Why Is My Bearded Dragon Breathing Heavy

Why Is My Bearded Dragon Breathing Heavy?

If your bearded dragon is breathing heavily, it could be a sign of a respiratory infection, stress, or other health issues. Two of the possible causes are Respiratory Infection and Stress.

The bearded dragon is a popular pet that can provide great companionship and bring enjoyment to its owners. A healthy bearded dragon can be expected to live for over 10 years with proper care and nutrition.

But, if your bearded dragon is suddenly breathing heavily, it can be a sign of a health issue. This article will examine why a bearded dragon may be breathing heavily and what steps to take in order to help it.

In order to understand why a bearded dragon might be breathing heavily, it is important to understand the role of respiration within the body. Respiration is the process of taking in oxygen and expelling carbon dioxide.

In order for the bearded dragon to remain healthy, it must be able to regulate its respiration so that it can maintain its body temperature and remain active. If the bearded dragon is having difficulty in doing this, it is likely to display signs of heavy breathing.

Normal Reasons for Heavy Breathing

Little Dragon
Credit: Ansleigh H.

Digestive processes can be taxing on the body, leaving one feeling heavy and labored after eating a large meal. Exerting physical effort during exercise can also result in increased breathing. Furthermore, dealing with stressful situations can spike one’s breathing rate significantly.


Following their meal, bearded dragons need to bask to aid in digestion, which can lead to heavy breathing. As the bearded dragon lies in the sun, their body temperature rises and their metabolism speeds up, causing their breathing to become labored.

Their chest and throat areas may appear to be moving up and down more than usual and their breaths may be louder than normal. As the bearded dragon’s body works to break down the food, its heavy breathing will gradually taper off as it completes the digestion process.


Slipping into a more active state, bearded dragons may be prone to breathing heavily during exercise. A quickened pace is accompanied by labored breaths, as the muscles and lungs work in tandem to keep up with the vigorous activity.

Short, sharp breaths are taken in and out, exhaling exhaustion and inhaling determination. Each breath is a reminder that the dragon is hard at work, pushing the limits of what they can achieve. It is a remarkable sight to behold.


Continuing on from the causes mentioned before, stress can also be a factor behind heavy breathing. When a bearded dragon is exposed to a stressful situation, they may start to pant as a means of coping. This can include loud noises, strange people entering their enclosure, or any other type of sudden change.

They may also start to pant if they are feeling uncomfortable due to the temperature, lighting, or humidity in their environment. In addition, bearded dragons may pant if they are feeling anxious or scared due to a lack of stimulation in their enclosure.

To help reduce this type of stress-related panting, it is important to provide your bearded dragon with enrichment, such as live plants, climbing branches, and other interesting items in their habitat.

Abnormal Reasons for Heavy Breathing

Breathing Fire
Credit: Gregg Millar

Heavy breathing can be caused by a respiratory infection, which inflames the airways and makes it hard to breathe. In more severe cases, it can lead to water in the lungs, causing difficulty in breathing as well.

Heart disease can also lead to difficulty in breathing, as the heart has to work harder to pump oxygenated blood throughout the body.

Respiratory Infection

The transition from normal to abnormal reasons for heavy breathing is an important one, as it can indicate a more serious underlying condition. One of the most common abnormal reasons for heavy breathing in bearded dragons is a respiratory infection.

Respiratory infections are caused by bacteria, viruses, and fungi, and they can be difficult to diagnose in reptiles. Signs of a respiratory infection can include lethargy, loss of appetite, coughing and wheezing, and of course, heavy breathing.

Bearded dragons with respiratory infections may also show discharge from the nose or eyes, and they may have difficulty swallowing. In severe cases, respiratory infections can even cause death.

It is important to take your bearded dragon to the vet as soon as possible if you suspect they have a respiratory infection, as early treatment can prevent more serious complications. Treatment typically includes antibiotics, but the specific medication and dosage will depend on the type and severity of the infection.

Water in the Lungs

Having discussed the normal causes of heavy breathing in bearded dragons, it is important to turn our attention to the less common, yet more serious, abnormal reasons for the same symptom. One such cause is water in the lungs.

Inhaling water can cause a condition known as pneumonia, which can be very serious for a bearded dragon. Signs of pneumonia include a wet, rattling sound when the dragon breathes, as well as a rapid and labored breathing pattern.

