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Home > Reptiles > What to Do If a Bearded Dragon Bites You (Vet Answer)

What to Do If a Bearded Dragon Bites You (Vet Answer)

bearded dragons

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Dr. Iulia Mihai Photo

Written by

Dr. Iulia Mihai

Veterinarian, DVM MSc

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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In general, bites from animals are dangerous because of the tissue damage that they can cause and the risk of severe infections. In the case of bearded dragons, a bite is not dangerous, but it can become infected if the wound is not cleaned and treated in time.

If a bearded dragon bites you, put the pet back in the terrarium. Try to figure out why it bit you, so you can avoid such unpleasantness in the future. Wash the bitten area with warm water and soap, apply disinfectant, and bandage the wound with a sterile compress. In other words, treat the bite as you would do in any other skin injury (such as a burn or cut). If the wound becomes infected, you can use antibiotic ointments to treat it locally. In some cases, though, the infection can become severe, and you will need to visit a doctor for general antibiotics.

In this article, we go over how to treat a bearded dragon bite, why these lizards bite, if beardies have teeth, and if they are venomous.

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How to Treat a Bearded Dragon Bite

Bearded dragons are usually docile and friendly animals, but they can become agitated, especially when they are hungry or feel in danger.

These lizards are not aggressive and can be handled easily, but caution must be taken with large specimens. They have long and sharp claws that can cause deep scratches.

If your bearded dragon has bitten or scratched you, here are the steps to clean the wound:

  • Wash the bitten or scratched area with warm water and soap.
  • Dry the area well.
  • Disinfect the wound with antiseptic solutions 1 (e.g., chlorhexidine, rubbing alcohol, and hydrogen peroxide).
  • Apply a dressing over the wound to keep it clean.
  • You can also apply Neosporin or another antibiotic ointment before dressing the wound if your pet has caused bleeding.
Woman is applying a pain reliever ointment on her hand close up.
Image Credit: Happy_Nati, Shutterstock

Any bearded dragon bite or scratch must be washed and cleaned because they can be carriers 2 of Salmonella spp., an intestinal pathogenic bacterium that can cause infectious diseases in humans and pets.

Even if beardies appear clean and healthy, they can carry Salmonella in their feces (droppings). Salmonella can also easily spread in the environment in which it lives and in the body of your dragon, and you can get sick if you touch your mouth or food after handling your pet or anything else in its environment.

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Why Do Bearded Dragons Bite?

Although bearded dragons are docile and friendly and rarely aggressive, there are a few situations in which they might bite or scratch you.

Improper Handling

Inadequate handling occurs most often in children. They don’t know how to pick up bearded dragons or how much pressure to apply when holding them in their hands. Any mishandling that makes the bearded dragon feel uncomfortable or in danger can cause it to bite. Holding the dragon too tight can also dislocate its joints. That is why it is important to teach children how to properly handle these animals, even if they are friendly and docile.

Also, do not let children kiss or hug beardies because that can scare them and cause them to bite.

two bearded dragons
Image Credit: Katoosha, Shutterstock

Hunger

When bearded dragons are hungry, they can become aggressive. However, these lizards do not bite out of aggression when they are hungry but rather out of instinct, especially if they smell something delicious on your hands. Sometimes, beardies can mistake your fingers for worms and try to bite.

To avoid this, establish a regular feeding schedule for your dragon, and wash your hands thoroughly before handling your pet.


Self-Defense

Some animals 3, such as birds of prey (eagles, hawks, and owls), snakes (pythons and king snakes), dingoes, foxes, and feral cats, attack and feed on bearded dragons. If you act like a predator, your beardie may feel threatened and bite you.

If you don’t want to act like a predator, do not lift your pet from above. Otherwise, it will think that you are a bird of prey and will defend itself. Also, don’t surprise your beardie because it can make it react aggressively.

Also, in certain situations, you might see your bearded dragon all puffed up 4. This is a defense mechanism that makes it appear larger in front of predators. When they want to look aggressive, dragons’ beards can also change color to black. If you see these signs, it is recommended to let your pet calm down before handling it.

Red Bearded Dragons
Image Credit: ukjent, Shutterstock

Lack of Interaction With People

As with any other pet, if bearded dragons grow up with humans and are handled from the time that they are babies, the chances of them biting are low. But beardies that have not socialized with people or have not been handled enough can become defensive and bite when you try to interact with them.

It is important to socialize your bearded dragon from an early age to avoid these inconveniences. If you’ve adopted or purchased an adult bearded dragon that hasn’t spent much time with people, you’ll need to be patient as it gets used to you.


Sickness

Any animal that is sick or in pain can act aggressively. This can also happen in the case of bearded dragons. If it seems that your beardie is suddenly aggressive, it has stopped eating, and is lethargic, take it to the vet.

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Do Bearded Dragons Have Teeth?

Although it may not seem like it, beardies develop teeth from a young age. Teeth help them in:

  • Feeding
  • Survival (to defend themselves from predators)
  • Mating

If you don’t pay attention, you can easily break their teeth. Bearded dragons have 80 teeth (40 teeth on each dental arch) that are arranged in a “U” shape. They have two different types of teeth: acrodont teeth (upper jaw) and pleurodont teeth (lower jaw).

They don’t have a powerful bite, so they cannot do too much damage to your skin, but their teeth are sharp and in some cases, can cause mild bleeding.

Bearded dragon threatening display
Image Credit: Urban Cinematography, Shutterstock

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Does a Bearded Dragon’s Bite Cause Pain?

How painful a bearded dragon’s bite is will depend on its life stage: baby, juvenile, or adult. It also depends on whether the bitten person is a child or an adult, as children and seniors have thinner skin than adults and can be injured more easily. However, bearded dragons do not have a strong bite even though they have sharp teeth. As a result, they can cause bleeding only in rare cases.

Are Bearded Dragons Venomous?

Contrary to popular belief, bearded dragons are venomous. They have primitive venom glands that are found inside their mouths. The venom is not dangerous to humans, but it is capable of killing the small animals that bearded dragons feed on in the wild (small mammals and other lizards). If your bearded dragon bites you, clean the area thoroughly with soap and water and an antiseptic solution, even though its venom is not toxic to humans.

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Conclusion

Bearded dragons very rarely bite humans, and when they do, they have good reasons. If your dragon bit you, it is possible that your hands smelled yummy, or maybe you squeezed it too hard. In other situations, beardies can become aggressive if they are sick or when you grab them improperly. If your bearded dragon is behaving unusually, take it to an exotic animal vet. If you have been bitten, clean the area with warm water and soap, and use an antiseptic solution. If the bite has caused bleeding, use an antibiotic ointment and bandage the area.


Featured Image Credit: Kevin Khoo, Shutterstock

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