Why Is My Bearded Dragon Rubbing His Face?

photo provided by @HonestlyMediocre0

We love our bearded dragons for all of their adorable, peculiar behavior. From giving us a little wave as we walk by, to bobbing their heads, to rubbing their face and nose. But sometimes you may notice your bearded dragon rubbing his face incessantly to the point where you may become concerned.  This makes a lot of us bearded dragon owners wonder: 

Why does my bearded dragon rub his face? Your bearded dragons will usually rub their face when he or she is going through a period of shedding. 

In this post we’ll talk about shedding and what you can expect during the shedding period as well as other reasons why your bearded dragon may be rubbing his or her face and when your bearded dragon should be seen by the vet. 

Shedding

Shedding is a normal part of every reptile’s life. All reptiles shed when they grow and they continue to shed throughout their lives. 

An adult bearded dragon typically sheds about once every six months. Younger bearded dragons, however, shed much more frequently as they go through intense periods of growth. You can expect your young bearded dragon to shed about once a month. Shedding can last as long as a few weeks and as short as a couple of days.

As you can imagine, shedding can be very itchy. So it makes sense that when your bearded dragon is rubbing his face against hard surfaces this is a big sign that your lizard is about to go into a shedding period. 

Face sheds can sometimes be harder to notice than regular body shedding. If you notice your bearded dragon is rubbing his face more often than normal but can’t see any visible shedding happening, check for these signs because these are great indicators that a bearded dragon is about to go into or is already in a shedding period: 

  • Their skin is changing to a pale or dull color 
  • They are slightly lethargic 
  • They are reducing their intake of food
  • They are scratching or rubbing themselves on hard surfaces or objects 

Daily Soaks

A big part of keeping your bearded dragon happy and healthy are giving him or her frequent baths or soaks. Daily soaks are important for your bearded dragons overall health because it helps aid digestion and keeps their skin hydrated.

It also aids the shedding process and helps get rid of general itchiness that comes with shedding. Here are some general guidelines to keep in mind when bathing your bearded dragon. 

Bearded dragons are cold-blooded. Therefore it is very important to keep the temperature high so they don’t get too cold. A proper temperature is somewhere around 90 to 95 degrees. Of course, the longer they are in the bath the more the temperature drops so be sure to keep checking the temperature and adding in hot water as necessary. 

Be sure to bathe your bearded dragon for between 10 to 30 minutes. While you can bathe your bearded dragon every day, most owners typically bathe their bearded dragons every other day or once every three days. 

The only exception to this is when your bearded dragon is in the brumation period (the reptile form of hibernation). During this period you can soak your bearded dragon much less often. A lot of owners typically give them a light soak once a week. 

When to Help (And What to Do)

Most of the time, bearded dragons can go through periods of shedding without any issues or problems. Occasionally, though, their shedding can be “improper” or incomplete. This can happen for a variety of reasons including mites, incorrect humidity, incorrect handling, malnutrition, dermatitis, or trauma. 

While it may not seem like a big deal, improper shedding can be detrimental to their health and lead to larger issues. One of the biggest causes for concern is if pieces of skin don’t shed it can restrict blood flow, which can lead to problems like tail rot.  

Although improper shedding is rare, if you see that your bearded dragon is struggling with their shedding it may be time for you to step in and offer assistance.

Before we continue it is extremely important to note that you should never forcibly remove pieces of skin that you see are in the process of shedding.

A lot of bearded dragon owners are tempted to grab a piece of skin and pull but this can not only cause damage to the skin underneath but will also be very painful for your bearded dragon if you are forcibly removing a piece of skin that is not ready to come off. 

Below are some gentle, healthy ways to help aid the shedding process. 

Home DIY Tricks and Store Aid

The easiest trick would be to gently rub the area with a cotton ball that is warm boiled water. (Warm boiled water means you have boiled the water but then you let it cool until it’s warm enough to be applied to your bearded dragons skin). Gently rub the area that is peeling but remember do not force a piece off. 

There are also a lot of products out there that you can find in your local reptile store. Zoo Med Repti Shedding Aid for example, is a great product that you spray on the bearded dragon’s skin a few times per day.

What Face Rubbing Is Not Because of Shedding 

Most times a bearded dragon scratches itself because he or she is shedding. But what do you do if you see your bearded dragon rub its face when the skin has recently been shed or if you notice this is an issue that doesn’t go away? Here are some things to look out for. 

Snout Rubbing 

Sometimes you may notice your bearded dragon rubbing its face on the glass so often it becomes bloody or raw. This is referred to as “snout rubbing”. 

Snout rubbing is generally due to the tank being too small or when the lizard is stressed by his or her environment. If the tank is too small, your lizard may rub its face on the glass to try to get out. 

This problem has an easy enough solution – simply upgrade your tank to the next size up. Another thing to consider is taking your pet out of his tank more often. Many owners let their bearded dragons roam around the house or sit in their lap for a few hours a day. Getting a bearded lizard a leash to walk around the neighborhood is always a fun option, too. 

Mouth Rot

If your bearded dragon still rubs their face despite having gone through a recent period of shedding and you have double checked to make sure their tank is sufficient, you could have another more serious issue on your hands. In rare cases, face or mouth rubbing can be a sign of mouth rot.

Mouth rot is a condition common in pet reptiles and is categorized as an inflamed mouth. If your reptile has this it will be accompanied by other symptoms including loss of appetite, increased saliva, and discoloration in the mouth and gums. 

If you sense your bearded dragon has this, it is best to err on the side of caution and take your pet to the vet as they will most likely need antibiotics. 

Conclusion

If you catch your bearded dragon rubbing his or her face a lot, this is a sign that your lizard is about to undergo a period of shedding. This is perfectly healthy and is something that all lizards go through.

Shedding can take a few weeks to pass but if you notice your lizard struggling more than they usually do it may be time to step in and give them some help with some shedding products. Daily soaks can help the shedding process as well.

If your bearded dragon seems to be rubbing his or her face along the glass of the tank, though, that could be an indicator that your dragon is stressed or that their tank is too small. Make sure to keep a close eye on your bearded dragon and if the problem persists you may want to consider bringing him to the vet. 

Sources: 

https://www.beardeddragon.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=112103

https://www.tortoiseforum.org/threads/bearded-dragon-face-rubbing.81631/

https://www.reptileforums.co.uk/forums/lizards/710444-beardie-keep-rubbing-his-face.html

https://www.beardeddragoncare101.com/14-signs-unhealthy-bearded-dragon/#snout

https://www.exoticdirect.co.uk/news/bearded-dragon-brumation#:~:text=Bathing%20bearded%20dragon%20during%20brumation,bathe%20once%20they%20wake%20up.

https://beardeddragontank.com/is-your-bearded-dragon-suffering-from-mouth-rot-do-this-now