Last year, the FDA announced that there were several infections of Salmonella linked to bearded dragon pets. It was in the story that I read of pet owners who lick and kiss their Bearded dragons. This evokes a lot of questions…
- Do people really kiss the tongues or the mouths of bearded dragons? Do these people know of bacterial infections and mouth rot?
- What’s does beardie’s tongue look like – is white color okay?
- Why do beardies stick their tongue out?
Like a good student, I set forth to study bearded dragon’s tongue and have put together some helpful info to understand this.
Normal Bearded Dragon tongue Color: Vivid real & pink.
The mouth of your bearded dragon is pale pink but its tongue is noticeably vivid red and pink in coloring. This tongue color may vary in degrees of lightness and darkness.
Studies have shown that the bearded dragon’s tongue is very efficient in gathering food. The tongue can extend out one and a half times the length of the body and can strike at a speed of 6 feet per second! When the tongue hits prey, it adheres to the prey item and brings it back into the mouth for swallowing.
I have been told by breeders that the tongue color can be an indicator of a healthy dragon. A very pale tongue may indicate your bearded dragon is not getting enough UVB rays from its light source and a black tongue may mean your pet has mouth rot.
Bearded dragons will often extend their tongues while basking in their heat lamps. This is normal behavior and is the dragon’s way of regulating its body temperature.
How Bearded Dragons Use Their Tongues:
Studies have shown that iguanian lizards and Bearded dragons (Schwenk and Throckmorton, 1989) use their tongues to catch prey, but also to groom themselves and keep cool.
Iguanian lizards have a long, thin tongue that is forked at the end. This type of tongue is efficient in capturing prey items. The lizard will flick its tongue out at high speeds and the fork at the end of the tongue will split open, allowing the lizard to scoop up small prey items.
Below is an image of the Iguanian lizard;
To catch their prey insects:
Bearded dragons also have long, thin tongues but are not forked at the end. These lizards use their tongues in a similar way to catch prey. The tongue will flick out and split open at the end, allowing the dragon to scoop up small insects.
To groom themselves:
In addition to using their tongues to catch prey, bearded dragons will also use their tongues to groom themselves. These lizards are constantly licking their bodies and tails to remove dirt and debris.
To regulate body temperature:
Bearded dragons will also use their tongue to regulate their body temperature. These lizards have a chemoreceptive sense organ at the tip of their tongue that allows them to detect changes in temperature. When the temperature outside or inside their enclosure) is too hot, the lizard will flick its tongue out and cool down its body temperature.
Now that we know how bearded dragons use their tongues, let’s take a look at what can happen when something goes wrong with this important body part.
Bearded Dragon Tongue Problems:
One of the most common problems that can occur with the bearded dragon’s tongue is an infection. These infections are usually caused by bacteria and can lead to mouth rot.
Mouth rot is a serious bacterial infection that can cause the tissue in the mouth to die. This infection can be very painful for your lizard and can even lead to death if it is not treated quickly.
If you think your bearded dragon has mouth rot, it is important to take it to the vet immediately. The vet will prescribe antibiotics to clear up the infection.
Another problem that can occur with the bearded dragon’s tongue is shedding. These lizards shed their skin regularly and this process can sometimes include the tongue.
If your lizard is shedding its skin, you may notice that its tongue looks white or translucent. This is normal shedding behavior and you do not need to be concerned.
If you notice that your lizard is having difficulty shedding its skin, you can help by gently rubbing the skin with a damp cloth. Do not pull on the skin as this can cause injury.
Sores and tumors:
Sores or ulcers can also form on the tongue. These sores are usually caused by biting or chewing on the tongue.
If you notice sores or ulcers on your lizard’s tongue, you should take it to the vet. The vet will prescribe antibiotics to clear up the infection.
In rare cases, tumors can develop on the tongue. These tumors are usually benign and do not require treatment.
If you notice a tumor on your lizard’s tongue, you should take it to the vet to have it checked out.
Erythrocytic iridovirus infection:
Iridoviruses are a family of large, double-stranded DNA viruses that primarily infect invertebrates. They are characterized by the production of multinucleated giant cells (MNGC)s.
Acute iridovirus infections in bearded dragons can cause anorexia, lethargy, and stomatitis with oral ulcerations and discoloration of the tongue.
