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Bearded Dragon With Mouth Open: Every Possible Reason

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If you pay close attention to your bearded dragon, you might suddenly notice that they have their mouths open quite a lot. But is it something to worry about? Well, it depends.

So why do bearded dragons have their mouth open? There are several reasons for this behavior; some are completely normal, while others might be a cause for concern, from gaping and yawning, to a respiratory infection or mouth injury.

To identify the reason for your bearded dragon’s behavior, it’s important to consider the environment around them, other unusual behaviours, and the amount of time they have their mouths open. Read more to find out.

Bearded Dragon Basking With Mouth Open

bearded dragon gaping

Gaping

Basking under a heating lamp takes up a massive portion of a bearded dragon’s day (around 14-16 hours of each day on average). But even bearded dragons, despite being cold-blooded, can overheat.

So, just like dogs when they pant, bearded dragons gape, they open their mouths to help cool their body internally when they’ve reached their optimum temperature.

Gaping will only happen when basking and might even occur if they’re basking while sleeping. They can have their mouths open for up to 30 minutes at a time, which is completely normal behavior and nothing to worry about.

However, if you notice that they’re gaping endlessly while basking, it may be that the heating is set too high or placed too close – so keep an eye on it!

Bearded Dragon Mouth Open When Not Basking

Respiratory Infection

Bearded dragons can contract a respiratory infection quite easily if you’re using the wrong substrate in their terrarium. For example, using sand or wood shavings on the floor can block or wound their respiratory system, which can lead to infection.

You might notice them open their mouths for long periods after physical effort. For example, if they’ve been hunting their live food, or out playing. This is because they are struggling to breathe, so they open their mouths to take in more air to recover.

Look out for other signs such as:

  • Lethargy
  • Mucus from the nose
  • Loss of appetite
  • Wheezing
  • Unusual heavy breathing

If it is a respiratory infection, you’ll notice these symptoms getting steadily worse and their mouth will be open for longer as time goes on. If you notice a definite increase in this behaviour, take them to the vet as soon as possible.

Yawning

bearded dragon yawning

That’s right, even bearded dragons yawn! It might seem that their lifestyle, just laying around their terrarium, would be easy. However, the heat and humidity that a bearded dragon needs to regulate continuously can be quite tiring.

They might also be tired if they’ve spent some time playing with you, had a particularly exhaustive hunting session or simply ate too much. You’ll immediately notice a yawn as it looks much like a human yawn.

It’ll just take a few seconds and is entirely normal and nothing to worry about.

Bearded Dragon With Mouth Slightly Open

Bearded Dragon with Mouth Slightly Open

Impaction

Impaction is a blockage in your bearded dragon’s digestive system due to the food they’ve eaten.

It can be caused by insect casings if your bearded dragon eats mealworms or crickets or could be caused by them swallowing bits of sand, soil or shavings while eating.

This makes excretion difficult and can cause constipation. If you notice that your bearded dragon’s mouth is slightly open, and remains so for a while, it could be that they’re straining to pass something.

Check their habitat for dragon poop, and if there isn’t any, this could be the issue. Bathing your dragon in lukewarm water can help them out with this (check out our full guide on bathing bearded dragons). However, if this continues, and you don’t see any poop, get them to the vet!

Mouth Injury

If your bearded dragon has their mouth slightly open for a long time, it may be something as simple as an injury in their mouth.

Although bearded dragon’s teeth aren’t massive, they can still become damaged and cause pain, especially during ‘striking’ when they launch to catch their live food. If you’re worried, check for:

  • Blood in and around their mouth
  • Dislodged teeth
  • Torn skin inside their mouth or on the roof of their mouth
  • Discoloration on their tongue

Keep an eye on any injury. If it looks like it’s not healing or your bearded dragon starts to display other symptoms of discomfort or loss of appetite, take them to the vet. If left for too long, the wound can get infected.

Shedding

Bearded dragons shed their skin regularly. It’ll likely come off in large chunks with no problem, but there are more fiddly sections that might get stuck. For example, you’ll often find them wearing ‘gloves’ as their toes are a particularly difficult area.

Their mouths and eyes are similarly difficult.

If your dragon has some old, dead skin around their mouth, it can cause discomfort and make it hard for them to close their mouth. If this is the issue, you might notice your dragon licking around their mouth regularly in an attempt to pull off the skin. But you can help!

  • The skin might be somewhere that’s obvious, and you might be able to pull it away gently with your finger.
  • If it seems a bit more stubborn, or the skin is less obvious, warm water might help to soften it slightly.
  • In case both of these don’t work, you can use a soft toothbrush in combination with the warm water to pull it away. But don’t scrub! Brush gently in a single direction.

Bearded Dragon Opening And Closing Mouth

Bearded-Dragon-Opening-And-Closing-Mouth

Stress

Stress is a massive factor for high blood pressure and erratic behaviour. If your bearded dragon is stressed, they are likely to open their mouths for short bursts of time. It helps them breathe more easily and cool their body temperature.

This behaviour looks like gaping (for a shorter time) but may occur when they aren’t basking. You’ll also notice them breathing heavily (their chin moving up and down frequently in a panting motion).

You can reduce stress by:

  • Ensuring the heat and humidity in their habitat is set correctly.
  • Removing anything that makes their environment too ‘busy’ – too many toys can actually make it difficult to move.
  • Housing them by themselves – bearded dragons DON’T like other bearded dragons.
  • Ensuring they have a hidey hole to go to when life gets too much.
  • Providing clean, fresh water each day to help them cool down.

Aggression

Unfortunately, aggression could be the reason that your bearded dragon has its mouth opening and closing. Their mouth is actually one of the larger parts of their body and might seem quite intimidating to other animals.

Opening their mouth wide, whilst displaying other aggressive behaviours such as tail flicking and running towards a target could mean that they feel threatened and want to scare their opponent.

If you notice this, look for things that might cause them to feel threatened:

  • Another pet.
  • Another bearded dragon.
  • The way you’re approaching them – they’re prey animals in the wild, so picking them up from behind might cause them to panic and go into fight or flight mode.
  • Their reflection – they might mistake their reflection from their terrarium glass for another bearded dragon.
  • It might even just be that your bearded dragon is feeling particularly highly strung. Males will become more aggressive during mating season. You’ll be able to tell when they’re ready to mate because their chin will turn black.

Summary

Bearded dragons open their mouth for lots of different reasons. Most of the time, it’s absolutely nothing to worry about, or might be just a minor issue that you can resolve at home.

However, if you notice any worrying symptoms alongside this behaviour, or if it becomes more frequent or excessive, a trip to your vet is always the best option. It’s better to be safe than sorry.