We’ve all seen what happens to dogs during thunderstorms: they’re terrified. Their extreme anxiety during a thunderstorm is also known as astraphobia and it seems like other animals share this heightened sense of anxiety as well. But what about bearded dragons?
Are bearded dragons afraid of thunder? Yes, they are. This is because of the loud noises they make as well severe light and temperature changes.
In this post we will talk about the science behind their fear of thunder, other ways thunder scares them, and what to do for your pet when a storm is coming and you see them getting scared.
Bearded dragons can sense the weather changing. Sometimes they can even sense it days in advance. But before we get to that, let’s first talk about what happens to the atmosphere when a storm occurs.
Barometric pressure (otherwise known as atmospheric pressure) is the pressure within the atmosphere of Earth. When the air is dry the barometric pressure rises and when the air is cooler the barometric pressure drops. When the atmospheric pressure drops too much, especially when it drops suddenly, this is usually a big indicator that a storm is on its way.
What does all of this mean in terms of your bearded dragon? There have been reports that bearded dragons can actually sense barometric pressure changing.
Just as bearded dragons can sense the daylight shortening and lengthening or how they can feel humidity changes in the air, they can also feel barometric pressure changes in the air. They can even feel these pressure changes in the air days leading up to the storm itself.
This means that your bearded dragon may be able to sense storms better than you or even the weather app you have on your phone. So if you notice your bearded dragon feeling anxious seemingly out of no where, this could be a good indicator that a storm is underway.
In the Wild
Bearded dragons come from Australia. More specifically, they come from the Australian desert. As we all know, deserts are generally a place with very low precipitation. The Australian desert is no different. Annually the Australian desert has an average rainfall below 250 mm (with some places as low as 100mm and 140mm).
For some perspective, let’s compare this amount of precipitation with some other parts of the world. Take the warm, sunny state of California for comparison. Although California is known for its good weather, they still get an annual precipitation of 457.22 mm. That’s almost double the amount of the Australian desert.
This is all to say that bearded dragons aren’t very used to rain, storms, or precipitation in general. It makes sense that experiencing rain or thunderstorms is not in their nature and reasonably spooks them.
Additionally, in the wild when a storm hits, it’s in animals nature to try to find cover. Your bearded dragon may not like storms because they are trying to figure out how to get shelter quickly and may be feeling anxious about staying in their tank.
This is not reason to remove them from the tank as they will probably just run around your house and go into hiding. Rather, this information stands to simply give us owners better insight into what is going on in your bearded dragons mind and learning why they are so afraid of storms.
Temperature and Lighting Changes
You may notice that your bearded dragon is behaving differently when you have quiet storms with little to no thunder.
Your bearded dragon does an excellent job at sensing when temperatures and light changes. This is why they stick to the same schedule of brumation periods – they can tell when the seasons change because of the temperature and lighting changes.
Even when bearded dragons are in a temperature controlled environment (such as your temperature controlled home) they are still able to tell when the seasons change and when they should go into brumation.
It then makes sense that your bearded dragon will be able to tell when a storm is happening by the temperature and lighting changes. Even when a storm is not making any loud noise, your bearded dragon could still go into distress because they know a storm is happening or on its way.
Bearded dragons have excellent hearing. Although it may look like they don’t even have ears, those little holes on the back of their head are indeed ears and they actually work remarkably well.
In fact, it’s one of their great senses that aids them when they live in the wild by both being able to evade predators and also hunt bugs for food. This means that they are very sensitive when it comes to loud noises. Even simply playing music too loudly or watching TV too loudly can cause them to feel anxious or upset.
So you can imagine how upset they are when they hear thunder for hours on end. Even the sound of rain is enough to disturb your bearded dragon.
The loud noise is really the biggest reason why bearded dragons get so upset during storms. Unfortunately there is not much to do to prevent this or stop this, rather you just comfort them as best as possible and until the storm passes.
Ways to Tell They Are Afraid
Although we don’t speak the same language as our bearded dragons, thankfully there are a lot of signs to let us know that our bearded dragons are upset or are suffering from anxiety.
Color changing is a big indicator of a bearded dragon’s mood. When they are happy they turn light and pale and when they are upset they tend to change to darker colors or even black. If your bearded dragon is turning black during a loud thunder storm, chances are they are feeling upset with the storm.
Another big sign is them scratching or digging. This can be a sign of excess anxiety. Sometimes bearded dragons dig when they are afraid to find shelter or just to expel that anxious energy. If you notice your bearded dragon dig as soon as a storm starts, this could be a sign they are feeling upset by the storm.
Lastly a big way to tell if your bearded dragon is upset is if they run frantically around in their tank. They could be doing this because they are looking for a hiding space, a way to escape, or simply trying to burn off all of their anxious energy that they have accumulated because of their fear of storms.
How to Calm a Bearded Dragon
It’s only understandable to want to sooth your dragon when you see they are upset. We do love them, after all! Thankfully there are a few tricks you can do to try to calm them down.
You can try to stroke their head. Bearded dragons respond very positively to physical touch, especially once they’ve bonded with their owner. If you see they are feeling anxious, try to rub their head and body to see if that helps calm them down.
If they are feeling calm enough, a nice soak in a hot bath is a great way to relax your bearded dragon.
Speaking to them in calm, soothing ways is another great trick to help them calm down. They like the sound of their owners’ voices. It helps to reassure them and helps them realize that you’re right there with them.
Your scent is another great way to calm your bearded dragon down. Your bearded dragon is probably very attached to you and looks up to you for protection. When they smell you, they feel safe. If your bearded dragon is feeling particularly anxious because of a storm, consider putting one of your T-shirts in their tank.
It’s important to note that these techniques may not work if your bearded dragon is feeling extremely agitated or afraid. As tempting as it may be to reach out to sooth your bearded dragon, sometimes it’s better to leave them alone and let them cool off by themselves.
If you do try to calm your bearded dragon, make sure to avoid touching them on the top of their head (as this is where their third eye is). And if you do decide to hold them, make sure you are supporting their entire body and cradle them close to your chest.
Many pets are afraid of thunder. Dogs especially are known to get very spooked by thunderstorms. Many bearded dragon owners are discovering that their bearded dragons can share this heightened feeling of anxiety.
Bearded dragons have an excellent sense of when storms are coming due to their ability to tell the shift in pressures in the atmosphere and due to lighting and temperature changes.
Bearded dragons are not used to storms in the wild so the newness of this could be enough to spook them. Additionally, bearded dragons don’t do very well when it comes to loud noises in general so loud noises caused by thunder is more than enough to scare your little friend.
If you are noticing they are feeling afraid or anxious (by excessive digging, scratching, or frantic running around the tank) there are steps you can take to try to sooth them. Try to sooth them with your scent, physical touch, or voice. You can also try bathing them. However, if your bearded dragon is feeling too anxious to be touched, this is okay. You both may just have to wait out the storm.