Do Lizards Bite?

Short answer: yes. Anything with a mouth can bite, and pet lizards are no exception. But if you are going to keep a lizard, such as an iguana or a Bearded Dragon or even a Leopard gecko, you need to understand why lizards bite and when it could happen to you. 

Reasons Why

VSCold - Lizard
Lizard

There are many reasons why a lizard may bite you. They could be scared of you or annoyed that you are bothering them. They could be hungry and you are feeding them so they mistake your hands or arms for their food. They could be in pain and don't want to be touched. They could be feeling aggressive toward you or another animal. They could even be in season for breeding. There is no one reason for biting behavior, so it's important to keep all of them in mind when you are handling your animal. 

Baby lizards will often resort to snapping or biting behavior when you try to handle them. Their instincts tell them bigger animals are trying to eat them. It is important to be very patient and gentle while handling a baby or juvenile, they need to learn that you won't ever hurt them. Some may take a long time to stop being afraid of you, while others will decide very quickly that they can trust you. 

Many lizards will learn to associate their handlers with food, especially if they are fed via forceps or other devices. This means they can get grabby with your hands and may lunge or bite at you because they expect you to have food for them. If this happens on a regular basis, you should consider wearing gloves when feeding. 

Lizards like iguanas will have a breeding season where their hormones change. Males will often get aggressive toward other animals and people. They may charge at you or bite at you as well. It's important to learn when your iguana goes into the season so you can keep an eye out for any dangerous behaviors.

Warning Signs

Lizard
Lizard

 As you get to know your reptile you'll learn to see warning signs. If they are feeling defensive, angry, scared, or annoyed. Some lizards will make themselves look larger than they really are and start hissing at you when they are first upset. Then they may smack you with their tail or lunge at you with their mouth closed. Most do not start with biting, but work up to it if you ignore their other warning signs. It's very important to take the time to learn how your animal defends itself so you can catch the warnings before a bite happens. 

As you get to know your animal you will start to see their particular warning signs. These could involve head shaking, arm waving, hissing, opening their mouth wide, and even flicking at you with their feet. You'll learn what actions annoy or scare them, and how to avoid doing those things. It is very important to be patient and gentle with your reptile as they are getting used to you and you are getting used to them. Do not force them to let you handle them if it really upsets them. There are some lizards that are never comfortable being handled or interacted with on a regular basis. 

Aftercare

The severity of a bit can depend on the type of animal that bit you, as well as what kind of bite they inflicted. If they were just trying to get you to leave them alone they may have gotten you very briefly with no real pressure behind it. If they are angry or scared, or lunging for food, the bite may be much more dramatic. Some lizards will sink their teeth in and latch on when they bite. Others may grab on to you and shake their heads from side to side, slicing you with their teeth.

Some bites will cause very little pain or damage to the skin, while others will require medical attention. You may be allergic to some animal saliva, so even if the bite doesn't seem that bad you could suffer from itching, burning, or swelling. It's a good idea to be prepared for any kind of bite you may receive. Keep a well stocked first aid kit in the area where you handle your animal. Be sure to include bite ointment, bandages, gauze, and sterilizing products. 

If you are bit and think you are experiencing an allergic reaction, head to the emergency room immediately. If the wounds are exceptionally deep and bleeding heavily, head to the emergency room. It is better to be overly vigilant with a bite wound than to ignore it and have issues later. 

Keep in Mind

Chameleon
Chameleon

Lizards are living, breathing, thinking, animals. They have their own ideas about personal space, what they like and dislike, and how much human interaction they want to put up with. Just because they are your pet does not mean they are a toy that will do whatever you want when you want it. They also have different personalities, fears, and different ways of dealing with their feelings. Until you bring an animal home and start interacting with it, you can't really know what kind of relationship you'll be able to have with it. 

Bearded Dragons make good pets for children and beginner reptile keepers. They are often mellow in temperament and physically lazy. They like to eat, bask, and watch the world around them. But just because they are known for being laid back lizards does not mean you will always get one that is that way. Bearded Dragons who have been harassed by other lizards, pets, or people may be wary of anyone new. They may hiss, present themselves to look bigger or bite if they are annoyed enough. 

It is very important to keep in mind that there are usually reasons behind your lizard's behavior. You need to be prepared for however they react to you, and decide if you are ready to work with them if they are scared or aggressive. A bite from a Leopard gecko may be no big deal, but a bite from an iguana can require an emergency room visit and even stitches. If you do not think you are ready to deal with something that could cause you damage, you should forgo getting a lizard as a pet.

