Bearded dragons are extremely quiet creatures that rarely make a sound. This means It can be quite worrying to suddenly hear your bearded dragon cough.

But why do bearded dragons cough? And is it a cause for concern?

In this post, we will look at possible reasons why your bearded dragon is coughing and discover what the best course of action is.

So why do bearded dragons cough? Bearded Dragons usually cough due to these 10 reasons:

  • Incorrect tank temperatures (either too high or low)
  • Incorrect humidity
  • No sufficient temperature gradient in the tank
  • Incorrect substrate
  • Dirty living conditions
  • Poor diet
  • Stress
  • Parasites
  • Viruses
  • Bacteria

Read On to Find Out…

DISCLAIMER – Even though the content of this post is largely researched from the work of vets and reptile experts, we ourselves are not vets and therefore aren’t giving medical advice. If you are unsure or worried about your bearded dragon’s health then you should seek the advice of a qualified vet straight away.

Why Do Bearded Dragons Cough? (More Info)

It can be quite worrying to hear your bearded dragon making any sort of unwanted noise, especially coughing as they are, for the most part, extremely quiet reptiles that barely make a peep.

Any owner that experiences this behaviour will often have no clue why this is happening as the source of the problem is usually not visible right away.

Taking a look at the 10 common reasons for this behaviour (listed above) are the first steps to finding the source of the problem and eliminating other possibilities. 

Something else that needs mentioning is that any one of these 10 reasons for a bearded dragon coughing can also be the early onset of a respiratory infection.

If you suspect that the coughing is caused by a respiratory infection then we would recommend contacting your vet.

Let’s now take a closer look at the 10 common reasons why your bearded dragon might be coughing…

1. Humidity Too Low Or High

One of the most common reasons why bearded dragons start coughing is due to incorrect humidity in the tank.

If the humidity is either too high or low then it can bring on coughing in bearded dragons.

The humidity in the tank should ideally be between 30-40% for your beardie.

The best way to measure the humidity in the tank is to use a hygrometer. This will allow you to confidently check and keep up to date with the humidity levels within the tank.

If you aren’t using a hygrometer we recommend getting one ASAP.

Also, if you are using a cheap dial device to check the humidity then this could be providing readings that are totally inaccurate.

There are plenty of hygrometers that are great but we recommend using the Exo Terra LED Rept-O-Meter as it will not only measure the humidity levels but also measure the temperature in the tank too.

You can check out the combination thermometer and hygrometer over at Amazon…

Exo Terra LED Rept-O-Meter Digital Combination Thermometer/Hygrometer
  • 2 in 1 - digital thermometer and hygrometer
  • Accurate temperature and humidity indication

Last update on 2023-12-10 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Sometimes owners have problems regulation humidity in the tank due to issues with the water bowl.

You can use either bigger or smaller water bowls and levels of water to either increase or decrease the humidity in the tank.

2. Temperatures Either Too Low Or High

As well as incorrect humidity levels, the actual basking temperature in the tank can cause coughing in your bearded dragon if they aren’t set up correctly.

Again if the temperatures are either too low or high it can be a problem and cause issues.

The temperatures in the table below are our recommendations and can be used as a guide…

Bearded Dragon Tank Temperature Guide

Bearded Dragon Temperature Guide
Basking Area 95°-100°F
Cool Spot 75°-80°F
Night 70°-75°F

For a more in-depth guide to setting up your bearded dragons tank, you can head over to our tank set up guide for bearded dragons.

3. No Heat Gradient

Something else that’s often overlooked is the actual gradient from the basking spot to the cool spot.

As you can see from the table we provided above, there should be a gradient from the basking spot to the cool spot of around 20°C to give your dragon the opportunity to cool off once they have reached their optimal temperature.

If a gradient isn’t present then this can certainly cause health issues including coughing in your bearded dragon.

We recommend checking the gradient regularly and with a good-quality thermometer too.

4. Substrate Issues

Issues with coughing in bearded dragons can also be due to poor substrate choices.

Many loose particle substrates can cause excess dust that’s harmful to bearded dragons.

Sand and various types of shells are often used by owners but they can cause lots of different types of health problems from impaction to respiratory issues in certain cases depending on the substrate used.

