hygiene, and improper exposure to UVB can all suppress the immune system. Stress is another causal factor so don’t underestimate the impact this can have.
Thus, it’s important for owners to keep both their enclosure and dragon clean. This means you should:
- Bath your beardie each week.
- Disinfect the cage and its contents every two to three weeks.
- Ensure your bearded dragon is exposed to the optimal temperatures.
- Make sure they get enough UVB.
Exposure to Pathogens
Yellow Fungus pathogen exposure is obviously a cause of YFD in bearded dragons. Your pet can be exposed in a number of ways, these include:
- Being with an infected beardie.
- Being handled by a person who has previously touched an infected bearded dragon.
- Sharing tank accessories that have been used by infected dragons.
Essentially, a bearded dragon will likely get yellow fungus if they come into contact with an infected dragon.
For this reason, you should always keep bearded dragons in their own enclosure and wash your hands after you’ve handled a bearded dragon.
Furthermore, if your bearded dragon spends time on furniture or bedding that’s outside of their enclosure, you should always disinfect these areas if you allow other dragons to go onto that area too.
How to Prevent Yellow Fungus
Since it is difficult to treat, it’s important to prevent yellow fungus disease. Here are some ways you can prevent this infection.
Keep Their Habitat Sanitary
When you become a bearded dragon owner, you need to know just how important good husbandry is.
When you do the full clean of your bearded dragon’s entire habitat (on top of your daily spot cleans), you should disinfect everything will an appropriate cleaning solution as recommended by a specialist reptile veterinarian.
To use this, remove everything from the enclosure that you can, wash them in warm, soapy water, and then clean them with disinfectant.
You should replace or disinfect your substrate too. Don’t forget to disinfect the terrarium walls and lid.
When you disinfect your terrarium, it’s a good idea to check the setup to ensure that your bearded dragon is getting enough UVB light and that the temperatures of the basking spot and cool spot are within the right range.
Keeping the humidity at the right level is also crucial. If the humidity is too high, the chances of YFD are greater.
Keep Your Beardie Clean
You might hear people say that giving a bearded dragon a bath is pointless, while others say it keeps them hydrated and clean.
It’s up to you whether you decide to give baths or not. But you should know that bathing does no harm.
If you decide to give your beardie a bath, don’t bathe him more than once a week (unless he’s shedding). You should also use warm water. If you use any soap, it should be the mildest of baby soap only.
The final point on bathing: make sure you’re supervising your bearded dragon’s bath time. The water shouldn’t be deeper than his knees and he shouldn’t be in it for longer than twenty minutes.
Keep Bearded Dragons in A Separate Cage
YFD is an extremely contagious infection.
Regardless of a yellow fungus infection, bearded dragons shouldn’t be kept in the same enclosure. So if you are housing two together, you really need to separate them.
Because yellow fungus in bearded dragons is impossible to detect for a few weeks, you need to keep all bearded dragons separate at all times.
Even if your bearded dragons have come from the same clutch, you can’t keep them together for long. Some people do manage to house two similar-sized females together with success but it’s hit and miss.
Due to their territorial nature, it’s never a success to house two males in the same enclosure; they will just fight and one will be too dominant over the other and cause stress.
A male and a female together also won’t work because the male will pester the female.
The risk of contracting yellow fungus increases when more than one bearded dragon live together – especially if there are wounds from fights and high levels of stress.
All in all, house them in a separate cage for everyone’s good health and happiness.
Disinfect New Accessories
It’s easy to think that because they’ve never been with a bearded dragon, new accessories are safe.
However, Yellow Fungus Disease can be introduced through new accessories being brought into an enclosure.
Whether this is a few rocks or a hammock, you need to disinfect them.
Can Humans Contract Yellow Fungus?
Yellow Fungus is a reptile pathogen and fungal disease that mainly affects reptiles. In our article, we’re concentrating on Yellow Fungus Disease in bearded dragons but many other reptiles can be diagnosed with this too, including geckos (such as leopard geckos), chameleons, and iguanas.
YFD isn’t typically zoonotic. This means it doesn’t spread to humans. However, there have been some cases where humans whose immune systems are severely compromised have contracted this pathogen.
Even if you don’t have a compromised immune system, you should still take precautions when dealing with an infected dragon.
