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Bearded Dragon Not Eating? Reasons and Potential Solutions
For the most part, bearded dragons are pretty easy pets to take care of. They don’t require as much maintenance as other pets such as dogs, for instance, that need daily exercise and loads of food. Dragons take up minimal space and don’t need much in the way of exercise. As long as you keep its environment sound and provide plenty of food and water, your dragon should do well.
But when things are this simple, it makes it easy to tell if something is wrong. You get used to your dragon eating a certain amount, and when that changes, it can cause some serious worry. Is it normal for your dragon to stop eating, or is there something wrong you should be taking action on?
In some cases, it’s normal for dragons to stop eating for a period of time. Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s always happening for a benign reason. Sometimes, your dragon’s cessation of food intake is a sign that there’s an underlying problem that needs attending to. By the end of this article, hopefully, you’ll have a better idea of which is the case with your dragon, so you know how to proceed with its care.
Discussing Dragon Diets
A dragon’s diet is quite a bit different from that of a dog. Before we discuss the reasons that your beardie might be experiencing some dietary changes, it’s a good idea to have a basic review of dragon diets. A key thing to remember is that dragons’ diets have to change throughout their lives, so if your adult dragon is still eating the same way it was as a juvenile, then you might have already discovered your problem.
Bearded dragons are omnivores, and they eat a diverse array of fruits, vegetables, and proteins. The proteins in a dragon’s diet come mainly in the form of live insects, such as crickets or Dubia roaches. Throughout a dragon’s life, it will always eat insects and plant matter, though the ratios of each will change drastically between life stages.
Growing dragons need a lot of protein to help them reach full size. For this reason, young bearded dragons eat a lot of insects and only a moderate amount of plant matter. Baby and juvenile dragons should eat a diet that’s about 75% insects and only 25% plant matter, such as fruits and vegetables.
As a young adult, a bearded dragon’s diet will be about half plant matter and half live insects. Once the dragon is full-size and no longer growing, its diet will have flipped from what it was eating as a baby. At this stage, your dragon’s food intake should be 75% plant matter and just 25% insects.
How to Feed a Bearded Dragon
Feeding your dragon is quite simple. Most bearded dragons won’t overeat, so you don’t have to concern yourself much with the idea of overfeeding. Rather, you’ll offer your dragon as much food as it wants in short windows, allowing it to fill up on food, then clearing out the remainder so none of it goes bad in your dragon’s enclosure.
For insects, this generally means that you’ll offer insects for five to 10 minutes at a time, which is long enough for your dragon to hunt its fill. After this feeding window, the remaining insects should be removed from the enclosure. Insects should be gut-fed prior to offering them to your dragon. This means filling the insects up on nutritious foods like fish food or baby food so your dragon can benefit from the additional nutrients.
Vegetables and fruits can be fed to your dragon in a similar manner. Rather than giving just 10 minutes to eat all the fruits and veggies, these can be left in the enclosure for an hour. Again, any leftovers should be removed at the end of the feeding window, ensuring that they don’t rot or mold in your dragon’s tank.
Best Bearded Dragon Foods
Bearded dragons can eat loads of different foods from all sorts of food groups. They eat many proteins and plant matter, including flowers, herbs, fruits, insects, and more. A few of the many foods that dragons commonly eat include:
Why Your Bearded Dragon Isn’t Eating – 10 Reasons
Now it’s time to get into some specifics. You already know all about how your dragon’s diet should look. If the diet is off, then that’s the first place to start. Assuming your dragon’s diet isn’t the culprit, then you’ll probably find the underlying cause for your dragon’s lack of eating in this list of 10 likely reasons.
1. It’s Unhappy About Something
When you’re unhappy about something, it’s easy for you to let the people around you know. All you have to do is open your mouth and speak up about it. However, things aren’t that simple for your dragon. Obviously, bearded dragons don’t speak our language, so they have to find other ways to communicate with us when they want to voice their dissatisfaction.
One way that your dragon might go about communicating its displeasure to you is by refusing to eat. This could be caused by any of a number of issues, such as incorrect tank temperatures, a new location of your dragon’s tank, or a recent change you’ve made to its diet.
Luckily, if your dragon is unhappy and using a lack of eating to show you, then this behavior should end soon. On the other hand, it could be a sign that the new change isn’t working for your dragon. If this behavior persists, you may have to consider reverting to the way things were before.
2. Your Beardie’s in Brumation
In the winter, many animals will hibernate. During this time, their metabolisms slow down and they enter a sleep-like state. These animals won’t eat for the entire winter. Bearded dragons don’t exactly hibernate, but they have their own system, which is called brumation.
During brumation, dragons spend a lot more time resting in the cooler parts of the tank. They’re also not very interested in food while in brumation, though you’ll need to ensure that your dragon always has access to plenty of clean water.
3. Shedding Takes Priority
When your dragon is shedding, it might put off eating for a while. This is because shedding can be a very itchy process. Your dragon refusing to eat while shedding is a bit like a baby being unable to sleep while it’s teething. It’s just uncomfortable, and the discomfort takes precedence at the moment.
It’s easy to tell when your dragon is shedding. Its scales will look patchy or dull and there might be flakes of loose skin hanging off. Also, its tail might begin to turn gray towards the tip. Thankfully, your dragon’s dietary habits should return to normal shortly after it finishes shedding.
4. The Lighting Isn’t Right
While dragons aren’t the most finicky of pets, they do have some particulars that must be met. One of those is lighting. Improper lighting can lead to a dysfunctional dragon, which means its dietary habits might be thrown off.
