Yes, bearded dragons do bite but they will not do this often or on purpose as they are actually quite gentle and docile creatures that tolerate handling pretty well.
In this guide, you’ll learn:
- Why do beardies bite?
- How do I prevent getting bitten?
- What do I do if I get bitten?
- How do I treat a bite?
- Is my beardie ok?
Bearded dragons are a popular choice for first-time reptile owners for their unique looks and docile temperament. Interestingly, the question “do bearded dragons bite?” gets asked/searched for a lot, maybe because of their name and how fierce these beautiful creatures look. We break down what you need to know about the bite of a bearded dragon below.
Reputable breeders get their bearded dragons used to being handled at a young age so that it’s easier for both the beardie and the owner to get used to each other.
However, there are some situations wherein a bearded dragon may bite you so it’s best to get familiar with these circumstances to prevent such incidents.
What's In This Guide?
What Does It Feel Like?
A bite from a baby or a juvenile bearded dragon generally won’t hurt at all as they don’t have that much power in their jaws yet. Their bite probably won’t even break the skin. Babies and juveniles have much sharper teeth but don’t have much strength to their bite.
A bite from adults or full-grown beardies is different, though their row of tiny, sharp teeth are duller from chewing, they do have full biting power from their jaws. Their bite may likely break your skin and it will hurt a bit but it will more likely hurt from the surprise or shock of being bitten than anything else.
Take note that everyone’s pain tolerance is different so it will depend from person to person. A bearded dragon bite may bleed and sting a bit but it shouldn’t be anything to worry about.
How Can I Tell If My Beardie May Bite?
Threatened bearded dragons usually hiss or puff up their beards which can be precursor signals to a bite. However, they can also bite you accidentally during meal times. You can avoid this by using tongs to feed them or slowly getting them accustomed to eating off your hand.
Any situation that puts your beardie in stress can also cause it to bite so pay attention to its environment as well.
Why Do Beardies Bite?
Bearded dragons will not bite just to do so, they usually have a reason for doing it which can range from hunger to stress. Learning the reasons behind biting is a good way to understand what your beardie may be trying to tell you. This will allow you to address its needs further and adjust for proper care.
Hunger is probably the most common reason that bearded dragons bite especially when they mistake your fingers for food or prey such as worms. This happens especially when you hand feed them during meal times and they get too excited and accidentally nip at you instead of their food.
You can prevent this by sticking to a good feeding schedule so that they’re not too hungry when you try to handle them and they get used to how feeding time works. You can also try using tweezers or tongs to feed them their wormy treats. Over time, you and your beardie will get used to hand feeding and there shouldn’t be any accidents.
If for any reason, your beardie feels threatened then its self-defense instincts will kick in and attempt to bite the threat to protect itself. This often happens if your beardie is not yet fully used to being handled. You can prevent this by regular handling as tolerated by your bearded dragon so that it gets used to you.
Also, always avoid startling your bearded dragon. Make sure it sees you approach the enclosure before you reach in and grab it. It’s also best to avoid reaching in directly from above it (like how a bird or predator would grab them in the wild). However, since most tanks have a screen top, a good technique is to reach from the front or the side to grab your beardie. You should also let it be aware of your presence in the tank first before reaching out to grab it.
If you hear your beardie hiss or see its beard puff up and turn black – these are signs of aggression so it’s best to allow them to calm down first at this point before any attempts are made to handle them again.
Sometimes, your bearded dragon may see another pet in your home as a threat such as a cat or a dog so it’s best to put their enclosure in a place that won’t be easily disturbed by other animals. You should also work slowly and be careful in introducing them to other animals if needed.
You can also check if your beardie has seen its reflection on the glass walls of its enclosure causing it to feel territorial and threatened. Avoid this by placing a background at the back of your bearded dragon’s tank.
Discomfort, stress, unease, or excitement
Biting can also be a sign of discomfort, stress, or unease which can be caused by several things. Bearded dragons can get stressed by any sudden changes in their environment and then make them prone to biting.
If you’ve made a change in their enclosure they can feel a bit uncomfortable about this, so it’s best to let them get acclimatized to their new surroundings again first before attempting to handle them. This usually happens when you’re bringing your beardie home for the first time or when you’ve upgraded them to a new enclosure. This is also why it’s best to get your bearded dragon from reputable breeders who will take the time and effort to get their young beardies used to being handled to avoid it being stressed too much.
Dragons may also feel uneasy because of other pets in your home or upon seeing its reflection on the glass walls of its enclosure. Overly excited beardies (kind of like dogs getting zoomies) can also bite and this can happen during mealtimes or when it gets stimulated by something new or curious in its environment.
Sometimes, stress can be a sign that your lizard is not feeling well so pay attention to other signs of unusual behavior that it may be sick and consult your vet if necessary. It’s always important to create a stress-free environment for your bearded dragon to help it be in top health.
Bearded dragons often react to improper handling by biting. These include: holding them too tightly, poking them, pinching them, or not giving them their space. These improper handling techniques may hurt your beardie and as mentioned, biting is usually a defense mechanism or reaction to being uncomfortable.
This is why it’s important to let your beardie get used to being handled at its own pace. You’ll be able to recognize signs that it wants to be put down through time especially if it squirms too much or starts to puff up its beard.
