Bearded dragons can stop eating or lose their appetite for a variety of reasons. We as first-time owners of these lizards may experience worry when they go off feed. Reptiles don’t need to eat everyday, and sometimes a few days off is a normal occurrence.
There are environmental factors that may also contribute to lack of appetite, such as temperature, or time of year. To help ease your concerns, I have listed a few reasons your beardie might be uninterested in food and some possible solutions below.
Why Your Bearded Dragon Is Not Eating?
There are few reasons why your bearded dragon may lose his appetite or stop eating altogether.
Temperature & Humidity
The temperature and humidity within the enclosure might be too high or too low, and this can interfere with proper digestion of food. A reading of 30-40% is desirable. A basking spot of 100-110 degrees F works well for my own beardie. Accurate temperature and humidity gauges are a must in any beardie enclosure. Measure and adjust temps until they are within the best range for your lizard’s comfort.
Feeder insects can carry parasites that can make your beardie sick, and less inclined to eat. Other signs to watch out for are lethargy and diarrhea. You will need to take your beardie to a reptile vet in order to get a fecal exam to find out what type of parasite you are dealing with. Oral medication is generally given for a course of about a week or two.
Some bearded dragons go into a form of semi-hibernation referred to as brumation. They sleep most of the time but may wake to bask or occasionally take a small meal. Some dragons do not eat or poop during this period which may last for a few months. You will need to soak them at least twice a week to keep them hydrated during this time.
For the first year of life, bearded dragons eat nothing but insects. Getting these lizards to accept greens and veggies can be challenging. They can straight up refuse to eat for weeks until supplied with their favorite bugs.
For older dragons who may favor certain fruits or veggies, you’ll have to get crafty to sneak in variety to their diet.
Lack of appetite, lethargy, and a drop in weight are all significant signs your beardie needs to be checked out by a good reptile vet. There could be an underlying illness causing these symptoms, and if it is serious, you’ll want to catch it early.
How Long Can A Bearded Dragon Go Without Food?
As desert dwelling reptiles, bearded dragons can go weeks without food, sometimes a few months. This allows them to survive in their native habitat when food sources are scarce. In captivity, this usually occurs during brumation. There are a few things you can keep an eye on to make sure your beardie stays healthy if he goes off food for a while.
- Weekly Weigh-Ins – I weighed my beardie often in the first year I had him and recorded the weights and dates in a notebook. This helped me to keep track of his growth, and changes in weight. This was very useful during his brumation.
- The weight range for adult bearded dragons can be anywhere from 350 – over 600 grams. Their weight readings will fluctuate after taking a meal, getting soaked, and pooping. My beardie lost at least 10 grams after a bowel movement. Be sure to mark down any changes, especially if they ate, pooped, or soaked before recording weights.
Signs of Eating and Drinking
- Full-Fat Pads on Head – The top of your dragon’s head should have two little fat humps. They should NOT be sunken in, or show visible bones.
- The base of Tail is Thick, No Hip Bones Visible – The base of the tail should be well rounded with no visible hip bones under the skin.
- Ribs Not Visible Under Skin – Ribs should be just barely visible under the skin of the back.
- Pinched Skin Snaps Back In Place – To test for possible dehydration, pinch the skin of your beardie’s back. If it snaps back in place quickly, all is good. If it’s slow to return in place, then you need to hydrate by soaking for around 15-20 minutes.
A Note On Soaking & Drinking – I try to soak my bearded dragon 10-15 minutes once a week during the spring and summer when he is eating regularly, and twice a week during winter when his appetite dwindles.
While beardies do absorb some water through soaking, it’s also good to try to get them to drink if you can. Most of the time, these lizards won’t actively drink from a dish, but you can try the ‘drip method’.
This involves using a syringe to drip water on the tip of their mouth until they start licking. This has worked for me more than once. Don’t worry if your beardie doesn’t do this right away, since it may take a few tries for them to get the idea.
Why Your Baby Bearded Dragon Won’t Eat
- Failure to Thrive – If a baby beardie refuses to eat on their own and continues to gain no weight, it could be due to factors such as weak genetics, poor husbandry of hatchlings, or other unseen causes. A reptile vet is needed to assess the best course of action for the baby beardie, and it may mean humanely euthanizing if they can’t recover.
- Environment – Issues with temperature could be just as much a problem for babies as it is for adults. The ambient temperature inside the enclosure should be 80-85 degrees F. The basking area should range 95-110 degrees F.
- Competition with Cagemates – Housing babies together can lead to nipped tails and toes, and not enough food to go around. Housing babies individually will allow them to eat enough food and to feel safe.
- Enclosure too big/ Doesn’t feel safe – Starting a baby beardie off in a smaller enclosure may help him feel more secure. Smaller spaces make them feel less vulnerable to attack by predators. Multiple hiding spots will help reduce stress since they can scramble for cover if they ever feel scared. As they grow, your bearded dragon’s fear will subside and he will sit out in the open proudly.
How To Get Your Beardie To Eat
Foods to Stimulate Appetite
Whenever I’ve had trouble getting my beardie to eat on his own, I have had great luck using canned pumpkin. I usually mix in chopped greens or vitamin supplements.
Some dragons may eat it straight from their usual food dish, or you can try spoon-feeding them. Along with canned pumpkin, vegetable-based baby foods may also work for you. Again, you can mix in greens or vitamins.
Beardies seem to be attracted to certain colors more than others, such as red, green, or yellow. Many of their favorite foods possess these colors, and they’re naturally drawn to them.
Pumpkin, butternut squash, yellow squash, red peppers, strawberries, raspberries, etc. are all things that will catch the eye of your dragons.
Food dish colors may also place a part in influencing appetite in the same way as food. I have used both blue and red dishes, and I have to say that the reddish seems to get more of a response. Warm colors such as red, orange, or yellow may be something to give a try.
Bugs/Bait & Switch
Here’s another method to try if your beardie is off feed, but still eating bugs. Use your dragon’s favorite bugs and give them to him one at a time. While he is chewing, stick greens or veggies in his mouth.
They may manage to spit some of the food out, but you might have some success. This method can be hit or miss because some beardies (like mine) will get wise to what you’re doing, and decide to keep their mouth closed tight.
Force-feeding with a syringe should only be done under the direction of a qualified reptile vet. It can be very stressful, but there are some occasions which may be necessary. Depending on what is going on with your bearded dragon, your vet will recommend a type of solution to feed, like Oxbow’s Critical Care.
I strongly suggest seeing a reptile vet before deciding to force-feed your pet, and especially if you’ve never done so before. Your vet can show you how to safely do it at home under the right direction.
Did you enjoy these helpful tips provided in the article? I can’t tell you how many articles I read through as a first-time owner of a bearded dragon.
It meant a great deal to me to learn what was going on with my beardie and how to address any issues he might have. Your beardie’s health and well-being are just as important to you, and I thank you for learning from my experience.
If you liked my article, please share it! Let me hear your thoughts in the comments below, as I’d love to hear from you.