Unfortunately, there are many ways you can go wrong when it comes to your dragon’s lighting. Light cycles have to be correct, as well as temperatures on both the hot and cooler sides of the enclosure. Dragons often refuse to eat if it isn’t warm enough in their habitat, and they’ll need the light and warmth for proper digestion as well.
Dragons also get a lot of vital nutrients from light. They require UVA and UVB lighting to get these important nutrients. If your dragon doesn’t get enough, it could cause serious health issues, starting with appetite suppression.
5. Parasitic Infection
If you only feed your dragon store-bought and properly raised feeder insects and you stay vigilant about keeping its enclosure clean, then the possibility of parasitic infection will be minimized. A dirty enclosure or wild-caught feeder insects can both lead to parasites, and even if you do everything right, parasites can still pop up.
When your dragon is dealing with a parasitic infection, it likely won’t be very interested in food. They can make your dragon feel sick and kill its appetite, though sometimes the opposite happens and your dragon’s appetite is increased in order to feed the new uninvited guest.
6. Oral Infection
Parasitic infections aren’t the only ones that can affect your dragon’s appetite. Infections of the mouth are relatively common among bearded dragons. You may have heard it called mouth rot before. It can be pretty painful for your dragon, which is why it prevents eating.
Some signs of mouth rot include a yellow or white oral cavity, teeth that are loose, excess saliva, bleeding from the mouth, and swelling of the mouth and head. Luckily, this condition is rather easy to treat and any vet should be able to cure your dragon.
7. Digestive Issues
When your dragon’s diet is well monitored, the possibility of impaction is low, though it still exists. If your dragon is suffering from constipation, it likely won’t be eating for a while. This is most often caused by feeding your dragon an improper ratio of insects to plant matter. Remember, this ratio starts out 75% insects to 25% plant matter when your dragon is young, but switches to 75% plant matter and 25% insects when your dragon is an adult.
Of course, diet isn’t the only cause of impaction. Your dragon’s substrate could also cause this issue if it accidentally consumes some while eating. If you think this could be the issue your dragon is facing, then you might consider a change of substrate.
8. Your Dragon is Done Growing
While dragons are growing, they eat a lot. Just like humans, dragons go through multiple growth spurts during their lifetime, when growth is accelerated, along with dietary intake. But once your dragon reaches full size, it won’t be going through any more growth spurts and growth will essentially halt. At this point, your dragon’s food intake will shrink since it no longer requires all the nutrients that were necessary for growth.
9. Physical Injury
It can often be difficult to tell when your dragon has a physical injury. Just like any creature, bearded dragons are susceptible to injuries such as broken bones, lacerations, and more. These can be caused by fighting with other dragons, improper handling, being dropped, and other accidents.
If your dragon is dealing with an injury, it may have a reduced desire to eat, or eating might even be uncomfortable. With younger dragons, the bones are weaker, which means these types of injuries are even more common. If you think your dragon might be injured, you should have a vet check on it and make sure.
We’ve left illness for last since this is the one you least want to be the reason for your dragon’s disinterest in food. Still, it’s a possibility. Sick dragons often lose their appetites, but you’ll need a vet’s opinion in order to get a more precise diagnosis. It would be helpful for your vet if you collected your lizard’s feces for testing. Hopefully, your vet will be able to make a quick determination about what sort of illness your lizard is facing.
What to do When Your Dragon Isn’t Eating
In many cases, your dragon’s refusal to eat is normal behavior and not a cause for concern. Sometimes, the underlying reason is something that needs attention. So, what should you do if your dragon isn’t eating and you’re starting to get worried?
1. Determine the Cause
Your first step is to figure out why your dragon isn’t eating. Go through this list and see which of these reasons most fits with your dragon’s current behavior. Once you’ve determined why your dragon isn’t eating, you’ll know if it’s a serious problem or something that will likely fix itself with a little time.
2. Remove Stressors
If the reason for your dragon’s lack of eating is something that can be solved, then you’ll want to remove the stressors causing the behavior. For instance, if your dragon isn’t eating because of a change you’ve recently made, then you can undo that change or make another change to try something different. Or if you think your dragon is experiencing impaction because it’s accidentally eating the substrate, then you might try a new substrate in its tank.
3. Search for Applicable Treatment
In many cases, the reason your dragon isn’t eating can be treated. For example, if your dragon isn’t eating due to a physical injury, healing the injury can help to return your dragon’s appetite. Similarly, if an infection is the reason your dragon won’t eat, then find the applicable cure to help your dragon’s appetite return.
4. Seek Out Professional Help
You won’t always be able to solve the problem on your own. If you’ve exhausted all of your possibilities but your dragon is still having trouble eating, then it’s time to seek out professional help. Even bearded dragons can only go so long without eating. Eventually, it will become a health crisis. Your vet should be able to lend a hand with some advice and possible solutions, such as diagnosing and offering cures for underlying illnesses.
Why Isn’t Your Bearded Dragon Eating?
When your pet suddenly stops eating, it’s easy to freak out as a first reaction. With bearded dragons, this behavior is sometimes normal. Dragons will eat less once they reach full size or when they’re in brumation. That said, there are plenty of times when you’ll want to take action to cure the underlying cause for the change in your dragon’s dietary habits. We’ve covered the 10 most common reasons your dragon might stop eating, so, hopefully, you can find the culprit on this list, allowing you to determine the best course of action for you and your dragon.
Featured Image Credit: Piqsels
Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts’ knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.
- Discussing Dragon Diets
- How to Feed a Bearded Dragon
- Best Bearded Dragon Foods
- Why Your Bearded Dragon Isn’t Eating – 10 Reasons
- What to do When Your Dragon Isn’t Eating
- Why Isn’t Your Bearded Dragon Eating?