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puffed up bearded dragon

Ever walked up to a puffed up bearded dragon? Were you scared, worried, or curious? Well, the fact that you are reading this means you are looking for an explanation.

Knowing the specific reason as to why your beardie is puffed up is often difficult. This is because beardies can puff up for a variety of reasons. If your beardie exhibits this behavior, you should start by looking for possible causal factors in their environment.

This article highlights all possible reasons why beardies puff up. We hope that the below explanations will help reach a satisfying conclusion.

So, why do bearded dragon’s puff up?

It is not uncommon for a bearded dragon to flare/puff up its beard. They mostly do this when they find themselves in a menacing situation that requires either fight or flight response. However, bearded dragons can also puff up when they are in a good mood. This behavior occurs randomly most of the time.

Looking back to the moments before they puffed up can help you identify the causal factor. Let’s go over 10 additional reasons why bearded dragons may be puffed up and whether it should concern you.

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Puffing Up: Understanding Bearded Dragon Behavior

Beardies have different ways of responding to environmental stimuli. Puffing up is one of the commonly used body language in the beardie world. As such, it is up to you as the owner to decipher what your beardie trying to communicate.

The good thing about beardies is that they are very expressive. They tend to display behaviors that will let you know how they feel about their environment. Therefore, ensure that you pay close attention to your pet beardie at all times.

That way, you can easily make adjustments to the beardie’s environment should there be a need to do so. Seeing your pet beardie puff up for the first time can be a puzzling experience. Plus, the behavior is often accompanied by hissing and an open mouth, so it can be terrifying for beginners.

Common Reasons Why Beardies Puff Up

As earlier stated, several factors can cause a beardie to expand the size of its beard. Let’s go through each of them to have a deeper understanding of this fascinating behavior. 

#1. Beardies Puff Up When Intimidated

More often than not, beardies puff up when they are frightened. Moreover, puffing is a defensive behavior in bearded dragons. It enables beardies to look larger and more threatening to their predator

In the wild, beardies flare out their beards when cornered by other lizard species, snakes, or any other animal that they perceive as a threat. And because puffing is instinctual in bearded dragons, pet beardies react the same way they feel intimidated. Most pet beardies puff up when other household pets are near their enclosure.

If you notice that your beardie is scared of cats, you should keep the feline away from the terrarium. The same applies to dogs or any other thing that your beardie may be scared of.

#2. Puffing Up Due To Stress

Bearded dragons can also flare out their beard when they are stressed. Prolonged exposure to stress can impact a beardie’s health. You can easily tell if the beardie is puffing as a result of stress by observing their coloration.

If your beardie has dark oval-like or line markings on its underbelly, it means they are stressed. Relocation stress is common among beardies that are new to their environment. It causes bearded dragons to be on alert mode even when there is no threat in their environment.

This is one of the reasons why your beardie may have been scared of you at first. Bearded dragon owners are not advised to handle their beardies during the first few days after bringing them home. Doing so will only cause more stress, thus triggering puffing behavior.

Bearded dragons should be given time to adapt to their new environment to avoid other problems. Ensure that you provide your beardie with a safe environment to make them feel as safe as possible. You can start by placing hideouts inside the enclosure.

#3. Bearded Dragon Puffed Up In Bath Water

Beardies are known for puffing up their bodies during baths. This behavioral response is brought about by the fact that your beardie is afraid of drowning. When a beardie puffs up, it fills its lungs with air, allowing for maximum buoyancy.

As a result, they will be able to stay afloat without paddling their limbs. Beardies are more likely to flare out their beard and body when the bath water is deep. Keeping the water below the bearded dragon’s shoulder line can make them feel more comfortable during bath time.

A shallow container is preferred when giving bearded dragons baths as it allows their hind limbs to stay grounded. For the safety and well-being of your beardie, you should avoid using detergents and soaps when bathing beardies. This is because bearded dragons often drink their bath water to stay hydrated.

#4. Puffing Up When Shedding

The shedding process, scientifically known as ecdysis, can also cause a bearded dragon to get puffed up. Shedding is an instinctual process, so beardies know when their old skin is about peel off. Through puffing, bearded dragons can stretch out the layer of skin that is to be shed.

Consequently, this will speed up shedding since it allows the old skin to detach from the newly formed layer with ease. This technique is more effective on the bearded dragon’s neck and thoracic region. To determine whether the beardie is puffing up due to shedding, you can examine their skin.

Beardies that are shedding have dull greyish skin and may also become lethargic. There is no guarantee that your beardie will be puffed up when it is shedding. However, if it has ever puffed up during the shedding season, there is a high chance they will do it again.

Always be on the lookout for stuck shed around the limbs and tail region. If the stubborn shed is not removed in good time, it can constrict blood flow. However, never pull on stuck shed. Instead, try giving your beardie a lukewarm bath and allow the skin to come off naturally, if possible.

