Why Is My Bearded Dragon Breathing Heavily? Should You Be Worried?

bearded dragon breathing heavily

It can be alarming if your pet bearded dragon is breathing heavily. There are certain reasons why your bearded dragon is not breathing normally. The reasons can be divided into two categories – normal and abnormal.

In normal instances, bearded dragons tend to breathe heavily post a few activities, like exercise and eating, and sometimes they breathe heavily to display dominance. When your pet bearded dragon is stressed, having respiratory infections, or attempting to get water out of its lungs, it tends to breathe heavily, and this comes under abnormal breathing. 

Top 4 Reasons Why Your Bearded Dragon Is Breathing Heavy: Normal

In certain situations, heavy breathing is normal. It is true that bearded dragons don’t breathe too heavily, but in certain situations, heavy breathing is okay. 

Let us see what are certain situations where bearded dragons tend to breathe heavily.

  1. Heavy Breathing Because of Exercise 

In some situations, bearded dragons are just like humans. We humans, tend to breathe heavily post physical activity or exercise, which is considered normal. Similarly, even bearded dragons tend to breathe heavily post-exercise. 

Now, what is considered an exercise for bearded dragons is the question. When bearded dragons chase their prey, run around the enclosure, or are mating, these are considered exercise or physical activities. 

If your pet bearded dragon is doing these activities, it will run out of its breath. Your bearded dragon will breathe heavily, and it is normal for them to do so. 

Here is a tip for you: As you know, exercise is extremely beneficial for any person. Similarly, it is also beneficial for bearded dragons. Try to incorporate obstacle courses in your bearded dragon’s enclosure so that your dragon gets the exercise it needs. 

When your bearded dragon is running around the obstacle courses or chasing an insect, try and monitor for how long your bearded dragon is breathing heavily after these activities. You will get an idea of how much time your bearded dragon needs to breathe normally again after physical activity. 

If your bearded dragon is taking more time than usual to breathe normally, then you should be a little worried. When this happens, watch out for other reasons for heavy breathing or contact your vet immediately. 

  1. Heavy Breathing Because of  Eating

Compared to humans, reptiles dissolve food differently. Bearded dragons are ectotherms. Bearded dragons can not produce their own heat, they require an external or another heat source.

That is the reason bearded dragons need basking spots and warmer and cooler areas in their enclosure.  

So, when your pet bearded dragon is done eating to digest the food, your bearded dragon will move to the hot zone for digestion. During this time, you will notice your pet bearded dragon can start gaping or breathing heavily to aid their digestion.

Now, you should also remember that to release the extra heat when they are in the basking spot, bearded dragons tend to open their mouths widely. This action is known as gaping, and you do not have to stress about it.   

Here is a tip for you: Sometimes, bearded dragons tend to breathe heavily when they consume big pieces of food. Big chunks take time to digest, and due to this, bearded dragons resort to breathing heavily. To reduce heavy breathing, try to feed them pieces that are not huge or big.  

There is nothing to worry about if your bearded dragon is breathing heavily after consuming food. Your bearded dragon is digesting its food, and your dragon will start to breathe normally shortly. Now, if the bearded dragon’s heavy breathing is continuing for a long time, visit your vet. 

  1. Heavy Breathing  to Show Dominance

Bearded dragons are territorial, and they like to dominate (mostly male bearded dragons). If you have placed two bearded dragons in one enclosure, one of them will display dominance. 

Now to show dominance, a bearded dragon will puff up its air pouches and beard. Doing this will make them seem more intimidating and large. 

Now, doing this does take effort, and hence there will be heavy breathing afterward. Do not worry, as it is not harmful but ensure that the enclosure is big enough for both dragons.   

  1. Heavy Breathing Due to Shedding

Shedding is a routine process for bearded dragons. Shedding requires too much effort and can irritate your pet bearded dragon as well. Bearded dragons tend to stretch the skin before shedding starts by taking deep breaths, huffing, or gulping air. 

This process may seem like heavy breathing, but there is nothing to worry about. That being said, do not forget to keep an eye on your pet bearded dragon during shedding. If your dragon is still breathing heavily, consult a vet. 

