Bearded dragons have become the most popular pet reptile. So, what makes Beardies so lovable to so many? Well, it’s their docile nature.
Bearded dragons are happy to just hang with their owners. You can even pet them like you would a dog. In fact, they’ll love that you do, although their tail may not exactly wag with joy like our better-known canine pets.
While bearded dragons may not wag their tails and jump about as a pooch might, they certainly have other behaviors that will let their owners know what they’re feeling. It’s just the owner’s job to read up on them to best understand their beardie.
One trademark move of the bearded dragon is pancaking. Exactly what does it mean when a bearded dragon pancakes?
What does it mean when a bearded dragon pancakes?
There are a few reasons why your bearded dragon may flatten itself out, or “pancake.” While it may look like something especially cute, it’s actually not a great sign, although not necessarily something serious either.
Let’s check out three reasons why a bearded dragon might pancake.
Bearded dragons do have some natural predators when found in the wild: larger lizards, dingoes, and birds of prey. Therefore, domestic beardies have an instinct to protect themselves if they feel as though they’re in danger, just as they might if they fear a predator is near.
Bearded dragons will pancake if they fear for their safety. By flattening out, they either look larger or are more hidden from predators.
Several things in your house could cause your bearded dragon to feel fear: sudden movements, other pets, their owner, toys, or certain decorations.
Don’t panic if your bearded dragon pancakes from fear. If you can, get rid of what’s causing the fear for a while. If not, the moment will pass. It’s normal for even a domesticated beardie’s natural survival instincts to kick in now and again.
Drop in body temperature
If a bearded dragon experiences a drop in body temperature, it will try to warm up. Beardies will flatten themselves out to absorb more heat. This is their attempt to regulate their body temperatures.
Maintaining a healthy body temperature is extremely important to the health of bearded dragons. If its temperature drops, its body will stop working as well as it should. A lazy or lethargic bearded dragon could be a sign of too low of a body temperature.
When bearded dragons have too low of a body temperature, they’re unable to digest food as they should, which can lead to some serious health problems. Beardies try to resolve the issue by pancaking to raise their temperature so that their digestive system can function.
If you notice your bearded dragon is pancaking often and is also sluggish, this could be a sign that you need to adjust the temperature in their tank. Be aware of this as the temperature of the tank is extremely important to the beardies’ health.
This is usually the least common cause for a bearded dragon to pancake. However, it is a possibility. When bearded dragons are not feeling well, they’ll sometimes flatten out their bodies.
Pancaking can also be caused by a calcium imbalance. Beardies, like other reptiles, are at risk of metabolic bone disease (MBD). MBD is caused by a calcium deficiency. It can be dangerous to a bearded dragon’s health.
A healthy diet with a balance of calcium and vitamin D is important to maintain the beardies’ health. Pancaking could be a sign of low calcium levels, which can lead to some serious health issues, including death.
How do I know if my bearded dragon is happy?
OK, now we know that pancaking is not a sign of happiness from your pet bearded dragon. It’s most likely a beardie’s attempt to regulate its body temperature or a response to fear. On rare occasions, it could also mean illness.
While it’s important to know the most prevalent behaviors and body movements of your pet, it’s also just nice to know when they’re happy. Surely you want to know that you’re doing a good job as an owner by not only keeping your bearded dragon healthy but happy as well.
7 signs that your bearded dragon is happy
Ok, so technically bearded dragons and reptiles, in general, don’t cuddle. But, they do show a similar sentiment by laying on their owners.
If your bearded dragon comes over and lays on you or right next to you, it’s a sign that they’re comfortable with you. It’s also their way of finding a warm spot to hang out. But there are surely plenty of those around.
Your beardie posting up next to you or on top of you while you’re watching TV, on the computer, or just hanging out is a sign of a happy pet.
They have a routine
Maybe not the cutest behavior, but happy bearded dragons will maintain a schedule and routine. That means that they’ll eat, go to the bathroom, bask, and sleep normally.
If beardies are stressed, then their bodies will show it. Their digestion, and sleep patterns, you name it, will be off. However, if your pet bearded dragon is happy, it’ll follow a normal, healthy routine.
They wave at you
Back to absolutely adorable pet behavior with this frequent bearded dragon movement. Beardies will wave at their owners.
