Can Bearded Dragons Get Skin Cancer

Can Bearded Dragons Get Skin Cancer?

Skin cancer is a form of malignant growth on the skin that can occur in humans and animals, including bearded dragons. This type of cancer is caused by exposure to ultraviolet radiation, often from sunlight.

In this article, we will discuss whether or not bearded dragons are susceptible to skin cancer and what symptoms may be present if they do develop the disease. Additionally, we will address appropriate treatment options for skin cancer in these reptiles.

Is it possible for bearded dragons to develop skin cancer?

Bearded Dragon...
Credit: Janet Cartwright

It is possible for certain reptiles to develop various forms of cancer, including those affecting the skin.

Bearded dragons are no exception; they can be at risk of developing skin cancer due to various dietary, environmental and lifestyle factors.

Stress levels, habitat quality, UVB intensity, habitat size, water temperature, lighting duration and substrate type can all influence a bearded dragon’s susceptibility to skin cancer.

Thus it is important that owners ensure their pet’s environment meets its needs in order to reduce the likelihood of developing this illness.

Causes of skin cancer in bearded dragons

Central Bearded Dragon (Pogona vitticeps)
Credit: Sean Elliston

Bearded dragons can be susceptible to skin cancer due to a variety of causes, including exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light, age, genetics and immune system problems.

UV light is the most common cause of skin cancer in bearded dragons; however, studies have also suggested that age-related changes in the animals’ cells may contribute to the development of tumors.

Some individuals may be predisposed to developing skin cancer due to genetic factors or an impaired ability of their immune systems to fend off potential malignant growths.

Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light

Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light is a potential risk factor for adverse health effects in bearded dragons. Sunlight exposure can cause skin discoloration, irritation, and infections, as well as shedding problems and nutritional deficiencies.

UV exposure has also been linked to environmental stress and the dragon’s resulting stress responses. Nutrition plays an important role in the overall health of bearded dragons, and inadequate diets can lead to increased risk of skin cancer from UV light exposure.

It is important for owners to provide their bearded dragons with adequate nutrition and natural sunlight or artificial lighting that emits UV wavelengths in order to keep them healthy.


Research suggests that age is a factor in the susceptibility of bearded dragons to adverse health effects from UV light exposure. Young beardies, or those under two years old, are more prone to developing skin cancer than older bearded dragons due to their thinner skin and less mature immune systems.

Nutrition, molting, stress, and lifestyle can all contribute to the development of skin cancer in older beardies as well. Habitat environment and diet changes can affect a dragon’s ability to cope with sunlight or heat lamps used for basking.

An improper diet or incorrect temperature range can increase the risk of developing skin cancer even if they are exposed to adequate levels of UV light.

To reduce the risk of developing skin cancer it is important for bearded dragons of any age to have a healthy nutrition regimen along with an appropriate habitat environment that provides them with enough sunlight and safe heat lamps whenever needed.


Genetic predisposition is believed to be a factor in an individual bearded dragon’s propensity for developing skin cancer due to UV light exposure.

Certain genetic mutations may be passed down through hereditary traits, and a diet or environmental factors that are not conducive to the health of the dragon can increase stress levels and lead to neoplasms like skin cancer.

Metastasis may also occur, where carcinogenic agents spread from other parts of the body or other external sources.

Treatment options vary depending on the severity and stage of the cancer, while prevention methods such as reducing exposure to UV light, maintaining a healthy diet, and reducing stress levels can help reduce the risk of skin cancer development.

Immune system problems

The immune system is an important factor to consider when assessing the risk of skin cancer in bearded dragons, as weakened immunity can result in increased susceptibility to carcinogenic agents.

Proper diet and nutrition requirements are essential for maintaining a healthy immune system, along with providing adequate habitat conditions.

Stress management should also be taken into account, as it can have a significant impact on the immune system’s ability to function properly.

Vaccination protocols and environmental changes that reduce pollutant exposure may also help reduce the risk of skin cancer.

Parasite infestation or improper breeding considerations should be addressed to prevent a weakened immune system that could lead to an increase in skin cancer risks.

Finally, providing diet supplements may help ensure optimal nutrient intake for proper functioning of the immune system and reduce the likelihood of skin cancer development in bearded dragons.

Symptoms of skin cancer in bearded dragons

Bearded dragons can suffer from skin cancer, which is a type of cancer that affects the reptile’s outer layer. Symptoms of this condition can include:

  • Lumps or bumps on the skin
  • Changes in the color of the skin
  • Irregular shedding
  • Bleeding or discharge from the skin
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy

It is important for owners to recognize these symptoms if they notice them and seek veterinary advice as soon as possible.

Lumps or bumps on the skin

Lumps or bumps on the exterior of an organism may be indicative of a more serious underlying condition.

In the case of bearded dragons, these lumps or bumps can be caused by a variety of environmental factors such as sunburns, exposure time, new environments, humidity levels, and hiding spots.

Diet changes can also affect skin health; a diverse diet with supplements is important to maintain optimal health for bearded dragons.

Finally, enclosure size may also play a role in skin cancer development since larger enclosures allow for greater environmental diversity and reduced stressors that could cause skin cancer.

Changes in the skin color

Changes in the skin color of an organism can be indicative of underlying health issues. For bearded dragons, such changes may indicate sunlight damage, vitamin deficiency, diet changes, grooming habits, environmental stress and humidity levels.

Further, they may be signs of infection risks due to habitat changes or increased stress levels due to parasite infestation. It is important for owners of bearded dragons to pay attention to any sudden changes in their pet’s skin color so that prompt medical intervention can be provided if necessary.

