Do Bearded Dragons Play Dead? The Truth About Their Survival Tactics

Bearded Dragons can play dead, but it is relatively rare. They generally do this as a survival technique in response to external threats or stressors. Bearded Dragons may play dead by remaining completely motionless with their mouths open, giving the appearance of being lifeless.

While this behavior can be concerning for owners, bearded dragons only use this tactic as a means of self-protection, and it is not a sign of poor health.

What is Playing Dead?

Playing dead is a behavior that many animals exhibit as a defense mechanism. When an animal feels threatened or in danger, it may go limp and appear lifeless to avoid detection or deter predators. This behavior is also known as tonic immobility.

Signs of Playing Dead

An animal playing dead may exhibit several signs that indicate it is not actually deceased. These signs include:

●  No breathing or shallow breathing

●  Limp body

●  Lack of response to touch or movement

●  Eyes may be open or closed

●  No blinking or pupil response

Why do Bearded Dragons Play Dead?

Bearded dragons play dead as a defense mechanism when they feel threatened or stressed. This behavior is more common in the wild, but can still occur in captive bearded dragons.

When a bearded dragon plays dead, it may go limp and appear lifeless. Its body may be cold to the touch and not respond to touch or movement. This behavior is an attempt to avoid detection or deter predators.

In addition to playing dead, bearded dragons have other defense mechanisms, such as puffing up their bodies, changing color, and running away. However, playing dead is a last resort when other methods fail.

Remember that bearded dragons cannot intentionally play dead, but this behavior is an instinctual response to perceived danger or stress.

Causes of Unresponsiveness in Bearded Dragons

Bearded dragons are generally active and alert reptiles, but sometimes they might become unresponsive. This behavior can be a sign of an underlying health issue or stress. This section will discuss some of the common causes of unresponsiveness in bearded dragons.

Illness and Disease

Some illnesses and diseases can cause bearded dragons to become unresponsive. One of the most common diseases in bearded dragons is Atadenovirus infection. This disease can affect dragons of any age and typically causes fatal hepatitis and gastrointestinal infection. Other illnesses that can cause unresponsiveness include metabolic bone disease, respiratory infections, and impaction.

Stress and Environment

Bearded dragons can become stressed if they are kept in an unsuitable environment or if they are exposed to stressful situations. Some common stressors for bearded dragons include overcrowding, loud noises, and excessive handling. In addition, bearded dragons require a specific temperature range and lighting to thrive, and failure to provide these can cause stress and illness.

Dehydration and Thinness

Clean water is essential for bearded dragons, and failure to provide this can lead to dehydration. Dehydration can cause lethargy, loss of appetite, and other health issues. Additionally, bearded dragons that are underweight or malnourished can become unresponsive. A poor diet or an underlying health issue can cause this.

In conclusion, bearded dragons can become unresponsive due to various factors, including illness, stress, and dehydration. Therefore, it is important to provide a suitable environment and diet for your bearded dragon and to seek veterinary care if you notice any symptoms of illness or distress.

Playing Dead or Dead?

Bearded dragons are known to play dead when they feel threatened, but sometimes it can be difficult to tell if they are dead. This section will provide information on how to tell if your bearded dragon is dead and what to do if your bearded dragon dies.

How to Tell if Your Bearded Dragon is Dead

A few signs can help you determine if your bearded dragon is actually dead or just playing dead. Here are some things to look for:

●  Unresponsiveness: If your bearded dragon is not moving or responding to stimuli, it could be a sign that they are dead.

●  Breathing: Check if your bearded dragon is breathing. It could mean they have passed away without movement in the chest or stomach.

●  Rigor Mortis: When a bearded dragon dies, rigor mortis sets in and the body stiffens. If your bearded dragon is limp or stiff, it could be a sign that they are dead.

●  Foul Smell: A deceased bearded dragon may smell foully due to decomposition.

●  Eyes Closed: If your bearded dragon’s eyes are closed and do not respond to stimuli, it could be a sign that they have passed away.