In more severe cases, iridovirus infections can result in death.
If you believe your bearded dragon has an iridovirus infection, it is important to seek veterinary care immediately. Your veterinarian will likely recommend euthanasia as there is no effective treatment for this virus
Bearded Dragon Tongue White:
The tip of the bearded dragon is usually light pink, white, or yellow and you may be wondering whether that’s normal. In most cases, this is fine as beardies have evolved to develop some sap at the tip of their tongue which they use to capture their prey.
But as a responsible pet owner, make sure you check if the tongue discolorations could be a sign of other illness.
If the tip of your lizard’s tongue is white and your lizard is also showing other signs of illness, such as lethargy or anorexia, then it is important to take it to the vet.
A white tongue can be a sign of mouth rot or erythrocytic iridovirus infection, both of which are serious conditions that require immediate veterinary treatment.
Bearded Dragon Tongue Black
A black beard dragon tongue can be a sign of a serious medical condition called melanoma. Melanoma is a type of cancer that begins in cells that produce melanin, the pigment that gives skin its color.
Melanomas can occur anywhere on the body, including the tongue.
Bearded dragons with melanomas may also have black spots on their skin.
If you notice a black tongue or black spots on your lizard’s skin, you should take it to the vet immediately. Melanoma is a serious condition that requires treatment by a veterinarian.
Bearded Dragon Tongue Swollen:
A swollen tongue can be a sign of an infection or injury. If your lizard’s tongue is swollen and it is also showing other signs of illness, such as lethargy or anorexia, then it is important to take it to the vet.
A swollen tongue can also be a sign of mouth rot or erythrocytic iridovirus infection, both of which are serious conditions that require immediate veterinary treatment.
Bearded Dragon Tongue Bleeding:
If your lizard’s tongue is bleeding, it is important to take it to the vet immediately. Bleeding can be a sign of an injury or infection.
Bearded dragons can also bleed from their mouths if they are suffering from mouth rot or erythrocytic iridovirus infection. Both of these conditions are serious and require immediate veterinary treatment.
Metabolic Bone Disease and impact on the tongue:
Metabolic bone disease (MBD) is a common problem in captive reptiles, especially in lizards. MBD is caused by a lack of calcium and vitamin D3 in the diet. This can lead to softening of the bones, fractures, and deformities.
In advanced cases, MBD can cause paralysis and death.
If your bearded dragon has MBD, you may notice that its tongue is swollen or bleeding. This is because the bones in the tongue are softening and becoming deformed.
If you think your lizard may have MBD, it is important to take it to the vet for treatment. MBD is a serious condition that can be fatal if left untreated.
Bearded Dragon Tongue Care:
To prevent problems with the bearded dragon’s tongue, it is important to provide proper care. These lizards need a clean environment and a healthy diet.
The enclosure should be cleaned on a regular basis and the lizard should be given a variety of insects to eat. A healthy diet will help to keep the lizard’s immune system strong and will also help to prevent mouth rot.
Are Bearded Dragon tongue-licks on human skin dangerous?
Bearded dragons release dangerous venomous chemicals that they use to paralyze their prey. Though not dangerous to humans, these chemicals can cause serious allergic reactions in humans.
If you are licked by a bearded dragon, you should wash the area with soap and water immediately. You should also seek medical attention if you have any symptoms of an allergic reaction, such as difficulty breathing or swelling of the face, lips, or tongue.
Bearded dragons are unique creatures with many different colors and patterns. They are also prone to certain medical conditions, such as mouth rot and erythrocytic iridovirus infection.
If you notice any changes in your lizard’s tongue, such as discoloration, swelling, or bleeding, it is important to take it to the vet for treatment. These conditions can be serious and even fatal if left untreated.
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Hi there! My name is Ben Domb, an owner of two pets and I am one of the co-founders of OurPets HQ. I have several years of experience as a pet care professional in the New England region having spent time in various roles including a stint at a veterinary hospital in Upstate New York, Syracuse area. I am a certified pet care professional and mostly spend my time researching pet nutrition and sharing my thoughts in various blogs and columns. With quarantine and COVID restrictions, I have been spending a lot of time a lot with my dogs and cat and loving it! I also run a small consulting business providing advice to parents on pet nutrition, and especially safe homemade options to try. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org