The worst situation ever is the one in which you come up to your bearded dragon’s habitat only to find them in a position indicating they are dead. You begin to worry. You may touch your dragon, in hopes that they will come back to life. But are they really deceased?
Do bearded dragons play dead? Yes, bearded dragons have the ability to hold their breath for a REALLY long period of time. In some cases, the vet may have to intubate because they cannot get the animal to breathe in the anesthesia. If you suspect your dragon may be deceased, wait a while to make sure they are not playing dead.
Now you know that bearded dragons can play dead. Why do they do this, and what can owners do to help bring them back to their normal way of life? Keep reading to find out.
Why Is My Bearded Dragon Playing Dead?
Stories from around the internet from other bearded dragon owners indicate such instances happening when the dragon is under some sort of stress.
For instance, one owner told a story in which her dragon would do this every time he had to undergo a bath. Another user told a story similar to that in which her dragon opened up an eye as soon as she picked him up again.
In the wild, they do that to escape predators. Some predators lose interest when their prey is dead or they start to relax and don’t pay close attention anymore because dead prey can’t run away.
As soon as the predator starts to relax and does not pay close attention to the “dead” bearded dragon, the dragon takes advantage of the situation and runs away.
The video below shows a bearded dragon that seems to be very stressed during bath time. As you can see it also plays dead for a while either to “escape” the situation or the water might be too cold.
How To React When Your Bearded Dragon Is Playing Dead
Bearded dragons can hold their breath for ten minutes, so don’t jump to conclusions right away if you see your bearded dragon lying motionless. Give it some time and come back to check on the dragon.
However, bearded dragons do not play dead for fun. If you see this behavior in your bearded dragon, you might have done something wrong.
It is very important to reflect on the situation that could have caused that behavior and to do things differently in the future so that your bearded dragons can live stress-free.
Another thing to take into consideration is the possibility of brumation. It is a time in which bearded dragon owners who are inexperienced get nervous about their beardie. Let’s learn what it is and how you can know what to expect.
Brumation 101: Know the Signs
Brumation is the reptile version of going into hibernation, which is what bears do during the wintertime.
The metabolism of the bearded dragon slows down and leaves them looking lethargic and lacking in appetite.
The bearded dragon actually has evolved to do this action over the years. It is a response to the seasons changing.
Signs that your bearded dragon is getting ready to begin brumation:
- They don’t want to be handled
- They don’t want to bask
- They have trouble waking up
- They lose their appetite
- They lack energy
- They bury themselves in their sand
- They eliminate less and less
Many beardie owners who don’t know about these dragons may assume their reptile has contracted a disease or parasite or is impacted.
Dragon owners not in the know may try to force-feed or play with their reptile as a means of waking him up, but don’t do this. Brumation is a natural process, and your dragon is just following his instincts.
When Will Brumation Happen?
Brumation depends on whichever hemisphere you reside in. When it comes to beardies that live in the Southern Hemisphere, like Australia, their brumation will start around March or April, and they can stay brumating as late as August.
And then, when THOSE beardies begin waking up, the Northern Hemisphere dragon will start falling into brumation! These include dragons in Canada, the USA, UK, and Europe. You can expect a beardie in these hemispheres to brumate during September to March.
The point? Your bearded dragon will brumate as a way of answering the change in seasons. When temps get low around winter and autumn, you can be sure your dragon will probably start brumating around that time.
It should also be noted that not every bearded dragon who lives in captivity will brumate. It is very possible that your bearded dragon will never brumate, meanwhile others will go through the exercise every year.
You may even see some bearded dragons go into brumation during the spring and summer months, even when they live in the Northern Hemisphere.
During brumation, you should offer a hide, which gives the dragon a place to settle down and stay safe during brumation.
Many dragons enjoy this on the cool side of the tank, so put it there for the best results. These hides come in many sizes to accommodate bearded dragons of all lengths.
Should I Offer Food During Brumation?
You may think that offering food could help your bearded dragon perk up a little bit. The truth is, they don’t need any food-their body is taking care of everything.
It’s important to remember that offering food once a week will be enough. Even then, the dragon might refuse to eat what you are offering. If so, it’s not a big deal-remember, a decrease in metabolism and appetite is normal.
If your bearded dragon does end up eating, make sure they digest and eliminate their food before you leave them alone. You can bathe them each day or allow them to bask under their UVB until you see them make a bowel movement.
Once they end up getting out of brumation, your bearded dragon will get back to eating normally in just a few days to two weeks. Get them back onto their diet by offering a little food every day. Start with veggies. Live insects can make their stomach upset.
How Do I Know If My Dragon Is Sick, Brumating, or Deceased?
In this section, we will take a look at the difference between sick, brumating, and deceased dragons.
Brumation Vs Death
First, don’t make any quick decisions or jump to conclusions. Bearded dragons are very good at playing dead. Dead beardies have rigor mortis set in, and they are also very cold to the touch.
Their color will be different, and they may have a foul smell as a result of being deceased.
Here is a test you can do: Lay the dragon on his side and see if he moves. If no movement is spotted, try putting them on their back. A dragon that is alive will try to upright themselves, but if you see no movement, chances are the dragon is deceased.
Brumation Vs Illness
Look at the physical condition of your bearded dragon for the best results.
A dragon that is sick may have fat pads that have been totally depleted, mouth mucus, abnormally colored scales, or sunken in eyes. Mostly, these dragons do not look like themselves at all.
A dragon entering brumation will not display any of these signs. Dragons getting ready for brumation most often change up their behavior patterns as compared to their physical ones.
Bearded dragons can and will play dead when they feel like it. Often this takes place when they feel afraid or threatened in some way. It is crucial for owners to understand what this looks like, so they know not to jump to conclusions or act in a rash way.
Bearded dragons can hold their breath for ten minutes, so don’t worry just yet. If your reptile appears motionless, give him some time to come back. You should also try the test I mentioned earlier where you place the dragon on his side and then his back.
Dragons are great, but they sometimes can alarm us-know what to look for, so you don’t end up scared or confused!