You’re tossing out your beardie’s food in the trash for the third or fourth time this week. Insects are barely touched. Vegetables and leafy greens are wilting in the enclosure.
“Why is my bearded dragon not eating?“
That may be you, wondering why your bearded dragon (who usually has a strong desire for food) has suddenly gone on a hunger strike.
As a pet parent, it can be worrying, and you might start to panic. Are you doing something wrong? Is your beardie sick? Why won’t he eat anything at all?
Bearded dragons are usually enthusiastic eaters. Usually, they quickly swoop and feast on the insects and vegetables provided. They sure enjoy their food passionately, and it’s fun to watch. However, there are times when bearded dragons may stop eating. Unfortunately, it’s up to you to help them get through these periods.
Fortunately, this article will help ease your worries. We’ll provide you with possible problems and solutions to curb this issue.
Why is my bearded dragon not eating?
Bearded dragons can’t tell us what the problem is, so we have to figure it all out according to conditions. Many factors can contribute to them not eating; some are life-threatening, while others are not serious.
Let’s get into it.
There are many potential causes of stress in bearded dragons, including:
- Environmental issues – including relocation, loud noises, and other pets.
- Tank issues – such as new tank items, wrong tank size, aggressive live feeders, incorrect temperature and lighting, etc.
- Poor diet or change in diet.
- Mating season
- Excessive handling or lack of attention
- Cohabitation or aggressive tank mates
Stress is one of the main reasons why a bearded dragon might refuse to eat. But the refusal to eat is just one of the signs of stress. So, how can you tell when your beardie is stressed?
Here are some telltale signs.
- Stress marks – dark markings or tiger stripes on the belly and chin
- Dark beard, and then it puffs out
- Low activity levels due to low energy
- Not basking enough
- They get aggressive
- Glass surfing
- Head bobbing
Possible Solution: Determine what’s causing the stress. If there’s something you can do to change that, do it. For instance, you can house bearded dragons in separate enclosures, make sure you have the right tank size, eliminate the accessories stressing them, etc.
In some cases, there’s nothing you can do. Just give them some time to adjust to the new changes.
The process of shedding in bearded dragons is called ecdysis. It is a natural and healthy process, so you don’t have to worry about it.
Bearded dragons’ skin is not elastic, so it doesn’t stretch as they grow. Therefore, they shed their old skin for new skin. The frequency and length of the process depend on age. Young beardies shed more frequently (even weekly) than adults, who can shed once or twice per year.
It is easy to tell when a bearded dragon is shedding because the skin appears white and paper-like. Furthermore, the skin is dry, and it flakes off.
During this process, bearded dragons might lose their appetite before and during shedding. Sometimes, they refuse to eat because they can eat the shed skin to reabsorb nutrients.
If your beardie exhibits shedding signs, keep them as comfortable as possible. Warm baths (not too hot) can help relieve pain and discomfort. They can soften the skin, making it easier to shed.
Note: Don’t pull or tug at the skin, even if it’s dangling. It can cause them pain and even lead to infections.
Brumation is the reptile version of hibernation.
What does this mean?
Brumation is a natural process that occurs during the winter months. During this period, bearded dragons refuse to eat and live off their built-up internal nutritional reserves.
Brumation is not necessary for pet beardies, but many will go through it because it’s an instinctual survival tactic.
At the same time, some beardies will never go through it.
The following signs can be easily attributed to brumation; beardie is refusing to eat, sleeping for prolonged hours, hiding more, avoiding handling, and having fewer bowel movements.
If your bearded dragon goes through brumation, you can give him optimal brumating conditions by dialing down the heat and light. Also, ensure a constant supply of food and water, even if they won’t need them. Finally, let the brumating beardies be and try not to disturb them.
Despite their hardiness, bearded dragons can suffer from a variety of diseases and other health conditions, including metabolic bone disease, intestinal impaction, parasites, mouth or tail rot, and respiratory infections.
Besides the loss of appetite, what are some other signs that your bearded dragon is ill?
- Sunken eyes
- Lethargy or fewer movements
- Discolored skin
- Weight loss
- Unusual breathing
Any rapid change (physical or behavioral) may indicate that your pet is unwell, and you should visit a vet immediately. If left unchecked, some conditions can be deadly.
If your beardie seems to have low energy and a loss of appetite, we hate to break it to you, but you may have a malnourished bearded dragon.
Malnourishment develops when a beardie doesn’t get enough minerals, vitamins, and nutrients that the body needs to function and thrive. Unfortunately, it develops due to poor care or living conditions – poor diet or vitamin deficiency.
