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Drowning Dragon and How I Dealt with It


Earlier this evening, my boyfriend decided to give my bearded dragons a bath, as they had walked through their own poop. One of my small males, named Labyrinth, decided to try and drown on me! I had never dealt with a drowning animal (specifically reptile) before, but he came out all right, and i thought i might write about the experience so others may benefit from it!

How It Happened:
I wasnt in the room (I was cleaning their cage), but my boyfriend had seen me give them baths before. Like i do, he filled the tub with lukewarm water up to the middle of their sides. Like normal, they both had their heads down in the water to drink when they first got in. After they finished drinking, my bf massaged the poop off of them one at a time. After finishing with Labyrinth, the beardie in question, he put in a rock for Labyrinth to get all the way out of the water.

At that point, I checked on the merry crew, and I was a little worried about Labyrinth, seeing that he was sprawled out on the rock with his eyes closed - like he was basking or something. I asked my bf about it, and checked the water temp, and it was fine. So I just assumed he was tired from swimming around like most lizards do in the bath.

After a few more minute, my bf called me into the bathroom, worried about the lizard. He was right to worry, since when i inspected him, there was clearly something wrong. He said that after I left, he started "doing his head bobbing thing under the water, then started flailing around".

When I picked him up, he was mostly limp, eyes closed and puffy, and beard was jet black and puffed out. I manipulated him and moved him around, and the only time he reacted was to attempt to right himself when turned over (incompletely). I noticed water started to drip out of his nose when I slanted his head downwards. That's when I concluded for sure he had inhaled some water. He wasn't breathing (visibly) and he started to drool interment-idly .

Saving This Sucker!:
At first, I tried to preform reptile CPR on him (google it, its kinda hilarious), which caused more drool to come out. The drool seemed to be his attempt at expelling water form his lungs/stomach. I quickly took a towel and tried to wipe away whatever water came out of his nostrils/mouth. I also did this while holding him under a heat lamp at a downward slant. I opened his mouth after a bit, during which i noticed there was no resistance to it on his part. He still wasnt breathing or responsive at this point.

With a flashlight, i check the inside of his mouth, which was almost filled with drool. There was so much, it was blocking his trachea (a tube-like attachment found at the back of the tongue so he can breathe while eating). I then took an eye dropper and suctioned out the drool. For maybe 2 minutes, I kept suctioning out what probably amounted to a thimble and a half of drool - coming out of a dragon who was under half the adult size. A bit into the suctioning, he started flexing his tongue in response to the dropper. I had still been holding him under the heat bulb, and was soon rewarded with some attempts at swallowing. I continued to suction out drool, which would come in waves.

Eventually, he started to breath again; heaving and holding his own mouth open. Every once and awhile, he would stop breathing, and a new wave of drool would drip out of his mouth. The cycle continued for a bit (~5 minutes), when his eyes snapped open and he bit down on the dropper. I didnt realize the little dropped was made of glass, so the little guy chomped off the tip! I wasnt worried though, i was more happy about him having the strength to do so. Luckily, it didnt shatter, so i fished the tip of the thing off his tongue. Also luckily, i had suctioned out most of the drool by that point.

I continued to hold him in the slanted position under the lamp, and within 15 minutes of the beginning of the whole ordeal, he was alert and responsive again. As i type, he is back to his old self; trying to eat my fingers, basking, and jumping around like a crazy dragon. I am really glad he came out of it fine.


Drowning symptoms included... (in this instance)
-closed/puffy eyes
-water seeping from nostrils
-excessive swallowing (or attempting to)

Treatment included...
-warm environment
-positioning with head slanted downwards
-suctioning/removal of drool from mouth and throat

I hope my little experience can help people feel prepared - in the case of one of their reptiles being as silly as mine and drowning in an inch of water. Probably what served me best in this situation was staying calm and collected. Dont get me wrong, i was worried as hell, but it can be hard to think when you're busy panicking! Hopefully, none of you will every have to put any of this to use, but it cant hurt to learn from my ordeal! :)


Active Member
1,000+ Post Club
What a harrowing ordeal! Good for you for keeping cool in the face of danger. Poor Labyrinth, glad he's alright.


New Member
Hi Heather.

I have a similar, but much scarier situation to tell everyone about.

