bearded dragon handbook

Get our pet owner's guide for bearded dragons and help your special friend live its best life.

Why Do Bearded Dragons Flatten Out?

Is it normal for bearded dragons to flatten out?

Is flattening out unhealthy for your bearded dragon?

Observing your bearded dragon’s behavior is vital for spotting signs of stress or disease.

Bearded dragons flatten their belly as a response to various things, but this may be very alarming to a new pet owner at first.

We’re going to take a look at the reasons bearded dragons flatten out and how to correct the behavior, including when you should seek a veterinarian’s care.

why do bearded dragons flatten out

Why Do Bearded Dragons Flatten Out?

Bearded dragons will flatten their body in response to various things, including fear, stress, improper body temperature, and illness. This behavior is instinctual and does not cause harm to the dragon in and of itself.

Most importantly, this is not a sign of trust but a sign of stress.

Seeing your bearded dragon exhibiting this behavior may cause anxiety, but the underlying cause is usually nothing serious.

It is one of the most common body postures in bearded dragons. 

In addition to the ability to flatten themselves out, bearded dragons may display various other body languages. 

This includes waving, bobbing their head, bulging eyes, and even changing color.

Flattening as a Fear and Stress Response

When a bearded dragon is stressed or afraid, it will respond in a variety of ways. 

These responses include puffing up their beard, changing their skin color, and flattening their stomach.

Typically, when a beardie is faced with potential predators much larger than they are, they will run and hide.

When hiding is not possible, a bearded dragon will flatten its body to appear larger than it is.

Common household stressors include:

  • Other pets, such as cats and dogs
  • Being near a window and seeing other animals such as squirrels, birds, and cats
  • Children’s toys left near the enclosure
  • New environments and people

Providing adequate hiding places inside your bearded dragon’s habitat will reduce stress brought on by cats and dogs in your house by giving your dragon a space to go where it feels safe.

Placing the enclosure in an area cats do not readily access is also a good idea. 

This is not always feasible due to cats’ curious nature and their ability to climb just about anywhere, so you may need to place your bearded dragon in a separate room away from other pets.

If your bearded dragon is near a window, and you notice they are flattening themselves out regularly, outside animals such as squirrels, birds, and cats may be seen as a threat, scaring or stressing out your beardie. 

Move the enclosure away from any windows and observing your bearded dragon see if their behavior returns to normal.

Children may accidentally leave toys near the bearded dragon’s enclosure. 

A seemingly harmless toy such as an action figure or doll may frighten your dragon into flattening itself out. 

The obvious way to correct this behavior is to remove any toys, or other knick-knacks may be causing stress to your bearded dragon.

Bearded dragons may flatten their stomachs in response to a new owner or being placed in a new environment. 

It is essential to give your beardie adequate time to adjust to its new surroundings. 

Spending some quality time bonding with your bearded dragon will help to put it at ease, and it will resume normal behavior.

Flattening as a Response to Temperature Regulation

Bearded dragons are exothermic, meaning they rely on external heat sources to regulate their body temperature.

If your bearded dragon is cold, it will flatten out its body and may even darken its skin to a black color for better heat absorption.

The ideal core temperature for bearded dragons should be around 97° degrees Fahrenheit (36° C).

 Heat is vital for beardies because it aids in their digestive process.

Having a range of temperatures within your bearded dragon’s enclosure is vital for replicating typical desert temperatures in captivity. 

The middle of the enclosure should be kept at around 90° degrees Fahrenheit (32° C) during the day.

You will also need to provide a basking spot for your dragon with a temperature ranging from 100-105° degrees Fahrenheit (41° C) during the day as well. 

This is achieved by placing a heat lamp or UV bulb in the area of the enclosure.

Bearded dragons are active during the day, and they enjoy basking to absorb heat and UVB rays.

You will need to turn the lamp off at night, so investing in a timer is a good idea if you forget to turn the lamp on in the morning.

Bearded dragons do not sweat, so their only cooling down method is to open their mouths to gape. 

