Bearded dragons are known for being hardy animals with few health problems, and they are also one of the most expressive reptiles to have as a pet due to their quirky behaviors.
Still, issues arise, and good bearded dragon owners need to know what they mean and how to handle it.
One of the more common panic-inducing issues is the meaning and causes of black spots on bearded dragons.
As a general rule, black spots on a bearded dragon are usually harmless, and they may be freckles, part of the color patterning, or even specks of dirt. However, black spots may also indicate a serious health issue, such as an infection, burn marks, fungus, parasitic infection, scale rot, or stress.
It may sometimes be challenging to know if the black spots on your beardie’s skin are a sign of ill health, especially for inexperienced reptile keepers.
Keep reading to learn more about black spots on bearded dragons, including detailed descriptions, so you will be able to determine whether or not they are simply cosmetic or a sign of a health issue.
Bearded Dragon Black Spot Causes
Freckles are tiny spots most commonly seen in humans, but they may also appear in animals such as dogs, cats, and even some species of elephants.
Although it is not as common, bearded dragons may have freckles on their skin too.
Freckles may appear on a bearded dragon at any time, but sometimes they result from the shedding process.
If part of a scale is removed too early during shedding, it will not form properly, and it will leave a small dark spot.
Freckles are normal and nothing to be concerned about unless they change in size or spread to other body areas.
Bearded dragons range in color from yellow, olive green, and tan, and they usually have markings in a contrasting color.
New colors and patterns of beardies are regularly bred, and today there are more than 20 different color morphs available.
If you purchase your bearded dragon from a reputable breeder, they will be able to give you some insight on its specific color morph and what you should expect the reptile to look like when it gets older.
This should help you clear up any confusion about the black spots on your lizard.
If the color morph you bought is not known to have black spots, but you see them on your beardie, they are likely to be freckles.
If you are unsure if the black spots are part of your beardie’s color pattern, you should monitor these spots to ensure they do not spread.
There is always a possibility the black spots on your beardie are simply specks of dirt or feces.
If you are unsure, you should give your beardie a warm bath to see if the black spots disappear.
Giving your beardie a warm bath should be a part of your pet’s routine at least two or three times a week.
Bathing not only keeps your bearded dragon’s skin clean but also aids in keeping your bearded dragon hydrated.
If you notice loose skin or wrinkled skin, this is a sign of dehydration.
To avoid dehydration, keep a shallow dish with fresh water in your beardie’s enclosure at all times.
Ideally, the water should be dechlorinated water, but if you only have access to tap water, a special water conditioner may be used to remove excess chlorine.
The water in the bath should not be any higher than your beardie’s knees, and it is crucial to keep the water warm.
Bearded dragons are ectothermic, which means they rely on external heat to regulate their body temperature.
If the water is not warm enough, your beardie will get too cold, and it may become very ill.
Infection from a Wound
It is common for bearded dragons to get scrapes or cuts due to their high activity levels.
These superficial types of cuts are normally not an issue as long as the wounds are kept clean and the enclosure is well maintained.
However, if the injured area is red or oozing liquid, this is a sign of an infection.
Once the infected area turns black and starts to spread, this is an indication of necrosis.
This means the healthy tissue surrounding the abrasion is dying.
A severe injury on the tail will lead to tail rot if not treated right away.
When heat lamps are placed too close to a bearded dragon’s basking area, there is a risk for the reptile to get burned.
The burns will appear as a discolored mark on your beardie, and they pose a risk of infection in the same way as cuts and scrapes.
If you suspect the discolored skin on your beardie is caused by burns, you should move the heat lamp and any other lighting to a safer distance from the enclosure.
While raw honey has been known to treat burns and ease some of the pain associated with them, it is best to seek veterinary treatment to reduce the risk of infection.
A fungus may cause black spots on a bearded dragon, and if the area isn’t treated right away, it will spread quickly.
A fungus might also come back, which makes it particularly difficult to eliminate.
A veterinarian will start by prescribing an antifungal medication to treat the fungus.
If the medicine does not work, amputation becomes necessary.
It is not uncommon for a veterinarian to amputate a tail or toes if the fungal infection is resistant to other treatment.
Inadequate temperatures in the enclosure will contribute to fungal growth.
Habitat temperatures should include a complete temperature gradient with both a cool side and a warm basking area.
If you see tiny black spots on your beardie and notice the spots are moving, you are likely to deal with a parasitic infection.
An external parasite is similar to an internal parasite because they both feed on your beardie’s blood.
External parasites occur when the habitat is not cleaned regularly.
These external parasites are different from internal parasites, which are usually contracted through insects.
Parasitic infections require veterinary care, and you will also need to quarantine the infected beardie in a separate tank.
You will also need to thoroughly clean and sanitize the enclosure and any decor items before placing your beardie in it once the parasites are cleared.
Scale rot is a common illness in bearded dragons, and it is usually caused by a bacterial infection due to high humidity levels.
High humidity levels will also make your beardie more prone to a respiratory infection.
Invest in a hygrometer to measure the humidity in the enclosure and help prevent both respiratory tract infection and scale rot by keeping the humidity levels between 20%-40%.
Black spots are the first signs of the disease, and if it is not treated quickly, it will become fatal to your beardie.
The scales will start to ooze fluid before they fall off, and once the infection reaches the beardie’s bloodstream, it will cause septicemia.
You should seek veterinary care at the first signs of scale rot for proper diagnosis and antibiotic treatment.
You will also have to place your beardie in a separate hospital tank until it is healed.
To prevent scale rot, ensure the enclosure is reaching the proper temperature and humidity levels.
We have a post on scale rot in bearded dragons if you want to learn more.
Black spots or lines on a bearded dragon’s stomach are an indication of stress.
These spots or lines may also be seen on the beard or limbs.
Symptoms also include notice lethargy and a lack of appetite.
Your beardie may be stressed for a number of reasons, including:
- Incorrect temperature in the enclosure
- Incorrect humidity levels in the enclosure
- Introducing your beardie to a new environment
- Having the wrong size enclosure (either too large or too small)
- Placing the enclosure in a busy area of your home
The most common reason for stress marks is incorrect habitat temperatures.
Ideal terrarium temperatures should range from 80° degrees Fahrenheit (27° C) on the cooler end and 100° degrees Fahrenheit (38° C) on the warm basking end.
You should also ensure your beardie receives adequate UV lighting for 12 hours every day.
If your beardie has recently undergone stressful times, such as being introduced into your home or moved to a new area or enclosure, your reptile will eventually settle in and become calm.
Wait for a short period of time after making any sudden changes to see if your beardie returns to normal.
If you have taken corrective measures and still notice your beardie appears to be stressed or has stress marks, consult the care of a qualified reptile veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.
Correcting these issues will relieve your beardie’s undue stress, and the dark marks on its skin will fade over time.
Keeping your beardie from becoming too stressed is also important to avoid illnesses such as metabolic bone disease and respiratory infection.