Pneumonia can be caused by a variety of factors, including a sudden drop in temperature or a dirty environment. If left untreated, it can lead to death.

Treatment for pneumonia in bearded dragons typically involves antibiotics and supportive care, such as providing a warm and humid environment.

It is important to take your dragon to the vet as soon as possible if you suspect they have pneumonia, as it can progress quickly. With proper treatment, however, most dragons can make a full recovery.

Heart Disease

A more concerning, yet still possible, cause for heavy breathing in bearded dragons is heart disease. Heart disease, also known as cardiomyopathy, is a progressive disease that can cause the heart muscle to become weaker, thicker, and less able to pump blood efficiently.

Symptoms of heart disease in bearded dragons include heavy breathing, lethargy, a loss of appetite, swelling in the abdomen, and difficulty moving. The diagnosis of heart disease in bearded dragons is often determined by a combination of physical examination, X-rays, ultrasounds, and blood tests.

If left untreated, heart disease can lead to heart failure and death. It is important to seek veterinary care if you suspect your bearded dragon has heart disease, as early diagnosis and treatment can help your pet live a longer and healthier life.


The risk of heavy breathing due to parasites is an issue to be aware of when caring for a bearded dragon. Parasites such as mites and worms can weaken the dragon’s immune system and cause heavy breathing as a result.

It is important to recognize the signs of a possible parasite infestation, such as scratching, loss of appetite, and swollen joints. Most parasite infestations can be treated with medication, but in some cases, a professional vet may be needed.

It is important to monitor a bearded dragon for any signs of heavy breathing, as it could be a sign of an underlying medical issue. If heavy breathing persists despite treatment, it is best to seek advice from an experienced reptile veterinarian.

Metabolic Bone Disease

In addition to respiratory infection and water in the lungs, metabolic bone disease can also be a cause of heavy breathing in bearded dragons. Metabolic bone disease is a condition that is caused by a lack of calcium in the diet and can cause weak bones, fractures, and difficulty breathing.

Symptoms of metabolic bone disease can include a hunched posture, swollen limbs, and an inability to move normally. This can lead to the dragon having difficulty breathing, as the weakened bones may be unable to properly support the lungs and other organs.

In addition, the lack of calcium in the diet can also lead to diminished muscle coordination, further affecting the ability to breathe normally. If a bearded dragon is suspected of having metabolic bone disease, it is important to immediately seek veterinary advice and begin a specialized diet to help manage the condition.

It is essential to ensure the dragon is receiving the proper nutrition and supplementation in order to slow the progression of the disease and improve its quality of life. By taking the proper steps, it is possible to help the dragon breathe more easily and manage its symptoms.

What to Do if Your Bearded Dragon Is Breathing Heavy

The first step is to monitor your bearded dragon’s breathing for a period of time. If the heavy breathing persists, you should take your dragon to the vet as soon as possible. Lastly, you should adjust the humidity levels to create a comfortable environment for your dragon.

Monitor Your Dragon’s Breathing for a Period of Time

After noting the abnormal heavy breathing of your dragon, it is important to observe their breathing for a period of time.

Noting the duration of the heavy breathing as well as any other symptoms that may be present is critical in determining the source of the problem. By monitoring your dragon’s breathing, you can gain a better understanding of the issue and decide whether or not taking them to the vet is necessary.

In some cases, the heavy breathing is simply due to the environment the dragon is in. If the humidity levels are too low, this can cause the dragon to struggle to breathe.

If the temperature of the enclosure is too high, this can also cause the dragon to become stressed and have difficulty breathing. In these cases, it is important to adjust the humidity and temperature levels to ensure that your dragon is comfortable.

If the Heavy Breathing Persists, Take Your Dragon to the Vet

If your bearded dragon continues to show signs of heavy breathing, it’s important to take them to the vet as soon as possible. Heavy breathing can be a sign of a serious respiratory infection, which needs to be treated with antibiotics.

Your vet will be able to assess your dragon’s condition and provide the appropriate treatment. Additionally, they can advise on the best course of action to return your dragon to full health.

Never try to diagnose or treat your dragon yourself. Issues such as respiratory infections need to be handled by an experienced reptile vet. If your bearded dragon’s heavy breathing persists, it’s best to err on the side of caution and take them to the vet as soon as possible.