Bearded dragons make excellent pets, especially for newbie lizard owners. They’re relatively easy to care for with regard to their diets, as they can eat a plethora of foods within their respective food groups.
Broccoli is often dramatized as the bane of picky eaters everywhere. Does that same principle apply to bearded dragons?
Technically, broccoli is safe for bearded dragons to eat. However, it must be eaten only in the smallest portions. Broccoli contains compounds that can be harmful to your beardie if consumed in large doses.
Let’s weigh the pros and cons of feeding broccoli to your bearded dragon, determine how much is safe for them to eat, and how to safely prepare it.
Pros of Bearded Dragons Eating Broccoli
There are a few pros to feeding broccoli to your bearded dragon, despite the risks. The vegetable contains various lizard-healthy vitamins and minerals that they need to thrive1.
Broccoli also contains low amounts of sugar and next to no oxalates. These traits are desirable in foods offered to bearded dragons.
So, broccoli as a rare treat can definitely reap a few rewards. However, you still have to consider the downsides.
Cons of Bearded Dragons Eating Broccoli
Even with all those nutrients, broccoli can be harmful to your bearded dragon.
Broccoli does not have enough calcium compared to its phosphorus content. This calcium-to-phosphorus ratio is not within the healthy range for a bearded dragon’s diet. Too much consumption of phosphorus can actually cause a loss of calcium in the long run.
For healthy adult bearded dragons in maintenance, their diet should have a calcium-to-phosphorus ratio of anywhere between 1.5:1 and 2:1. This means the calcium should be around twice as much as the phosphorus. The recommended ratio for juveniles is around 2:1, and dragons that are breeding (particularly females) require a much higher calcium intake compared to adults in maintenance.
In broccoli, the calcium is much lower than phosphorus, typically around 1:1.5. Phosphorus balance in the body requires that it be in the correct proportion with calcium. It binds to calcium, so when a bearded dragon is fed high amounts of phosphorus, their body responds by pulling calcium out from the bones to restore the proper levels of minerals and reduce the excess phosphorus in the bloodstream. Over time, the loss of calcium from bone mass can make the bones brittle and weak, leading to a condition called metabolic bone disease.
In addition, an inappropriate ratio of calcium to phosphorus is undesirable for the long-term health of a bearded dragon because it may predispose them to kidney or parathyroid issues. Therefore, broccoli should be offered sparingly to your bearded dragon.
Broccoli is naturally high in compounds known as goitrogens. These disrupt the production of thyroid hormones. Prolonged exposure to goitrogens prompts the body to increase the size of the thyroid gland to compensate for the low amounts of thyroid hormones. This can eventually lead to goiter.
How Much Broccoli Can a Bearded Dragon Eat?
While you should avoid giving broccoli to your bearded dragon regularly, it’s not going to hurt them if they have a small floret every now and then. However, you should keep their broccoli eating to moderate levels.
One small floret once a week is a good rule of thumb when it comes to determining how much broccoli your lizard can have. It will provide them with a quick nutrient boost without overloading them with too many goitrogens.
How to Prepare Broccoli for Your Bearded Dragon
If you decide that you’d like your bearded dragon to try a small piece of broccoli, you need to ensure that you’re preparing it properly. Here are a few key tips to keep in mind:
Other Vegetables Your Bearded Dragon Can Eat
Although broccoli is safe for bearded dragons to consume, it’s best to feed them this vegetable in moderation. While broccoli does contain beneficial nutrients for your pet, the high number of goitrogens and undesirable calcium-to-phosphorus ratio take away from the appeal of this vegetable.
It is best to consult your veterinarian if you’re ever in doubt about your bearded dragon’s dietary requirements.
Featured Image Credit: Pixabay