Bearded dragons belong to the old world family of lizards, Agamidae. And are members of the genus Pogona. They earned their common name due to their tendency to inflate their throats when angry or excited. Giving them a bearded appearance. Also, they are docile and relatively easy to care for. Further, bearded dragons are one of the most popular pets acquired by herpetology. However, feeding them must be done with professional guidance, precision and care. As overfeeding may result in
- Injury, and
- even death.
Can you overfeed a bearded dragon? Yes, you can overfeed your bearded dragons. Generally, pet dragons are overfed fatty insects (such as worms) which causes the dragon to gain too much weight.
The following information will be addressing bearded dragons’ feeding and overfeeding:
- how to feed a bearded dragon
- how to feed a baby bearded dragon
- feeding a juvenile bearded dragon
- feeding an adult bearded dragon
- dietary supplements
- how often to feed a bearded dragon
- overfeeding baby bearded dragons
- dangerous consequences of overfeeding baby bearded dragons
- signs of overfeeding
- foods to avoid
How to Feed a Bearded Dragon
Since bearded dragons have such a tame demeanor. It is usually very easy to feed it as long as it is in good health. Many times bearded dragons will eat right from your hand. Or a bowl, similar to the way a dog will.
In addition, it is best to get your bearded dragon into a feeding routine. Once your bearded dragon becomes accustomed to the routine. It will be anxiously waiting when it starts getting close to feeding time.
However, bearded dragons require different diets at different stages of their life. The food requirements for a baby bearded dragon is much different to an adult.
Here we will go over how to feed a bearded dragon at each stage of its life.
Feeding a Baby Bearded Dragon
A bearded dragon is considered to be at the baby stage from newborn to four or five months old. Therefore, this period of its life is when the bearded dragon is most fragile.
Hence, it is very important during this stage that it receives ample nutrients and vitamins.
The size and amount of food it takes during this period is very critical. So, never offer baby bearded dragons prey foods that are larger than its head.
What you should offer your Beardie to eat
Offering insects that are too large can cause the bearded dragon serious injury, or even be fatal.
Surprisingly, baby bearded dragons have an enormous appetite. And will attempt to eat prey that is too large. They could easily slip into paralysis, or die if this happens.
Hence, feed them pinhead crickets that are no longer than one-half inch long. As well as, small fruit flies, and the smallest wax worms available. Accordingly, it will help to ensure the baby bearded dragon can properly chew. As well as digest its food without any problems.
Also, try to avoid feeding a baby bearded dragon mealworms. Mealworms have a tough outer shell that can be difficult for the baby to digest. And could lead to paralysis.
Generally, baby bearded dragons have a high metabolism. And you need to feed them with smaller, more frequent meals. Also, babies have different nutritional needs than adults.
A baby bearded dragon’s diet should consist of about 40 to 60 percent proteins (from insect prey). And about 20 to 40 percent vegetation.
Offer tiny insects three or four times per day. And finely chopped vegetables at least three times per week. Offering the finely chopped vegetables once per day is optimum. And will help the baby acquire a taste for veggies.
Likewise, avoid overfeeding babies as this could lead to obesity and long term health issues.
Feeding a Juvenile Bearded Dragon
A bearded dragon becomes a juvenile once it reaches the ages between five months and about 18 months old. By now, the bearded dragon has gained mass and some fat reserves. As a result, you can feed it less frequently.
However, If you feed a juvenile bearded dragon at the same rate as a baby. It could become obese and suffer health issues later in life.
Also, the ratio of insects to vegetables will change as well. With juvenile bearded dragons, you should cut down the amount of insect prey to one feeding per day. While you should serve vegetables at least four times per week.
The size of insect prey can be a bit larger as well. But remember to not feed it anything larger than its head.
At this point, you can offer the bearded dragon items that were off-limits to babies, such as mealworms. On the contrary, It is better to only offer mealworms once or twice per week. It is important at this stage to begin offering your bearded dragon more vegetables. And slightly less insect prey.
