When beardies suddenly stop eating, it’s pretty normal to assume the worst-case scenario. Especially since they can’t tell you why they aren’t eating. So, as its owner, you have to figure it out before it’s too late!
But before you start overthinking things, remember that sometimes the reason behind your beardie’s sudden lack of diet can be over simple things that you can fix in just a few minutes!
In this article, we will delve into the various reasons behind a bearded dragon’s loss of appetite and provide practical solutions to help you encourage your pet to eat again.
Reasons for Bearded Dragons Loss of Appetite and How to Get Them to Eat
Identifying the root cause of their lack of appetite is essential to ensure their well-being. Here are some common reasons why bearded dragons might not be eating and how to address them.
1. Your Bearded Dragon is Sick
One of the main reasons for bearded dragons’ loss of appetite is diseases.
Parasites: Internal parasites, such as worms or protozoa, can cause digestive issues, leading to a loss of appetite in bearded dragons.
Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD): MBD is a common health issue in bearded dragons, often resulting from inadequate calcium intake or insufficient UVB exposure. This condition can cause weakness, lethargy, and appetite loss.
Impaction: Impaction occurs when a bearded dragon’s digestive system gets blocked, typically due to ingesting indigestible materials, such as a substrate or large food items.
Regular veterinary check-ups: To ensure your bearded dragon remains healthy and has a good appetite, schedule regular check-ups with a qualified reptile veterinarian. These visits can help detect and address any underlying health issues that may affect their eating habits.
Signs of illness to watch for: Keep an eye out for signs of illness, such as lethargy, lack of appetite, weight loss, or irregular bowel movements. If you notice any of these symptoms, consult your veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.
2. The Environment is Not Right
Another reason for bearded dragons refusing to eat is the incorrect environment.
Incorrect temperature: Bearded dragons need specific temperature ranges to digest their food properly. If your bearded dragon is too cold, it may lose its appetite.
Inadequate lighting: Bearded dragons require access to UVB lighting to synthesize vitamin D3, which is crucial for calcium absorption. Without proper lighting, your pet may develop health issues, such as MBD, and lose its appetite.
Setting the right temperature gradient: Bearded dragons require a specific temperature gradient to regulate their body temperature and digest their food properly. Ensure that the basking area reaches 95-110°F (35-43°C) and the cooler end of the enclosure stays around 80-85°F (27-29°C).
Providing appropriate UVB lighting: UVB lighting is crucial for bearded dragons to synthesize vitamin D3 and absorb calcium. Provide a high-quality UVB light and make sure it covers at least two-thirds of the enclosure. Replace the bulb every 6-12 months, as recommended by the manufacturer.
3. Your Bearded Dragon is Stressed
Stress can severely impact a bearded dragon’s appetite.
There are many causes of chronic stress:
- Wrong tank temperature or humidity.
- Small enclosure (less than 75-gallons).
- Aggressive tank mates.
- Bad diet.
- Improper handling.
Bearded dragons can get stressed from changes in lighting, temperature, or diet to a small change in your dragon’s environment such as new tank decoration.
A bearded dragon will probably be stressed when first brought home. But this usually goes away as it gets comfortable in its new home over time.
Ensuring a stress-free environment: Provide hiding spots, such as caves or rock formations, in the enclosure to help your pet feel secure. Also, keep the enclosure away from loud noises and high-traffic areas in your home.
Remove any new items from the enclosure: If your beardie is stressed from a new item in their tank simply remove it. If you cannot remove the stressor such as a dog, or street noise be patient with your dragon and try some de-stressing methods until it get used to the change.
4. Dietary preferences
Food variety: Bearded dragons may get bored with their food if they are offered the same items repeatedly.
Food freshness: Bearded dragons can be picky eaters and may refuse to eat stale or old food.
Feeding schedule: Inconsistency in feeding schedules can make your bearded dragon lose its appetite.
Introducing different food items: Offer a variety of insects, vegetables, and fruits to keep your bearded dragon’s diet interesting. Consult a reptile nutrition guide to ensure you’re providing a well-balanced diet.
Ensuring food freshness: Always feed your bearded dragon fresh, high-quality food. Insects should be gut-loaded, and vegetables and fruits must be washed and chopped into appropriate sizes for easy consumption.
Adjusting feeding schedule: Modify the feeding schedule based on your bearded dragon’s age and activity level. Juveniles typically need more frequent meals, while adults can be fed every other day.
Offer them some vegetables that are still in the ground: In the wild, bearded dragons eat their vegetables straight from the ground. If you have a garden with fresh vegetables, let your beardie roam around and choose the food it wants to eat itself, it should come naturally to them. This will reduce their stress levels and increase their enjoyment!
5. Your Beardie is in Brumation
If your bearded dragon isn’t eating, chances are that they might just be in brumation. Brumation is basically hibernation, but for lizards. They usually go into this during the winter.
