If you are a novice in the bearded dragon-keeping area, you are unfamiliar with the signs of a fat beardie. Therefore, you might be surprised when suddenly your bearded dragon’s neck becomes large and puffy.
Bearded dragon fat neck – is this normal? If your bearded dragon has a fat neck, it is probably because it is overweight or obese, and the excess fat is being stored around its neck. However, when pet owners sometimes say the neck, they refer to the throat pouch that can be swollen or puffy for several reasons.
This article will explain the fat-storing role of the neck and explain how the throat pouch works. It will also help bearded dragon owners differentiate between the two and, finally, give some weight loss tips for fat beardies.
BEARDED DRAGON FAT NECK
Unlike people who usually store the excess fat in the bellies, bearded dragons store their extra grams of body weight in unusual places such as behind the arms, jowls, tail, along the spine, and interestingly – in the neck.
A chubby beardie may look cute and funny, but being obese is a severe risk and associated with various health issues, including organ dysfunction, prolapses, egg-binding, and shorter lifespan.
Therefore if you notice the signs indicating obesity, you need to get proactive and add some changes to your bearded dragon’s diet habits and exercise regimen.
How can I help my bearded dragon lose weight?
The weight loss principles are pretty much the same in all species – eating the right foods and being physically active. However, in bearded dragons, there is one more weight-loss method – brumation.
Make the right dietary choices
When it comes to food choices, things are simple – more leafy greens and juicy veggies and less sugary fruits and fatty super worms. This does not mean you need to deprive your beardie of feeder insects – only that you need to be mindful about the insect type and number.
Ensure your beardie stays active
You can also make your beardie work for its food by hanging veggie pieces around the enclosure – this is a good way of encouraging physical activity. Another way is putting high branches, hammocks, and other climbing toys within the tank or letting your bearded dragon spend some time outside the tank.
Let your beardie brumate
Brumation is an ordinarily occurring phase in bearded dragons. Brumation is the reptile equivalent of hibernation in mammals. During brumation, bearded dragons spend their body fat reserves. Therefore it is essential to let your beardie brumate and not interrupt the process by walking your pet up.
BEARDED DRAGON THROAT POUCH
As mentioned, when describing what is making them concerned, pet owners often say the puffy or swollen neck when in reality referring to the throat pouch. So, what is a throat pouch, and what does it do?
In simpler terms, the throat pouch or the bearded dragon’s beard is a multifaceted organ with several purposes, including threatening opponents, storing food, and attracting mating partners. Let’s take a closer look at the reasons bearded dragons puff their throats.
Reason number 1: Displaying aggression
The number one reason for puffing the throat is displaying aggression. Bearded dragons are very territorial, and if faced with another beardie or a potential predator, they will try to intimidate the opponent by looking more prominent than they actually are.
Reason number 2: Attracting mates
Bearded dragons searching for mating partners often puff their throats – it is like a signal that they are ready and willing to mate. If the nearby female is interested in the mating proposition, she will bob her head.
Reason number 3: Shedding
Although normal, shedding is an uncomfortable process. Therefore, if the shedding is a bit slow and stunt, the beardie may try to give it a boost by puffing its throat. The puffing will physically enlarge the area and help the old skin break.
Reason number 4: Stress or anxiety
Beardies can often puff their throats when feeling stressed or threatened. This habit is widespread in young bearded dragons – babies and juveniles. Beardies are prone to various stress types, and common anxiety triggers include changes in the environment and the presence of another pet.
Reason number 5: Storing food
The throat pouch also serves as short-term food storage. Bearded dragons can eat a significant amount of food in a short time and save part of this food in the pouch. On the one hand, this is practical, and on the other, it poses a risk. Namely, the stored food poses a choking hazard, and as in all animals choking in beardies is a life0threatening emergency.
Reason number 6: Stretching
Who does not enjoy a good body stretch? Just like you, your bearded dragon appreciates the occasional body stretch. When beardies stretch, they expand their bodies and beards to relieve the buildup of tension.
Reason number 7: Showing off
It is not just mating bearded dragons that like to show off. It has been noticed that bearded pet dragons can expand their throats as a form of attention-seeking behavior. Namely, if your beardie feels like it is not getting enough love and affection, chances are it will puff its throat to let you know it is there. This is because, contrary to popular belief, bearded dragons can get attached to their owners.
SUMMING UP: BEARDED DRAGON FAT NECK
If you think your bearded dragon neck is fat, you first need to determine whether the neck is the real issue. More often than not, instead of the neck, the actual problem is the throat pouch.
In the first case, your beardie with a fat neck would need a special diet and exercise regimen to lose unnecessary weight and avoid obesity-related health issues. In the second case, if your beardie is puffing its throat, there can be several reasons. The good news is most of them are normal and relatively benign.
Being sure what is making your bearded dragon’s neck look fat can be challenging. If you have trouble getting to the bottom of the problem, do not hesitate to schedule an appointment with your vet.