This is a sign that they want your attention. Your bearded dragon just wants to say hi to its wonderful owner, who is keeping it happy and healthy.
But, context is everything when it comes to a wave. It can also be a motion caused by stress or fear. It could be their way of calling for help. So, be sure to see what’s going on with your beardie when they wave.
Bearded dragons will often lick the air. This is a sign of mating or of wanting food. When beardies lick the air, it means they are trying to smell something.
Beardies will do this when they feel comfortable around you. You may notice they do it more and more the longer you have them as a pet.
This is a good sign. Your beardie is telling you that they’re ready for some attention by doing so.
They come to you
Beardies will run or hide if they are afraid. They will only come to their owners if they are comfortable with them and trust them. If your beardie does not want to be near you, it will show you through some aggressive behaviors.
If a bearded dragon is happy, it’ll feel safe enough to come to you. However, this is achieved through training. After all, you’ve got to earn your new pet’s trust. But, once you do, your bearded dragon will let you know it likes you by coming to you.
They bask frequently
Bearded dragons need light and warmth to maintain a healthy body temperature. Basking is an important part of a bearded dragon’s health and happiness.
If beardies are stressed, they will bask less often.
If you notice that your bearded dragon is basking beneath its tank light or hanging in the sun if you let it roam free in the garden, then this is a sign of happiness. Your beardie feels comfortable enough to just chill and soak up some rays.
They let you hold them
Once you first get your pet bearded dragon, they’ll be hesitant to let you hold them. If you try to grab them, they’ll likely try to squirm and wriggle free of your grasp. That’s natural; they’re not comfortable with you yet.
Hopefully, over time, after your beardie learns that you can be trusted and you care for them, they will allow you to hold them.
If your beardie allows you to hold them while just hanging out calmly, it’s a huge sign that they are happy in the home you’ve created for them.
Abnormal behaviors in bearded dragons
There are some important signs to look out for if your bearded dragon isn’t doing its best. Just as it’s good to know what behaviors show a happy bearded dragon, it’s also good to be aware of abnormal behaviors in beardies.
If you see signs of the following behaviors, your bearded dragon is likely sick and needs medical attention.
If your bearded dragon is acting slower and more sluggish than usual, then this could be a sign of illness. Some possible health issues could be poor diet, insufficient lighting, low tank temperature, or parasites.
Panting is not normal behavior for bearded dragons. It could be caused by overheating, a mouth infection, or a respiratory problem.
Beardies who are having trouble walking could be seriously ill. It could be a symptom of one of the most severe illnesses for reptiles: metabolic bone disease. Several other serious health issues could be occurring. It’s best to seek medical attention if you notice that your bearded dragon is especially wobbly while walking.
Vomiting or diarrhea
Diarrhea or vomiting for a few days is not normal behavior for beardies. They could have a parasite or a serious digestive issue.
Normal bearded dragon behavior
Now let’s talk about some bearded dragon behavior that isn’t necessarily a warning sign of illness, but maybe also doesn’t mean that your bearded dragon is happy.
Frequent beardie behavior
- Head bobbing. Beardies will do this when mating. If it has an increase in hormones, you’ll likely see it bobbing its head. This usually occurs in males.
- Black beard. This is a signature beardie behavior and is quite fascinating to see. This may accompany mating. However, it could also be a sign of stress, fear, or illness.
- Glass surfing. Beardies have been known to press up against their glass tanks. This is usually a sign of stress. It could mean that their tank is too small.
- Digging. Bearded dragons may dig to search for food. It could also be their way of preparing for brumation, which is like hibernation for beardies, usually done in the colder months.
- Gaping. Beardies will open their mouths when basking once they reach their prime temperature. This allows them to stay in the light without overheating. It’s their method of cooling down.
- Eye bulging. This behavior is associated with shedding. You will likely see your beardie do this before shedding.
- Hissing or stamping. This is not a sign of a happy beardie. Bearded dragons will hiss or stamp when they feel threatened.
Pancaking is normal
Pancaking is normal behavior that you are likely to see from your bearded dragon. Beardies need to regulate their temperature, and by pancaking, they can absorb more heat. It can also be a sign of fear or illness.
Understanding your pet bearded dragon means learning their frequent (and less frequent) behaviors.
This will let you know if your beardie is happy, stressed, or sick. Once you know what your beardie is telling you, you will be able to best take care of it.