When your beardie goes into brumation, most of its normal bodily functions will slow down. Since they won’t really need any kind of food, they will start eating a lot less and won’t move around that much either.
If they’re spending most of their time in the colder part of their cage, then they are probably not eating because of brumation. Keep in mind that this is not really the case every time but, it should give you an idea of what to expect.
Hydration and food: Just try to keep them hydrated and give them food just in case they end up wanting it since there’s really nothing else you can do during this period. Also make sure to keep the temperature maintained, because if it gets too low while there in brumation, then it could possibly turn into a serious health issue.
6. Your Beardie is Wounded
A bearded dragon that is injured is likely to stop eating, especially if the wound is severe. Injuries that are severe or infected should always be treated by a veterinarian.
There are numerous potential causes of injury, the majority of which may be avoided:
- Tank decoration with sharp and abrasive edges
- Live insects
Tank decoration with sharp and abrasive edges might injure them, especially their fragile stomachs and toes. Make sure that all of the decorations are safe for reptiles and that they don’t have any sharp edges or corners.
Allowing live insects to walk freely in your bearded dragon’s enclosure might be harmful. Crickets have been known to eat the feet and tails of lizards. After that, the wounds could become infected.
Avoid decoration items with sharp edges: Tank decoration with sharp and abrasive edges might injure them, especially their fragile stomachs and toes. Make sure that all of the decorations are safe for reptiles and that they don’t have any sharp edges or corners.
Don’t leave live insects inside the tank: Allowing live insects to walk freely in your bearded dragon’s enclosure might be harmful. Crickets have been known to eat the feet and tails of lizards. After that, the wounds could become infected.
Minor wounds can be treated with warm water and antibiotics at home. Contact your vet if the wound is severe.
A bearded dragon that is dehydrated will not have a healthy appetite. This is due to the fact that water is essential for digestion and the passage of feces through the digestive tract.
The skin of a dehydrated bearded dragon will be loose, the eyes will be sunken, and the saliva will be slimy.
If the temperature in the tank is too high your bearded dragon may become dehydrated.
Please keep in mind that bearded dragons get most of their water from food.
Gut load insects: Make sure to gut-load their feeder insects (by offering bugs, water crystals, or fruits/veggies as a source of water) and provide fresh vegetables and fruits.
Try spraying water: Bearded dragons like to lick moving water or water sprayed on the nose rather than sip water. Spray some water on your bearded dragon’s nose and let it lick it to help it stay hydrated. If your dragon isn’t interested in water, try a diluted fruit juice instead (3 parts water: 1 part juice). You can give them diluted grape, apple, and other permitted fruit juices.
8. They’re Shedding
Bearded dragons shed their outer layer of skin as they mature, a process known as ecdysis. Their skin turns white and papery as a result of this process, and it is rubbed off in patches.
The frequency and length of shedding vary greatly depending on the age of the bearded dragon.
It can take up to two weeks for a huge adult to shed completely. It’s possible that a juvenile will shed in a day or two. Younger dragons can shed once a month, twice a week, or even every two weeks. Adults may only shed once or twice a year.
Check to see if your bearded dragon is about to shed if you find he isn’t eating as much as usual. This is the most likely cause of white papery skin.
Beardies may eat less or not at all before and during shedding. Within a week of shedding, they should be eating regularly.
After the majority of their skin has been lost, they will resume eating. Some animals, particularly hatchlings and juveniles, retain their appetite and continue to eat.
Avoid peeling or forcibly removing the shedding skin from your bearded dragon. This can cause harm and lead to infections. Instead, allow the process to occur naturally and provide the necessary support as mentioned above.
Provide proper humidity: Maintaining appropriate humidity levels in your bearded dragon’s enclosure is essential for a successful shed. Aim for a humidity level of 30-40% during the shedding process. You can increase humidity by misting the enclosure lightly with water or providing a shallow water dish for your pet to soak in.
Offer a shedding aid: Provide your bearded dragon with suitable items to help them rub against and remove the shed skin. Rocks, branches, or rough-textured decorations can be placed in their enclosure to aid in this process. Be sure the items are clean and safe for your pet to use.
Encourage bathing: Offering your bearded dragon a lukewarm bath can help soften and loosen the shedding skin. Fill a shallow container with water that is about 85-90°F (29-32°C) and let your pet soak for 10-15 minutes. This can be done once or twice a week during the shedding process.
9. They’re being bullied
While some people keep their bearded dragons together, this is not really the smartest idea.
Bearded dragons are solitary lizards who compete fiercely for food, sunbathing, and hiding sites, among other things. As a result, one bearded dragon refuses to eat either because others will not allow it or simply because it is afraid.
There’ll be an alpha and beta (main and submissive bearded dragons) in the group. A submissive dragon will be slow and will not try to obtain items that it requires.
