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Bearded Dragon Stress Marks

by Lucy

Most novice reptile parents wind up bringing home bearded dragons at some point. They’re docile, low-maintenance, and make fantastic pets when cared for properly. But animals, much like humans, don’t do well under stress and can show physical signs of unhappiness.

So, what are bearded dragon stress marks? Stress marks are oval-shaped patterns of darker scales that appear on the stomach, limbs, or chin of bearded dragons when they are stressed. These marks are not permanent, but if they stay too long, your bearded dragon may need a visit with a vet.

So, if you’re wondering how stress affects beardies, wonder no more. Let’s delve deep into the various signs of stress in bearded dragons, and what steps you can take to relieve their anxiety.

What Are Bearded Dragon Stress Marks?

Stress marks are oval-shaped patterns or dark lines that may appear on the belly, limbs, or chin of your bearded dragon. They only appear when your bearded dragon is in a state of distress.

When humans are under stress, most tend to furrow their brows, frown, become easily agitated, lose their appetite, and more. When your beardie faces a difficult situation, their body reacts naturally, and stress marks appear.

Stress marks are not permanent. Any odd coloration or that might appear on your beardie’s tummy will disappear as quickly as it came, once the problem has been removed. In the rare case that the marks refuse to budge, you should prepare yourself and your pet for a visit to the vet.

What Causes Stress Marks On Bearded Dragons?

Stress marks are enough to give panic attacks to first-time pet parents. Bearded dragons can get stress marks for several reasons, and while some causes are easy to remedy, other causes are difficult to spot and require a lot of investigation.

If you happen to be a novice reptile enthusiast, you can learn about the reasons behind stress marks and master the art of treating stress marks in your beardie. Here are some of the possible causes that might cause stress to your reptilian friend.

1. Incorrect Temperatures In The Enclosures

Bearded dragons come from the deserts of Australia and are accustomed to arid and warmer climates. If your beardie’s vivarium does not have the appropriate temperature, then they will indeed show signs of stress. 

When a bearded dragon is constantly in low temperatures, then it will develop stress marks. These marks become pretty evident during the morning hours when the temperature is low and when your lizard has slept in the cold all through the night.

If that is the case, you will have to adjust the temperature in your beardie’s vivarium, add a heating pad to the bottom of their tank, or make them instantly happy by placing it under the basking light to warm it up.

On the flip side, if your bearded dragon’s tank is too hot, then your bearded dragon will become restless and lethargic. It may even suffer from loss of appetite and weight loss. But, the easiest way to determine the temperature is to use a thermometer. It helps to have multiple thermometers in your pet’s tank. Placing a thermometer in the basking area and another around the hides will help you stabilize the temperature in the tank.

The appropriate temperature range in the basking area of your beardie’s vivarium is 95-110°F. The cool spot where the hides are should be close to 75-90°F. At night, you must make sure that the vivarium temperature does not exceed 70°F.

2. Inadequate Vivarium Space

If your pet does not have ample room to bask, hide, roam, and climb, then they are going to be under stress. Also, as bearded dragons grow, they develop an even greater need for more space to move around. 

Therefore, you must acquaint yourself with the tank size requirements according to the age of your pet. Take a look at the tank size and age table (this is our favorite tank).

AgeTank Size
0-3 months20-40 gallons
4-5 months40-75 gallons
6-8 months50-75 gallons
12 months and beyond75-120 gallons

3. Relocation Pressure

Baby bearded dragons tend to suffer significantly from stress. They are not given much time to adjust to their new home after birth before being sold into a new home. The change in environment can accumulate significantly when the baby beardies aren’t given the space they require to settle in. Instead, they are exposed to new people, constant handling, and new habitats.

On the other hand, adult bearded dragons also undergo stress when relocated into a new home. It isn’t a problem that can be quickly resolved. Therefore, your pet may go through emotional and physical strain for a more extended period than necessary.

The only way to ensure that they are 100% on the way to recovery during relocation stress is to provide them with a safe and comfortable habitat, healthy diet, and hygienic environment. Furthermore, beardies tend to hide out when they feel threatened, so allowing your lizard some space and not resorting to handling will surely help your pet settle into their new home with ease.

4. Excessive Handling

Your pet may be a friendly and affectionate one. But, you need to realize that bearded dragons are not always accustomed to human handling when you first adopt them. If you’ve just brought home your pet and insist on handling them even when they seem to be in the mood to go into hiding, then they will experience stress.

Also, if you try to get your beardie out of their tank but they move away and start to wave, your pet does not want to be touched. Giving in to your pet’s wishes will allow them to feel at home and safe.

Not to mention, first-time parents are recommended to handle their pets with extreme care as reptiles don’t move the same way as mammals. The slightest bit of rough handling can result in a loss of trust on your pet’s side and may even cause your pet harm.

It is vital to understand the correct way to handle a bearded dragon. The beardie’s legs, body, and tail need to be supported securely yet gently.

5. Hunger Pangs

If your bearded dragon is hungry and doesn’t get food on time or regularly, then they are bound to show signs of stress.

However, bearded dragons are reptiles that hunt for their prey. If you place a box of crickets next to your pet’s vivarium, and your beardie can hear them, they’re going to get very frustrated and stressed. They may not be fighting hunger, but they cannot suppress the urge to hunt.

