Soaking behaviour in Bearded dragons
Bearded dragons are often seen soaking in their water dishes. Soaking behaviour is fairly common, and often normal, but it should also alert Bearded dragon keepers that potential problems might be present.
From time-to-time owners will found one, or all, Bearded dragons soaking in their water dish. Naturally, soaking is a great way to help loosen dry skin and aid in the process of skin shedding. Soaking behaviour in Bearded dragons might also be an indication that something is wrong, or at least that something can be improved upon. Excessive soaking behaviour in Bearded dragons can also be an indication of the following:
Bearded dragon skin shedding problems
Incomplete or difficult shedding in Bearded dragons will also be evident by spending a lot of time in the water dish. Because sloughed skin does not come off as one piece, problematic shedding can often be seen as patches of skin that remain in certain places – typically around the tail, legs, feet/toes, around the eyes and around the spikes. The main reason for skin shedding problems in Bearded dragons is mite infections (see below). Also see how often a Bearded dragon shed for more information.
Mite infections in Bearded dragons
Skin mites in Bearded dragons are small, tiny tick-like parasites that inhabit the outside skin layers. These parasites tend to get stuck and loosen the outer layers of the skin, leading to excessive skin shedding. By soaking a Bearded dragon knows that shedding will go faster, leading to less irritation and itches. Also see mite infections in Bearded dragons for more information.
Overheating and dehydration
Soaking behaviour in Bearded dragons is often in indication that the environmental temperatures are too high. If this is the case, the Bearded dragon is prone to become overheated and dehydrated which can be life-threatening on its own. Soaking in water helps a Bearded dragon with cooling down and absorb water through the skin. In addition to soaking behaviour, a Bearded dragon might also try to escape the enclosure and/or breath with its mouth open.
For Bearded dragons, the environmental temperature should have a 24 – 34 ºC / 75 – 93 ºF temperature gradient which should be maintained by the heat source. If this gradient is not supplied, Bearded dragons will have no place to cool down or to regulate their temperatures when the basking area becomes too hot. An optimum humidity for Bearded dragons is on average about 50 – 60% – which is quite low compared to non-desert areas.
Impactions and/or obstructions
Very often dehydration is also a result of not enough moisture being absorbed through the intestines – e.g. in the case of an intestinal obstruction. An intestinal obstruction will also be highly suspicious if a Bearded dragon has a swollen abdomen and/or is not eating and defaecating. If this is the case, the best thing to do is to get your Bearded dragons to a reptile friendly veterinarian as soon as possible.