This means washing your hands after touching your beardie or anything that’s been inside his enclosure.
If you’ve let him out into your home, you should also wash and disinfect any surfaces he’s been in contact with – including your clothes.
Bearded Dragons Signs of Yellow Fungus
Whether you’re a concerned owner or just swotting up on potential infectious diseases, you’ll need to know how this disease progresses.
If you notice even just one of these symptoms, you should bring your beardie to see a vet because a yellow fungus infection is much more treatable if you catch it early.
Here are some signs to look out for:
Discoloration of The Scales
Sometime after the pathogen exposure when the infection has taken hold, the yellow fungus will begin to show up on your pet’s scales.
Given its name, it’s obviously a yellow skin disease and so you can expect the scales to turn yellow. Sometimes, however, you’ll notice brown or gray patches instead.
In a typical case, the scales will discolor in a small patch and will spread. As the disease progresses, your bearded dragon will have rough scales that become darker.
Not Shedding Typically
Frequent shedding without growth or another irregular shedding could be a sign of a yellow fungal infection.
Even with a regular shedding pattern, if you notice your beardie is shedding but leaving rough, dull, brown or gray scales behind, you should question whether they have an infection.
If you notice a strange wound on your beardie and it’s surrounded by discolored scales yellow fungus could be to blame. If there are random troubling wounds that are leaking puss and swollen, it’s time to get help urgently.
Your Bearded Dragon Is Behaving Strangely
When yellow fungi have infected a bearded dragon, he might appear restless or frustrated. A poor appetite is also common, which can also lead to weight loss. If you notice these signs, seek advice from a vet that specializes in reptile pets.
The Beginning of A Yellow Fungus Infection
When a bearded dragon has recently been infected with the primary pathogen, you’ll first see some crusty or dry lesions accompanied by discoloration.
These unnatural-looking areas might remain even after shedding.
At first, the fungus affects just the skin of your bearded dragon. As the infection progresses, the first sites of infection will become darker – they’re rotting, essentially. You might also begin to notice a puss-like substance leaking from the wounds.
If the disease first began on a limb, the dragon might even lose this!
With such an irritable condition, it’s highly likely that your pet will have little to no appetite and will be lethargic. He is also likely to be grouchy.
How Is Yellow Fungus Disease Diagnosed?
When you notice signs of fungus in bearded dragons, it’s important to get an accurate diagnosis as soon as possible so make an appointment with a vet that specializes in bearded dragons and other reptiles.
The vet will ask you for a full history and will conduct a physical exam. It’s not possible to diagnose this disease just on examination.
A lot of the symptoms of YFD look similar to other problems like burns, bacterial skin infections, and trauma.
To get a definitive diagnosis, the vet will need to conduct a skin scrape test. While this happens, your pet will be sedated so that the vet can do a skin biopsy.
The tissue removed from the skin biopsy sites will be sent off for a fungal culture in a lab. If YFF is present, the fungus will grow.
As well as this, samples will be examined under a microscope (a process called histopathology).
There might even be a highly-specific DNA test called a polymerase chain reaction or PCR test.
Sometimes, all of these extensive tests aren’t available so many vets make a presumptive diagnosis.
How Is Yellow Fungus Treated?
When fungal infections are suspected, it’s important to act quickly. Here are the immediate steps to take as soon as you suspect they have this contagious disease.
Make an Appointment to See Your Vet
Before panicking, make an appointment to get your beardie seen by a reptile vet ASAP.
There are many other reasons why a bearded dragon might have skin lesions so it’s important to see a specialist.
If YFD is presumed or found, your vet will likely prescribe an antifungal treatment to kill the fungus. One particular oral antifungal medication that’s often prescribed is Voriconazole.
Though this treats the condition well, if it is used for a long spell of time, it can cause your bearded dragon’s kidneys to have problems.
To counteract this, it’s important to keep your pet really well hydrated and offer supplements.
If your vet appointment is some time away, there are some home remedies you can try while you wait.
Yellow Fungus Bearded Dragon Home Remedies
Though Bertadine baths won’t get rid of the yellow fungus in bearded dragons, they will keep your pet really clean. Doing this can also help the shedding process.
However, bathing too frequently can cause the infection to spread more quickly, so only give these baths once or twice a week for five minutes at a time.
