Updated: July 12, 2022 by Jennifer Munsell
One of the most alarming things about owning pets is when they start making noises that you are unfamiliar with and you do not know what it means. Hearing your bearded dragon coughing can be worrying because this is not a normal sound that you hear.
When your bearded dragon coughs, it is a sign that something is wrong with them or their enclosure. This can be fairly serious, so it is wise to never ignore a coughing bearded dragon in the hopes that the cough will go away.
Bearded dragons cough for many of the same reasons that humans do. They may be sick and have excess mucus in their lungs, their nose may be running, or there could simply be something ‘tickling’ the back of their throat.
If your bearded dragon is coughing, then it is likely due to one of six common causes related to their care: their enclosure temperature is too high or low, the humidity is not right, the substrate is causing irritation, their enclosure is dirty, their diet is wrong, or they are feeling stressed.
Read on to learn more and find out how you can go about rectifying these potential issues and making sure your bearded dragon is cough-free.
What Causes Coughing in Bearded Dragons?
1. It’s Getting Hot (or Cold) in Here!
Bearded dragons need to have an enclosure that has a warm and a cool side to it. This creates a temperature gradient for your bearded dragon to move around depending on whether they want to warm up or cool down. Because they are cold-blooded, or ectothermic, they rely on their surroundings to adjust their body temperature.
The basking spot should sit at about 95°F, while the cool end of the enclosure should not drop lower than 70°F at night when all of the lights are off.
If the enclosure is too warm or too cold, your bearded dragon’s immune system can become weakened. If your beardie has a weak immune system, then it can develop a respiratory infection very easily, which will lead to coughing.
Make sure you’ve installed a working thermometer in the enclosure and check it daily to verify the heating elements are working correctly.
2. Too Moist! Or Not Moist Enough?
Humidity is a very important factor to consider when you hear your bearded dragon cough. Bearded dragons come from Australia, so they need a very low humidity level in their enclosure.
The humidity in the enclosure should sit between 20% and 40%. This is very low and easily achievable by misting your dragon’s enclosure once or twice a day.
If the humidity is too low, then the air in the enclosure is too dry. This means that the lining of your bearded dragon’s lungs will dry out too, which can cause an infection and is generally uncomfortable, all of which leads to your bearded dragon coughing.
If the humidity is too high, then your bearded dragon will develop a respiratory infection very quickly, as there is too much water vapor in the air. You should have a hygrometer installed in the enclosure to monitor humidity levels.
3. Darling, This Flooring Is Just Not Me!
Substrate can be a tricky part of the enclosure to get right, especially if you are a new owner. There are a range of substrates to choose from all the way from basic paper towels to fancy bioactive substrates.
If the substrate is dusty, then the dust particles will get into your bearded dragon’s airway and cause irritation. This irritation can lead to intense coughing and even respiratory infections.
If you want to use a loose substrate, ensure that it does not have fine dust particles in it. You should never use a sand substrate; instead, use coconut coir or forest floor bedding.
Check out this in-depth look at what bedding you should use for your bearded dragon to avoid dust!
4. Clean Up on Aisle Dragon!
A dirty bearded dragon enclosure will harbor mites, old dust, old shed, bacteria, and other nasties that can cause respiratory distress to your bearded dragon, which will result in them coughing.
It is important to clean your bearded dragon’s enclosure regularly to get rid of all the things that can cause infections and irritation. If you are not sure how to do this, check out our how-to guide on cleaning your beardie’s tank out.
In addition to keeping a clean home, your bearded dragon needs to stay clean, too. Regular baths help cut down on the amount of dirt inside of the enclosure and will help regulate their humidity needs, too. Check out our guide on bathing bearded dragons here!
5. Please Sir, Can I Have Some More?
Poor nutrition and diet can lead to a lowered immune system. A poor immune system is not strong enough to fight off harmful bacteria, and your bearded dragon will develop a cough because of a respiratory infection.
Make sure to offer your bearded dragon a healthy and balanced diet with supplements!
6. Under Pressure…
Stress is a huge contributing factor to a lowered immune system. If your bearded dragon is experiencing stress, they will develop a respiratory infection much more easily than if they were calm and relaxed.
Common causes of stress are:
- Loud music around the enclosure
- Being in a busy part of the home
- Having live food left in the enclosure
- Incorrect enclosure settings
- Being handled too frequently or roughly
- Not being handled enough
- Feeling cooped up and bored
It is important to address any sign of stress, as it will affect your bearded dragon’s lifespan.
How Do I Treat a Bearded Dragon Coughing?
To treat your beardie’s cough, you’ll need to identify the cause or causes. The first thing you will need to do is to check all of the enclosure settings and correct anything that is wrong. Make sure your thermometer and hydrometer are working properly and reporting the correct readings.
Once you have ensured that all of the enclosure settings are correct, take a look at the state your enclosure is in. If it is nice and clean, move on to the substrate. Did the last bag of substrate you purchased have a lot of dust in it, or is it breaking down into small particles?
Once you have decided that nothing in the enclosure is causing the problem, have a look at your beardie’s diet. Add in some more variety and include a multivitamin if you are not sure it is as balanced as it could be.
The next stop is the vet. If your bearded dragon is coughing, blowing mucus bubbles, has diarrhea, is dehydrated, or has sunken eyes, then an urgent trip to the vet is necessary.
FAQs on Coughing Beardies
Do bearded dragons cough at each other as a way to communicate?
Bearded dragons have an odd array of behaviors. They hiss, stomp, wave, puff up, and bob their heads at each other as a clear sign of communication. However, they do not cough at one another like some other animals do to communicate.
Do bearded dragons make noises?
Bearded dragons are very quiet lizards. They will not make any noise like leopard geckos who chirp unless they are stressed, being aggressive, or feeling threatened.
If a bearded dragon is stuck in a situation where they feel stressed or threatened, they will puff up their beards and hiss in warning at their perceived aggressor.
I have two bearded dragons in the same enclosure, and one of them is coughing. What must I do?
If one of your bearded dragons is coughing, they likely have a respiratory infection. Respiratory infections in bearded dragons are very easily passed on to others just like humans.
Additionally, the reason your first bearded dragon developed the respiratory infection is likely inside of their enclosure, which means your other bearded dragon is at risk of developing a nasty cough, too.
You will need to separate your bearded dragons and put them into separate quarantine bins until they have healed. A quarantine bin is a simple plastic enclosure with a heating pad, basking light, and water source.
While your bearded dragons are in quarantine, you will need to do a full sanitization of the original enclosure to ensure that whatever made them sick in the first place does not make them sick again when you put them back.
At the Tail End of Things…
When your bearded dragon is coughing, it is immediate cause for alarm. The cough is an indication that something is very wrong in their enclosure, and their respiratory system is either irritated by it, or they are becoming very ill.
Make sure all enclosure settings that impact the respiratory system, such as the temperature, humidity, and substrate are all in good order. Double check that their diet is nice and varied and they are getting good nutrition.
A visit to the vet may be in order so your bearded dragon can get a round of antibiotics to fight off any infection if needed.