Bearded dragons are fascinating creatures that make great pets for reptile enthusiasts. These docile lizards are known for their playful personalities and unique appearance, such as their spiny bodies and beard-like throat pouches that they use for communication and courtship. They are also notably easy to care for, making them a popular choice for first-time reptile owners.
One of the essential aspects of caring for a bearded dragon is ensuring that they receive proper nutrition. In this article, we’ll explore some possible reasons behind why your bearded dragon may not be eating and provide tips and expert suggestions for resolving the issue.
Possible Reasons Why Your Bearded Dragon May Not Be Eating
Bearded dragons are generally not picky eaters, so if your pet isn’t eating, it’s usually a sign that something is wrong. Here are some of the possible reasons:
Illness or Disease
If your bearded dragon is not eating, it is possible that they are ill or struggling with a disease. Some common ailments that can cause them to refuse food include: mouth infections, respiratory infections, parasites, and liver disease. Therefore, closely monitor their health status as it is vital you know when to seek expert help.
Inadequate Lighting or Temperature
Bearded dragons come from hot, arid climates and require specific environmental conditions for optimal health. It may be that the environment of the enclosure is not appropriate, which can affect their appetite. The basking temperature in their enclosure should be maintained at around 95°F to 105°F while the cooler end should not be lower than 75°F. Additionally, UV-B lighting is crucial for beardies as it allows them to synthesize Vitamin D3, which is vital for calcium absorption. If your enclosure lacks a proper UVB light, beardies may lose their appetite as it could lead to seizures and even metabolic bone disease.
Brumation (Hibernation in Reptiles)
Similar to hibernation in bears, reptiles brumate during the colder months to conserve energy. It is a natural phenomenon in reptiles, but they may sometimes experience periods of inappetence while going through a slow-down in their metabolism. Depending on the age of your bearded dragon, it might also undergo a shutdown in metabolism even in summer months, making them eat lesser than they would normally do.
Stress or Anxiety
Factors such as breeding season, enclosure placement, changes in the environment, bullying from tank mates, or handling can lead to stress or anxiety in your beardie, which can cause loss of appetite.
Change in Diet or Environment
If you have recently changed their habitat, diet, or food brands, it could take a while for them to adjust. A sudden change in these parameters can upset their stomach and lead to them eating less or refusing to eat temporarily.
Tips for Encouraging Your Bearded Dragon to Eat
If your beardie is not eating due to temporary issues like diet changes or stress, you can encourage them to eat by following some of these tips:
Offer a Variety of Foods
Beardies are omnivores, which means that they will eat both vegetables and insects. You can provide their daily diet by offering vegetables such as bok choy, kale, and collard greens. Insects can be offered as a treat because those offer a high protein level. This type of diet change will also prevent your pet from getting bored with routine food.
Make Sure Food is Fresh and at the Right Temperature
Fresh food tastes much better than stale food, and the temperature of their food can affect the appetite of these desert dwelling lizards. For example, if you feed them insects and these insects are dead or too cold, they are less likely to tempt their appetite. Serve the food at body temperature for the perfect serving as in the wild, they would eat their insulation freshly heated by the sun.
Use Food Supplements
You can use calcium and vitamin D3 supplements for your bearded dragon to ensure that it gets all the nutrients it needs. These unavailability of these nutrients can lead to metabolic bone disorders such as rickets. These supplements for the best effect must be added to a gut-loading schedule that ensures the maximum nutrient availability for your dragon.
If your beardie has lost interest in food, hand-feeding it can be an excellent way to get them to start eating again. Use a pair of tweezers or tongs to offer them vegetables or insects. This makes them more interested in eating by imprinting human presence on their food and encouraging socialization.
Signs You Should Be Concerned About Your Bearded Dragon’s Lack of Appetite
While it’s normal for your bearded dragon to have variations in its appetite, some signs could indicate an underlying issue that requires veterinary attention. Watch out for the following:
Weight Loss or Unusual Behavior
Continuous food refusal without any accompanying changes in environment or diet or abrupt changes in weight could be indicative of an underlying disease. Other signs to take note of are lethargy, stress marks, and lack of energy.
Discoloration or Visible Health Issues
Darker colors that last long or mucus discharge from the nose or eyes could all be indicative of severe infections. Always closely monitor your pets’ appearance, looking out for any visible lumps or discolorations.
Refusal to Eat for an Extended Period of Time
If your beardie refuses to eat for an extended period of time, it may lose enough weight to develop health problems. A normal dragon will eat at regular intervals and consume as much as it needs.
Expert Suggestions for Dealing with a Bearded Dragon Not Eating
If your beardie is not eating for any of the reasons listed above, here are some expert suggestions:
Consult a Veterinarian Specializing in Reptiles
Bearded dragons are special reptiles that may require special treatment. It is vital to seek medical attention if you’re unsure of what to do. A specialist in reptile medicine will help identify the problem and offer medical treatment if necessary.
Adjust Their Environment to Improve Their Appetite
If the lack of appetite is due to the environment, adjusting it to meet their preferred needs can help. Improving habitat conditions may include using the right lighting, temperature, and substrate. In some cases, switching to a more appropriate substrate, adjusting the lighting and temperature or adding hiding spots could boost their appetite.
Monitor Their Eating and Health Closely
Closely monitor your beardies appetite by placing a food chart in their enclosure. This allows you to track what they eat and help identify any health issues earlier. Examining the feces of a bearded dragon can give you an idea of their nutrient intake level and by extension, their health.
Common Mistakes to Avoid When Trying to Get Your Bearded Dragon to Eat
There are also common mistakes that you should avoid when trying to get your bearded dragon to eat:
You may be tempted to feed your beardie more if it’s not eating, but overfeeding them will lead to obesity and other health problems. A typical guideline would be two-insect meals and two veggie courses per day with one small fruit serving to vary their diet.
Offering the Wrong Types of Food
You should ensure you are giving them the right type of food in the right portions, or else they won’t eat. Many insects fed to dragons contain low nutrient values and may come with diseases. Stick to feed like silk worms, crickets, and Dubia roaches and supplement them with vegetables or frozen plant products such as squash and carrots. Avoid plants that may contain calcium inhibitors like spinach and rhubarb alternates.
Panicking and Making Sudden Changes
Finally, avoid making sudden changes, including food types and environmental changes, which can exacerbate their appetite loss. Change food slowly and allow your dragon to get used to the new environment or change. Don’t panic – always consult with a veterinary specialist if you are unsure of anything.
A bearded dragon not eating can be concerning, but if you follow the steps we’ve outlined, you should be able to get them back to eating and back to optimal health in no time. Remember, sometimes the remedy is easy and can be easily managed, but other times, a lack of appetite in dragons could be indicative of an underlying disease. Monitor your beardie’s health appearance; seek specialist treatment if necessary and always inquire for expert advice.