You should provide a rock or other small shelter type on the opposite side of the basking area to provide your dragon with a place to cool off.

The optimal temperature for this cooling spot should be kept around 75-85° degrees Fahrenheit (29° C).

During the night, the enclosure temperature should range from 65-70° degrees Fahrenheit (21° C).

Bearded dragons are native to Australia, and these temperatures mimic the variety of conditions occurring in a natural desert setting.

Be sure to invest in a good thermometer and check the enclosure often to ensure the proper temperatures are being achieved.

If you notice your bearded dragon is flattening itself in the mornings, they have been sleeping during lower temperatures at night, and they need to get warm after waking up. 

This is completely normal behavior and is no cause for concern.

However, suppose you notice your dragon is flattening out and staying a darker color for long periods. 

In this case, this signals a problem with the temperatures inside their enclosure, and this should be corrected immediately.

Younger bearded dragons have slightly different temperature requirements than adults.

The following table illustrates the required tank temperatures for baby, juvenile, and adult bearded dragons across their enclosure’s temperature spectrums.

Bearded Dragon AgeCooling SpotMiddle of the EnclosureBasking Spot
Baby80-90° degrees Fahrenheit (32° C)90° degrees Fahrenheit (32° C)100-110° degrees Fahrenheit (43° C)
Juvenile80-90° degrees Fahrenheit (32° C)90° degrees Fahrenheit (32° C)100-105° degrees Fahrenheit (41° C)
Adult75-85° degrees Fahrenheit (29° C)90° degrees Fahrenheit (32° C)100-105° degrees Fahrenheit (41° C)

Baby and juvenile bearded dragons have slightly higher temperature requirements than adults in some instances. 

Flattening as a Response to Illness

Bearded dragons are also known to flatten their bodies as a response to illness.

Although this is not as common as the other reasons we’ve mentioned, it is worth looking into.

When bearded dragons are sick, their appetite may decrease. 

The lack of food in their stomach can make it appear much flatter than usual.

Sick beardies will also become lethargic, and they may lie still for long periods.

A calcium deficiency will also cause a bearded dragon to lie flat, and if proper calcium supplements aren’t given, it can turn into metabolic bone disease. 

This disease is considered incurable and will ultimately lead to death.

With a proper diet and a well-maintained habitat, captive bearded dragons rarely become ill.

If your bearded dragon is lying flat for long periods, and you notice it is lethargic and not eating correctly, you should seek the care of a veterinarian right away.

We’ve written more on reasons why bearded dragons won’t eat if it’s a major issue you’re having.

Why Does Your Bearded Dragon Go Flat When You Touch It?

If handling your bearded dragon causes it to flatten itself out, do not be alarmed.

This is a normal response, especially from younger bearded dragons. 

Remember, you are much bigger than they are, and flattening themselves is instinctual if they perceive you as a threat.

Sometimes, they do not want to be touched.

With patience and proper training, your bearded dragon will eventually bond with you. 

This process may take a while, but once your dragon becomes familiar with you, it will become more relaxed.

Over time, your bearded dragon will even feel comfortable enough to sit on your shoulder.

When your bearded dragon flattens itself against your body when you are holding them, it just means they are relaxed, and they are probably taking in the warmth from your body heat.

In general, bearded dragons like to interact with their owners, and they even enjoy being stroked on their heads, chin, and cheeks. 

Once you get to know your bearded dragon, you will learn to recognize when they want to cuddle and when they wish to be left alone.

Check out our guide on how to pet a bearded dragon to learn how to handle and build trust with your pet.

Final Thoughts

It is entirely normal for bearded dragons to flatten themselves out when they are scared, cold, or sick.

Maintaining a calm environment, providing them with a warm enclosure, and ensuring they are eating a proper diet will alleviate this behavior for the most part.

Remember, it is also normal for them to flatten their bodies in the morning as they warm themselves up from cooler sleeping temperatures.

Your bearded dragon companion will live a long and healthy life for many years with proper care and bonding.

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