We would recommend using ‘sand mat’ as a substrate as it provides many advantages when compared to other substrates and especially loose particle-based ones.

Sand mat is easy to install, easy to clean, has no loose particles, is good for nail health and replicates their natural habitat.

You can check out the latest price of our recommended sand mat over at Amazon below…

Exo Terra Sand Mat, 60-Gallon
  • Sand Mat - Desert Terrarium Substrate
  • Provides a natural desert look

Last update on 2023-12-10 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

5. Dirty Tank Conditions

Many experts also state that dirty conditions in the tank can cause breathing problems including coughing and respiratory infections

Dirty conditions can include urine and faeces in the tank for too long of a period without being spot cleaned.

It can also include an overall dirty tank from not being cleaned regularly enough.

Sometime if the substrate is dirty and needs replacing then this too can cause issues.

If your bearded dragon is coughing then checking the overall hygiene of the tank is a good idea.

6. Poor Diet

An improper or poor diet can also cause a bearded dragon to have a cough.

It’s important to offer your bearded dragon a diet that best suits their needs.

This includes good quality insect proteins and fresh greens and vegetables.

The percentage that you should offer insect proteins and greens will differ depending on the age of your beardie.

If you have a baby bearded dragon then 70% insect proteins and 30% greens is a good ratio to start with.

Once your beardie reaches adulthood, then these percentages should be more or less turned on their head and you should then offer around 30% insect proteins and 70% greens.

Poor quality food or leaving one of these food sources out of your dragon’s diet can cause major health problems.

You can find out what would happen if you only feed your bearded dragons insect and no greens at all here…

7. Stress

Bearded dragons can become stressed for many different reasons and stress is actually known to cause many unwanted behaviours.

One such behaviour that can be brought on by stress is coughing even though it’s not a behaviour or side effect of stress that’s completely obvious at first.

Stress can be caused by many reasons including:

  • Unfamiliar surroundings
  • A subtle change in surroundings
  • Fear of another household pet
  • New unfamiliar tank decor
  • Loud noises
  • Over-handling

8. Parasites

Something that can often cause coughing and respiratory infections is parasites.

Even though it’s not nice to think that your beardie could have parasites, its still a possibility and something that needs looking at.

Parasites can often be seen moving around between scales and skin and can be easy to spot if you look close enough.

A parasite infection can is usually caused by:

  • Parasites in the insects your bearded dragon eats
  • Passed from bearded dragon to bearded dragon

9. Viruses

It’s also a possibility that other viruses are causing unwanted coughing behaviour in your bearded dragon.

Certain viruses can easily cause issues such as a respiratory infection so you will need to get your beardie checked out at the earliest possible time if you suspect this to be the cause.

10. Bacteria

Similar to viruses, bacteria can cause lots of health issues for bearded dragons.

Coughing is just one of many problems that can be set off by the presence of bacteria in the lungs.

Again, good tank hygiene and overall care can prevent bacterial issues in bearded dragons.

What Are The Signs Of a Respiratory Infection In Bearded Dragons?

When a bearded dragon is suffering from a respiratory infection they will usually show other tell-tale signs as well.

Your beardie could have one or several of these symptoms and in many circumstances, they may not display any of them, especially in the initial onset of the infection.

Again, if you suspect a respiratory infection is present then consult your vet.

The common signs of respiratory infection include:

  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Lethargy
  • Throat puffing (or black beard)
  • Decreased appetite
  • Mucous discharges from either the nose, mouth or both
  • Possible weight loss

What Should I Do If My Bearded Dragons Continues to Cough?

If your bearded dragon is coughing then it’s a good indication that something is wrong.

You can go through the 10 reasons for bearded dragon coughing we have listed in this post and try and eliminate as many possibilities as possible to help you get to the route courage of the problem.

With this being said, we would still recommend you go and seek the advice your of a local vet.

If a respiratory infection is present then simply changing the humidity in the tank or similar isn’t likely to cure the infection (although this still needs to be done if it’s incorrect)

The only way to ensure your beardie will recover is to go and see your vet as soon as possible.

Bearded dragons have unfortunately passed away due to respiratory infections so it’s always best to get any problems you are unsure of checked over for peace of mind.

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