If you’re new to pet ownership and own a bearded dragon, you might notice dark lines, stripes or oval shapes on your pet lizard’s stomach or abdomen. These are called bearded dragon stress marks, and they’re a sign that something is upsetting your pet. Stress marks can appear due to various reasons, including the wrong temperature in the enclosure, improper diet, unsuitable environment or social company. In this article, we’ll help you recognize common causes of bearded dragon stress marks, remove them and prevent them from occurring again in the future.
While bearded dragons are interesting reptiles that are gaining popularity worldwide, they require complex care to keep them happy and stress-free. Stress marks are physical indicators that your pet is anxious or unhappy. All owners should learn how to recognize stress marks and identify the cause of their pet’s stress.
What Are Bearded Dragon Stress Marks?
A physical manifestation that your pet is distressed or unhappy, stress marks on bearded dragons show up on their stomach, typically in the form of dark lines, stripes or ovals. The cause of stress marks can be removed, and the markings usually fade away gradually. However, if the cause persists, they can last longer and even lead to other signs of stress.
What Do Bearded Dragon Stress Marks Look Like?
Bearded dragon stress marks are most apparent on their stomach, limbs and the underside of their chin. These markings appear as dark lines or stripes, which can extend to cover the entire stomach. Stress marks are darker in color than your pet’s usual skin color.
Common Causes of Bearded Dragon Stress
The issue with stress marks is the varied number of problems that could trigger their appearance. Common causes of bearded dragon stress include incorrect temperature in the tank, insufficient hiding places, relocation stress (more prevalent in young bearded dragons), sharing space with another bearded dragon, excessive or infrequent handling, insufficient time out of the enclosure, noisy surroundings, seeing their reflection, live prey remaining in the tank, a filthy environment, or unwanted attention from other pets or loud children.
The list is endless, and being observant of your pet’s behavior is imperative to identify the core cause of stress.
How Long Do Bearded Dragon Stress Marks Last?
The duration of stress marks depends on the underlying cause of stress, and whether the triggers persist. While stress marks can vanish within a week after removing the source, they can last longer if stressors remain. In some cases, the markings can be signs of other stress indicators.
How to Get Rid of Bearded Dragon Stress Marks
Deleting the cause of stress is the most effective way to get rid of bearded dragon stress marks, although that may not always be easy.
If you’re struggling to identify the cause of your bearded dragon’s stress, begin by checking its enclosure. Ensure that the tank has sufficient space and the right temperature, and that there are enough hiding places to make them comfortable. You can cover the most reflective sides of the tank to eliminate their appearance.
Shift your focus to other areas of your pet’s life. Where they’re young and new to your home, they may require space and time to adapt. They might also be feeling overwhelmed or understimulated, leading to boredom due to lack of adequate mental stimulation. Also, check for any loud noises that could scare your pet.
After addressing the primary issue, monitor your pet to see if the markings fade or change. If the signs do not disappear, try other solutions.
Other Signs of Bearded Dragon Stress
Bearded dragon stress marks do not occur alone; they could signal other stress factors. Identifying other signs of stress can help pinpoint what’s causing them. The most common signs include reduced appetite, lethargy, reduced basking, sudden aggression, clawing at tank sides, head bobbing and unusual bowel movements.
It’s important to note that some of these signs could be indicative of other health problems in your pet. Therefore, be observant and bring your pet to a vet if the behavior seems unusual.
Preventing Bearded Dragon Stress
While most bearded dragons have stress marks at some point in their lives, steps can be taken to minimize the risk of their occurrence. Make essential checks to ensure that your pet’s enclosure is the right size, temperature, and does not reflect their appearance back at them. Be gentle when handling the pet and avoid excessive handling. It is also important to provide mental stimulation and remove any uneaten live insects to avoid biting that could lead to stress.
Teach children in your home to stay calm around the enclosure and keep the tank away from other noise sources, such as television.
When to Call the Vet
Stress marks usually go away when the cause of stress is eliminated. However, if the cause of stress is persistent, or if you notice other unusual behaviors such as lethargy or changes in bowel movements, it may be a sign of sickness. In that case, it’s best to take your pet to the veterinarian.
Stress marks on bearded dragons are a common occurrence and show that something is not right with your pet. If you observe these markings, perform checks on your pet’s enclosure and handling. Stress marks can also suggest significant health issues, and visits to a vet can often offer necessary treatment. If you’re a bearded dragon owner, we encourage you to share your comments and stories below!
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- 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)