Anyone unfamiliar with bearded dragons may think that these creatures fly and breathe fire into the air. That is probably because we often think of a mythical giant reptile when the word “dragon” pops up.
But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Bearded dragons have a reputation for being exceptionally calm, docile, and even friendly. They get their name from the scales on their body and the beard of spikes on the underside of their throat.
Okay, but do bearded dragons bite?
And if they do, is there an explanation for this behavior? How bad can it get?
It makes sense to ask these questions, especially if you’re planning on getting a beardie as a pet because you want to protect yourself and your family.
So, without further ado, let’s get into it.
So, do bearded dragons bite?
To get right to the point, bearded dragons do bite.
However, it’s very rare for a beardie to bite you. You’re more likely to get scratched by your cat more times than bitten by your beardie once.
Generally, bearded dragons are friendly animals. Most pet owners consider them social and rarely aggressive. Before biting, a bearded dragon will give you warning signs (such as hissing or puffing their beards). Usually, biting comes as a last resort.
Biting is a sign of aggression, which means something is wrong. Bearded dragons don’t bite just for the fun of it. It is, therefore, important to understand the situations that can make your pet bite.
Why do bearded dragons bite?
Bearded dragons don’t bite because they’re mean. You should know the reasons that can drive them up the wall and bite you. Knowing these reasons will allow you to avoid them and maintain a healthy relationship with your pet.
Let’s take a closer look at the reasons why a bearded dragon might try to bite you.
The phrase “a hungry man is an angry man” doesn’t only apply to humans. There are three main reasons why this bite may happen:
- You can expect this aggressive behavior if you forget or delay your pet’s feeding schedule.
- If you were in contact with their food before handling them, your hands might retain the smell, and bearded dragons can mistake your fingers for food.
- If you feed them using your hands, they can accidentally nip you due to over-excitement.
Poor handling is a mistake often made by new or inexperienced owners and children. But sometimes, even experienced owners can make this mistake.
Mishandling a bearded dragon can cause discomfort or pain. Remember, as humans, we’re way bigger and larger than bearded dragons. So, even the slightest pressure can cause pain.
Some examples of poor handling are
- Holding or squeezing them tightly
- Poking them
- Pinching them
- Handling them for a long period without giving them personal space
- Grabbing them suddenly
- Picking them up by wrong body parts, such as the tail, head, or limbs
Fear or intimidation
Bearded dragons have excellent eyesight. But they have poor depth perception since their eyes are positioned on the sides of their heads. This is why you may notice them hitting things that are far, and they’ll be afraid of items or objects that they think are closer but actually are distant.
On top of that, they can be afraid or intimidated by other pets in your home (including other beardies).
When bearded dragons are scared, they hiss, puff up their beards, or turn their beards black. If your pet shows these signs, they’re likely to bite for self-defense if you don’t let them calm down before handling them.
Socialization plays a huge role in human-animal relationships. Bearded dragons that are not used to socializing with people can be less docile and less trusting.
This can happen if you get a bearded dragon from a breeder that didn’t interact with or handle them when they were babies. The longer the bearded dragons have lived without that, the more cautious and defensive they are, to the point of biting.
So, a beardie with less human contact may get aggressive and bite.
A stressed-out bearded dragon is more likely to bite due to pain or discomfort. Stress bites can range from soft nips to intense bites depending on the level of discomfort.
Bearded dragons can be stressed due to many different causes, including:
- New environment
- Sudden movements
- Illness or injury
- Mating season
- Husbandry issues
Again, before biting, they may exhibit signs of stress such as low activity, hissing, head bobbing, mouth constantly opening, digging, fleeing, stress marks (dark spots around the belly), loss of appetite, and so much more. If you notice these signs, a bearded dragon is more likely to bite, even in the slightest attempt to handle them.
Does a bearded dragon bite hurt?
Whether a bearded dragon’s bite hurts or not depends on the beardie and why they bite you. But whatever the situation, the pain isn’t agonizing. It could feel like a sharp pinch or sting.