Irregular shedding

Irregular shedding of the skin may be indicative of an underlying health issue in bearded dragons. Shedding patterns in bearded dragons, which are typically more frequent during breeding season, may become irregular due to various factors.

These factors include dietary effects, stress factors, temperature regulation issues, environmental toxins, water quality problems, grooming practices that are inadequate or too aggressive, and lack of sun protection.

Furthermore, some studies suggest that prolonged exposure to certain types of light can also lead to irregular shedding cycles and increased risk of skin cancer. Therefore, it is important for owners to monitor their pet’s shedding patterns and take appropriate steps if they notice any changes or irregularities.

Bleeding or discharge from the skin

Excessive bleeding or discharge from the skin may be indicative of a more serious underlying medical condition in reptiles, and should be addressed immediately. This is especially true for bearded dragons due to their sensitivity to environmental stressors such as changes in diet, habitat control, and UV protection.

To ensure that any potential issues are caught early on, it is important to maintain proper skin hygiene, along with regular medical exams and vet visits. It is also helpful to monitor stress levels and analyze the environment where they live in order to keep it consistent for them.

Sunscreen use can also prove beneficial by providing additional protection from the sun’s ultraviolet rays.

Loss of appetite

Loss of appetite can be a sign of an underlying medical condition in reptiles and should be addressed promptly.

Late-onset loss of appetite may be caused by hereditary issues, poor nutrition, environmental factors, or stress levels.

Diet restrictions or external parasites could also cause the bearded dragon to lose their appetite.

UV protection and phototherapy are both treatments that could help the bearded dragon recover its appetite.

Finally, antibiotic treatment may also be necessary to treat any underlying bacterial infections that may have caused the loss of appetite in the first place.

Weight loss

Weight changes can be a sign of an underlying medical condition in reptiles. Nutrition, temperature control, environmental factors, diet variations, stress management, shedding habits, vitamin deficiencies, parasite infections and heat exposure are all important considerations when monitoring the weight of bearded dragons.

A healthy bearded dragon should have a consistent body weight that is monitored regularly to detect any potential illnesses or other health issues. This includes keeping an eye out for any sudden weight loss which could indicate parasites, improper nutrition or vitamin deficiencies.

Stress levels should also be monitored to ensure they are kept at a minimum as this can lead to further health complications such as poor shedding habits and even malnutrition.

Additionally, heat exposure should be avoided and adequate temperature control should always be provided for optimal health.


Lethargy can be an indicator of various medical conditions in reptiles and should be monitored closely.

Bearded dragons, in particular, who become sluggish or slow down their activity may need to have their diet changed or environment modified.

In addition, changes to their sun exposure, sleep habits, stress levels, and exercise routine should also be evaluated for potential causes of lethargy.

Additionally, providing vitamins supplements as recommended by a veterinarian might help improve the reptile’s health overall.

Ultimately any modifications made to prevent lethargy in bearded dragons should be done under the supervision of a qualified veterinary care provider.

Treatment for skin cancer in Bearded Dragons

Skin cancer in bearded dragons is a serious medical condition that can be treated with a variety of approaches.

Surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy are all viable treatments depending on the type and severity of the cancer.

Surgery involves removing the tumor, radiation therapy uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells, and chemotherapy uses drugs to destroy or slow down the growth of cancer cells.


Surgery may be necessary for the treatment of certain conditions in reptiles, and skin cancer is no exception. Early diagnosis and dietary changes can help to prevent or delay the progression of skin cancer, but if it has already occurred then surgical removal may be necessary.

To ensure a successful surgery, preventive measures such as dietary supplements and stress management should be taken before and after the procedure. In addition, a holistic approach involving medical monitoring, environmental factors, habitat hygiene, and other supportive care is recommended for optimal recovery from surgery.

Radiation therapy

When it comes to treating skin cancer in bearded dragons, radiation therapy is one of the options available.

Medical professionals may suggest this course of action depending on the severity and location of the cancer.

As with any medical procedure, monitoring exposure is important during radiation therapy for a successful outcome.

In addition to monitoring exposure, other factors such as environmental changes, natural remedies, nutrition requirements and stress avoidance must also be taken into account when treating a bearded dragon with skin cancer through radiation therapy.

To ensure that the diagnosis process is accurate and effective, it is important to weigh all risk factors associated with radiation therapy as well as lifestyle modifications that are necessary for optimal recovery.


Chemotherapy is another treatment option that may be recommended for the management of skin cancer in reptiles. This form of treatment should only be administered by a veterinary professional and is used to target rapidly dividing cells present in tumors.

It is important to note that, although chemotherapy may reduce the size or slow the growth of a tumor, it does not eliminate all cancerous cells which can lead to recurrence.

To prevent skin cancer in reptiles, owners should consider the following factors: dietary needs, environmental factors, stress levels, habitat variety, cage hygiene, UVB exposure, nutrition deficiencies, sunlight intensity, vaccination protocols, and parasite control.


Bearded dragons can develop skin cancer, which is a serious health issue. It is important to identify the symptoms of skin cancer in bearded dragons early and to seek medical treatment as soon as possible.

The most common causes of skin cancer in bearded dragons are exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun, or other sources such as tanning beds, and genetic predisposition.

Symptoms may include lesions on the skin that do not heal, abnormal growths, sores that become infected easily, and changes in color or texture of the scales.

Treatment for skin cancer will depend on what type it is and how advanced it has become. Veterinary care should be sought immediately if any sign of skin cancer is suspected in order to ensure the best outcome for your bearded dragon’s health and longevity.