For humans, carrots are often promoted as a superfood of sorts. Anecdotal claims state that carrots are a great immune-boosting vegetable, they can help with your vision, and they taste great raw or cooked! They are also easy to grow and cheap to purchase, making them an ideal addition to most meals. With all these benefits, you may be wondering if your bearded dragon can also enjoy carrots.
Can bearded dragons eat carrots? Are carrots safe for these reptiles? The answer is a resounding yes! Baby carrots are a healthier alternative to mature carrots, but moderation is key even with opting for this variant.
Although carrots should not be a staple part of your dragon’s regular diet, in moderation, carrots can provide a host of benefits for your bearded friends. In this article, we look at these benefits, as well as potential hazards to be aware of.
Benefits of Feeding Carrots to Your Bearded Dragon
The nutritional requirements of bearded dragons vary according to their age. In general, juveniles require more animal-based proteins (often in the form of insects) whereas adults require more plant based ingredients in their diet. However, all bearded dragons, regardless of age, are considered omnivores.
Carrots can offer your bearded dragon some nutritional benefits. The nutritional analysis of carrots is as follows:
Baby carrots have similar nutritional benefits:
Carrots are perhaps best known for their high amounts of vitamin A. Vitamin A is usually present in foods in various forms known as carotene. Of these, beta carotene (also known as β-carotene) is the most relevant for bearded dragons.
In carrots, six carotene variants exist : α-, β-, γ-, ζ-carotene, lycopene, and β-zeacarotene 1. Their average percentage is: 33:60:1:4:1:1, respectively, but β-carotene can vary from 44% to 79% depending on an individual carrot’s genotype, location of growth, and year of harvest.
However, carrots generally have the highest vitamin A content of all vegetables, and are rivaled only by sweet potatoes and maize (corn) in this regard.
Both the carrot and its top have beneficial nutrients for your bearded dragon. While you should not feed carrots to your dragon every day, the carrot tops are a great daily snack and don’t have any health risks.
- Related Read: Can Bearded Dragons Eat Cilantro? What You Need To Know!
Potential Risks of Feeding Carrots to Bearded Dragons
Carrots are not without their issues:
Calcium to Phosphorus Ratio
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 carrots, the calcium is slightly lower than phosphorus, typically around 1:1.3. 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, carrots should be offered very sparingly to your bearded dragon.
However, it is important to note that baby carrots have a healthier calcium to phosphorus ratio (1.2:1) and therefore, they are preferred over mature carrots.
Carrots are quite high in oxalates, also sometimes referred to as oxalic acid. Oxalates bind with calcium within the body, and prevent its use. They may also predispose a bearded dragon to kidney stones, which require medical attention. A large carrot may contain up to 20 mg of oxalates.
Though the amount lessens slightly when carrots are cooked, the cooking process still leaves an undesirable amount of oxalates (when compared to other vegetables), and also reduces other nutrients in carrots.
How Should I Prepare Carrots for My Bearded Dragon?
Bearded dragons can consume the carrots’ leaves and root (the vegetable). It is advised to mix the leafy greens of the carrot plant with other greens that you regularly provide and make them part of your pet’s rotational salad composition.
Serve the root in moderation, about once or twice a month as part of their salad mix for the day. Before giving the leaves or root vegetables to your pet, thoroughly wash the produce to remove any chemical or pesticide residue.
Next, chop the produce into small pieces (about 1 x 1 cm in size), and mix them with other greens, vegetables, and fruits, such as mustard greens, dandelion greens, peppers, and strawberries, to make a small salad.
Alternatively, you can also peel and cook a soft carrot puree for your bearded dragon. This form of carrots lacks the crunch of raw carrots, but is anecdotally better accepted by some fussy eaters.
Carrots are not toxic to bearded dragons, and are considered safe for them to consume. However, baby carrots are preferred over mature carrots. Both carrot types should be used sparingly, because their oxalate contents are undesirable for a bearded dragon’s long term health.
The green tops, however, are a tasty snack that your dragon will love, and you can safely feed these to them on a daily basis.
Featured Image Credit: outsideclick, Pixabay