The age of a bearded dragon impacts how much pain you feel. A baby’s bite isn’t as strong since they don’t have as much strength. On the other hand, an adult’s bite could be much stronger and may sometimes break the skin or cause bruising.
The reason they’re biting also determines whether the bite hurts or not. If the beardie accidentally bites you while feeding, the nip would be soft and not painful at all compared to if they bite due to stress or feeling threatened.
Can a bearded dragon bite be dangerous?
“Are bearded dragons poisonous?”
This question is quite common. Most people don’t want to be part of handling or keeping a poisonous animal as a pet.
Technically, a bearded dragon’s bite is venomous. Bearded dragons have small venom glands in their cheeks that secrete venom used to paralyze and kill prey animals, such as small rodents. However, this venom is harmless to humans. So, it’s safe to say that bearded dragons are poisonous to their prey but not toxic to humans.
What to do if a bearded dragon bites you
The first thing you need to do is stay calm. While the automatic stress response is to freak out, shout, or yank your hand back, it’s important to be calm to avoid further damage.
If you suddenly yank your hand back, the bearded dragon might fall or hit the wall, causing your pet serious injuries. Alternatively, if the beardie is still holding on to the bitten body part, any sudden movement might threaten him, and you could risk being bitten harder and breaking the skin.
So, what should you do?
If the bearded dragon doesn’t let go, put him down gently and use your free hand to pull his mouth open. Then you can gently remove your bitten body part. If the dragon is not holding on, leave him and move on to treating the bite using the following steps.
- Wash your hand well with water and soap to eliminate bacteria
- Disinfect the bite using an antiseptic such as betadine or an antibacterial disinfectant such as Neosporin. This step is crucial to minimize the risk of infection.
- If the wound is still bleeding, use a bandage to cover the wounded area.
If you notice swelling after a few days, you should seek medical attention.
Warning! Even though bearded dragons look healthy, they carry salmonella germs, which can easily spread to you through bites. If left untreated, salmonella can make you sick.
How to avoid bearded dragons bites
Once a startled beardie bites you, you might want to calm down and leave him alone for a bit (obviously, still feed him and keep the cage clean).
Then, you should investigate what triggered the beardie to prevent this from happening again. Here are some questions you can ask yourself.
- Was the beardie hungry?
- Was the beardie comfortable before attempting to handle him?
- Did you hold the beardie for way too long?
- Were you inside or outside when it happened?
- Who else was in the room?
- Were there any other pets around?
- Was everything okay in the beardie’s enclosure?
If you want to prevent your beardie from biting you, you should try to always keep him comfortable, happy, and healthy.
Here are some tips to avoid bearded dragon bites.
- Have a good feeding schedule so they know when to expect food.
- Avoid hand-feeding hungry beardies. You can use tweezers or tongs.
- Wash your hands before and after being in contact with their food.
- Avoid startling your pet or making any sudden movements.
- Pick them up gently by their stomach.
- Guide your children when handling them.
- Give them personal space.
- Ensure everything is okay in their enclosure (lighting, temperature, and tank size).
- Get a bearded dragon from a reputable breeder.
- Allow them to get comfortable at your home before attempting to handle them.
- Don’t handle them if they display signs of aggression.
Bearded dragons are calm animals. But do they bite? Yes, they bite for a reason. They bite when they’re hungry, stressed, threatened, or mishandled.
Does it hurt? Well, that depends on the reason for biting and the age of a bearded dragon. But it doesn’t normally hurt. It feels more like a stinging sensation.
Even though bearded dragons are venomous, their bites are not harmful to humans. The venom is meant for small prey like bugs. However, if you don’t treat the wound properly, you risk getting infected.
The bite should be cleaned properly, disinfected, and bandaged to minimize the chance of getting an infection. Seek medical attention if it doesn’t get better after a few days.
Finally, if you handle your beardie well, feed them on time, and ensure they feel comfortable and secure, they may never bite you. Also, always watch out for signs of aggression. It should be safe this way.