Bearded dragons are Australian lizards that have become an important reptile pet among the people in the United States. They have spiny scales around the body and the spiky collars around the throat that puffs up from time to time gives them the name “bearded dragons”.
They have a short broad head, long tail, and stout legs. They’re easy-going in nature and their reputation of easily getting along with you makes you bring this little pet to your home and become a part of the family.
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Causes of stress among bearded dragons:
Your bearded dragon may be stressed due to multiple factors. Maybe he does not like the surroundings or maybe he got threatened by other pets. You have to look at the mood of this little creature and try to figure out what could the reason be?
Loss of appetite:
If your bearded dragon is a good eater but suddenly he has stopped eating and looks weak and lethargic, then that might be a sign that he is stressed and it’s causing him to lose his appetite. When animals feel threatened, they are more alert about their surroundings and cannot focus on eating their food. Read more on bearded dragon not eating.
Bearded dragons can change the color of their body due to environmental circumstances. The changing color may be due to regulating temperature or communicating with other bearded dragons. If you feel that their normal color is getting darker than usual, then they could be stressed.
One of the main reasons for stress is that may be your bearded dragons are not basking properly. These dragons essentially have to spend a long time basking in the sun to gain heat and energy. The lamp takes the place of the sun and provides the necessary UVA rays. If your bearded dragon is feeling vulnerable then he will not bask properly.
Lack of movement:
A threatened and stressed dragon does not want to move much at all. This maybe because your bearded dragon is sick and he requires proper treatment. Sometimes the bearded dragons become too lethargic due to respiratory and stomach infections. If they are stressed due to the sickness, they will show a lack of movement in their habitat.
Glass surfing is a commonly seen behavior where the bearded dragons run around the tank and bounce off the glass walls of their enclosure. This usually happens when they are relocated to a new enclosure. If you notice the same kind of behavior, then it means they feel highly agitated and in danger. You should try to calm down your pet with the tips mentioned further in this article.
These marks appear on the dark lines on the belly of bearded dragons if it is experiencing stress. They look like dark oval shaped marks. If a situation is not suitable for bearded dragons, then these stress marks begin to appear and get dark over time. But if the situation remains calm, then they could disappear.
If the temperature is not suitable for bearded dragons, then it may feel uncomfortable as the dragon sleeps all night in cold temperatures. You have to make sure that the temperature should be suitable for bearded dragons in hot and cold weather.
Bearded dragons have excellent hearing. Sometimes a loud and shrill sound may be too high or sharp and may deeply affect the mind of a bearded dragon and the vibrations from that can make it restless and stressed.
A rapid change in lighting:
As bearded dragons are originally from Australia you need to make an enclosure similar to their habitat and provide enough lighting. Make sure that entire tank of the bearded dragon is light up with a fluorescent light.
If you don’t include UVB and UVA lighting, as well as a basking light to keep it warm, your dragon will likely become very sick. UVB rays are the rays emitted by the sun and necessary for your dragon’s proper digestion.
If the voltage fluctuates and the setting of the light becomes improper, then it may agitate the bearded dragon. More on bearded dragon lighting here.
Not having the habitat set up correctly:
This is one of the important factors in causing stress. If the habitat of a bearded dragon is not set up properly according to his will, then it may never feel at home and might exhibit stressed-out behaviors.
You have to be careful about the proper light, substrate, surroundings, etc. to make the bearded dragon feel secure about the habitat.
Not offering a large enough space:
Like humans, bearded dragons also need to roam around in a large space. If the roaming space is small, then it may be difficult for them to move freely in the cage. This may also cause stress among bearded dragons.
Tips for dealing with stress and calm down bearded dragons
Some tips may be used for dealing with stress and calm down the bearded dragons:
- Avoid handling
- Minimize sensory overload
- Warm bath
- Get them used to your scent
- Offer food daily
- Feed them from your hand
- Use pleasant tones
- Stroke the head
- No roommates
If you feel that your bearded dragon is not feeling comfortable with you, or is getting away and hiding from you then the best solution is to avoid handling them until they feel more secure and comfortable. Don’t handle them too much in this situation. Leave them until they fully settle in their tank.
Minimize sensory overload:
Just like humans become over-stimulated with the environment through excessive noise, technology, and crowds, bearded dragons may also get influenced by these surroundings. Try to minimize the sensory overload like trying to cut down the light and sounds overloading your bearded dragon. Try to cover the enclosure with a blanket or getting a good background.
A warm bath may be helpful in calming down your bearded dragon. Fill a bathtub with warm water and let your bearded dragon rest in the water for almost 20 minutes. The temperature of the water should not be above 30-32 degrees Celsius. Rub its head, belly, and back gently. It will help them stay hydrated and clean. While getting them to the bath, try to avoid picking them from above their head since it could startle them.
The center of their head is a third eye which is capable of detecting both light and shadow and may mistake your hand as a threat. Instead you could try to pick them from their sides or their front and make sure to support their whole body including the tail to make them feel secure.
Get them used to your scent:
Another way to help your pet overcome the stress faster is to try to make them more comfortable and secure with not only the environment but you as the owner as well. You need to get your bearded dragon used to your scent in order to recognize you.
You can do this by placing a piece of your clothing inside the cage and you could also put your hands in the tank in front of their face with palms up to recognize you and your scent.
Offer food daily:
As the bearded dragons are omnivorous and they like to eat both plants and animal foods so try to offer them both daily. Do not stick to giving them just one kind of food. Give them food daily with a different variety like insects and plants. Read more about bearded dragon diet.
Feed them from your hand:
Try to feed your bearded dragons with your hand. By feeding them with your hand, they will recognize your scent better and will feel better with you. If your dragon is being stressed, then try to have something green in your hand like a small green leaf. It will help them calm down easily. Read more on feeding bearded dragons.
Talk to your pet calmly:
The bearded dragons are having an excellent hearing. If your bearded dragon is stressed out and you have to calm them, then speak slowly and gently. It will help them to become less frightened and will calm down easily.
This technique is especially helpful when you walk towards their tank as this will signal them to know you’re there and you can avoid creeping up on them.
Stroke the head:
This is a common tip that people like to do with their bearded dragons. Gently stroke the head of bearded dragons from nose to head. Don’t try to touch the eyes. It will help the stressed bearded dragon to calm down.
If your bearded dragon has a separate tank and he loves it very much, try not to keep the new bearded dragon in the same tank. Sometimes the bigger dragons may bully them by taking their food and stealing their basking spots. This may cause stress due to the sharing of the tank. So try to keep the both pets in separate enclosures.
Knowing that your bearded dragon is stressed out may worry you and you may have a lot of concern regarding this. It is a crucial time for you to keep an eye on your bearded dragon. Take care of its essential needs like proper light, basking, temperature, food, and environment. Any strange behavior should be observed and proper treatment should be given.