Why Do Bearded Dragons Open Their Mouths? Saving You An Expensive Vet Visit!

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Bearded dragons may seem docile and boring, but they are actually expressive in their communication. I learned this the hard way when my failure to recognize one of my beardie’s behaviors landed me with a hefty vet bill. At that time, he suddenly began gaping and pacing around his tank. It turned out he needed more interaction and stimulation as my poor choice of a terrarium setting was too bland for his taste. After I fixed the problem, the pacing stopped, but he would still gape for reasons that we’ll discuss in this article.

Bearded dragons open their mouths predominantly when they feel too hot or threatened. Gaping allows them to disperse heat from their mouths and regulate their body temperature or in the face of threat, attempt to scare the danger away.

Before you end with an unexpected vet bill as I did, I’ll walk you through the reasons why your beardie opens its mouth and when it becomes a problem.

reasons why bearded dragons open their mouths

5 Reasons Why Bearded Dragons Open Their Mouths

If you notice your bearded dragon gaping at you or in its environment, here are the possible reasons why:

1. Your Beardie Is Thermoregulating

Dogs stick their tongues out and pant when they’re hot, which is comparable to when a bearded dragon gapes. Beardies do not sweat when they’re hot, rather they devise other means to regulate their body heat. In this situation, they’ll open their mouths wide, during or after basking, to release the excess heat they have absorbed. This allows them to bask to their satisfaction without overheating.

2. Your Beardie Is Upset

When your bearded dragon is upset, it will flatten its body, blacken its beard, and hang its mouth open hoping to bite your hand. This behavior is usually displayed by beardies that are not familiar with people or have been previously mistreated. Otherwise, you might just be doing something to upset it such as constantly holding or touching it when it doesn’t want to be bothered.

3. Your Beardie Feels Threatened

Beardies puff their beards when they perceive danger or assert dominance, and this can happen in situations like a rowdy environment or a direct threat from another dragon or animal. Although your pet may be safe under your care, its natural defenses can still be triggered by a perceived threat. Since beardies react to problems uniquely, your pet may be a little more frightful than another, and that’s a-okay!

4. Your Beardie Is Ready To Mate

In the wild, mating occurs during the summer when the weather is hottest. Regardless of your environment’s seasonal patterns, when the temperature goes up, your sexually mature bearded dragon (18+ months of age) will show pre-mating signs. These clues include puffing and blackening the beard, stomping around the enclosure, bobbing its head, and opening its mouth.

5. Your Beardie May Be Sick

Similar to humans, when the nostrils are clogged, beardies will hang their mouths open to breathe better or as a reflex. This demonstrates that they’re uncomfortable and in need of proper treatment. This could be due to a respiratory infection or a clog during shedding.

how to relax a bearded dragon when it opens its mouth

Effective Measures To Take When Your Beardie Keeps Opening Its Mouth

Now that you know the probable reasons why your beardie is hanging its mouth, here are ways you can help your pet relax:

Check The Temperature In The Enclosure

If your dragon is overheated, it will regulate its body temperature by gaping to cool down. While this may indicate that your beardie is basking properly, it could also mean that your pet is uncomfortable. Remember, the temperature inside the terrarium should be 104° to 107°F in basking spots, and 71° to 77 °F in the shaded areas for them to cool down. Ensure that the temperature at the basking spot does not exceed the required level or else your beardie can get burned.

Also in mind that the basking lamp should only illuminate one spot in the terrarium where the beardie can go to bask and not the entire tank to preserve its resting routine.

Gain Your Beardie’s Trust

If your bearded dragon is afraid of you, it will open its mouth defensively when you try to hold or touch it. One way to befriend your pet and gain its trust is by hand-feeding it. Whenever it’s time to feed, wear gloves if you must, and allow it to pick the bugs or vegetables from your hand. Slowly but surely, your pet will learn to relax around you.

Furthermore, do not intentionally yell at or scare your beardie, or worse, forcefully pick it up in an attempt to befriend it. This will only make it wary and cause it to grow further apart from you. You must exercise patience to win your pet’s trust and help it to feel comfortable around you.

Time To Breed Your Beardie

If your bearded dragon is showing pre-mating cues, you can either take it to a breeder for mating or breed it yourself if you have access to a mate. Breeding bearded dragons is serious work that requires you to know the ins and outs of the process. Thankfully, I have written a comprehensive article on how bearded dragons mate to guide you through the procedure.

Check The Humidity Levels In The Enclosure

Bearded dragons must be kept in dry environments to survive. If their terrarium is humid, they will fall prey to respiratory infections which is fatal in the worst-case scenario. The humidity level in your beardie’s enclosure should be between 35 to 40 percent. Ensure a hygrometer is always present (view on Amazon) to monitor the humidity in the terrarium.

If you suspect a respiratory infection, immediately contact your vet for a proper diagnosis and treatment to prevent the condition from escalating.

Remove All Threats From The Environment

Try moving your pet away from windows, loud sounds, and areas where your other pets can reach to reduce the chances of it getting terrified or agitated. In case your beardie is frightened by its reflection, cover three sides of the terrarium with wallpaper to minimize reflection inside the enclosure. Once the threats are removed, your beardie will relax much better.

Will My Bearded Dragon Bite Me?

Bearded dragons do bite and have quite the teeth and force to deliver an injury. If your beardie is opening its mouth at you and you try to poke or hold it, it may bite you. However, this depends on your pet’s temperament and how you handle it. If you threaten its safety, it will bite you without a thought.

Why Does My Bearded Dragon Stick Its Tongue Out?

Your beardie might just be cheeky, but sticking its tongue out goes with gaping. This is a simple but unique behavior, and if your pet is doing so, there’s no need to worry at all. Beardies do this when feeding to latch onto their food with their sticky tongues efficiently.

Why Does My Beardie Open Its Mouth And Make Noise(Hiss)?

If your bearded dragon is opening its mouth and you hear a hissing sound, it’s probably extremely displeased. If it’s not showing other signs of aggression like blackening its beard or bobbing its head, contact your veterinarian as something could be wrong with its respiratory tract causing it to take raspy breaths.

The Conclusion

By the end of this article, you should be able to interpret why your bearded dragon opens its mouth. Usually, it is a sign of defense, aggression, or your beardie gaping, but there’s also the possibility of respiratory disease. If mouth opening is accompanied by other signs of aggression or defense, if you notice signs of illness instead, take your pet to the vet immediately for a professional evaluation. Good luck!

Photo of author


EL Mehdi (Medi), the founder and voice behind Desired Reptiles, renowned for his dedication to bearded dragons. As a passionate reptile enthusiast, Medi has developed a solid background in caring for these lovely creatures. He gained extensive knowledge about their diet, behavior, and how to create environments that mimic their natural habitat

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