Your beardie will get attuned to the routine that you keep very quickly, and it’s important to stick to the routine that your pet follows. Baby bearded dragons need to be fed 3-5 times a day, and adult beardies require feeding only once or twice a day.

6. Disturbance And The Sight Of A Predator

Bearded dragons live in deserts, savannas, and woodlands. Often, these creatures are seen basking on tree stumps or boulders, and it is here that beardies watch for movement intently in their territory.

Bearded dragons often take refuge in dark, tight corners of branches and tree stumps where predators cannot attack them. Any large animal or a loud noise is seen as threatening by beardies. It is the same for domestic beardies.

You need to place your pet’s tank in a room that has a calm and relaxed environment. Loud noises such as children shouting or playing, dogs barking, loud music playing, or even high volume on the television is enough to scare and stress out a beardie.

Not to mention, cats and dogs are curious creatures. If your beardie lives in a multiple pet household, then it’s likely that they are going through stress at the sight of your fur babies looking into their cage. It’s best not to keep your beardie’s enclosure close to the ground where pets and children can loom over them and tap on the glass.

7. Housing Two Bearded Dragons Together

Bearded dragons are very territorial beings, and you cannot house two male beardies together without a fight. If one beardie is slightly smaller than the other, it will be dominated in everything from the food it eats to the places it can bask or hide. 

On the other hand, if both beardies are equal in size, there will be a fighting match to determine the dominant. Keeping two males or one male and female is going to give your pet nothing but stress. 

You may think that your bearded dragon is all alone and may need companionship. But, bearded dragons are solitary creatures by nature, and they get together with females only to mate, and each goes their separate ways after mating is complete. 

The only gender that can co-exist with a modicum of peace when it comes to bearded dragons is two females. In most circumstances, two females will tolerate each other’s company. But, there is still much risk and stress involved, and your pet may start to show stress marks due to cohabitation.

8. Boredom

If you’ve just adopted a bearded dragon and their vivarium is nearly empty, then they will suffer from boredom and show signs of stress. Most first-time bearded dragon parents are recommended to provide a sufficiently large tank for their pets with enough nesting hides, plenty of basking room, plants, and branches that your beardie can use to climb.

Your bearded dragon must find plenty of mental stimulation and avenues for physical exercise in their tank for their enrichment and health. And if your reptilian friend has nothing to look at and nowhere to hide or climb, then they are not going to be very happy in their new home.

Taking your bearded dragon out of their cage for playtime and walks is also a good idea. It goes without saying that you need to be extra careful around your pet when you let them out of their cage, but as your pet gets accustomed to their surroundings as well as your presence, they’ll learn to stay closer to you instead of running off.

9. Illnesses

If your bearded dragon is unwell, or at the brink of falling ill, it is very probable that they will get stress marks. Bearded dragons are prone to develop metallic bone disease without proper lighting, respiratory infections, infectious stomatitis (mouth rot), and adenovirus infection.

However, with a proper diet, clean and hygienic habitat, and safe environment, your beardie will live a long and happy life.

10. Shedding

Your bearded dragon is a reptile, and they will repeatedly shed their skin throughout their lifetime. There is no denying that shedding for reptiles is a natural process, but it can also be a painful one. Your beardie will be irritable and prefer to hide away until their shed is entirely off, and until then, most bearded dragons stay off their food too. 

Therefore, it is undeniable that shedding can also stress them out, causing black lines or circular patterns to appear. You can help your beardie out by providing a warm soak for them in their tank to help them shed quickly. Also, make sure they always have access to fresh water.

Minimal handling and a peaceful room with plenty of nesting hides will go a long way in alleviating your pet’s fears and pains. Other causes such as over-excitement, dirty living conditions, and a change in routine are more examples where they may become stressed.

How Long Do Stress Marks Take To Disappear?

As mentioned earlier, stress marks are not permanent. Stress marks can disappear as quickly and as easily as they appear in the first place. But you have to identify and resolve the problem before these marks go away. 

Now, in most situations, it is easy to spot the problem and take care of it. For example, a drop in the temperature in your beardie’s cage is simple to identify and fix. However, certain circumstances such as relocation can mean that your beardie will take their time getting used to their new home before the stress marks leave.

However, if a problem keeps reappearing repeatedly, then it’s likely that your beardie’s marks will stay for far longer than they’re supposed to. So, if you notice that the patterns on your bearded dragon are not getting lighter after a month or so, then it’s best to head to the vet for a consultation.

Final Thoughts

Bearded dragons make friendly and even affectionate pets, but they are labeled as exotic pets for a reason; they are certainly strange and unique animals.

Bearded dragons aren’t expensive or very high-maintenance once you have their enclosure set up properly. They don’t guzzle down tons of food or need much of your time. But, as their loyal caretaker, you’ll always have to watch over them and make sure they are not showing signs of stress.

Bearded dragons are delicate and tiny animals that can suffer from stress just like the rest of us and show signs of it through physical changes in their skin coloration.

It’s not hard to figure out when your beardie is under stress, but you should try and identify the problem and resolve it quickly to ensure that they get back to being their happy and healthy self as soon as possible.

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