If you do bath your beardie, make sure you dry him thoroughly with a fresh towel to soak up excess moisture that will cause more fungus to spread.
In terms of ration, add 3/4 cup of Betadine to a gallon of warm water.
Apply an Antifungal Cream
If you’ve got a topical athlete’s foot or antifungal cream, you can use this while you’re waiting to see your vet. You should apply it to the affected areas of their skin but only when the skin is dry.
Some people claim that the combination of antifungal cream and Betadine baths have cured the problem in their pets while others saw no improvement.
The likelihood is that some people caught the condition early, which means that the treatment is more effective.
Unpasteurized, Raw Honey
Strange though it may sound, raw unpasteurized honey has been known as a great substance that helps wounds to heal.
It’s especially effective on fungal infections on the skin.
It can be difficult to keep the honey on the affected areas so you might need to wrap gauze over the top. Keep this in place for a few hours at a time.
Do Bearded Dragons Die from Yellow Fungus Disease?
Because it takes so long to detect developing yellow fungus disease, by the time it’s diagnosed, many bearded dragons are beyond the point of no return.
A large proportion of bearded dragons with this contagious disease do die – either from the disease itself or from the medication side effects.
If death occurs, this usually happens within months, but it does vary. The prognosis varies depending on the extent of the condition.
If the fungus has spread to the fat and muscle layers, you’ve got a huge battle ahead of you.
A bearded dragon’s yellow fungus doesn’t automatically mean a death sentence. If you act quickly, you can treat yellow fungus.
However, prevention is always better than the cure as they say. So to ensure healthy dragons, you need a healthy environment with proper hygiene, keeping the enclosure and the dragon clean and away from other bearded dragons, especially other infected dragons.
By practicing preventative measures, you can stop this shedding fungus affecting your beardie.
Yellow Fungus Bearded Dragon: FAQs
How Long Does Bearded Dragon Brumation Last?
A bearded dragon, like some other reptiles, can go into brumation for a period of a few weeks up to a few months.
Why Does a Bearded Dragon Brumate?
Brumation occurs in the wild so that beardies can survive the lack of food, low temperatures, and high humidity that winter brings.
Can I Hold My Bearded Dragon During Brumation?
It’s probably best to leave your bearded dragon to it. Too much handling might force your beardie to come out of brumation before he is ready.
Should You Bathe Your Bearded Dragon During Brumation?
It’s usually advised to give your bearded dragon a warm bath when you notice the signs of impeding brumation. However, you shouldn’t bathe him during brumation unless you’re worried about his water intake.
How Do I Get My Bearded Dragon out Of Brumation?
Most of the time, it’s simply a waiting game. Unless you have a bearded dragon that is a year old or younger, you should just let the process follow its natural course. For young bearded dragons and babies that go into brumation, you should see a vet for advice.
How Long Should I Let My Bearded Dragon Brumate?
Bearded Dragon brumation is a natural process. Your bearded dragon will brumate for as long as he needs to. If you’re ever worried about the length of time, seek advice from a vet.
Should I Leave My Bearded Dragon Alone During Brumation?
Not entirely alone, no. You will still need to clean his enclosure and make sure he has food or drink available should he wish to take it. You should also remove food that isn’t eaten after a day or so to prevent it from going bad and attracting bacteria.
Is My Bearded Dragon Dead or Brumating?
This is a commonly asked question. Your bearded dragon might be completely non-responsive during brumation. However, he is unlikely to be dead unless his body seems stiff, less plump, and lacking in color.
Do Bearded Dragons Brumate in Captivity?
Yes. Brumation does happen in captivity, though many bearded dragons don’t brumate. In captivity, bearded dragon brumating isn’t as clear cut as it is in the wild as everyone’s homes and enclosures have different levels of light and warmth. When a bearded dragon is brumating in captivity, you will need to care for him in a different way.
Is Brumation Bad for Bearded Dragons?
The short answer is no, bearded dragons can brumate without causing themselves problems. Though their body temperature will be lower, they have fewer energy needs. During brumation, you will have to adjust how you care for your pet, but it isn’t something you need to worry about. The only exceptions are if you have a young or baby bearded dragon or one that has health problems. In this case, speak to a vet.