Surprisingly, there is some dispute regarding whether or not bearded dragons can eat cherries. All bearded dragons need to eat veggies. As they get older, bearded dragons will be eating mostly veggies.
However, deciding what fruits and veggies our bearded dragons should eat can be a bit confusing. Technically, bearded dragons can eat cherries occasionally. They are not nearly as healthy as some other options. Instead of taking up a large portion of our beardies’ diet, they should function more like treats.
Perhaps you’re eating cherries and your bearded dragon eyes one. That may be an opportunity to provide your dragon with a treat. However, please don’t go out of your way to feed your bearded dragons cherries.
The Downsides of Cherries: Fruit Acid and Sugar
The two significant downsides of cherries are the high levels of fruit acid and sugar. Neither of these things is suitable for our bearded dragons, which is precisely why they are better off munching on something else.
As you probably know, cherries are rather sour. This is because they are very high in fruit acid. This can cause diarrhea and other digestive upset for bearded dragons. Because we are so large, the acid usually doesn’t upset our stomachs all that much. However, it can upset our beardies’ stomachs, as they are much smaller than us.
Sugar can also be far too high in carbohydrates. While our dragons can consume plenty of carbohydrates, they do not need to all be in the form of simple carbohydrates, which is exactly what sugar is. Sugar can also upset out beardies’ stomachs, especially when combined with the fruit acid.
Sugar and fruit acid combined can cause diarrhea and other similar problems. If this becomes severe, it can potentially lead to dehydration and even death. A dragon that is sick with diarrhea is also more vulnerable to other infections and parasites, which can take an enormous toll on its already weak system.
In general, it is vital to be mindful of just how big the average cherry is compared to a bearded dragon. Even one cherry can be a lot when you compare it to the size of your beardie. Be aware of this when deciding how many cherries to provide your bearded dragon.
The Phosphor Problem
All bearded dragons need plenty of calcium. You likely know this and probably supplement your dragon’s diet with plenty of calcium, likely through the use of calcium powder or something similar. Bearded dragons need this to avoid bone problems, which are sadly quite common in captive dragons.
If a dragon does not consume enough calcium, it will develop metabolic bone disease. This causes their bones to soften and their body to become deformed. It cannot always be corrected, mainly when it occurs in baby dragons. They grow that way, and there is little you can do to fix it once the damage is done.
However, to process the calcium correctly, these lizards need to consume enough phosphor as well. They need this to use the calcium they eat. Otherwise, it isn’t going to do them any good. Preferably, your dragon needs twice as much calcium as phosphor.
Cherries do not have this ratio of calcium to phosphor. Therefore, they do not provide the correct mix of nutrients and should not make up a lot of your pet’s diet.
Cherries also contain a moderate amount of oxalic acid. This particular acid binds to calcium and makes it unusable. Therefore, every time your bearded dragon eats a cherry, there is some amount of calcium that they can no longer use. This can cause a problem for all sorts of dragons, especially those already having a hard time consuming enough calcium.
Generally, cherries do not contain enough oxalic acid for it to be a significant problem. Instead, they only become a problem when you overfeed them. For this reason, again, we recommend strictly limiting the number of cherries your bearded dragon eats.
Can Bearded Dragons Eat Canned, Frozen or Dried Cherries?
On top of fresh cherries, these fruits come in many different forms. Feeding dried, canned, or frozen cherries is a bit different from feeding fresh cherries, so let’s take a look.
Dried cherries should not be fed, as they are more concentrated in sugar and are tougher to chew. They are one of the worst forms of cherries you can give your dragon – which is a big deal considering that cherries aren’t that great anyway.
Canned cherries may or may not be okay. Some canned cherries contain added preservatives and ingredients, some of which can be dangerous for our bearded dragons. Simultaneously, some are okay, as they have been canned in water and do not have any extra ingredients. In this situation, you’ll want to read the label to figure out whether or not the cherries are safe for your pet.
Frozen cherries are usually fine, as long as they don’t have any added ingredients. It is essential to read the ingredient list, though, as some do have added ingredients and preservatives. You want simple, plain cherries.
Can Bearded Dragons Eat Cherry Pits?
No. You should remove them before giving your bearded dragon the cherry. The pits can cause impaction, which can lead to extreme pain and even death. Impaction is severe and should be avoided at all costs.
Removing the pit should be easy and can be done quickly with a knife.
While we’re on the topic, you should remove the stem if it is still present when you purchase it. The stem has less of a chance of causing impaction, but you generally don’t want to feed your dragon anything hard that they may not be able to digest completely.
You should be very careful with portion sizes, as we have discussed. Whether or not your bearded dragon can handle a whole cherry depends on the size of your dragon as well as the size of the cherry. Most adult beardies will be able to handle at least one whole cherry but remain on the safe side if you are unsure. Smaller dragons should be given less.
You shouldn’t just hand the cherry to your bearded dragon, though. Their round size can make them difficult to eat and may cause the dragon to choke. While most dragons will attempt to chew up the cherry, some will try to swallow it whole. For this reason, you should generally avoid feeding your dragon whole cherries. Instead, cut the cherries into fourths and offer them that way.
Featured image credit: klimkin, Pixabay