Bearded dragons are cute and quirky little creatures, and while I’m sure most of us can spend hours watching them living their best life in their terrarium, we also crave some physical interaction.
However, if that physical interaction usually ends with your bearded dragon pooping on you then it can become a frustrating and disappointing experience, especially if it happens more often than not.
So, why does your bearded dragon poop on you?
Stress is the most common culprit. Being plucked out of a terrarium can be a terrifying experience and some bearded dragons can respond by pooping on their owner. Other possible causes include diet, parasites, and temperature changes. If your bearded dragon is pooping more often than usual, you should consult your veterinarian
If you want to know more about the possible reasons your bearded dragon keeps pooping on you and whether it’s something you should be worried about then keep on reading!
Why Does My Bearded Dragon Poop On Me?
There are different reasons why your bearded dragon is pooping on you, some more common or severe than others, so let’s take a look.
Reason 1: Stress
Numerous scientific studies have shown that reptiles experience a broad range of emotions, which include stress, anxiety, and fear.
If your beardie has an accident every time you pick them up, chances are they’re just stressed out.
Researchers are still trying to tease apart the complex relationship between emotional health and gut health. The nerves responsible for turning on and off the body’s stress response and digestion system are intimately intertwined in what is known as the “brain-gut axis.” When the body needs to conserve energy for a flight or fight response, digestion takes a back seat.
If your bearded dragon poops on you every time you pick them up, you might want to try taking things more slowly.
Even in the most loving hands, beardies can get stressed when held too long. This is especially true when you and your dragon are getting to know each other. That said, respectful boundaries are something to remember at all relationship stages.
You may not speak the same language, but if your beardie is unhappy, they will probably try and let you know. So pay attention to these signs.
For example, an angry dragon’s beard can turn black and puff up. Just like other reptiles, bearded dragons may open their mouths wide to make themselves appear even bigger and scarier.
If you see any of these displays, your bearded buddy is probably looking for some alone time. At this point, returning your dragon to their terrarium is in everyone’s best interest.
That doesn’t mean your relationship needs to be chilly. Far from it. The more your dragon comes to associate you with good things like food, shelter, and positive interactions on their terms, the more they will trust you.
Scientists are beginning to find that reptiles don’t deserve their cold-blooded reputation. They seem to have more complex social lives than we once thought and show signs of forming their own type of attachment.
If your lizard enjoys your company, they may come towards you as you approach. They may close their eyes, stretch out their neck and lie peacefully as you hold or pet them.
Once your dragon is genuinely comfortable in your presence, you may find that their problematic pooping has become a thing of the past.
Reason 2: Diet
Bearded dragons are omnivores and not particularly picky ones at that. Nevertheless, ensuring your pet gets a balanced and nutritious diet is essential.
An adult dragon’s diet should consist of 20-30% live insects and 70-80% leafy greens. Getting the ratio right is vital for avoiding digestive dilemmas.
A number of studies suggest that probiotic supplements can improve digestive function. You can buy products specifically formulated for dragons that combine probiotics with vitamins or probiotics with calcium.
One final diet-related tip for avoiding the fallout: if your dragon just ate a big meal, maybe don’t pick them up right away.
If you want to help nature run its course, try giving your beardie a bath before handling. If there’s one thing that seems to encourage a beardie to relieve themselves more than being held, it’s sitting in a nice warm bath.
Reason 3: Parasites
Diarrhea can also be a symptom of a variety of pesky parasites. A variety of worms and unicellular organisms regularly infect reptiles.
If you notice your dragon having diarrhea-like symptoms for two days or more, you should have them evaluated by their vet as soon as possible.
Don’t beat yourself up if your pet gets sick. Your beardie was probably exposed through no fault of your own. Frequently parasites hitch a ride inside your dragon’s food. Just make sure to get them to the vet right away.
There are things you can do to minimize the risk of infection.
Good housekeeping is going to be your first line of defense. Your dragon doesn’t have vast spaces to roam and weather to wash away dirt and grime. They just have you.
