Many people get a bearded dragon for its exotic charm and prehistoric look. But first-time owners are often filled with questions. One of the most common questions is, do bearded dragons bite?
The short answer is yes, bearded dragons bite. But you need to know that they don’t do it often, and they always have a reason.
Bearded dragons are docile animals and don’t bite people to be mean. If your bearded dragon bites you, he is trying to tell you something is wrong.
In This Article
Do Bearded Dragons Bite?
Yes. Bearded dragons bite when they are uncomfortable, or their basic needs are not being met.
This doesn’t happen often and is never a sign of your bearded dragon simply being nasty. It simply means something is wrong that needs your attention.
A bearded dragon that has its needs met does not bite people, so keeping your bearded dragon well-cared for will virtually eliminate the chances of being bitten.
Five Reasons Bearded Dragons Bite
Understanding the reason behind a bite from your bearded dragon is vital to take the necessary steps to correct the problem. Here are the most common reasons a bearded dragon bites a human.
Feeding time can be an exciting time for your bearded dragon, particularly if he is hungry. Trying to hand-feed your bearded dragon when he is ready for a full meal may cause him to accidentally nip at your fingers.
This is especially true if you neglect to wash your hands after preparing a treat, as your fingers may smell like a tasty bite to eat.
A bearded dragon that accidentally nips your hands or fingers at feeding time typically realizes its mistake right away and backs away. A bite during feeding isn’t likely to be serious.
It is best to avoid letting little ones hand feed bearded dragons, as tiny fingers are easy to mistake for food, and your little one will likely experience more pain from an accidental bite.
Limit the hand-feeding of snacks to times when your bearded dragon has recently eaten to avoid a quick grab because he is overly hungry.
Like other pets, bearded dragons can get over-excited, making it more likely that they will accidentally bite you. This can happen at feeding time, but that isn’t the only time. Too much stimulation from playtime, unknown visitors, or a lot of commotion around his home can cause over-excitement too.
3. Feeling Threatened
Your bearded dragon depends on you to keep him safe and comfortable. He may strike out with a bite when he feels unsafe or threatened. This typically happens when other household pets are allowed to get too close, you are changing his environment with a new cage or new play enclosure, or new people and children are crowded around his cage.
4. Improper Handling
Your bearded dragon will let you know when your handling techniques are not to his liking by trying to squirm away or turning his beard black and puffing up. However, should you ignore these warning signs, he may strike out with a painful bite, so you will leave him alone. Some common reasons your bearded dragon will bite due to mishandling are:
- Refusing to let them down
- Holding them too tightly
- Lifting them improperly, such as by the leg or tail
- Squeezing or pinching them
- Prodding or poking at them
- Cornering them to pick them up
5. Not Socialized Yet
When you get a new bearded dragon, you will need to give him time to get used to you and learn to trust you. This can take some time.
Start slow and handle him gently by touching him and talking to him. Don’t try picking him up until he is calm and ready for a little TLC. Depending on his temperament and history, it can take weeks to months to thoroughly socialize your bearded dragon.
Likewise, let him warm up to new people before allowing them to pick him up.
Is bearded dragon bites dangerous, and do they hurt?
How much a bite from a bearded dragon hurts varies. While babies and juveniles rarely break the skin with a bite, adult bearded dragons can draw blood.
An accidental nip during feeding typically doesn’t break the skin and produces only fleeting pain. However, a bite from an adult bearded dragon when he is feeling threatened or being mishandled is often worse. It can break the skin and draw blood.
A bite from a bearded dragon isn’t dangerous per se, but with any open cut or wound, you should clean the bite right away and apply an antibiotic or antiseptic cream. Bearded dragons can carry the Salmonella virus, and antiseptics and antibiotics will help prevent infections.
How to Prevent Bearded Dragon Bites
Getting to know your bearded dragon and taking measures to make sure he feels safe, using proper handling techniques, and watching for signs of discomfort or threat typically prevent bites.
In addition, special care during feeding time, avoiding hand-feeding when your bearded dragon is really hungry, and washing your hands to remove food odors will prevent accidental bites during feeding.
What to Do If You Get Bitten by a Bearded Dragon
It is natural to jerk your hand away from your bearded dragon if you get bitten but try to resist the urge. While this is fine for a quick nip, if your bearded dragon still has a grip on you, pulling your hand away can cause your skin to tear and damage your bearded dragon’s teeth or mouth.
Reach down with your free hand and gently pull the mouth open to release the bite. Bearded dragons generally let go easily and have no desire to hold on.
How to Treat a Bearded Dragon Bite
If the bite breaks the skin, your bite will need attention.
- Wash the bite area with soap and water.
- Apply antiseptic or antibiotic cream to the bite wound to reduce the risk of infection. Bearded dragons can carry Salmonella bacteria.
- Apply a dry sterile bandage to the site.
Getting bit by your bearded dragon isn’t unheard of, but it isn’t that common, either. Many owners have never been bitten. Keeping your bearded dragon feeling safe and comfortable is generally all that is needed to prevent bites.
Frequently Asked Questions
Additional Sources & Resources
- The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Bearded Dragons – by Liz Palika
- What You Should Know About Keeping & Caring for Bearded Dragons – by Allen R. Appel
- The Everything Bearded Dragon Book: AComplete Pet Owner’s Manual- by Mark Mitchell and Melissa Kaplan
- How To Keep a Bearded Dragon As a Pet – By Dr. Laurie Hess, DVM, Diplomate ABVP (Avian Practice)
- Bearded Dragons For Dummies – By Liz Palika Bob Fenza
- Bearded Dragon Care – by Philip Purser
- Reptiles Magazine: A Guide to Setting Up a Bearded Dragon Terrarium – By Melissa Kauffman
- The Encyclopedia of Reptiles and Amphibians – By John F. Morris & Bollingen Foundation Nature Library
- PetMD: How to Set Up the Perfect Beardie Habitat – https://www.petmd.com/reptile/care/evr_rp_setting_up_the_perfect_beardie_habitat
We also have a series of resources about bearded dragons, including:
- Our look at The Best 75 Gallon Tanks for Beardies
- Our answer to the question “can bearded dragons eat cucumbers?“
- Our answer to the question “can bearded dragons eat cilantro?“
- Our answer to the question “can bearded dragons eat parsley?“
- Our answer to the question “can bearded dragons eat spinach?“
- Our answer to the question “can bearded dragons eat green beans?“
- Our Beardie owner’s guide to Bearded Dragon Poop
- Our answer to “Do bearded dragons bite?“
- Our answer to “how long do bearded dragons live?“
- Our guide to bearded dragon shedding
- Our guide to finding the best bearded dragon leash
- Our guide to finding the best heating lamp for bearded dragons