●  Black Color: A bearded dragon that has passed away may turn black due to decomposition.

What to Do if Your Bearded Dragon Dies

If you determine that your bearded dragon has passed away, it is important to handle their body properly. Here are some things to keep in mind:

●  Cremation or Burial: You can have your bearded dragon cremated or buried. Make sure to research local laws and regulations regarding pet burials.

●  Stiffness: If your bearded dragon has rigor mortis, it may be not easy to move their body. Be gentle and take care not to break any bones.

●  Tests: If you are unsure if your bearded dragon is dead, you can perform a few tests. One test is to touch their eye with a cotton swab gently. If there is no response, it could be a sign that they have passed away.

●  Deceased: If your bearded dragon has passed away, handling their body with care and respect is important.

●  Dying: If your bearded dragon is dying, it is important to seek veterinary care immediately.

It can be difficult to determine whether your bearded dragon is playing dead or dead. You can determine if your bearded dragon has passed away by checking for signs such as unresponsiveness, breathing, rigor mortis, foul smell, closed eyes, and black color. If your bearded dragon has passed away, handling their body with care and respect is important.

Preventing Bearded Dragons from Playing Dead

Creating the Right Environment

Bearded dragons are sensitive to their environment; if they feel threatened or uncomfortable, they may play dead. To prevent this behavior, creating a comfortable and safe environment for your beardie is essential. Here are some tips:

●  Temperature: Bearded dragons need a basking spot with a temperature of 95-105°F and a cooler side with a temperature of 75-85°F. Use a thermometer to monitor the temperature and adjust as necessary.

●  Humidity: Bearded dragons need a humidity level of 30-40%. Use a hygrometer to monitor humidity levels and mist the cage as needed.

●  Cage: Bearded dragons need a spacious cage with plenty of hiding spots and climbing areas. Provide a basking spot, a cooler area, and a UVB light.

●  Light: Bearded dragons need a UVB light to help them absorb calcium and prevent metabolic bone disease. Use a timer to ensure they get 12-14 hours of light daily.

●  Water: Provide a shallow water dish for your beardie to soak in. Change the water daily to prevent bacteria growth.

Feeding and Watering

Proper feeding and watering can also help prevent bearded dragons from playing dead. Here are some tips:

●  Food: Bearded dragons need a diet of live insects, vegetables, and fruits. Offer a variety of foods to ensure they get all the nutrients they need. Avoid feeding them insects that are too big or hard to digest.

●  Water: In addition to a water dish, mist the cage daily to keep your beardie hydrated.

Regular Vet Visits

Regular visits to the vet can help prevent health issues that may cause bearded dragons to play dead. Here are some things to keep in mind:

●  Metabolic Bone Disease: Bearded dragons are prone to metabolic bone disease, which a lack of calcium and UVB light can cause. Regular vet visits can help prevent and treat this condition.

●  Parasites: Bearded dragons can also get parasites, which can cause health issues. Regular vet visits can help prevent and treat these issues.

●  Size: Bearded dragons grow quickly and may need a larger cage as they get bigger. A vet can help you determine if your beardie needs a bigger cage.

Following these tips, you can create a comfortable and safe environment for your bearded dragon and prevent them from playing dead. Regular vet visits can also help ensure your beardie stays healthy and happy.


Bearded dragons can play dead as a defense mechanism when feeling threatened by a predator. While they cannot intentionally play dead, they can experience tonic immobility when exposed to extreme stress. During this period, a bearded dragon goes into a state of inactivity for a few seconds or even minutes, and their respiratory rhythm may become sporadic.

It is essential to note that playing dead is a natural behavior for many lizards, including bearded dragons, and it is a defense against predators in the wild. This defense mechanism keeps predators from recognizing bearded dragons as prey in the first place.

Moreover, playing dead is more common in the wild but can still happen when domesticated. A stressful environment such as a new home or new people can trigger a bearded dragon to feel the need to protect itself by playing dead.