Bearded dragon stress marks are lines, stripes or oval dark shapes on your bearded dragon’s stomach or abdomen. And they are an easy sign that something is making your pet very unhappy. Bearded dragon stress marks are a physical sign that your pet lizard is anxious. There are lots of possible causes including the wrong temperature, humidity, diet, environment or company. Today we’ll look at the common causes of bearded dragon stress marks, how to remove them and ways to avoid more stress marks in the future.
- About bearded dragon stress marks
- Common causes of stress for bearded dragons
- Getting rid of bearded dragon stress marks
- Preventing bearded dragon stress marks and other signs of stress
- When should I go to the veterinarian if my bearded dragon has stress marks?
Bearded dragons are interesting reptiles that are growing in popularity all over the world. But, they have some important, complex care needs. Without the right enclosure and care, bearded dragons can become stressed and unhappy. Stress marks are a very visual sign that your bearded dragon is unhappy, or something is wrong. So, all owners should learn how to recognise stress marks and how to recognize the cause of your reptile’s strength.
What Are Stress Marks on Bearded Dragons?
None of us want our pets to be stressed! But, unfortunately it can happen from time to time, even when you think you’re doing everything to prevent it. Since our pets can’t tell us when things are stressing them out, it’s important to keep a close eye on your bearded dragon’s behavior and body.
Stress marks are a physical sign that something is upsetting your bearded dragon. They will show up on your dragon’s body, usually on their stomach, when something is triggering stress or discontent. These marks will usually fade away once the stress trigger is removed, but can last longer if the cause of the stress does not disappear.
What Do Stress Marks Look Like on Bearded Dragons?
Stress marks are most likely to show up on your bearded dragon’s stomach, but you might also see them on the underside of your reptile’s chin and limbs. These markings appear as lines or stripes, or even as ovals. The pattern can cover your dragon’s entire stomach.
The lines and markings might vary in size, but all will be quite dark in color, particularly compared to the rest of the stomach.
Common Causes of Stress in Bearded Dragons
Noticing stress marks is a lot easier than finding the cause of stress, in most cases. This is because there’s a huge number of problems that can cause distress in bearded dragons. Sometimes their enclosure can be causing stress, sometimes it’s related to handling and boredom, but it could be something else entirely. Here are some of the most common causes of bearded dragon stress:
- Incorrect tank temperature
- Incorrect tank size (not enough space)
- Not enough hiding places inside the tank
- Relocation stress (most common in very young bearded dragons)
- Being housed with another bearded dragon
- Excessive handling
- Too infrequent handling
- Too little time outside their enclosure/boredom
- Loud noises
- Seeing their own reflection
- Live prey remaining in the tank if uneaten
- A dirty enclosure
- Other pets or loud young children approaching the tank
Of course, this is not a complete list. There’s an endless number of things that can cause our pets stress, and some of those might be specific to your home. Observe your bearded dragon’s behavior to identify the most likely cause of their stress. You might notice other signs of stress occurring at certain times.
How Long do Bearded Dragon Stress Marks Last?
There’s no set time period that stress marks will last. It can depend on the cause of the stress and whether or not it continues to be a trigger. Stress marks on bearded dragons can fade in as little as a week. But, if the cause of the stress is not removed, these markings can last much longer. You may also begin to notice other signs of stress as well as these markings.
How to Get Rid of Bearded Dragon Stress Marks
The most effective way to get rid of bearded dragon stress marks is to remove the cause of stress. But, this isn’t always a simple task. In some cases, the cause of stress will be obvious or common. For instance, baby bearded dragons will usually have stress marks when they first arrive in your home because they are in a new, unfamiliar environment. These will fade over time as they feel more confident and comfortable around you. But, sometimes stress marks can seemingly come from nowhere.
If you’re struggling to identify the cause of your bearded dragon’s stress marks, start by working through the list of common stressors earlier in this guide. Firstly, check your enclosure. Is there enough space for your dragon to move around and perform all natural behaviors? Is the temperature correct? Are there enough hiding places and basking areas? Is your bearded dragon seeing themselves reflected in any of the glass sides?
Once you’ve checked the enclosure, consider other areas. Have they only just moved into your home? Have you been handling them a lot more frequently? Are you not handling them enough – there’s a chance they might be stressed because they’re bored and understimulated! Have you heard any sudden noises that could be intimidating your pet?
Work through the list above and see if any changes you make reflect in their markings. If the markings don’t appear to fade or change after a few days of making your initial changes, try something new.
Other Signs of Stress in Bearded Dragons
Stress marks aren’t the only indicator that your bearded dragon is unhappy. In fact, there are plenty of other signs you can look out for. In some cases, these behaviors can help you narrow down the cause of your bearded dragon’s stress. Here are some other signs that your bearded dragon is feeling stressed:
- Not eating their food
- Less frequent basking
- Sudden aggression
- Glass surfing (clawing at and jumping up at the sides of their tank)
- Head bobbing
- Unusual bowel movements
Some of these signs could also be a sign of a health problem, so it’s important to pay attention to any unusual behavior like this.
How to Prevent Stress for my Bearded Dragon
Most bearded dragons will experience stress marks at some point throughout their lives. But, there are steps you can take to minimise the risk of seeing these markings. Start off by making sure that your bearded dragon’s enclosure is the right size, the right temperature, and is not reflecting their appearance back at them. You can solve this problem by covering the most reflective sides of your bearded dragon’s enclosure.
Make sure you’re always gentle when handling them, and that you are not handling them too frequently. But, don’t just leave them without ever handling them, as this can lead to boredom and insufficient mental stimulation. If you feed live insects, remove any uneaten creatures after a certain length of time, so they don’t bite at or stress your dragon.
And, teach any young children in the house to stay calm and quiet around the enclosure, to avoid any noise-related stress. Keep the enclosure away from other noisy items, like a television.
When Should I Call the Vet?
Stress marks will usually go away by themselves when you remove the cause of stress. But, there might be times when you are unable to identify the cause of the stress. If you can’t find the cause of stress, or if your bearded dragon’s stress marks aren’t disappearing no matter what you try, it can be worth a trip to the veterinarian.
This is also the case if you start to notice other unusual behavior, such as lethargy, a failing appetite, and changes in bowel movements. Illness and pain can be a common cause of stress. So, there’s a chance that your bearded dragon is stressed because they are unwell.
Bearded Dragon Stress Marks
Stress marks are an easy sign that something is not quite right with your bearded dragon. So, if you notice this behavior, it’s a good idea to check your reptile’s enclosure and how much you’re handling them. On rare occasions, stress marks can be a sign of something more serious, like an illness. So, you may need to take your bearded dragon to the vet.
Has your bearded dragon ever had stress marks? What was causing them for you? We’d love to hear your stories in the comments!
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References and Resources
- Kubiak, M. ‘Bearded Dragons’, Handbook of Exotic Pet Medicine (2020)
- Oldfield, C. ‘Bearded Dragons: Common Husbandry and Nutrition-Related Problems’, Veterinary Nursing Journal (2014)
- Raiti, P. ‘Husbandry, Diseases and Veterinary Care of the Bearded Dragon (Pogona Vitticeps)’, Journal of Herpetological Medicine and Surgery (2012)
- Loeb, J. ‘Reptile Illness is Caused by Bad Husbandry’, British Veterinary Association (2018)
- Stockley, V. (et al), ‘How to Handle Your Dragon: Does Handling Duration Affect the Behavior of Bearded Dragons (Pogona Vitticeps)’, Animals (2020)