One of my two Dragons, Infernus, got out of their tank and into a neighboring fish tank (70degree water). I was taking a bath, but right beforehand, I had just removed the dragons and cleaned the dragon tank and put them back. Infernus is about 6 months old and 15-16 inches long. He is the largest of the two (his other is his brother broodmate Runt) and they get along fabulously. No nipping or biting or aggressive behavior. Well, anyway I didn't shut the screen lid enough, and for the first time ever Infernus got out. I was in the tub for an hour and a half, so he could have been underwater for 10 minutes, or the whole time.

I quickly (once I saw him) pulled him out and gently handled him slightly upside down, compressing his chest a few times. He seemed to respond extremely minorly and I had hope, but I also had to tell my self it just may be water or air escaping or nerve reflexes in a dead dragon :(. I then put him angled down on his basking rock/cave with the heat lamp directly overhead. Again he seemed to move minorly, but his foot was backwards and his eyes were half-closed and not moving. I again compressed his chest a little a few times.

I ran on the internet and read a couple of tales of resuscitating drowned dragons and I and hope. I took him back out and used a straw to breath into him with extremely small puffs (STRESS-EXTREMELY SMALL- you can blow a reptiles lungs VERY EASILY) followed by patting his back a few times afterward. This was what someone on another site did and seemed better than actual mouth to snout. I did this for about 3 minutes and got a stronger reflex, but then again, I told myself, it could be because I put more air in him.

So I put him back on the rock cave with the heating lamp, head down. Watery mucus-like liquid did come out, I would say my dragon produced quite a bit, about 5-6 CCs. More gentle squeezing, and patting of his chest cavity while he was warming up for about 5 more minutes and then I saw him take his first breath, albeit shallow, on his own. A couple more minutes, with some gentle help from me and he took even a few more, then one really BIG breath. This did produce a gurgling sound and a small amount of bubbles. Then a couple more minutes warming, head down and his eyes blinked! After about 5 more minutes making sure he stayed breathing, and I did have to help him a few times when he went a minute with no activity, and his eyes blinked again, this time a couple of times! Now I knew it was still touch and go at this point, but I really starting to hope.

I moved him down off the cave to the aquarium floor where I have an underglass heater and also put the heating lamp on the screen right above him. His brother came over and looked but didn't touch. Infernus at this point took a huge breath in and out, but I continued to watch his recovery. His beard was black, the first time in his life I have actually seen it go black. Then his brother Runt, after a bit, moved off and Infernus (who had ben taking shallow breaths regularly for a few minutes) turned his head toward his brother. This was his first movement except blinking. A couple more minutes of warming and he moved his right front leg into a more comfortable position! I was ecstatic at this point!!

He has continued to get better, looking around quite a bit and moving all 4 legs, but not walking anywhere yet (I presume he is still happy warming up) and his beard had gone back to normal. It has been about 45 minutes since his rescue, and I started typing this at about 35 minutes, and have my wife and daughter watching him, and I have run back a few times as well. He hasn't crawled yet, but he has hissed (he rarely does that, but hey, he may be saying WTF in Dragonspeak!) I wanted to share this with you and anyone else who may be in the same position.

DON'T GIVE UP on your Dragon! Especially if it was cold water they went under in. Also, I have only taken him to a regular Vet once, who did own his own Iguana, but was not a herpetologist. I will take him in for a check up to see if the Vet thinks his lungs are clear or needs to be on antibiotics or anything. My regular Vet is awesome with our Dachshund (who by the way does not go after the Dragons when I hold them- I think she thinks they are little dogs- just sniffs and walks away) and he (the Vet) did great for years with our Blue Point Persian, who just passed after 16 years. I feel, since he owns an Iguana, he should be able to do an after-drowning check.

--UPDATE-- Infernus is now walking around, his color is back (he had paled a bit) and he looks as if he is going to be fine! It has been about an hour total.

To recap:

The Dragon could have been underwater for a very long time, over an hour, but it was no less than 10 minutes.

Immediately getting as much water and mucus out as possible and gently performing CPR was helpful.

Warming him with his head slanted down helped everything to drain, and watching to make sure he continued to breathe on his own and helping, rarely, when necessary.

The warming took about an hour before he was back to normal.

A Vet visit is HIGHLY suggested afterwards!


Staff member
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5 Year Member
@maalri thank you for adding your story. What a harrowing experience! I'm very glad it ended up ok for Infernus as it did for Labyrinth above. What a scary situation. I like your advice of never giving up.