Since these are small creatures compared to humans, handling them incorrectly may hurt them especially around children since kids may not easily recognize if they’re being too rough. Always guide children when handling bearded dragons. Make sure that you are being gentle with how they pick them up and help them be aware of how to properly handle bearded dragons. The same applies to anyone who wants to handle your bearded dragon especially if they aren’t the owners and are doing so for the first time.
Remember, bites aren’t the only possible consequences of improper handling – the handler’s reaction to a bite can hurt your beardie as well. A bearded dragon bite will surprise anyone and the knee-jerk reaction could cause you to drop them which could lead to an injury.
Poor socialization and/or not used to being handled yet
Bearded dragons who were not socialized early on and are not used to humans handling them are less docile and have more tendency to bite as they feel threatened or discomfort during handling.
This is why it’s really important to get your bearded dragons from reputable breeders who will take time to get their beardies used to being handled. That said, rescues are also a nice option if you want to get a beardie but you may have to give these guys extra care and patience in letting them get used to being handled.
When you first get your bearded dragon, don’t attempt to handle it too much because this will also stress them out and lead to biting accidents. Always be patient and let your beardie get used to you first. It may take time for them to get used to being handled so it’s good to also establish a regular bonding time with it starting from a few minutes each day and gradually increasing it to help it with the process.
What To Do If You Get Bitten
It’s hard to avoid reflex reactions so it’s always best to avoid getting bitten altogether since more than the bite, there’s also a danger of your bearded dragon getting injured. Remember that the bite will not be dangerous to you at all as long as you treat the wound promptly, but a fall or any other injury because of a sudden reaction can be bad for your beardie.
The first thing to do is to try to stay calm. On the rare occasion that your bearded dragon closes its jaws on you and does not let go after the bite – DO NOT PANIC! You should be able to gently pry your finger away from its mouth. The force of its bite will not be strong so you can gently reach in and open their mouth to release your finger. Yanking it away may cause it to strengthen its bite so it’s really best to stay calm.
After getting bitten, place your beardie back gently in its enclosure first (to avoid getting bitten again) and treat your wound, if there’s any.
How To Treat The Bite
Regular first aid should be administered – make sure you clean the wound or scratch well with soap and water. You may also apply an antiseptic such as betadine or an antibacterial such as Neosporin to help with the treatment. Their bites won’t be too deep or too serious but always make sure it does not get infected by regular cleaning or application of a wound cream. If you notice swelling in the bite area, you should get the wound checked.
How To Avoid Getting Bitten In The Future
Proper Bearded Dragon Handling
When handling, it’s best to remember to keep its comfort and calmness in mind. These are exotic animals so things such as sudden movements trigger their natural instincts causing them to feel threatened and as such, go into self-defense mode.
Again, never approach from above as this mimics a predatory bird in the wild. Make sure your beardie sees you approach and do so slowly and calmly. Try to approach it from the front, back, or side when picking it up from the top of its enclosure. Patience is also key to proper handling; allow your beardie to get comfortable with your presence first before proceeding to anything else.
It’s also good practice to conduct handling while seated on the floor or in an area where your bearded dragon is not in danger of falling from a great height if it squirms or tries to get away from you. This is also a good safety precaution in case it bites you during handling and you let it go from the shock of being bitten.
Once your bearded dragon is comfortable with you, gently scoop it up, making sure to provide good support on its belly and tail.
Are Bearded Dragon Bites Poisonous?
No, bearded dragon bites are not poisonous. The most you can get from these bites is an infection if you do not properly treat the wound.
Do Bearded Dragons Have Teeth?
Yes, bearded dragons have a row of small teeth on their jaws which are sharper when they are babies and juveniles and smooth down as they age from chewing food.
Are bearded dragon teeth sharp?
Yes, they can be sharp especially when younger but their teeth can wear down from chewing their food.
How strong is a bearded dragons bite?
This usually depends on age. Babies and juveniles do not have much strength to their bite yet but do have sharper teeth. A bite from an adult can be much stronger and may or may not break the skin. It’s usually like a hard or a strong pinch.
What does a bearded dragon bite feel like?
A bearded dragon bite feels like a strong pinch that may or may not break your skin or cause bruising. They do have teeth and bites will usually hurt more from the shock of getting bitten than the actual bite itself.
Bearded dragons bite but they don’t really bite for no reason at all. Usually, it’s because they’re hungry, feel a bit stressed out or threatened. The bite is not dangerous to humans but can be dangerous to bearded dragons if they are accidentally let go or sent flying from the reaction to getting bitten. Proper handling, a regular feeding schedule, and keeping your beardie calm, happy, and healthy will help avoid any biting incidents.
Introduction to bearded dragons:
Bearded dragons: facts and photos
Explaining common myths and facts about bearded dragon care:
Myths and Facts about Bearded Dragon Care
Quick guide to the essential needs of a bearded dragon:
Bearded Dragon Husbandry and Preventative Healthcare
A comprehensive guide on bearded dragon care:
Bearded Dragon Care Guide | Long Island Avian and Exotic Vet Clinic
Very detailed husbandry manual for bearded dragons (PDF):
Husbandry Guidelines for Bearded Dragons