Bearded dragons are one of the best pets to have, but they do have their quirks. One thing bearded dragons like to do is lay flat on their stomachs for a few hours at a time. This makes them look like pancakes or sometimes even an airplane. This might be worrying but only if it goes on for longer than an hour or two.
When bearded dragons lay flat, they are trying to get more heat from the ground or other surface that they’re laying on through “thermal conductivity” where heat travels through different materials to the dragon’s body. Raise its ambient temperature. They might also be scared or sick.
You should be observant as far as your pet’s behavior is concerned. In this case, laying flat can only be safe when it’s cold such as in the mornings. If it’s scared or sick, you should look for the other signs of fear or sickness respectively before taking the needed steps.
Why do bearded dragons flatten out?
Some of the reasons why your bearded dragon is laying flat include the following:
It’s increasing the body temperature
A bearded dragon in a pancake shape is usually increasing its body temperature especially when it’s too cold.
When a bearded dragon flattens out, it’s most likely trying to increase its body temperature by exposing the maximum surface area possible for heat absorption from the sun or other sources like rocks and sand in an enclosure.
They will use their flattened posture when basking so they can absorb more solar radiation per unit of skin than if they were upright. The bearded dragon also does not have any body system which would allow them to increase their body temperatures (they’re exothermic) hence why they rely on methods such as increasing their body temperature with actions like laying flat to stay warm.
For bearded dragons that live in areas where there are seasons where daylight hours change dramatically throughout the year (such as the northern and southern hemispheres), they will flatten out during daylight hours when there is less natural light available.
If your beardie often lies flat and gets darker in the mornings, they may be getting too cold. You should try to increase the ambient temperature in their enclosure and make sure they have access to basking areas with UVB light where they can bask for at least 12 hours each day. Bearded dragons need a certain amount of heat exposure per day with bearded dragons who live close to the equator requiring more heat than bearded dragons living in colder climates.
It’s also worth noting that if your bearded dragon is overweight or obese, it could struggle to regulate its body temperature properly which might mean that they are more inclined to lay down on heated surfaces.
It’s thus important for owners of overweight beardies (or those whose diet consists mostly of human foods) to ensure that bearded dragons have a healthy, varied diet to help them maintain their weight. Bearded dragon fat stores provide insulation from the cold and also protect organs in case of injury. However, too much of them are dangerous to their health.
What can I do?
If your bearded dragon starts flattening out often for no apparent reason, make sure that they’re getting enough heat from either heating lamps or basking rocks. If this isn’t sufficient, then get them checked up by a veterinarian because it might be time to reevaluate their enclosure conditions.
Ensure the ambient temperatures for the bearded dragon is 95-100°F, the cooling spot is 75-80°F and the night temperatures 70-75°F. These temperatures are the ideal ones for your pet dragons as they make them comfortable and healthy.
The dragon is sick
Bearded dragons often flatten out when they are sick. If your bearded dragon lays flat on its stomach and turns its head to one side then it is a sign of illness that needs attention as soon as possible.
Other signs of sickness in bearded dragons you should look out for include:
- Bearded dragon does not move around much.
- The bearded dragon frequently regurgitates recently eaten food.
- The bearded dragon is observed with runny nose and eyes, or coughing.
The dragon might have calcium imbalance or a stomachache which makes it flatten out its body.
What can I do?
If you are worried about your bearded dragon’s health then please contact an expert for advice on what to do next. It is important that when bearded dragons get sick, they have the right help as soon as possible in order to get back up and running (literally) again.
It might have parasites
At times, bearded dragons will flatten out as a reaction to parasites in or on their bodies. This is often seen with bearded dragons that have been living in captivity for some time or bearded dragon babies who are still growing and developing their immune systems.
In the wild, bearded dragons might be more likely to show this behavior than bearded dragons living in captivity because they would not have regular access to food sources which could help ward off parasites especially when there’s no one around to clean up after them.
Parasites such as bearded dragon mites can be seen in bearded dragons with this behavior. Bearded dragon mites are not the most common parasite bearded dragons will show, but they tend to occur more often when the dragons have been living without good care or around other bearded dragons that might be carrying them.
Parasites may also cause a bearded dragon to scratch at their skin, loose health and generally be sickly. From worms to mites and even fleas, bearded dragons can be affected by these parasites if not cleaned often enough.
What can I do?
Parasitic infections should always be treated by an animal veterinarian as soon as possible for optimal results.
Bearded dragons that are showing this behavior should be checked for bearded dragon mites by using a magnifying glass. This will allow you to see whether or not there are any live mites in the skin of your bearded dragon and, if so, what stage it’s at. This way, you can know how best to treat them
If parasites are suspected:
- Check bearded dragon for signs of scratching and grooming (licking) especially around their neck where they might have been bitten while sleeping on their backs.
- Look over the body for any redness that could mean an infection from parasitic bite(s) has occurred.
- Note weight loss or increased appetite as possible indicators of health problems due to parasites.
Once identified, treat bearded dragons by consulting your local veterinary clinic and determine which treatment plan would be most appropriate. With this information, vets can also better monitor the progress to make sure that they’re healing properly. They also learn more about the cause so that future outbreaks could be prevented through earlier detection and prevention measures.
It could be afraid
Laying flat is also a sign that the bearded dragon is scared or feeling threatened. Lizards and bearded dragons, in particular, will lay flat to avoid being seen by predators such as birds of prey.
If you notice your bearded dragon laying flat on its back for long periods of time, then it could be afraid. If a bearded dragon’s skin color changes significantly when frightened, then that too would indicate fear and the need to work with an experienced reptile veterinarian if possible.
The pet might be afraid of the owner especially if it’s been recently adopted or it’s a youngster. Some bearded dragons may not be able to get back up on their own if they’re truly afraid which can become a problem for some owners. If you notice your bearded dragon laying flat and it doesn’t seem to want to move or turn around, then there’s likely cause for concern.
It might also be afraid of other pets in the home or of a certain person or persons. If the dragon lies flat on its stomach when pets in the home come close to the cage, this is probably the reason. This often occurs with new pet dragons but it should go away once the pet gets used to the others.
The dragon can also be afraid of toys and other objects in the house. A doll can, for example, send out the message that it’s a threat when it’s not. Robotic toys such as tractors and walking toys can also scare them making them flatten out on their tummies.
Lastly, if the beardie is close to the window, it might get scared by the movements outside such as birds, swaying trees and even basking cats.
Other signs of fear in bearded dragons include
- A rapid heartbeat
- High-pitched sounds
- Moving around the cage
- Coiling its tail and body in a tight ball (like an armadillo) with the head tucked under it
- Bearded dragons may also hold their legs tightly together when they’re scared or stressed, while others will act as if paralyzed.
At times, it can be hard to know what’s causing your bearded dragon to lay flat like this so keep these things in mind.
What can I do?
Simply remove the stimuli making the bearded dragon afraid. This can entail moving him to another location, moving away from the cage, removing a cage-mate and other steps.