Brumation is similar to a state of hibernation that we see in other species of animals. When dragons brumate, they enter into this state of "hibernation." Brumation can last anywhere from a day or two, to several months. The most common time frame that I've seen is a 2-5 week period, although it can vary greatly.
Babies do not brumate! I will say it again -- babies do not brumate! We shouldn't see your six week old dragon "brumating." The main issue with babies and young juveniles, when owners think they're "brumating," is that it can turn to a fail to thrive very quickly. If your young dragon isn't eating and is sleeping constanly, its a husbandry or health issue, not brumation.
Brumation often is extremely nerve-wracking for new owners. There are a few things you can do, to help ease your mind.
- Do your best to ensure your dragon is healthy. Year-round care, with proper cage conditions, good diet, proper supplementing and regular vet checks are a few of the steps you can take. When you suspect your adult dragon may be ready to brumate, have a fecal test done to ensure that there are no high parasite loads. We don't ever want a dragon brumating that's either on medication for any health condition or battling increased parasites.
- Double check to determine if your dragon's UVB is outdated. T8's are suggested for replacement every six months and T5's, every 12 months although many owners using T5's don't like waiting that long. A lack of UVB output can easily cause a decrease in both appetite and activity levels, mimicking brumation.
- If your dragon is healthy and does brumate, leave them alone! I check on my adults but I let them be. The issue is that the more you disturb them, the greater the chances that you may unintentionally actually extend the brumation cycle (they'll sleep even longer).
Babies and juveniles shed frequently. The older a dragon gets, the less frequently he or she will shed. I don't use anything on shed (note that this does not apply to silkbacks, who need special skin care).
I offer warm soaks in plain water (nothing added) and just let Mother Nature run her course, with shed. If shed repeatedly becomes "stuck," I make sure my humidity isn't too low and that overall care isn't lacking. Shedding is a natural process and shouldn't require any intervention.
Never pick or pull on shed. I've actually seen scarring in rescues from shed being picked and pulled. It surfaces small particles of blood to the skin surface and it damages scales.
There have been many opinions as of late on feeding schedules and frequencies for dragons. My best advice is that if your dragon is healthy and thriving based on what you're currently doing, I would continue not changing it, as many dragons will not adapt well to change, which can, in turn, create further issues.
I like to feed babies and juveniles multiple small meals a day, as opposed to two or three large meals. I find that when young dragons are given a few huge meals, they gorge themselves. By feeding smaller meals broken up but greater in frequency, I find a stronger growth pattern with dragons.
My older juveniles, subadults, and adults are fed once a day, with the exception of bigger adults higher in weight, who are fed greens and veggies every day and live foods every other day (approx. three times a week). Always remember that regardless of the dragon's age, variety is always a key to great health!
It is very important to soak your dragons. This is especially true for babies and young juveniles, who dehydrate easier than older dragons. Soaking serves several purposes:
1. Gets rid of stuck-on feces from tails and feet. Cleanliness is really important in a captive environment.
2. Gives your dragon a chance to drink (even if they don't, its still important to offer a chance to).
3. Helps keep the skin clean, which is important for overall health, as well as soaking relieving the "itch" from any areas that are shedding.
Just in case anyone was curious on the reasoning behind why dragons can't absorb through their vents - Years ago, it was believed that dragons were able to absorb water through their vents. The main presumption behind this was that researchers were able to observe the opening and closing of the external cloaca while soaking.
As time progressed, and research followed, it was discovered that because there is a second cloacal opening as well, with the presence of a double sphincter muscle, actual water uptake through the vent would be scientifically impossible.
Dr. Wade Sherbrooke, who is known as a world-leading authority and scientist in the field, then did numerous studies to confirm this assumption, which showed that no water was taken up through the vent, by performing a series of dye tests while soaking. His results were then successfully repeated by other researchers.
Its extremely important that all dragons are given calcium and vitamins on a regular basis. Its also important to note that if the calcium you're using has over 20,000 IU/LB of D3, you need to switch back and forth between calcium with D3 and calcium without D3. If your calcium brand lists D3 in kg, just divide the amount by 2.2 to get the IU/lb measurement instead. I make life easy and just stay with a calcium that's low enough for daily use.
For all age dragons, I dust every meal with calcium except for around 2-3 meals a week, where I use a multivitamin instead.
Many people ask if their can overdose on calcium, which is called hypercalcemia. It would honestly be extremely difficult to do. I've never heard of one solid case of hypercalcemia. The body doesn't absorb any excess - it just passes it through to excretion.
Since many people ask me what my favorite brands are, I use Repti Calcium with D3 and Rep-Cal's Herptivite.
I also supplement my dragons with regular use of bee pollen, which has many benefits. Bee pollen is a natural antibiotic, it flushes out toxins, is a natural anti-inflammatory and is great for overall immune system strength and health.
Many people are often excited to know if their dragon is a male or female. The easiest and only sure way to determine gender is to gently lift the tail back as shown in the picture to the left. If the dragon has two bulges (hemiphenes), the dragon is a male. One round area - the dragon is a female. If you're not able to determine, oftentimes shining a flashlight on the area in a dark room will help to show the anatomy clearer.
Many people say that "only males have large femoral pores" or because a dragon's head is larger or pores are bigger or smaller, he or she must be male or female. Be aware that these "methods" to determine gender are not accurate. My oldest dragon, Bailey, has a head that's bigger than many of my adult males and some of my girls have pores larger than some of my males. The pores on a few of my males aren't even visible. The only way to determine gender with any type of preciseness is to look under the tail.