You might know that your bearded dragon is cold-blooded, but do you know how your beardie senses heat? You might be wondering whether your pet just takes in the temperature through its skin, or if your bearded dragon can feel the heat on its stomach when it stretches out in its basking area.
So can bearded dragons feel heat on their belly? Bearded dragons don’t have many nerve endings in their stomach area, so they are not sensitive to heat on their bellies. Unfortunately, this means that beardies have a risk of getting burns on their stomach from heat sources like hot rocks.
Read on to find out more about beardies’ limited nerve endings on their bellies. We’ll also go over the way bearded dragons sense the location of heat sources, the different types of heat sources you can use for your pet’s enclosure, and prevention and treatment for burns.
How Do Bearded Dragons Sense the Location of a Heat Source?
In addition to the two eyes they use to see, bearded dragons have a “third eye” called a parietal eye. Sometimes it’s also called a solar eye or pineal eye. It’s located in the center of the head and looks a bit like a strange scale with a gray dot.
Rather than functioning the same way as a normal eye, the parietal eye is actually a photosensory organ–which means that it senses light. It also triggers thermoregulation and hormone production. Therefore, bearded dragons actually sense light coming from a heat source, rather than sensing heat itself.
Bearded dragons use their parietal eye to sense sunlight and to move towards it. Rather than sensing heat through their skin, beardies are reliant on their parietal eye. While many bearded dragon owners assume that their pets must be able to sense heat on their bellies, that actually isn’t the case because beardies don’t have many nerve endings there.
In fact, they’re susceptible to getting burnt by under-tank heat sources as well as tank accessories such as hot rocks.
What Is the Safest Type of Heat Source for Bearded Dragons?
Any heat source that is too close to your beardie can cause burns, but bearded dragons most often suffer from burns caused by heat mats and hot rocks. Find out more about the different features of various heat source options below.
Ceramic Heat Emitters
Ceramic heat emitters are the safest type of heat source to use–just make sure that they’re set up with a safe distance from your bearded dragon, and never put a ceramic heat emitter inside your beardie’s cage.
They’re great to use because they give off heat but no light, so you can leave them on all the time to maintain temperatures. Of course, you’ll still need to turn your bearded dragon’s UVB light off at night to mimic a normal day and night cycle.
If you want to replicate your beardie’s natural environment as closely as possible, a ceramic heat emitter is a great choice because the heat comes from above, just like the heat from the sun does outdoors. In addition, ceramic heat emitters have the smallest chance of burning your pet.
Heat mats are sometimes used as a supplementary heat source for bearded dragons. They’re generally not recommended because they’re prone to overheating and can cause burns. Plus, it’s necessary to use substrate or another type of barrier in between your beardie and the floor when you use a heat mat.
If you do choose to use a heat mat, make sure that you only cover half of the enclosure’s surface area–your bearded dragon needs to be able to get away from the heat to thermoregulate.
In some cases, heat mats are a valuable addition to an enclosure. When temperatures drop in winter, it may become more difficult to maintain optimal temperatures in your beardie’s enclosure. A heat mat placed under the cool end can help to keep temperatures in the correct range.
Heat rocks are never recommended for bearded dragons (or any other reptiles, for that matter)! Hot rocks don’t have consistent heat and are prone to getting “hot spots.” Even though they’re often marketed as being safe for reptiles, they still come with a huge risk of burns to your pet. Avoid them at all costs!
A Note on Temperature
Remember, regardless of the type of heat source you choose for your bearded dragon, it’s always important to use a thermostat and set temperatures to the correct range.
It’s a good idea to invest in a few reliable digital thermometers as well.
Bearded dragons need a thermal gradient in their enclosures, which means one end is cooler and the other has a warm basking area. The cool end of the enclosure should range from 75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit, with the basking area at 95 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit.
What Should I Do if My Bearded Dragon Has a Burn on Its Belly?
If the burn isn’t severe, there are steps you can take to treat the burn at home. But in some situations, it’s necessary to take your bearded dragon to the vet for antibiotics or even surgery to remove the damaged tissue.
Find the Source
The first thing you’ll want to do is figure out what burned your pet and resolve the issue. For example, if a ceramic heat emitter inside your bearded dragon’s enclosure caused the burn, you’ll want to safely set up the heat source outside of the enclosure instead.
Or if a heat mat seems to be giving off inconsistent heat, either invest in a different type of heat source, or get a new heat mat along with a thermostat. Double-check temperatures and the rest of the conditions in the cage as well.
Soak in Povidone Iodine
If your beardie has small blisters or open wounds, you can treat them at home. Let your pet soak in a mixture of water and povidone iodine for about half an hour each day until the area is healed.
You can do this by simply filling a large plastic storage tub or your bathtub up to the height of your bearded dragon’s shoulders. After the soak, thoroughly dry off your bearded dragon and gently apply antibiotic ointment such as betadine or polysporin.
Go to the Vet
For large open wounds and infected blisters, it’s very important to take your bearded dragon to the vet because bacterial and fungal infections are likely to occur. The vet can provide antibiotics, pain management, and even feeding and hydration techniques.
How Can I Prevent My Bearded Dragon From Getting Burned?
There are several precautions you can take to keep your beardie from getting burned!
– Invest in a wire mesh screen cover that can be placed over your bearded dragon’s enclosure. This way you can create a barrier between your pet and the heat source.
– Avoid using halogen lamps as a heat source. They tend to stay warm for a long time after being turned off, and come with a risk of burning your pet if they’re not set up in an area that your beardie can’t reach.
– When you let your bearded dragon out of its enclosure to get some exercise and explore, make sure to “lizard-proof” the area by removing any potential sources of heat and burns. These could include candles, wax warmers, radiators, space heaters, and fireplaces. Remember, your bearded dragon’s parietal eye senses light and therefore senses the heat from that light and will guide your pet towards it–regardless of whether the heat source is safe or not.
– Match your heat source to the size of your bearded dragon’s enclosure. You don’t want to get a bulb that’s too strong for the area, and vice versa.
– Double-check all heating devices before using them. Faulty wiring is a common issue, so be sure to inspect your heat source and never use anything that appears to be in bad condition. It’s not worth the risk to your pet!
Bearded dragons don’t have a lot of nerve endings on their bellies, so they’re not very sensitive to heat that comes from below. Instead, they have a parietal eye in between their two regular eyes. This “third eye” senses light and helps your beardie to thermoregulate and move closer to available heat sources.
But since bearded dragons lack nerve endings in their belly area, it’s somewhat common for them to get burns from heat mats or hot rocks.
The safest type of heat source to use for your bearded dragon is a ceramic heat emitter, which should be kept outside of the enclosure. Heat pads and hot rocks especially can cause burns. In the case of a severe burn, a trip to the vet is necessary. But if your bearded dragon has some minor blistering, you can care for your pet at home as long as you address the cause of the burn.