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Lizards Reptiles 101

5 Things to Know Before Owning a Bearded Dragon

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5 things to know about bearded dragons

I am often asked what the most popular choice for a reptile pet is, and I can easily say that without any doubt the most popular choice seems to be the bearded dragon. I treat more of them weekly than any other reptile species, combined.

Most bearded dragons that are pets in the United States are bred from captive stock, though the breed is originally from Australia.

For families who want a pet reptile, these cute lizards tend to make an excellent choice for a first pet. If a ‘beardie’ is what you are considering too, here are some important things to know before becoming a pet parent to one of these friendly lizards.

1. They are Friendly

Bearded dragons are usually even-tempered and typically recognize their owners’ voices and touch. They like being held and taken out of their cages, and are usually easy to handle if you can support their flat bodies, holding them from underneath, and allowing them to move from one of your hands to another as they move. They can even be handled by children (with proper adult supervision).

Because dragons carry salmonella on their bodies, it is imperative that whoever has handled a dragon washes up thoroughly afterward.

2. Why They Are Called “Bearded” Dragons

These lizards have a guttural pouch (skin folds resembling a pouch) underneath their necks. It is covered by small spiny projections that look like a beard. A threatened bearded dragon flattens its body and puffs out its ‘beard’, then opens their mouths in order to look bigger and more threatening to whatever they sense danger from.

The beard exists on both genders and turns jet black when the animal is in a state of stress, but males have normally darker beards than females, especially during mating season.

Note: If a bearded dragon’s beard is protruding and dark black, it is a sign of distress.

3. They Require Heat, Moisture, and UV Lighting

To absorb phosphorus and calcium in their food, beardies need to develop vitamin D in their skin. This is enabled by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light during the day. This exposure is vital for the reptile to have proper bone growth and muscle contraction, as well as the operation of most normal metabolic functions.

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If their UV light is lacking, the dragons will be forced to receive calcium from their own bones, which will in turn make the bones soft and easy to fracture. Their muscles will experience tremors due to poor muscle contraction, which will lead to organ failure, and ultimately lead to death.

The tank they are kept in must range from 90 degrees on one end and 70 degrees on the cooler end, allowing them to bask in the UV light when needed and cool off when they do not. Because reptiles are cold-blooded, the temperature of their surroundings regulates the proper immune system, metabolism, digestion, and most other vital bodily functions.

Remember, caring for your bearded dragon is an essential step to ensuring they live a happy, prosperous life.

Humidity is another essential component for beardies to stay hydrated and properly shed their skin. Provide a bowl of water for them to soak in when they feel the need, along with a daily misting/soaking. This should be sufficient for them to get the moisture they need.

If your beardies do not have sufficient humidity, they may retain some of their shed skin, especially around their eyes and over their toes, which can hinder their ability to see and constrict their ability to maneuver around easily by constriction.

For these reasons, it is important for a reptile-qualified vet to inspect the pet as well as its living environment.

4. They are NOT Nocturnal

Many lizards are nocturnal and therefore tend to be the most active at night. But beardies are awake during the day, climbing branches and sitting on logs to absorb UV from sunlight.

People often want to interact with their pets during the daytime hours, something that can be difficult without disrupting the pet’s sleeping patterns.

5. They Live Long Lives

Bearded dragons live for 5 to 8 years, making them long-term pets (relatively speaking). There have even been reported instances of beardies living up to 12 to 13 years with exceptional care. So if it’s a long term pet you want, you may have found it in the bearded dragon.

It’s up to you to provide proper care for all of your pets! Talk with your reptile-centric veterinarian before you adopt or purchase one of these friendly pets!

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