Bearded dragons make great pets due to their calm demeanor and small size. But they belong to the lizard family and most lizards have venom glands. But do these glands really hold venom in case of bearded dragons? Let’s find out.
Are bearded dragons venomous? When bearded dragons bite a prey, venom is secreted from its venom glands. Scientists believe that all lizards have evolved from the same venomous creature from the dinosaur era. The bearded dragon’s venom is quite similar to that of a rattlesnake. But, it has no harmful effects on humans as it is only capable of killing small prey.
The venom from bearded dragons is not toxic to humans. However, a bite from your pet beardie still needs attention. Of course, it is always better if you can prevent the bite altogether. Here’s all you need to know about a bearded dragon’s venom and its bite.
The Bearded Dragon’s Venom
Bearded dragons were thought of as non-venomous for many years. They were even considered as safe pets to be around children. Even though all lizards and snakes are descendants of a venomous creature that lived in prehistoric times, venomous bites and poisoning due to bites was always thought of as something related to snakes, rather than lizards.
It was only in 2005 when Australian scientists carried out tests that revealed that the dragons are, in fact, venomous. Interestingly, the venom was found to have similarities with rattlesnake venom. It is believed that this is the kind of venom that its ancestors must have used while hunting in the wild.
Venom glands in bearded dragons are considered vestigial. While most bearded dragons have a single venom gland, the eastern bearded dragon has two. Both the upper and lower jaws have glands that can hold venom. However, even the eastern bearded dragon does not have venom that could be dangerous to humans.
The good news is, bearded dragons are quite safe to be around even though they are venomous. They have primitive venom glands that secrete a mild venom when they bite. The venom is capable of killing small pets but it is quite harmless for humans.
The Bearded Dragon’s Bite
It is important to note that a bearded dragon bites quite rarely. It has passive tendencies and it avoids confrontational or combative interactions with humans.
While the venom is non-toxic, when a bearded dragon bites a human, it can lead to swelling, bleeding, and minor bruising.
In some cases, the bleeding could be severe if the dragon has bit hard and long. Even though the venom is virtually harmless, it causes some swelling in the area after a bite.
The bite hurts, but only mildly so in most cases. Rather than being painful, the bite causes more of a sharp tingling or burning sensation. The bite hurts a lot less than if you would be bitten by a pet dog. Also, a fully-grown dragon’s bite hurts more than a baby dragon’s.
For people who are bit by a bearded dragon, it is not the venom you need to worry about. However, be mindful that bearded dragons carry the salmonella bacteria in their mouths. This bacteria can be passed to humans through. A salmonella infection can cause intestinal problems.
Thus, always make sure to wash your hands with antibacterial soap after handling your pet beardie.
When a bearded dragon bites you, don’t try to move your hand away quickly. This might only worsen the bite. Instead, gently try to pry open its jaws and remove yourself from its grip. Wash the injury with an anti-bacterial solution and dress the wound.
Even if the bite is superficial and the skin hasn’t broken, use an antibacterial wipe to clean the area well. If you haven’t taken a tetanus shot in the last five years, you should take one after the bite.
When do Bearded Dragons Bite?
Bearded dragons are usually quite docile and are of a calm temperament. They are hardly ever aggressive and their personalities are more inclined towards being passive and slow-moving. They also quickly get used to being handling and petting.
In many cases, when bearded dragons feel threatened by humans, instead of trying to attack, they react by trying to run away from you or by freezing at one spot. Thus, it’s not very common for bearded dragons who are raised in captivity to attack humans. However, it is not completely unheard of either.
Rough Handling: If a bearded dragon feels uncomfortable due to rough handling, it might try to bite the person holding it. Do note that while the beardies are friendly pets, they are not exactly cuddly. So, avoid too much handling.
Startling: Also, if you startle a bearded dragon who is quietly minding its own business, it could retaliate by trying to bite you. It considers any movement above its head as threatening. So, you don’t want to grab it by trying to swoop down on it.
Scaring: If a bearded dragon feels scared in a particular situation, its reaction might be to bite. It’s just the way the defense instincts work.
Mishandling: This applies to new pet owners or children who don’t know how to handle the bearded dragon. Holding too tightly or awkwardly is not just uncomfortable, it could even hurt the dragon. It might show its discomfort by biting the hand that holds it.
Sometimes, your pet might unintentionally bite you. If you feed your bearded dragon using your hand, it might sometimes confuse your finger with food. Even after finishing feeding, if you haven’t washed your hands, the dragon could smell the food and might try to take a bite.
Signs That a Bearded Dragon is Getting Aggressive
Even though non-toxic, preventing a bite is always the best. Knowing and recognizing the signs that indicate the bearded dragon is in an attacking mode can help avoid getting bitten. Here are some signs that show that your pet is being aggressive.
- The bearded dragon is making hissing sounds
- Your beardie has fluffed up its throat
- The skin coloring has become darker than usual
If you notice any of the above signs, it’s best to leave your pet alone and avoid any handling. If it tries to move away from you, let it go. Forcefully trying to handle it could get you bitten. If it displays such behavior while you are holding it, gently place it back in its terrarium and give it enough time to cool down before trying to touch it again.
It is best to avoid touching your bearded dragon if it is showing signs of aggression or looking scared. Also, note that beardies have a rough and spiky outer skin that can scratch you. So, if handling the dragon is absolutely necessary, use protective gloves.
Do bearded dragons have teeth? Yes. Bearded dragons have front teeth that they use for grasping prey. These teeth fall out and grow back at regular intervals. They have permanent side teeth that are used for chewing food.
How do bearded dragons see? Bearded dragons have eyes on the sides of their heads which help them see. The position of the eyes is forwards and provides them a wide field of vision. They also have a full-color vision.
What do bearded dragons eat? Bearded dragons are omnivores. They eat a variety of insects such as crickets, roaches, etc. They also eat plants, vegetables, and fruits.