We all get a little muscle spasm now and again. In fact, in some pets like cats, twitching can be a sign of contentment – but what about our cold-blooded reptile friends? Why would a bearded dragon display twitching behavior?
Bearded dragons can twitch involuntarily due to nutrient deficiencies or other medical problems that should be immediately addressed. However, twitching or shaking of certain body parts like the head or tail could be part of a behavioral part that indicates your beardie is trying to tell you something about their mood.
We’ll go over the top six reasons why your bearded dragon may be twitching, shaking or spasming and then break down the beardie’s atypical movements by body part as well. Knowing where and how your bearded dragon is twitching can help get to the bottom of the mystery!
Reason #1: Metabolic Bone Disease
Metabolic bone disease is extremely common for bearded dragons who are calcium and vitamin D deficient. Most often seen in beardies with a meat-heavy diet and no calcium supplementation, symptoms of metabolic bone disease can include muscle spasms that look like involuntary twitching.
Twitching is one of the first signs of metabolic bone along with extreme lethargy, loss of appetite, and facial or limb swelling. It’s important to get your dragon to the vet if you notice him twitching accompanied by these other symptoms. Left untreated, metabolic bone disease can lead to more severe muscle spasms, neurological damage, and physical deformities.
Reason #2: Hunting Behavior
Much like a housecat getting ready to pounce on a mouse, bearded dragons may experience tail twitches as they home in on their cricket prey. This slight movement of the tail may be an indication of impending aggressive behavior.
As you’ll see below, tail twitching is common in bearded dragons when other forms of aggression are triggered by different environmental factors. If you notice that your beardie is intently concentrated on his next meal when his tail twitches, you can assume he’ll be enjoying dinner shortly.
Reason #3: Stressed Out
Bearded dragons are easily stressed out or overwhelmed by their environment if there is too much going on. Excessive movement around their enclosure, loud noises such as music or raised voices, and other pets like cats or dogs patrolling the area can easily stress out a beardie who will perceive any of these as a threat.
Tail twitching is one indication that your dragon does not feel safe or comfortable in its own space. If you notice twitching accompanied by an open mouth, black beard, or the reaction to bite you when you approach, chances are your beardie is stressed to the max.
Try to locate the stressor and amend it so that your bearded dragon can calm down and relax.
Reason #4: Need Some Alone Time
Unlike your dog who constantly craves your attention and lives for the social interaction, your bearded dragon is going to take more after your cat. While they do enjoy a little love from their human, they can only take so much, and when they’re done, they’re done.
Bearded dragons are typically solitary creatures, so they need more alone time than social interaction. If you are handling or petting your beardie and he starts twitching his tail, he may be trying to tell you that he’s done mingling for the moment.
Leave him be and if the twitching stops, most likely you’ve figured out what he needs. Give him some space for a while and later he’ll let you know when he needs snuggles again.
Reason #5: Something Is Stuck in the Digestive Tract
If you see spasming of your bearded dragon’s abdomen, you may want to notify your vet. This could be an indication that there is something stuck in your dragon’s digestive tract that cannot pass.
Sometimes beardies eat food items that are too large for their systems to process. Other times they eat things that aren’t even food. Whatever the case may be, the spasms of the abdomen that you are witnessing could be the digestive muscles attempting to push the food or foreign object through your dragon’s body unsuccessfully.
Reason #6: Parasites
Parasites can also cause your bearded dragon’s stomach to twitch. Most of the parasites to which beardies are susceptible are those that thrive in the gut of reptiles. As a result, bearded dragons often suffer symptoms such as constipation, loss of appetite, or diarrhea in addition to digestive tract spasms.
If you notice that your dragon’s abdomen in spasming, call your vet immediately. If it is accompanied by any of these other symptoms, your reptile’s doctor will most likely take a fecal sample to determine what type of parasite is causing all the trouble.
What Causes a Bearded Dragon to Have Full Body Spasms?
If your bearded dragon is having fully body spasms or even seizures, he is most likely suffering from advanced metabolic bone disease. While the early onset stages of metabolic bone disease typically manifest in the muscle twitching of just one part of the body, eventually the phenomenon will spread to the entire body if left untreated.
Since metabolic bone disease is the result of nutrient deficiencies in beardies, it can be reversed by increasing the amount of calcium and vitamin D in your dragon’s diet. Most of the time, adding in more vegetables, gut loading insect feeders, and sprinkling food with supplement powder are sufficient ways of balancing out your bearded dragon’s daily food intake.