Feeding an Adult Bearded Dragon
A bearded dragon becomes an adult once it reaches an age over 18 months old. At this stage in its life, the feeding schedule becomes much more subdued Except for females during breeding.
However, you can offer an adult a flexible, balanced diet of
- Insects and
- Vegetables once a day.
Therefore, it is best to offer more vegetables and fruits at this point in their life. But fewer insects. The adult diet should consist of 20 to 25 percent insects and 70 to 80 percent vegetables.
In addition, you can offer an adult bearded dragons the following
- pinkie mice
- canned dog food
- softened rabbit pellets, and
- even small lizards.
However, you should only offer these items as occasional treats. Note that you should only offer them once every three weeks.
Also, adults are very susceptible to obesity. So keep an eye on their growth rate and adjust the amount of food offered.
It is best to give vitamin and calcium supplements to bearded dragons at each stage of their life. The majority of these supplements come in a powdered form that easily clings to food.
However, there are some supplements that come as a liquid. These are supplements you drop into the bearded dragon’s mouth.
Likewise, you should give your baby bearded dragons vitamin and calcium (with vitamin D3) supplements. With at least two to three meals per week. Simply dust a light coating of the supplements onto the baby lizard’s food.
Accordingly, you should dust juvenile foods with a broad spectrum vitamin supplement once per week. While adding a calcium/D3 supplement to three meals per week.
While adult bearded dragons should receive a vitamin and calcium/D3 supplement once per week
How Often to Feed a Bearded Dragon
To answer the question of how often to feed a bearded dragon. You’re going to need to primarily consider the age of the dragon. You will need to feed adult bearded dragons, or those older than 18 months just once a day.
On the other hand, you should feed babies 3 to 5 times a day. Depending on how young they are exactly. Under 3 months, feed them as many crickets as they’ll eat in 10 minute increments.
However, if they’re over 3 months to a year old, feed them as many crickets as they’ll eat in a 10 minute period 3 times a day.
Overfeeding a Baby Bearded Dragon
Compared to the digestive systems of warm-blooded mammals. The systems of cold-blooded beardies are remarkably simple. So they require time to digest their food properly. Time and care in feeding are especially important with delicate baby bearded dragons.
Like babies of all species, baby bearded dragons grow rapidly. And require a lot of food. However, if you allow them to eat unchecked, they may eat and eat until they choke.
Hence, It is vital that you feed them age-appropriate meals infrequent, balanced portions.
Overfeeding your baby bearded dragon can cause painful constipation. Or worse, the formation of a food bolus, or mass, in his stomach. As a result of the bolus, pressure rests on the spinal nerves. Causing paralysis in the hindquarters.
If not treated immediately, this condition is usually fatal. Likewise, foods that are too tough to process can also cause problems in your bearded dragon’s fragile digestive tract.
For example, adult crickets contain tough, fibrous parts. Like serrated legs that can cause serious internal injuries.
Signs of Overfeeding
Signs that you are overfeeding your baby bearded dragon or is suffering from internal injury include
- lack of appetite
- bloated appearance
- dragging or hindered movement in the hind legs, and
- the inability to control movement in the rear portion of his body.
Therefore, if you notice any of these symptoms, contact your veterinarian immediately.
Foods to Avoid
To keep your bearded dragon healthy you will need to make sure they stay on their diet. There are also some foods which are unhealthy for them or lethal for them to eat. Make sure they do not eat any of the below items:
Since lettuce is mostly water. It is not nutritious for bearded dragons. Because of this, it is best to avoid feeding your bearded dragon lettuce. Or any greens with the word “lettuce” in the name.
Spinach is also another food to avoid. While spinach is healthy, calcium binds easily to it which can make it hard for your bearded dragon to digest.
Insects Captured in the Wild
Never feed your bearded dragon any insects you catch yourself. The insects you catch probably have parasites on them and contain trace amounts of pesticides. Both of which can make your bearded dragon sick.