Keeping your pet’s living area clean is a great way to stop parasites before they start.
Daily spot cleaning is your friend, but you’ll also want to regularly wash the inside of their tank and replace the substrate.
Uneaten food should be discarded, so ensuring your dragon’s food and water dishes are sparkling clean is another way to keep pests in check.
With good hygiene and veterinary care, you don’t need to let parasites get you and your beardie down.
Reason 4: Temperature Changes
Your bearded dragon could be pooping on you because you’re just so warm and cozy.
Cold temperatures slow metabolic processes in all animals. However, the effect is especially pronounced in ectotherms that rely on external conditions to maintain homeostasis.
Lizards will move between hot and cold areas to maintain the optimal temperature for their bodies to function.
Digestion is one of the many processes that work better when the temperature is not too hot or cold, but just right.
Your body heat may have something to do with them pooping on you the moment you take them into your hands.
If your dragon seems to be saving all of their poop for you, ensuring their terrarium is warm enough would be a good idea.
During the day, adult beardies need to have a temperature gradient from 75°F to 85°F with a basking area from 90°F-100°F, while the nighttime temperature shouldn’t fall below 70°F.
You can monitor the temperature inside their tank with an old school thermometer or something more advanced. You could also use a digital thermometer/hygrometer combo to measure temperature and humidity on the same device.
Making sure your beardie’s habitat is just the right temperature and humidity should help them poop on their own time and not on you.
Reason 5: It’s A Habit
Human beings are creatures of habit, but what about bearded dragons? Is it possible that once a beardie starts using its owner as a restroom, it will just keep on doing it for old-time’s sake?
A growing body of evidence suggests that their brains are not as different from ours as we once thought. Bearded dragons have demonstrated several complex cognitive processes, including the ability to learn from each other.
Habitual behavior doesn’t depend on external conditions. Through repetition, it has become automatic. Just look at the bearded dragon in this video who has learned to enthusiastically respond to his name!
It stands to reason that if handling and pooping repeatedly happen at the same time, your dragon will be primed to poop as soon as you lift it out of the tank.
This is another good reason not to hold them for too long initially. It would be better for your dragon not to associate you with their toilet activities.
Things It’s Probably Not
Pooping isn’t personal. Your bearded dragon doesn’t hate you and isn’t trying to ruin your day.
Defecation is just the body’s response to a stressful situation or possibly an underlying dietary or medical issue.
Many species of snake release foul-smelling slime as a defense mechanism. That is not what’s happening here. Your lovely lizard is having a good old-fashioned bowel movement. On you.
Finally, this behavior is probably not permanent. It will either resolve when they become comfortable with you handling them or by treating any underlying conditions.
Should You Worry If Your Bearded Dragon Is Pooping On You?
As you can see from the above, your bearded dragon pooping on you could mean a lot of different things.
Suppose you and your vet have ruled out all possible underlying medical conditions. In that case, your dragon’s droppings are most like the result of stress.
As you get to know your dragon’s needs better and your dragon gets to know you, this problem should resolve with time. When they come to associate you with food, shelter, and good feels, accidents will probably decrease in regularity.
It’s also important to remember that pooping too little would be another cause for concern. It is often one of the first signs of a sick lizard, so you can be glad that’s not an issue.
Baby beardies should poop once or more per day, while older dragons might poop as much as once a day or as little as once per week. The frequency of defecation varies considerably between individuals and diet has a significant effect.
Finally, keep in mind that bearded dragon poop may contain Salmonella. Exposure to bacteria is always possible when handling reptiles or objects that have come into contact with them.
So remember to thoroughly wash your hands after handling your bearded dragon, whether they’ve pooped on you or not!
Getting pooped on whenever you hold your bearded dragon can be disappointing, but while you can choose to see it as an annoyance, you can instead see it as an invitation to better understand your lizard friend.
After all, when we can meet the needs of our reptile companions, everybody wins.