Why Is My Bearded Dragon Licking His Bum? (Vet Tech Explains)

Why Is My Bearded Dragon Licking His Bum

As a reptile owner, it can be difficult to tell when your pet is in distress. These scaly critters don’t show pain in the same ways that many other animals do. You’ll need to keep an extra close eye on your pet to be able to know when anything’s wrong.

One time giveaway that an area might be bothering your pet is relentless licking. If you’ve noticed that your bearded dragon keeps licking their bum, there could be something going on,

You’ll probably ask yourself, “Why is my bearded dragon licking his bum?”

Bearded dragons love to lick things, and that includes their butts! Your bearded dragon might lick their butt simply to clean themselves after defecating or to mark territory. Relentless licking could also indicate old shed skin or an impaction. In extreme cases, licking could indicate the presence of parasites or a cloacal prolapse. 

In this article, we’ll talk about everything you need to know about bearded dragons and why they lick their butts.

Bearded Dragon Anatomy

Before we get into some of the reasons why your bearded dragon might be licking its anus, we’re going to do a little anatomy review. It’s important to understand how bearded dragon anatomy is different from ours because it explains why they do some of the things they do.

The Bum

In reptiles, the bum is a little bit different than in a mammal. Instead of having separate holes for reproductive, digestive, and renal functions, reptiles only have one.  This singular exit hole is formally called the cloaca. Feces, the reptile equivalent of urine, and eggs all come out of this hole.

The cloaca has many names to go with its many functions. The cloaca can be referred to as the anus, butt, bum, or vent.

If your bearded dragon is liking his bum, it’s important to know what his bum really does. That way, you can understand all of the potential causes for the licking!

The Tongue

The other important part of the licking equation is your beardie’s tongue.

Reptile tongues are pretty amazing.  Not only do reptiles use their tongues for taste but they also use them to smell, feel and even see! Bearded dragons are no exception to these incredible abilities.  Bearded dragons love to lick things. Through licking, beardies can get a sense of their environment by assessing texture, taste, and smell.  Bearded dragons also use their tongues to mark territory and as a mating ritual.

It’s no surprise that bearded dragons lick things when they can get so much information from one swipe! Because of all of the uses of the reptile tongue, there are many reasons why your beardie could be licking his cloaca.

6 Reasons Why Your Bearded Dragon Might Be Licking His Butt

Now that we know just how important a bearded dragon’s tongue is in gathering information, we can start to discuss what might cause them to lick their bums! Here are 6 explanations for this odd behavior.

Reason 1: They’re Cleaning Themselves

You may have never noticed just how clean your bearded dragon is. Think about it, they never smell or have dirt on them. That’s because these animals love to groom themselves.

It’s pretty normal for a bearded dragon to lick their bums after defecating. These animals don’t have toilet paper or wipes to clean up, so they’ve found another way!  Bearded dragons poop multiple times a day and poop almost anywhere. They might make a mess from pooping during handling or accidentally pooping in their food dish.

It’s natural and normal for a beardie to want to clean themselves up. Just remember that if your bearded dragon licks their bum and then licks you, it could be transferring harmful salmonella bacteria.

Reason 2: They’ve Recently Shed

Just like any other reptile, bearded dragons regularly shed their old skin in favor of a fresh, new layer. One of the things that might cause a beardie to lick its bum is an old piece of skin that’s gotten stuck.

When bearded dragons shed, their tails, toes, and bums can be some of the last pieces to fall off. If you ever notice your bearded dragon’s tail stays white a few days after a shed, it’s probably just taking a little longer. Bearded dragons will definitely lick their butts if any old, itchy skin is stuck on from their last shed. You’ll probably also notice your scaly friend is a little irritated and itchy while they’re shedding.

Licking and grooming are normal up to a certain extent while shedding.  But, if your bearded dragon is going crazy with the licking, it might need a little help with its shed.

Reason 3: They’re Impacted

A less common and more concerning cause of bum licking is impaction.

An impaction is a backup or block in your bearded dragon’s gastrointestinal system. Impaction can be caused by food or by indigestible objects. A vet visit is almost always required to deal with impaction.  Because impaction can cause straining, redness, and irritation of the cloaca, it’s natural for your bearded dragon to lick there.

If you haven’t seen your beardie defecate recently and they’re licking their bum, you need to take them to the veterinarian. This condition is very dangerous and butt-licking won’t cure it.

Reason 4: They’re Marking Territory

Another reason why your bearded dragon might lick his bum has to do with his femoral pores.

Femoral pores are hormone-secreting glands located near a bearded dragon’s anus. These pores release pheromones during mating and also help male barde dragons to leave their scents on territories. If your bearded dragon is feeling territorial, it may mark its enclosure with its scent. Bearded dragons can be surprisingly territorial and even aggressive.

In the video below, you can see a great example of this.

After marking a territory, your beardie may want to clean up his bum by licking the area. As weird as it might sound, this is no reason to be concerned!

Reason 5: They Could Have Parasites

Parasites are a surprising cause of anus irritation.

When we talk about parasites for reptiles, we’re not talking about something like fleas. Because of their tough skin, reptiles often carry internal parasites that can cause stomach upset and diarrhea. Naturally, these symptoms come with a sensitive and irritated cloaca and can be a little messy.  If your beardie has parasites you’ll probably notice it licking its anus to clean and soothe the area.

Parasites can come from other animals, outside time, or even from you! A simple fecal examination by your veterinarian can confirm the presence of parasites.

Reason 6: Cloaka Prolapse

The last thing that may cause your beardie to lick its bum is a prolapse.

Prolapse describes a condition where a bearded dragon’s cloaca has turned inside out. This is usually pretty noticeable and is characterized by bright red tissue surrounding the vent. Prolapse is usually a secondary issue to something like parasites or impaction.

Bearded dragons will want to lick their prolapsed anus to soothe it and keep it clean. This condition requires veterinary intervention to treat,

Should You Worry If Your Bearded Dragon Won’t Stop Licking Its Anus?

It’s not usually an indication of a problem when your bearded dragon licks his bum. Many other pet reptiles, like leopard geckos, also lick their bums to clean up, mark territory, or help remove old shed skin. However, excessive and relentless licking can indicate a more serious problem like an impaction, parasites, or a prolapse.

If you suspect there may be something wrong with your bearded dragon it’s always a great idea to take them to the veterinarian.  Even if something isn’t going on, your veterinarian can advise you about your bearded dragon’s constant licking. And, if something is going on, the veterinarian can help you treat and manage the issue.

Final Thoughts

There are quite a few reasons why your bearded dragon might be licking his bum.

For the most part, it’s normal for bearded dragons to lick themselves. They use other tongues for a lot more than we humans do. Plus, they don’t have any other way to keep themselves clean.  Even though bearded dragons morally lick their butts, there are some abnormal situations to look out for.

If you notice any redness or irritation associated with the licking, something isn’t right. Diarrhea and straining to poop are also red flags. Luckily, any excessive vent licking can be solved by treating the primary issue!  Hopefully, this article has helped you start to figure out why your beardie may be licking his bum,