VSCold - Lizard
Lizard

There are many reasons why a lizard may bite you. They could be scared of you or annoyed that you are bothering them. They could be hungry and you are feeding them so they mistake your hands or arms for their food. They could be in pain and don't want to be touched. They could be feeling aggressive toward you or another animal. They could even be in season for breeding. There is no one reason for biting behavior, so it's important to keep all of them in mind when you are handling your animal. 

Baby lizards will often resort to snapping or biting behavior when you try to handle them. Their instincts tell them bigger animals are trying to eat them. It is important to be very patient and gentle while handling a baby or juvenile, they need to learn that you won't ever hurt them. Some may take a long time to stop being afraid of you, while others will decide very quickly that they can trust you. 

Many lizards will learn to associate their handlers with food, especially if they are fed via forceps or other devices. This means they can get grabby with your hands and may lunge or bite at you because they expect you to have food for them. If this happens on a regular basis, you should consider wearing gloves when feeding. 

Lizards like iguanas will have a breeding season where their hormones change. Males will often get aggressive toward other animals and people. They may charge at you or bite at you as well. It's important to learn when your iguana goes into the season so you can keep an eye out for any dangerous behaviors.

Warning Signs

Lizard
Lizard

 As you get to know your reptile you'll learn to see warning signs. If they are feeling defensive, angry, scared, or annoyed. Some lizards will make themselves look larger than they really are and start hissing at you when they are first upset. Then they may smack you with their tail or lunge at you with their mouth closed. Most do not start with biting, but work up to it if you ignore their other warning signs. It's very important to take the time to learn how your animal defends itself so you can catch the warnings before a bite happens. 

As you get to know your animal you will start to see their particular warning signs. These could involve head shaking, arm waving, hissing, opening their mouth wide, and even flicking at you with their feet. You'll learn what actions annoy or scare them, and how to avoid doing those things. It is very important to be patient and gentle with your reptile as they are getting used to you and you are getting used to them. Do not force them to let you handle them if it really upsets them. There are some lizards that are never comfortable being handled or interacted with on a regular basis. 

Aftercare

The severity of a bit can depend on the type of animal that bit you, as well as what kind of bite they inflicted. If they were just trying to get you to leave them alone they may have gotten you very briefly with no real pressure behind it. If they are angry or scared, or lunging for food, the bite may be much more dramatic. Some lizards will sink their teeth in and latch on when they bite. Others may grab on to you and shake their heads from side to side, slicing you with their teeth.

Some bites will cause very little pain or damage to the skin, while others will require medical attention. You may be allergic to some animal saliva, so even if the bite doesn't seem that bad you could suffer from itching, burning, or swelling. It's a good idea to be prepared for any kind of bite you may receive. Keep a well stocked first aid kit in the area where you handle your animal. Be sure to include bite ointment, bandages, gauze, and sterilizing products. 

If you are bit and think you are experiencing an allergic reaction, head to the emergency room immediately. If the wounds are exceptionally deep and bleeding heavily, head to the emergency room. It is better to be overly vigilant with a bite wound than to ignore it and have issues later. 

Keep in Mind

Chameleon
Chameleon

Lizards are living, breathing, thinking, animals. They have their own ideas about personal space, what they like and dislike, and how much human interaction they want to put up with. Just because they are your pet does not mean they are a toy that will do whatever you want when you want it. They also have different personalities, fears, and different ways of dealing with their feelings. Until you bring an animal home and start interacting with it, you can't really know what kind of relationship you'll be able to have with it. 

Bearded Dragons make good pets for children and beginner reptile keepers. They are often mellow in temperament and physically lazy. They like to eat, bask, and watch the world around them. But just because they are known for being laid back lizards does not mean you will always get one that is that way. Bearded Dragons who have been harassed by other lizards, pets, or people may be wary of anyone new. They may hiss, present themselves to look bigger or bite if they are annoyed enough. 

It is very important to keep in mind that there are usually reasons behind your lizard's behavior. You need to be prepared for however they react to you, and decide if you are ready to work with them if they are scared or aggressive. A bite from a Leopard gecko may be no big deal, but a bite from an iguana can require an emergency room visit and even stitches. If you do not think you are ready to deal with something that could cause you damage, you should forgo getting a lizard as a pet.

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