When it comes to housing two bearded dragons, the only option is to house two females. Even in ideal living conditions, they can grow to dislike each other.
A minimum of a 120 gallon bearded dragon tank is required, as well as distinct basking and hiding areas, basking areas, and other amenities.
At the end of the day, housing two or more bearded dragons together isn’t worth it because there are too many dangers. You won’t be able to keep an eye on them all the time, so anything could happen. Even the tiniest behavioral signals that a bearded dragon is agitated may go missed by you. So, it’s best to keep your dragons apart.
Avoid housing dragons together: Housing two or more bearded dragons together isn’t worth it because there are too many dangers.
Tips on How to Get a Bearded Dragon to Eat
Consider an Appetite Stimulant
You want your bearded dragons to eat on their own but for a short-term solution while you figure out why they’re not eating you can use an appetite stimulant.
Feeding with an appetite stimulant will help if a bearded dragon begins to get weak or lose too much weight.
Some of the best products are:
Fluker’s Repta+Boost Insectivore & Carnivore High Amp Boost: This is a nutritional supplement and appetite stimulant specifically designed for reptiles, including bearded dragons. It contains essential vitamins, minerals, and a blend of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats to encourage eating.
Zoo Med Repti Appetite Stimulant: Zoo Med’s appetite stimulant is a liquid formula that helps encourage bearded dragons to eat by providing a source of essential nutrients and promoting a healthy gut. It contains a mix of vitamins, minerals, and digestive enzymes that work together to improve digestion and increase the appeal of food.
Offer them Some Vegetables that are Still in the Ground
In the wild, bearded dragons eat their vegetables straight from the ground. If you have a garden with fresh vegetables, let your beardie roam around and choose the food it wants to eat itself, it should come naturally to them. This will reduce their stress levels and increase their enjoyment!
Grow a dozen trays of vegetation to allow for plant rotation in order to save, regenerate, and maintain good hygiene.
Chemical fertilizers should be avoided because they will likely result in high levels of nitrates in the food. It’s also bad for the environment.
Try Hand Feeding
Hand-feeding plants can also help to pique interest. Try combining vegetation and a worm in such a way that the worm cannot resist taking the vegetation with it.
When offering food, be careful how the food is held so your bearded dragon does not bite you. Feeding tongs will protect you, but make sure your bearded dragon’s teeth aren’t damaged.
This method can also be used to serve whole leaves. To attract attention, use movement such as waving it in front of the bearded dragon.
It’s possible that the bearded dragon will try to eat it. Make sure your bearded dragon does not become reliant on hand-feeding; it should not be done on a regular basis.
Hang the Vegetables in the Tank
Vegetation can be given to your beardie by attaching whole leaves in a bunch and suspending them at the top of the cage. Leaves can also be held in place by hand or any other means that allows them to be tugged on.
Bearded dragons can pick at the leaves in this method, cropping them like they do in the wild. It’s so much more enjoyable for picky bearded dragons to be able to eat the greens in their natural state.
Never Give Up
You should stop giving them feeders for a few weeks until they realize they need to eat their greens. You can gradually reintroduce feeders once they’ve started eating their greens.
If your dragon is an adult, consider giving them feeders only 2-3 times per week and greens on a daily basis. Just keep an eye on their weight at all times.
Bearded dragons prefer to avoid their food in the hopes of getting something better, so giving in will only reinforce this childish behavior.
Force-feeding a Bearded Dragon
Force-feeding a bearded dragon is okay, but only with veterinary permission! When your bearded dragon isn’t eating, failing to consult your veterinarian can lead to serious problems in the long run.
The following are some of the most common side effects of force-feeding:
- Increasing anxiety
- Severing ties
- Creating negative food associations
- An injury to the throat
This is why, unless your pet is malnourished or ill, a vet will provide many other options before recommending this. If your bearded dragon is at a healthy weight, don’t assume anything bad is going on when they stop eating.
You will require the following items to force-feed:
Vegetables, fruit, mealworms, and a small syringe (no needle) Vitamin supplement
The syringe is required to insert the food into the beardy’s throat. Mix vegetables, fruits, and insects.
Vegetables and fruits provide essential vitamins, whereas mealworms simply taste good and persuade them to eat again. A vitamin supplement is required to replace lost nutrition while the reptile is ill or not eating.
Blend together equal parts vegetables, fruits, mealworms, and a vitamin supplement to make a puree. If necessary, add a splash of water to loosen it up. Fill the syringe halfway with the puree.
put the puree into the syringe and gently take the tip to the back of your beardies throat. Then slowly insert some of the purée until they swallow it.
When your bearded dragon stops eating, you should always look into all the possibilities to rule out any serious habitat or health issues.
Making sure your beardie is healthy, has the right temperatures, and is getting enough UVB exposure is critical to getting them to eat again! And, if in doubt, take them to a reptile veterinarian just to be on the safe side!