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Joan, Veterinary Technician
Category: Reptile
Satisfied Customers: 18530
Experience:  35+ years experience as veterinary tech and 40+ years experience doing reptile rescues.
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why does my bearded dragon hold his mouth open? is he hungry?

Resolved Question:

why does my bearded dragon hold his mouth open? is he hungry? seems to do it quite a bit and i believe he is well fed!
Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: Reptile
Expert:  Joan replied 5 years ago.


When is the Dragon holding his mouth open? Is it under the light? At all times?

Any wheezing?

Can you tell me about the set up?

Diet prey/veggies?


Temps and how measured?


UVB light? Tube or coil? How old is the bulb and strength?

Do you have a basking light?


Customer: replied 5 years ago.
sometimes, always under the heat light, no wheezing. he eats collard greens(two leaves a day) and crickets(two dozen)every other day. for bedding i use "Ground English Walnut Shells". his temp at the heat light is typically 97. cooler area at 80 to 85. i dont have a second light. his heat light however is not a month old. for supplements i dust his crickets with "Bearded Dragon Calcium Plus". he is very regular and other than wanting to mate right now.....very happy. when he holds his mouth open to the light he never gets real close....probably never closer that six inches away.
for his setup i have a cave for him to hide/sleep. he has a sturdy log to climb and get next to the heat, large water dish, small food dish
Expert:  Joan replied 5 years ago.


You have some husbandry issues which can be causing the Dragon the problems you are seeing. The Walnut shell can serious issues which includes Perforation of the intestines, a Blockage, corneal ulcers and skin problems Graphic:

I suggest using a solid substrate like tile, cage carpet, slate or paper. Sand can also cause skin problems and corneal ulcers in the eyes.


The basking area should have 110*-115*F and the cool side of the tank in the 85* range. This is important for digestion and passing of stool. If the temps are not correct, this can also cause a problem.


You need to have a day time basking bulb as well as a UVB. I recommend a reptisun 10.0 and UVB lights do not put out heat. The UVB bulb is needed to stop Metabolic Bone Disease. The UVB needs to be changed every 6 months.

The UVB should be a tube type. I suspect you are not using a UVB as UVB are different than UVB bulbs. Many bulbs are sold as UVB but do not have the output needed to metabolize calcium:


Coil UVB bulbs can injure the eyes.

Compact UVB problems:


The UVB bulb should not have any plastic between it and the Dragon, it needs to run the length of the tank and be no more than 12" from the Dragon. Both lights should run daily for 12-14 hours a day during spring and summer and fall and winter needs to go to 6-8 hour cycle.


You should be feeding Collard greens, mustard greens, dandelion greens, escarole and curly endives. Butternut squash and various berries are great for a treat. The Veggies should be put in fresh daily, and done about an hour after lights on. They need 80% veggies daily and 20% live prey for your Dragon over a year.


The live prey should include crickets, silk worms, roaches, Goliath worms and phoenix worms. Super worms and wax worms are like giving the Dragon candy. All veggies and prey should be dusted with calcium daily 5 days a week and vitamins 2 days a week.


The reason you see the open mouth under the lamp is that is the way a Dragon thermo regulates the body temperature. It is called Gaping. It allows heat to escape the body. If it was all the time it could be an indication of a respiratory infection. Joan


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