Bearded dragons make wonderful pets, but unless you’ve spent a great deal of time around them, you may be unfamiliar with the finer points of keeping one. That includes knowing what foods are safe to feed them—like oranges. Are they healthy or will they harm your dragon?
The answer is no, your bearded dragon should not be fed oranges. We explain why in more detail.
Orange Nutritional Information
Oranges have some nutritional value, however, they don’t have much in terms of meaningful nutrition for bearded dragons. That being said, oranges aren’t toxic for bearded dragons.
At first glance, the calcium to phosphorus ratio of oranges seems appealing. However, oranges aren’t recommended for bearded dragons. Though oranges are known for their vitamin C content, it is important to note that this vitamin, while beneficial, isn’t essential for bearded dragons. Bearded dragons can synthesize vitamin C without having it in their diet. However, a bearded dragon with digestive problems, kidney issues, or liver issues might benefit from vitamin C supplements but from sources other than oranges.
The Problems With Oranges
Even though they are not toxic, bearded dragons should not be fed oranges for a variety of reasons.
Oxalates (Oxalic Acid)
The main issue with oranges is that they 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 single orange contains up to 29 mg of oxalates.
These oxalates greatly diminish the calcium availability of oranges, and may predispose your pet to an affliction called metabolic bone disease.
Oranges, like most fruits, are high in terms of their sugar content. Sugar is not directly associated with diabetes in bearded dragons. However, an overabundance of calories can lead to an obese pet, which isn’t healthy and may serve as a precursor for other diseases. The high sugar in fruits may also be a contributing factor for dental disease in bearded dragons.
The citric acid in oranges may irritate your pet’s stomach lining, though the exact extent of citric acid toxicity in bearded dragons isn’t properly researched.
What About Mandarin Oranges?
Mandarin oranges are less acidic than regular oranges, so some people might think they are a better choice. However, just because they have less acid doesn’t mean they’re safe for bearded dragons, as there’s still enough acid to cause a host of problems.
What’s more, mandarin oranges have even more sugar, so they’re even worse in that regard. You also shouldn’t feed them clementines or orange peels and definitely don’t serve them a big glass of orange juice. Basically, if it looks like an orange, it’s best if you don’t give it to your dragon.
Can Bearded Dragons Eat Insects That Eat Oranges?
Now that we’ve established that oranges are not good for your bearded dragon, it’s worth asking: what about eating bugs that have eaten oranges? Will all the sugar and acid transfer from the bug to your dragon?
The answer is usually yes. These insects have evolved to eat oranges and other acid-heavy foods, so their bodies are better able to break down the chemicals inside. In fact, many insects (like Dubia roaches) enjoy being fed oranges.
In addition, most feeder insects are able to break down the citric acid in oranges when they digest the fruit, and therefore they don’t cause harm to your bearded dragon when they eat them.
Are There Any Fruits That Bearded Dragons Can Eat?
While oranges should ideally never be on the menu, there are a few fruits that are safe for your bearded dragon to munch on. These include apples, cantaloupe, papaya, mango, and figs.
However, keep in mind that virtually all fruit is loaded with sugar, so even if something is safe for your bearded dragon, it should be served in moderation. Don’t give them more than one serving of fruit per week.
Bearded dragons can eat a wide range of foods, but oranges should ideally not be on the list. There are oxalates and sugars inside them that your bearded dragon shouldn’t have in excess, and eating them can cause a host of health problems for your pet.
If you want to serve your little dragon some fruit, there are other, more suitable options available.
Featured Image Credit: Pixabay