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Why Is My Bearded Dragon Breathing Heavy: Is It Respiratory?

Is your bearded dragon breathing heavy?

Are you worried something is wrong with your bearded dragon?

Knowing what behavior is normal and abnormal for your pet is part of being a responsible owner.

Watching out for those key behaviors which signal a problem is essential.

So, why is your bearded dragon breathing heavy?

A bearded dragon may be breathing heavily for typical reasons such as eating, stress, and temperature regulation. Still, it is also a sign of something more severe, like a respiratory infection. Therefore, knowing what to look for is vital to keeping a healthy bearded dragon.

Read on for details and help in telling the difference.

Disclaimer: When in doubt, take your beardy to the vet.

Our advice can help you distinguish between severe problems and expected behavior, but nothing replaces an in-person, professional diagnosis.

bearded dragon breathing

Normal Reasons Why Your Bearded Dragon May Be Breathing Heavy

There are a few reasons your bearded dragon may be breathing heavy, which are perfectly normal and no cause for alarm.


bearded dragons eating

The digestive process for bearded dragons is different than what it is for humans.

We have acids and bacteria which help us digest food.

For beardies, heat plays a much more significant role in how they digest.

After they eat, the beardies tend to bask, and part of this may be breathing heavy.

If your pet breaths heavy right after eating, give it some time while basking to digest its food.

Note: Bearded dragons are more likely to need heavy breathing if they eat something too large.

Remember to keep all food smaller than the distance between their eyes.


stressed bearded dragon

Bearded dragons (like other reptiles) can get stressed by changes in the environment.

Some common causes of bearded dragon stress include:

  • Loud noises
  • Changes in light and shadow
  • Being handled too much or improperly
  • Improper temperature or humidity
  • Being kept with other animals (not recommended)
  • Being moved to a new location (even when cleaning the tank)

If you suspect one of these reasons, take steps to calm down your bearded dragon before panicking.

For more details, check out our tips for calming a pet bearded dragon.

Temperature Regulation

Bearded dragons need to have their enclosures at different temperatures. Specifically, they need a basking spot at a temp range of 95° – 105° degrees Fahrenheit (35° – 41° C).

If the basking spot is too hot, they may gape (open mouths) and even breathe heavily as a way of cooling down their bodies.

bearded dragons basking

To check if this is why your reptile is breathing heavy, use a thermometer to see what the temp is.

Also, watch for heavy breathing when it leaves the basking area. 

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How Do I Know If My Bearded Dragon Has A Respiratory Infection?

Breathing heavy may also be a sign of respiratory infection.

This is a severe condition that needs to be treated with medication by a veterinary professional.

Respiratory infections are caused by any number of things, including but not limited to:

  • Too low or too high temperature
  • Too high relative humidity
  • Improper ventilation in the enclosure ceiling
  • Poor diet/lack of essential vitamins and minerals
  • Spread of infection from one infected reptile to another

Respiratory infections come with other symptoms, only one of which is heavy breathing.

bearded dragon with respiratory infection

Here are some other common symptoms:

  • Coughing noises
  • Gaping as if choking
  • Puffing up the throat
  • Mucus in the nose and mouth area
  • Lack of appetite

If you notice these symptoms with heavy breathing, it’s likely your bearded dragon has a respiratory infection.

It would be best if you took your reptile to the vet as soon as possible.

Once you’ve taken it to the vet, your vet can accurately diagnose and treat the infection.

This looks different depending on the severity of the infection.

In some cases, you will be tasked with giving your pet medicine regularly.

In most cases, this means you have to administer a liquid into your reptile’s mouth with a syringe.

bearded dragon getting medicine

The exact dosage and frequency are up to your vet.

If you have any questions, be sure to ask your vet.

Pro-tip: Give your pet the medicine right before you feed them.

Also, you may want to hold them while you give them the medicine.

When To Take My Bearded Dragon To The Vet

It may be challenging to decide when you need to go to the vet.

As a rule, if you’re too nervous or unsure, take your beardy to the vet.

If you’re unsure, take a look at these steps you may want to follow.

Note: If your bearded dragon shows any different symptoms (described above), take it right to the vet.

First, check the temperature and humidity to make sure it’s within the appropriate range.

If it’s not, change the environment and wait to see if the breathing relaxes.

Then, think if your bearded dragon has eaten recently.

Give it a chance to digest its meal, and make sure you don’t give it food larger than the space between its eyes.

Finally, do some of our calming tactics to see if you can calm the reptile.

This may also help.

If none of these work and it’s been breathing heavily for a while, then it’s time to take your bearded dragon to the vet.

Warning! If your pet ever stops breathing or seems unable to move, take it to the vet right away.

A too-large chunk of food may have gotten stuck and is pressing on the reptile’s spine.

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We hope you found our information on why a bearded dragon may be breathing heavily.

It’s not a significant cause for alarm if you check on the state of its enclosure and other non-serious causes.

If you eliminate the typical causes or feel too nervous about it, take your bearded dragon to the vet.

There’s nothing to be embarrassed about; you’re just a responsible owner.

This is just one part of giving your bearded dragon and long and healthy life.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are the signs of respiratory distress in bearded dragons?

A bearded dragon with a respiratory disease will show symptoms like heavy breathing, shallow breathing, gaping as if choking, puffing up the throat, discharge and bubbles from the nose and mouth area, and lack of appetite. You may also observe lethargy and a change in behavior.

Why is my bearded dragon panting?

Bearded dragons pant or breathe heavily to cool down their bodies when the basking spot is too hot. It is normal. But if your beardie is doing it too often, it might be suffering from a respiratory infection. It’s time to take it to the vet.

What is the normal breathing speed for a bearded dragon?

6-10 breaths per minute is the average respiratory rate for a bearded dragon. Stress, sleep, and high levels of activity can cause the rate to vary. A beardie only breathes 3 to 4 breaths each minute during its sleep.

How do you know if your bearded dragon has a blockage?

Wheezing, choking noises, and lethargy are the top three signs to look for. If you feel like it is having trouble breathing, it’s time to take your pet to the vet.

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