If you didn’t catch any early warning symptoms of metabolic bone disease before your dragon started having full body spasms, look for other signs of an advanced condition such as physical deformities and neurological abnormalities to confirm your suspicion. Either way, contact your vet to see what can be done to help get your beardie better.
Why Is My Bearded Dragon’s Leg Twitching?
Bearded dragons don’t get restless leg syndrome like we do, but leg twitching could be an indication of a calcium deficiency. Without enough calcium in the body, your beardie’s bones will weaken and the muscles they support will also begin to diminish.
If your dragon’s leg twitches right before you handle him or you notice that the spasming limb is swollen, this is a good indication of metabolic bone disease. Immediately contact your vet and note how much calcium your reptile is getting in his diet because it may not be enough.
Why Is My Bearded Dragon’s Head Shaking?
As with the spasming of any part of your bearded dragon, a twitching head could point to metabolic bone disease. However, typically the early stages are denoted by twitching of the limbs.
If you are unsure, note what kind of head shaking your bearded dragon is engaged in. If his head is bobbing rather than twitching, it may be due to behavioral responses rather than nutritional deficiencies.
This bearded dragon’s head is clearly trembling from a calcium deficiency, not the deliberate head bobbing used as a behavioral response:
Bearded dragons bob their heads during mating rituals to attract a partner. They can also use this display to show aggression toward another animal they feel is a threat to themselves or their territory. Head bobs can also be used a way for bearded dragons to acknowledge one another.
What Is Causing My Bearded Dragon’s Stomach to Spasm?
Stomach spasms in bearded dragons can be linked to nutrient deficiencies, especially if other parts of the body are also spasming.
If the spasms are localized to the abdomen, then this is typically an indication that your bearded dragon’s digestive tract is in distress. Food items that are too large and foreign objects that are indigestible may be impacted within the intestines without the ability to pass through completely. Likewise, if your beardie’s environment is too cold, it may not have enough heat for metabolism so even appropriately sized food cannot be digested efficiently.
In addition to digestive issues, stomach spasms can also be caused by parasites who invade reptilian gastrointestinal systems by entering through unchecked food sources.
Why Is My Bearded Dragon’s Arm Shaking?
Just like leg twitches, shaking arms, or the front legs, of a bearded dragon can be an early indication of metabolic bone disease. Make sure that your beardie is getting enough calcium and vitamin D in his diet and then call your vet to see what other steps you can take to avoid or reverse any positive diagnosis.
Why Is My Bearded Dragon’s Tail Twitching?
Tail twitching is a sign of metabolic bone disease; however, it doesn’t do well to jump to conclusions if there are other factors present.
Tail twitching can also be caused by behavioral responses. If your beardie is overwhelmed by environmental stressors, feels threatened, or simply needs to take some time for solitude, he may twitch his tail involuntarily to communicate these feelings. If that is the case, your beardie may also display other behaviors such as biting, a black beard, or open mouth in addition to tail twitching.
Bearded dragons are also known to twitch their tails when they hunt, like a cat. Before you assume your bearded dragon’s tail spasms are caused by metabolic bone disease, note the outside factors and other potential signs that may indicate aggression rather than sickness.
Should I Be Worried If My Bearded Dragon Is Twitching or Shaking?
While most reasons for bearded dragon twitching, shaking, or spasming is cause for concern, not every reason behind these movements gives the need for worry.
Metabolic bone disease is a serious illness that can have devastating consequences for the health of your bearded dragon. If you witness any spasm you cannot confidently attribute to a behavioral response, you should immediately contact your vet and get advice on how to treat metabolic bone disease.
Limb twitching is usually the most common early onset sign, but whole-body spasms are definitely a cause for concern.
If your beardie is twitching his tail or bobbing his head, most likely he is responding to an environmental stimulus, then the worst that can come of it is your dragon being stressed out. It’s still important to pay attention to these movements in case there is any action you can take to alleviate your dragon’s discomfort, but there is no real cause for concern.
Stomach spasms, whether or not they are caused by metabolic bone disease, are concerning since they could be an indication of impaction or parasites and should be addressed by a reptile veterinarian right away.
Bearded dragons have some lovable quirks that may take a bit of getting used to, but it’s important to know what is a personality trait and what may be an indication of a serious medical problem.
While tail twitching and head bobbing are typically harmless and natural responses to various stimuli, most other kinds of spasms and twitching usually point to conditions such as metabolic bone disease or gastrointestinal distress.
Once you figure out where your bearded dragon’s twitches land on the spectrum, you’ll know how to address them so that you make sure your reptilian buddy can live his best life possible.