There’s been a lot of debate on the internet on whether bearded dragons get hiccups or not. In this post, I am going to answer that exact question. This is something I was curious about as well, and so, I had to do some research. Here’s what I’ve come up with.
Bearded dragon cannot get hiccups in the traditional way. It’s been scientifically proven that unlike mammals, reptiles can’t get hiccups mostly because they don’t have the diaphragm muscles necessary for lung ventilation.
Although bearded dragons are unable to hiccup [according to scientists], many owners have experienced and reported this behavior in their reptiles: [or at least something very similar], spontaneously spasms or involuntary hiccup spasm. Since information and facts differ so much, people get confused and scared easily.
Can Bearded Dragons Get Hiccups?
Let’s set this straight from the beginning; so, many bearded dragons have been observed to be getting this kind of hiccup behavior. Bearded dragon owners report occurrences on their reptiles prompting a repetitive hiccup-like behavior [for most of them as in a one-time event].
My answer to this confusing question is: Bearded dragons can get hiccups but not through normal means. Even reptiles who are supposed to be unable to hiccup, cough, or sneeze, get them sometimes.
Bearded Dragon’s Respiratory System
Bearded Dragons use their lungs to breathe and their respiratory system is unlike that of mammals. Bearded dragons do not have diaphragm muscles for lung ventilation, meaning that the muscles used for their respiratory system are the same with the muscles used for locomotion.
According to zoologists and scientists, there are no documented observations of hiccups in reptiles, amphibians, or birds.
But that doesn’t stop us from asking more questions in regards to that weird hiccup-like behavior bearded dragons often times exhibit. Which leads us to:
Hiccup-Like Behavior In Bearded Dragons
In most cases, bearded dragon hiccups are caused by feeding, air swallowing or belly distention and go away on their own with no lasting effects.
The reasons listed below represent the opinions and estimations of exotic veterinarians, plus bearded dragon owners’ incidences reports. Generally, most bearded dragons started to exhibit a hiccup-like behavior just after they were feed.
Since this challenging topic has raised my attention and interest for a long time, I tried to get some insight. Therefore, I wrote down a list of some of the most common causes of hiccup-like behavior in bearded dragons.
Causes Of Hiccup-Like Behavior In Bearded Dragons
- Swallowing without thoroughly chewing
- Swallowing air while eating or drinking
- Aspirating food
- Eating quickly (it usually occurs when they eat to fast)
- Choking while eating or drinking
Bearded Dragon Hiccups: How To React
Don’t Freak Out: First and foremost, keep calm and do not freak out or get scared. People mistake very often these situations and assume it’s a respiratory infection. Bearded dragons are stronger than other reptiles and do not get a respiratory infection as easily as other reptiles such as chameleons.
For most bearded dragons, it happened as a one-time event. The dragons haven’t had them since, were acting normal, and they were perfectly fine and healthy after the event. They also didn’t seem to be bothered, disturbed, agitated, or negatively impacted by these “hiccups”.
As a pet parent, it is normal to feel worried as you genuinely care about your bearded dragon, which is why I want you to ask yourself the following questions before freaking out.
- Did the hiccups occur just after eating/drinking? In this case, hiccups were probably caused by swallowing, fast eating or drinking and there is no need to worry. However, I suggest that you keep an eye on your dragon’s behavior and make sure this is not happening too often.
- Was it a one-time occurrence? Keep observing if your bearded dragon is eating, drinking water, being active and acting normal. If hiccups were a one-time event and afterwards everything seems to be fine with your bearded pet, it can only mean that your dragon is safe and healthy.
Hiccups Vs Respiratory Infection
If your bearded dragon has abnormal behavior, excess of saliva, some kind of sneezing or breathing unnaturally, then is time you and take your bearded dragon to veterinarian as this might be a respiratory infection.
I’ve listed below the symptoms of RI [respiratory infection] in bearded dragons. Respiratory infection represents growth of bacteria in the lungs. URI is short form of Upper Respiratory Infection, while LRI is for Lower Respiratory Infection.
RI is caused by high humidity levels and needs to be treated immediately [uncured, lizards may die within few days].
Respiratory Infection Symptoms
- Unnaturally hard breathing [as if the bearded dragon has been running]
- Open mouth breathing
- Some sort of sneezing [they’re trying to clear mucus from their lungs]
- Clicking sounds [due to the mucus in their nose and lungs]
- Liquid coming out of their mouth and/or nose
- Excess of saliva
- Sleeping with their head up and switching the head while sleeping [they’re trying to breath and are having a hard time doing so]
Behaviors That Appear To Be Hiccups
We’ve already decided that bearded dragons cannot hiccup, but there are some similar hiccup-like behaviors bearded dragons exhibit such as:
- Head Bobbing [mating behavior]
- Panting During Basking [When lacking proper temperature in its cage]
- Open Mouth Display [Defensive Mechanism]
- Respiratory Infection Behaviors [Mouth Gaping, Force Exhalation, etc]
Can Bearded Dragons Burp? Yes, bearded dragons can burp, especially if they drink too much water. It’s better to provide your bearded dragon with the right amount of water and nothing more. If they drink too much water, due to the fact that they can aspirate it very easily, can lead to lung infections.
Can Bearded Dragons Sneeze? Yes, bearded dragons can sneeze, but this is normal behavior and should worry you too much. Bearded dragons can not excrete salt through their skin [by sweating] as humans do, so they manage to excrete the excess of salt by sneezing.
Can Bearded Dragons Cough? Bearded dragon don’t cough in a traditional way. At least now how humans do. Making a noise similar to couching is more likely to represent a respiratory infection. Take your bearded dragon to the vet as soon as possible if the coughing continues.
Can Bearded Dragons Fart? Yes, bearded dragons do fart. However, they shouldn’t do it too often. A healthy bearded dragon will fart way less than a sick bearded dragon. If your bearded dragon farts a lot, it means that some bacteria may be residing in the intestine.