Bearded dragons would eat green vegetables and food in the wild, as well as under human care. Although not all vegetables are considered safe for beardies, it is acceptable to feed a small number of Brussels sprouts to your bearded dragon.
However, they should only be occasional treats because Brussels sprouts do not have a favorable ratio of calcium to phosphorus. Consequently, feeding too many of these vegetables to your beardie can cause health issues.
Are Brussels Sprouts Toxic to Beardies?
Brussels sprouts are not toxic to beardies. This means they can eat at least a small number without becoming ill or worse. Sprouts have an excellent sugar level rating (very low) and are also low in oxalates, which add to their appeal. Unfortunately, though, they also have an undesirable calcium-to-phosphorus ratio.
The Importance of the Calcium-to-Phosphorus Ratio
Bearded dragons need calcium in their diet. It’s especially important to ensure the healthy growth and maintenance of bones. But a beardie cannot naturally process calcium. In the wild, they use vitamin D3 that they synthesize when exposed to the sun’s UVB rays, and this vitamin then helps the body to properly utilize the calcium that a bearded dragon gets from their opportunistic diet.
No matter how high the quality of your terrarium lighting is, your beardie is unlikely to be getting enough vitamin D3. So, you can dust their food and gut load insects with concentrated calcium powders. By providing enough supplementation, you can deliver a decent portion of the calcium that your beardie needs.
A 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. It also increases the risk of kidney stones and parathyroid issues.
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. The calcium should be around twice as much as 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 Brussels sprouts, the ratio of calcium to phosphorus is 1:1.6, which is undesirable for the long-term health of a bearded dragon.
Other Problems With Brussels Sprouts
The undesirable calcium-to-phosphorus ratio is only one potential pitfall of this small vegetable. Brussels sprouts are also high in goitrogens, which interfere with thyroid function and can eventually lead to goiter, a condition in which the thyroid gland becomes abnormally large.
Health Benefits of Sprouts
Although Brussels sprouts have an undesirable ratio of calcium to phosphorus, they do contain many vitamins and minerals that are considered beneficial to a bearded dragon. These include vitamins A and C (the latter isn’t essential for bearded dragons but can still be beneficial for them in certain circumstances) and other minerals, such as potassium.
How to Prepare Sprouts for Your Beardie
Although Brussels sprouts are small vegetables to us, they are too large for a beardie to eat whole. Clean the sprouts to remove any toxins and chemicals. Once they’re clean, chop them into small squares about 1 x 1 cm in size (approximately ⅖ of an inch), and feed them to your pet without cooking them or adding any other ingredients.
Can Bearded Dragons Eat Cooked Brussels Sprouts?
Cooked Brussels sprouts are not inherently dangerous or bad for your beardie, but if you use oil to cook them, that can be bad. Butter and any seasonings are also not good for your lizard, and cooking any vegetable, including Brussels sprouts, reduces its nutritional yield. Generally, it is better to serve any vegetable raw to avoid these possible problems.
The 5 Alternatives to Brussels Sprouts
It is considered safe to feed Brussels sprouts to bearded dragons but only occasionally and in small amounts.
Bearded dragons would not usually eat Brussels sprouts in the wild, but as pets, they can enjoy a varied diet that includes a host of vegetables. It stands to reason, then, that owners would try to feed them a Brussels sprout. While this small and unassuming vegetable does not pose a toxic threat, it should only be fed in moderation and on occasion as a treat. Despite having other healthy vitamins and minerals, it contains too much phosphorus and not enough calcium. It is also somewhat high in goitrogens, which further reinforces its designation as an occasional treat and not a stellar vegetable that should be served on a daily basis.
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