- What is a Silkback Bearded Dragon (Silkie)?
- Silkback Bearded Dragon Pictures
- Common Health Issues
- Concerns Surrounding Silkback Breeding
- Six Tips for Caring For your Silkback Bearded Dragon
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- Sean Green
Silkback bearded dragons are part of the reptile family. They have smooth skin and colorful markings. While they share many commonalities with their bearded dragon counterparts, silkies have some unique characteristics and require special care, which means they are not an ideal choice for a beginner.
What is a Silkback Bearded Dragon (Silkie)?
According to Reptile Advisor, silkback bearded dragons lack scales and tubercles on their dorsal and ventral surfaces. This smooth appearance makes the markings of the silkback bearded dragon stand out more than other breeds of bearded dragons. The lack of scales stems from a gene mutation that occurs when two leatherback bearded dragons are bred together.
Silkback Bearded Dragon Pictures
Common Health Issues
Since the silkback bearded dragon lacks scales, they tend to shed more often. When they do shed, it’s not uncommon for larger patches of skin to get stuck. As the silkie begins shedding, their skin can get dry and itchy. As silkies shed, they will also get skin that covers their eyes, essentially making them blind. You will need to gently remove the eye skin for your silkie since they are not able to do this for themselves.
You can help your silkie shed by increasing the overall humidity of their enclosure. This can be done by frequently misting the enclosure and providing access to extra water. Many pet stores sell liquid shed ease, which can be added to a silkie’s bath. This will help provide necessary moisture and aid in the removal of dead skin. Silkies can be bathed two to three times a week.
A silkie’s lack of scales causes them to lose more moisture than other bearded dragons do. This can lead to dehydration. If your silkie appears to have wrinkled skin or their eyes are sunken in, this is a sign they may be dehydrated. If you see any of these signs, be sure to contact your local exotic vet.
You can increase the overall moisture content for your silkie by misting their food during feeding. It also helps to make sure that any insects you are feeding your silkie are healthy and properly hydrated. Provide leafy greens and vegetables that have higher water content as well. Frequent bathing will help add moisture back to your silkie.
Infectious stomatitis is also known as mouth rot. VCA Hospitals say that mouth rot is a bacterial infection of the gums and jawbone. It can look like tiny hemorrhaging on the gums, swelling of the gums, and an excessive, thick mucus can be present.
Mouth rot is most often caused by poor husbandry issues. This can include keeping your silkie’s enclosure at too low of a temperature, giving your silkie a poor diet, or keeping them in overcrowded conditions. It’s best to see your vet if you suspect that your silkie has mouth rot so that antimicrobial therapy can be started. This, in combination with fixing any husbandry issues, is usually sufficient to get rid of mouth rot.
Parasites can be both internal and external. Internal parasites can include things like tapeworm and hookworm. External parasites show up in the form of mites, which appear as tiny red or black specs. These can be on your silkie, in their enclosure, or even end up on your skin or clothes as you handle your silkie.
While you may be able to physically see mites on your silkie, seeing internal parasites is not as easy. Some signs that your silkie might be suffering from internal parasites include diarrhea, a decrease in appetite, a lack of energy, or even blood and mucus in your silkie’s feces. If you do see any of these signs, take your silkie to the vet for proper treatment. You should also be prepared to fully clean and disinfect your silkie’s enclosure and other areas of your home your silkie may go.
Respiratory infections can occur in your silkie for a variety of reasons. The most common reasons are stress, being improperly fed, or having an enclosure that is dirty or too cold. If you notice your silkie sneezing or blowing bubbles from their nose or mouth, it may indicate that your silkie has a respiratory infection. Other signs include discharge from the eyes or nose, rapid and shallow breathing, or open-mouthed breathing. If you notice any of these signs, take your silkie to the vet for proper medication and care. Additionally, take a look at your silkie’s environment and see if any changes need to be made to their habitat. You may need to raise the temperature of the enclosure or give it a thorough cleaning.
When a silkie has an adenovirus infection, it will begin wasting away. The adenovirus has no cure and is always fatal. It can cause hepatitis, gastrointestinal issues, and secondary infections. A silkie with adenovirus may appear lethargic, not eat, and begin to lose weight. The only treatment options are to provide your silkie with comfort measures until they pass on.
A silkie can be a carrier of adenovirus without showing any outward symptoms. This virus can then be passed on to other silkies, making them very sick. Fecal testing from your vet can tell you whether your silkie carries the adenovirus.
Concerns Surrounding Silkback Breeding
Breeding silkback bearded dragons is risky for several reasons. Since the silkback is caused by a genetic mutation, in order to keep getting silkbacks it’s necessary to breed two leatherbacks or keep breeding silkbacks. During the mating process, male silkies will often bite the neck or back of their female partner. In bearded dragon breeds that have scales, this usually poses no problem. However, in female silkies, these bites can cause painful lacerations that could lead to infection.
Six Tips for Caring For your Silkback Bearded Dragon
- Supply proper food and nutrition. Any insects being fed to your silkie should have been in good health and well hydrated. Since 80% of your silkie’s diet comes from greens and vegetables, make sure you are choosing ones that have high water content. Lettuce, celery, cucumbers, bell peppers, and bok choy are excellent choices.
- Provide increased amounts of fresh water. Providing your silkie with plenty of fresh, clean water can help with dehydration issues, shedding issues, and even some infections. Change out your silkie’s water at least once every 24 hours.
- Maintain a proper habitat. While your silkie’s habitat may closely resemble that of other bearded dragons, there will be some distinct differences. When using a UVB light, you will want to choose a low-UVB light version. You will also need to provide a shaded area for your silkie to take shelter in. This will help with dehydration issues. It’s also important to maintain an adequate temperature in the enclosure. If a silkie gets too cold, it could develop a respiratory infection. If it’s too hot, the silkie could suffer from dehydration.
- Frequent misting is a must. In order to keep higher levels of humidity, frequent misting of your silkie’s enclosure is necessary. You can even mist your silkie’s food before giving it to them, especially leafy greens and dried insects.
- Prepare for frequent bathing. Since silkies are prone to both dehydration and shedding issues, providing frequent baths will help your silkie. Generally, silkback bearded dragons can be bathed as often as two to three times a week. Younger silkies shed more frequently and will need more baths than older silkies do. Adding liquid shed ease to the baths is also a good way to assist your silkie in the removal of any stuck skin that may occur during the shedding process.
- Proper vet care is essential. Make sure you are taking your silkie to an exotic animal vet. Exotic animal vets are specially trained to understand and take care of reptiles. If your silkie is showing any signs of illness, prompt veterinarian care can mean the difference between life and death. Additionally, due to the unique health issues faced by silkies, it’s best to have access to a properly trained vet.
Silkback bearded dragons are not beginner-friendly pets. While silkback bearded dragons have a brighter and more robust coloring and pattern than other breeds of bearded dragons, their unique genetic mutation makes them prone to health issues like trouble shedding, dehydration, infectious stomatitis, parasites, respiratory infections, and the adenovirus. In order to make sure that your silkie is thriving, you will need to be prepared to provide a proper habitat and adequate nutrition. Having an exotic vet you can go to for any issues is essential.
While there remains some question over whether silkback bearded dragons should continue to be bred, given their unique needs and health issues, when done properly and cared for in the right hands, the silkback bearded dragon can make for a unique pet that could live up to 10 years.
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