Bearded dragons have long been a favorite pocket pet of many. As stoic as these little critters can be, when a beardie stops eating, we need to worry. So how long can bearded dragons go without food?
Dr. Jess will answer this important question below:
There are many reasons why a beardie may stop eating, from a change of diet, differing temperatures, illness, new equipment in the tank, and so much more.
So if you pet stops eating, how long can they survive and what should you do about it?
What is a Bearded Dragon?
Bearded dragons are reptiles that are categorized into the desert lizard category.
They fall into the genus Pogona with eight different species falling under this grouping.
The eight species of bearded dragons, are distinguished from one another and named for the differences in their spines on their chins and necks.
Bearded dragons get their name from their armor of spiny scales, which include a “beard” of spikes under its chin and neck that puffs up depending on their mood, most commonly seen when puffed out upset for them to seem larger to whatever is upsetting them.
This may be paired with a erry ‘hiss’ when really upset.
They can live up to 10 years and can reach up to 24 inches and weigh up to 18 ounces once full grown. They range in colors from brown, to orange, to yellow, to cream.
Bearded dragons are often referred to as “beardies”, are one of the more popular reptilian pets because of their cool, interesting exterior and their popularity being of low maintenance pets.
What do Bearded Dragons Eat?
These guys are considered omnivorous, meaning they eat what both herbivores (plant-eaters) and carnivores (meat-eaters).
Beardies commonly consume vegetables, fruits, and insects.
Some of the more common store-bought fruits and vegetables that can be thoroughly washed and served up to your little buddy include:
- Raw Asparagus
- Raw Bell Peppers
- Raw Cabbage
- Collard greens
- Peeled Cucumbers
- Spaghetti squash
- Raw Zucchini
- Yellow squash
They have strong jaws that clench and crush hard-shelled insects like mealworms and beetles.
Here is a list of the most common bugs that owners will purchase for their beardies:
- Butter worms
- King worms
- Wax worms
Owners should never feed their pet dragon any insects that they find in their home as these insects may have been in contact with pesticides or other harmful chemicals that could make a bearded dragon sick.
You should always purchase food for your pet from a reputable source.
Do They Have to Have Live Food?
Young beardies tend to eat more insects than fruits and vegetables.
As adults, these pets tend to eat in the opposite form, more vegetables and fruits over insects.
But do these insects need to live or can they be served to your pet in other forms?
You can serve your pet dried or frozen varieties of many of the above listed insects.
Many pet stores have a variety of dried insects in stock for you to choose from.
However, many beardies won’t eat insects unless they see movement, so live insects are the best bet for actually being eaten by your lizard.
How To Feed A Bearded Dragon?
- Store-bought vegetables
- kitchen knife
- cutting board
- shallow dish/bowl
- Vegetables should be finely chopped or diced and mixed together in the shallow dish, so that your bearded dragon eats a wide variety of food types and doesn't just pick out and eat their favorites.
- To do this, thoroughly wash the vegetables and place on the cutting board.
- Finely chop the vegetables into very small pieces and place inside the shallow serving dish.
- Using a spoon, mix the diced vegetables as well as other items you wish for your beardie to eat, all together.
- Place the shallow dish on a flat surface inside your dragon's enclosure and allow your pet to eat!
Food should be offered in a shallow clean dish that is not easy for the bearded dragon to tip over.
How often To Feed Bearded Dragons?
Your beardie should be feed 1-2 times a day.
Most adults usually only need to be feed once a day, younger dragons, one to two times a day. Very young ones may be feed even more frequently throughout the day.
If you are feeding yours twice a day but you notice that they are not eating the second meal, knock the feeding down to just once a day.
Why is My Bearded Dragon Not Eating?
- Wrong Temperature: Too low of temperature, change in lighting,
- Change in their Environment: Dirty vivarium, new or different items in the tank, new items in housing, new cleaning products in the home,
- Change in their Diet: new brand, type, or flavor of foods. Change in water source,
- Stress: Adding or subtracting other living creatures from the home, new location of tank or other bearded dragons,
- Brumation: A type of hibernation where the pet stops eating and occasionally will drink water. Usually seen in Fall and Winter when light cycle changes and there is less daylight and when temperatures typically drop.
- Illness: Check for signs of sickness such as diarrhea, fecal impaction (look for lack of feces), and parasites.
What is Brumation or Brumating?
It is hibernation for lizards!
When temperatures drop, lizards can go into their own form of hibernation known as brumation.
They commonly wake up to drink water and they are back off to sleep.
While lizards are brumating, they can literally go months without eating, just drinking on a regular basis to keep their body functioning.
How Long Can A Bearded Dragon Live Without Eating?
The answer to this question greatly depends on the age and health of your pet.
For instance, adult beardies with extra weight to lose can go up to 2 months or longer without food, although this is far from optimal!
Young dragons who need nutrients from their food for adequate growth and nutrition can not go that long without sustenance.
And if your dragon is brumating, they can go weeks or months without eating.
My Dragon isn’t Eating. Is it Brumation or Illness? How Do I Tell?
According to the 2008 proceedings of the World Small Animal Veterinary Association World Congress Proceedings…
“Unfortunately many pet owners assume their pet is undergoing this physiological hibernation / brumation when the pet is actually starving due to illness or poor husbandry. Consequently reptiles are often presented to veterinary clinics in an advanced state of debilitation.”https://www.vin.com/apputil/content/defaultadv1.aspx?id=3866646&pid=11268&print=1
Your pocket pet vet can help you to decide whether your pet is undergoing brumation or is ill and needs to seek diagnostics and treatment.
You should contact your vet as soon as you notice your dragon is not eating and acting out of its normal character. That is, unless you are familiar with its brumation habits and feel that that is what is taking place.
Review the conditions (ex. Fall/Winter months with shorter daylight and lower temperatures) where brumation in lizards take place. Contact your vet with concerns.
What To Do When They Stop Eating Food:
Did you read my section above? Call your vet. If you have any questions it is better to ask. Trust me, your vet will not mind.
Sometimes, after thoughtful reflection, you may remember a change in the home that may have led to the halting of eating, such as a new food, new equipment in the enclosure, or a new cleaner for instance.
You will need to revert back to the previous environment when your pet was eating. Once comfortable and happy again, your dragon may begin eating once more.
If your vet finds that your buddy has in fact stopped eating and needs medical attention, they will likely need to provide your bearded dragon with treatment to help in their recovery back to health such as:
- Fluids, electrolytes, and/or warm water baths to rehydrate
- Assisted feedings such as using feeding tubes to deliver nutrients
- nutritional counseling
- environmental counseling
- etc. based on your pet’s symptoms
Can You Force-Feed a Bearded Dragon?
Many people have experienced force-feeding bearded dragons.
However, I do not recommend this on your own.
This should only be done once your vet has recommended it and has shown you the proper way that they want you to perform the procedure as this can be dangerous for the lizard.