Top 3 Reasons Why Your Pet Bearded Dragon Is Breathing Heavy: Abnormal 

Now, the following reasons are the problematic reasons for your pet bearded dragon to breathe heavily. If you see these signs, consult your vet as quickly as possible, as these reasons are dangerous for a bearded dragon.

  1. Heavy Breathing Because of Stress  

Bearded dragons can get stressed out very easily. When stressed out, they tend to breathe heavily. 

To act quickly during stress, bearded dragons usually breathe heavily to bring oxygen to their muscles. 

You can easily know if your pet bearded dragon is under stress in its enclosure. Here are a few reasons that might be causing your pet bearded dragon stress: 

  • Not having enough hiding spots in the bearded dragon’s enclosure can make your pet bearded dragon feel exposed. Due to this, their stress levels increase. When you are designing the enclosure, ensure that you add enough hiding spots for your dragon.
  • If there is one more bearded dragon in its enclosure, it can cause your dragon stress which will lead to heavy breathing. Even if the other bearded dragon is in a separate enclosure, it can cause the submissive dragon stress. You can look for signs of submissiveness, such as hiding or arm waving.  
  • If the temperature of the enclosure is not accurate, it can stress your pet bearded dragon and cause it to breathe heavily. 
  • If you have another pet, such as a dog, your pet bearded dragon can get stressed by looking at your dog.    

If your pet bearded dragon is stressed, it will breathe heavily, along with other stress behaviors such as hiding, digging, or not eating properly. Stress is not good for a bearded dragon. Continuous stress can lead to health issues. 

Ensure that you consider factors that are stressing your pet bearded dragon out and rectify them to prevent heavy breathing. 

  1. Heavy Breathing Due to Respiratory Infection

Heavy breathing can be due to respiratory infections or diseases. This is a serious issue that must be looked into at any cost.

A respiratory infection can be caused to due many reasons, such as:

  • No proper UV light in the bearded dragon’s enclosure
  • Too high or too low enclosure temperature
  • No proper ventilation
  • Poor diet of essential minerals and vitamins. 

Heavy breathing is one symptom of respiratory infection. Along with this, you must look at other signs as well. 

Here are the other common symptoms:

  • Gaping
  • Mucus near the mouth or in the nose
  • Coughing noises
  • Puffing up its throat. 
  • Drooling
  • Being lethargic

Respiratory illness is dangerous; if you see these signs, take action immediately. Visit your vet, and get medication for your pet bearded dragon before the issue becomes even more serious. 

  1. Heavy Breathing Due to Water in the Lungs

Bathing is essential for your pet bearded dragon. Now, during bath time, water can enter your pet bearded dragon’s lungs through the nose and mouth. You must know that bearded dragons can not block or prevent water from entering their lungs like us. That is why you must be extra careful during bath time. 

When water enters, the lungs can cause heavy breathing. Now, if you see your pet bearded dragon breathing heavily after a bath, it can be due to water entering its lungs or due to swimming. 

If water has entered the lungs, your bearded dragon will start huffing. In this situation, you must act quickly. You have to remove the water from your pet bearded dragon’s lungs because your dragon can not do it on its own. 

This is what you can do: Hold your pet bearded dragon and carefully tip it at a 45˚ angle. This means that your pet bearded dragon’s head will be pointed down. Doing this will let the water in the lungs come out. 

If your pet bearded dragon is still breathing heavily after some time, take your dragon to your vet because your pet bearded dragon must have taken a large quantity of water inside. 

Final Words

Heavy breathing is dangerous and non-dangerous. It totally depends on why your pet bearded dragon is breathing heavily. You should always ensure that your pet bearded dragon is not breathing heavily due to problematic reasons. 

Now, as a bearded dragon pet owner, you must always provide your dragon with a stress-free environment to live in so that your pet does not breathe heavily. At the same time, be careful while bathing your pet and look for signs related to respiratory illness. 

Looking out for signs that cause problematic heavy breathing will be beneficial for your pet bearded dragon’s health.

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