Note: If you spot lesions or abnormalities on your bearded dragon’s skin, see our guide on Skin Conditions in Bearded Dragons. Although uncommon, bearded dragons may puff up due to discomfort as a result of a skin condition.

#5. Beardies Puff Up When Defending Their Territory

Puffing up is a territorial behavior in beardies. Moreover, beardies are territorial by nature. They can particularly become aggressive when housed in the same terrarium.

Most cases of aggressive behavior are experienced between beardies of the same sex. Male beardies are notorious in this respect. They should never be housed in one tank since there is a high probability they’ll fight.

The first thing that your pet beardie is likely to do when it feels another beardie is trespassing is puff up. It can also darken its beard to warn the other bearded dragon.

Through this, the puffed up bearded dragon can assert its dominance by appearing larger than its actual size. This defensive strategy can prove helpful in the wild, where only the strongest survive. The goal is to look as intimidating as possible, thus causing the trespasser to flee.

#6. Puffing Up When Playing

Bearded dragon keepers should note that beardies don’t only puff up to display aggressive behavior. In some scenarios, it just shows your pet beardie is in the best of moods. If this is the case, it means you doing a great job as a pet parent.

You can engage your pet beardie in other fun activities to keep them happy. Using toys during play can help you stimulate your pet and keep them active. To avoid problems, you should only go for toys that are pet-safe. These Toy Bell Balls from Amazon can help you get started.

#7. Puffed Up To Attract the Opposite Sex

Animals display a wide range of precopulatory behaviors, and beardies are no exception. When breeding, puffing is no longer considered a defensive technique in bearded dragons but a mating behavior.

Both female and male bearded dragons can puff up, thereby signaling the intent to mate. When beardies of the opposite sex are housed in the same enclosure, they may puff at each other. This is often followed by head bobbing, thus indicating they are aware of each other’s presence.

You should, however, keep a close eye on the pair to ensure there are no signs of aggression. Also, if you intend to breed your beardies, ensure that the female is properly fed. Supplements such as calcium should also be provided to aid in egg formation.

#8. Puffing Up During or After Being Fed

Some beardies puff up when they are being fed. There is no specific explanation why they do this, but it is purported that puffing allows them to create more room in their stomach.

Bearded dragons can also puff up when presented with live insects. Beardies display this behavior because they are used to chasing down their prey in the wild. As such, seeing live feeders can activate their hunting instincts, thereby causing excitement.

#9. Bearded Dragons Puffing Up When Stretching

As stated at the beginning of the article, puffing can at times occur randomly. Beardies tend to puff more when they have just woken up from a nap. It is believed that doing so allows them to stretch their muscles, thus increasing blood flow.

Being the keen bearded dragon keeper that you are, you must have noticed that your beardie puffs up in the morning. They may also puff their beard after coming out of brumation.

#10. Puffing Up To Relieve Pressure In The Inner Ear

Not much research has been done to prove bearded dragons puff their beards for the aforementioned reason. Nonetheless, reptile experts suggest that beardies may puff up to equalize pressure between the inner ear and middle ear.

Bearded Dragon Beard Puffing-Is It Safe?

Puffing up is completely safe for bearded dragons, so it shouldn’t worry you. Additionally, you should not interfere with your pet beardie when it is puffing up. Nevertheless, if the beardie exhibits this behavior regularly, it can be a cause for concern.

Even though puffing up is common in beardies, they mostly puff their beard in response to a stressor. If you suspect that your beardie is stressed, you should consider making changes to its environment. You need to do away with anything that the beardie perceives as dangerous.

Why Do Baby Beardies Puff Up?

Puffing up is not only limited to adult beardies. Baby beardies are likely to flare out their beard when they are introduced to a new environment. They display this behavior due to the fear of the unknown.

There is little that you can do to remedy such situations. Giving the bearded dragon some space can help them adapt to their enclosure. With time, you will notice that your baby beardie doesn’t puff up as much as it used to.

You should make effort to bond with your beardie so that they can trust you. Understanding your beardie’s behavior can help you know when they are most responsive. On the same note, you should know your limits when it comes to playing with bearded dragons.

Handling the beardie all the time or forcing it to engage in play can result in aggressive behavior.

Bearded Dragon Puffing Up While Basking

In addition to the above-listed reasons, bearded dragons can flare out their beard while they are warming up. The most sensible explanation for this is that they are overheated. And since they are cold-blooded, beardies cannot lower or raise their internal body temperature.

That being said, if a bearded dragon stays in the basking area for too long, its body temperature may increase beyond the optimal limit. This can cause great discomfort to the bearded dragon and may also result in dehydration.

In an attempt to lower its body temperature, the beardie may draw in cool air, causing it to flare out its beard.

Final Verdict

With the help of this article, you won’t have a difficult time determining why your pet beardie is puffed up. We have highlighted a long list of reasons and detailed explanations, so the ball is now in your court.

All you have to do is to observe and learn the bearded dragon’s behavior. This will help you make appropriate decisions when caring for your beardie.