Oftentimes, a malnourished bearded dragon can display the following signs:
- Cloudy or sunken eyes
- Soft, runny, or foul stool
- Swollen limbs or tail
- Discolored stomach
- The inside of the mouth is discolored
- Deflated fat pads
- Calcium deficiency (weak bones)
If your beardie displays any of these signs, you should contact your vet to rule out any health concerns. If the pet appears thinner than usual, ensure that you offer a nutrient-rich diet. A healthy diet consists of feeder insects, vegetables (and leafy greens), fruits, and supplements.
You can also increase the feeding frequency and ensure that they eat as many insects as possible in 10 to 15 minutes.
Insufficient UVB lighting
Bearded dragons need UVB lighting to survive. In the wild, they get it from the sun, while in captivity, they get it from UVB bulbs.
UVB is essential for the following reasons:
- Synthesis of vitamin D
- Calcium absorption
- Efficient metabolism
- Healthy growth and development
Without UVB, beardies can experience loss of appetite and calcium deficiency, resulting in serious health issues such as metabolic bone disease,
To correct improper lighting, provide high-quality UV bulbs. 10.0 UV bulbs are ideal for a bearded dragon’s enclosure. On top of that, you should replace the bulbs every 6 to 12 months.
Being ectotherms (cold-blooded), bearded dragons need external heat sources for thermoregulation. Heat is essential for food digestion, so it’s essential to provide proper temperatures.
The optimal temperature in a bearded dragon’s enclosure should be a gradient of basking and cool zone temperatures. The basking area needs to be warm, while the cool zone should be on the opposite side of the enclosure. The temperature difference means that the enclosure should provide the means to thermoregulate.
As a result, you should always use a thermometer to monitor the proper temperature gradient on both sides of the enclosure. The ideal temperature range of the basking side should be 95 – 105℉, while the basking side should be 75 – 85℉.
Bearded dragons are prone to injuries.
An injured bearded dragon is most likely to stop eating. The injury could be from a bite (from another beardie or prey when feeding) or a fall.
Some common signs of an injured beardie are cuts or scratches on the skin, bleeding, crooked limbs, and fewer movements. If you scan through your beardie regularly, it can be quite easy to notice an injury. If you see any signs of an injury, you can have the vet inspect it to avoid infections and further medical problems.
Also, reduce the chances of an injury by doing the following:
- Avoid housing bearded dragons in the same enclosure
- Have an enclosure and decor that is friendly to your pet
- Avoid offering live foods that are too large for your beardie.
Like human babies, bearded dragons experience a growth spurt, affecting their eating and sleeping cycles.
Baby beardies grow rapidly. But as they grow older, they begin to slow down and grow in smaller, less frequent growth spurts. As babies, they eat a lot for growth and development. However, as adults, they eat for sustenance.
So, if your baby beardie has been eating well and frequently up to this point, a growth spurt might be why they’re not eating as much as they used to. In this case, you will need to adjust their diet and feeding frequency as they grow older. Mature beardies are happy to eat once a day.
How do I get my bearded dragon to eat?
Here are some simple approaches you may take to get your beardie to start eating again.
Make the feeding process fun
Instead of always feeding your bearded dragon in a food bowl, you can try hand-feeding or spoon-feeding to increase their interest in the food. But be careful, because they can accidentally bite you.
Also, you can try chopping up the veggies in different shapes, but they have to be in bite-sized pieces so they can eat them easily.
Offer a wide variety of food
For us humans, eating the same diet every day can get boring and unappealing. The same applies to beardies. Offering a varied diet is one of the essential things in their diet. Give a wide selection of insects, worms, veggies, leafy greens, and fruits. But be cautious not to offer toxic foods such as avocados, beets, lettuce, rhubarb, and spinach.
Still, at this point, colorful foods can do the trick. Bearded dragons can be attracted to bright colors such as red, green, and yellow. Foods such as bright peppers, pumpkins, strawberries, etc., may come in handy.
Give an appetite stimulant
An appetite stimulant is only recommended when a bearded dragon begins to get weak or lose weight while still refusing to eat anything completely.
An appetite stimulant can make bearded dragons hungry, but it doesn’t address the underlying cause of not eating. So, even if you use it, you will still need to figure out and address the problem.
Now, force-feeding is quite a sensitive issue because it’s both good and bad. It’s bad because it can cause the following issues;
- Negative food association
- Stall their social development
- Injury to the throat
However, it can save the life of a dehydrated and malnourished beardie.
All in all, force-feeding is okay if a vet has recommended it. It should be your last resort.
As you can see, your bearded dragon can stop eating for various reasons. It could be due to health issues, habitat issues, or natural factors (e.g., brumation).
How to get them to eat can be an uphill task because you have to figure out why they aren’t eating in the first place. But, there are some steps you can take to try and help stimulate their appetite.
If all else fails and you’re still unsure, it would be best to take them to a veterinarian to be on the safe side.