Bearded dragons make wonderful pets, but sadly they don’t tend to live as long as we’d like. When your beardie has died, what do you do? What options have you got for disposing of their body? Here are all of your potential options, what you need to know, and some factors to consider in this situation.
So, what to do with a dead bearded dragon? Your main options are burial, getting a cremation, taking your bearded dragon to your vet to perform a necropsy (to determine the cause of death) and potentially to help you with disposing of the body, or taking it back to the breeder if your beardie has died within just a few weeks of purchase.
Ultimately, what you decide to do will depend a lot on your circumstances.
You’ll want to consider how old your beaded dragon was and consider how they may have potentially have died, too.
Besides, you might even have other bearded dragons you might need to keep an eye on!
Nevertheless, let us now take a closer look at each option, the approach involved with each one, and some considerations to take into account before you make the disposal!
How Do You Dispose Of A Dead Bearded Dragon?
Let’s look closer at your options to dispose of a dead bearded dragon, starting with burial.
Burying your beardie is often the preferred choice for many people, particularly if you have a yard where you can put a memorial stone, plant or something else to mark the spot.
The first thing you’ll want to do is check with your local authorities where you can bury your bearded dragon legally (more on that below).
Once you’ve checked the legalities, make sure you dig a hole that’s deep enough so that other animals won’t pick up the scent and be tempted to dig up the body.
Find a spot that will not be disturbed. You want the body to decompose naturally rather than end up in another animal’s mouth!
If you are using a burial box, be sure to use something that will decompose, like wood or cardboard. You don’t want to harm the environment – and therefore other living things – by using plastic or other materials which could release toxins into the earth.
Cremations are becoming more and more popular, with specialized reptile crematoriums appearing all over the country.
A Google search can provide you with your local service, or your vet can advise you.
You might also contact the International Association of Pet Cemeteries and Crematories for advice and a list of facilities.
There are two types of cremation for pets: individual and communal.
Your pet will be cremated in a clean, individual chamber. Having your pet cremated on their own ensures that you’ll be able to take home their ashes afterward, to then bury, scatter, or put in an urn.
Communal cremation is a cheaper option as your pet will be cremated along with other animals, but you won’t get their ashes afterward.
However, some people like this option because your pet will be cremated with a small group of other loved reptiles, so they will have ‘company’ on their journey.
The ashes are then either stored in a memorial center or scattered on the grounds of the crematorium.
A Necropsy (Examination)
Your vet can carry out a necropsy if you want to know why your bearded dragon has died.
While this procedure can help us understand more about health complications among bearded dragons, it isn’t cheap, and sometimes you won’t get answers.
There’s no guarantee that the surgeons will know exactly what happened, and you’ll still have to dispose of your friend’s body, although your vet could do this for you if you wish.
Back To The Breeder
Taking your reptile’s body back to the breeder is a possibility if you feel your beardie wasn’t well when you purchased it.
Most breeders will be understanding, and if they are reputable, they will likely offer you either a refund or the choice of a new bearded dragon.
They might not have known about the health issues, either, as it isn’t always easy to tell if a bearded dragon is unwell.
Sometimes, though, the breeder or seller will say that’s just life and won’t be willing to help you. In this case, you know who not to deal with in the future!
Considerations When Disposing Of Your Dead Bearded Dragon
When disposing of your dead bearded dragon, here are several factors you will want to take into account: the first one is making sure you’re actually dealing with a body!
Making Sure Your Bearded Dragon Is Actually Dead
Bearded dragons that are well looked after will usually live between 8 to 12 years.
There are some cases of beardies who have lived for 15 years or more, though these are rare.
If your beardie appears to be dead before its time, the first thing you want to do is make sure your friend has actually died and isn’t just hibernating!
Reptiles have their own form of hibernation, called brumation, which can come as a surprise to many new reptile parents!
Signs of brumation in beardies include a sudden increase in sleeping time along with a sharp decrease in eating, drinking, and defecating.
To further complicate matters, some reptiles will brumate for months, and others not at all!
So before doing anything hasty (like burial or cremation!), try turning your beardie onto their side and see if they move.
If that doesn’t work, turn them onto their back – they won’t like this, so don’t leave them like that.
But if they are still alive, they will start moving very quickly!
If you do find that your dragon is bromating and you’re not sure how to care for them during this time, here’s an excellent guide to brumation in reptiles.
In addition to brumation, bearded dragons can hold their breath for a very long time.
These little lizards are so good at it, in fact, that vets can’t wait for them to take a breath to administer anesthesia: they have to use an incubator instead.
Separating Your Beardie From Others
If you have several reptiles, you’ll want to remove the body and disinfect the tank immediately.
Parasitic infestations can spread among reptiles, and unless you’re sure that your friend died of other causes, you need to take steps to avoid other animals getting sick.
Laws For Burial
Laws for burying animals differ by state and even by county, depending on sources of water, possible contamination from infectious diseases, and other factors.
Most states will specify the depth of the grave, with most states requiring you to dig a hole that’s at least 4 feet deep. Your vet will most likely know what’s possible in your area.
If you live in a state that allows pet burial in yards, but you are in a property with others (for instance, in an apartment complex), you will need to check with the management where you live if there’s an area in which you can bury your pet.
If You Can’t Bury Your Beardie In Your Yard
If local laws don’t allow you to bury your friend in your own yard, you can still have them buried and have a grave where you can visit them.
Pet cemeteries have burial plots that are only for animals, and you can purchase a spot there to remember your friend.
Pet cemeteries can be an expensive option, although it’s cheaper for reptiles than for larger animals.
Average prices for reptiles tend to be between $50 to $120.
There are many options of pet cemeteries in the US for you to choose from, as more and more people use them for burying their pets.
The advantage of a pet cemetery is that you can always visit your friend no matter where you live in the future.
And if you’ve chosen cremation, you can scatter the ashes in your backyard, in your local park or forest, or wherever you wish.
You can also have your friend’s ashes made into a piece of jewelry or a memorial stone which you can then use as you wish.
How To Bury Your Bearded Dragon Properly
The way to bury your bearded dragon properly starts with putting them in a blanket or box and finding a place to dig a hole that’s away from water sources.
Before you start to dig, put down a sheet or a garbage bag next to the gravesite so that you can put the earth on top of it.
You’ll then be able to easily tip the earth back into the grave while keeping the surrounding grass clean and tidy.
When digging the hole, cut away and put to the side any turf that might be on top. You’ll put the turf back again afterward, and you want to make it easy for the grass to regrow.
Dig a rectangular hole that’s wide enough to leave at least 2 inches around the sides of the box or blanket.
Place your reptile’s body in the hole, say any words you’ve prepared, and fill in the hole about halfway.
You can then put down a layer of rocks or a slab of concrete if you’re very concerned about potential digging animals.
Shovel in the rest of the earth and then top with the piece of turf.
You can put a headstone on top to mark the spot. Some people plant a tree as a gesture to remember their pet.
There is no denying that this is an upsetting time.
It really does make the process of disposal all the more difficult.
That being said, it is important that you proactively do so and ensure you are complying with any local laws and regulations along the way.
What is best for one owner is not best for the next, so do take your circumstances into consideration.
And try to learn from the experience, even if it is hard.
It should prove invaluable should you decide to own another bearded dragon or any other pet for that matter.
And if you are ever in need to dispose of another pet, my following guides will be of help:
- What To Do With A Dead Tortoise?
- What To Do With A Dead Chicken?
- What To Do With A Dead Snake
- What To Do With A Dead Cat
- What To Do With A Dead Hamster
- What To Do With A Dead Rabbit
- What To Do With A Dead Guinea Pig?
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.