Is it safe for bearded dragons to eat mice?
Are small rodents a natural prey to a beardie?
Do these lizards eat mice in the wild?
Should they be fed mice in captivity?
We know adult bearded dragons require approximately 30% of their diet to be made up of protein.
Since this protein usually comes from insects, owners often wonder if there is any room in their diet for animal protein.
If bearded dragons can consume mice, what kinds of mice do they eat, and when should these mice be fed to the lizards?
There are many conflicting opinions about whether or not pet bearded dragons should be fed mice.
Today we will discuss whether or not these animals can eat mice and if they should eat mice.
We will also review what kinds of mice might be acceptable and in what situations mice may be part of the menu.
Can Bearded Dragons Eat Mice?
Bearded dragons are omnivores and can eat and digest small baby mice. However, mice are high in fat and protein and should not be fed to a healthy bearded dragon. There are only a few scenarios in which feeding your pet lizard mice may be warranted.
Since bearded dragons are omnivores and can eat and digest insects, animals, and plant matter, they are technically able to consume mice.
This does not mean a captive beardie can eat any mouse or be fed mice in general.
It is important to note a bearded dragon is not necessarily a natural predator to a mouse.
If a wild beardie is roaming around searching for food and happens upon a baby mouse, it may decide to eat it.
Even though the reptile was not on the hunt for the mouse specifically, these animals will not pass up food when they come across it.
Wild beardies also move around and exercise significantly more than pet beardies.
Because of this level of activity, they will likely need to eat more.
Your pet lizard is also receiving a healthy and balanced diet regularly.
This is not true for a beardie in the wild.
Since wild bearded dragons are eating the foods they come across by chance; they are most likely eating a less healthy diet than the nutritious meals provided by most pet owners.
If your pet beardie is in good health and you are consistently providing it with balanced and nutritious meals, there is no reason to introduce any mouse into its diet.
A versatile diet consisting of lots of greens and the appropriate amount of insect protein will keep health concerns at bay.
Remember, more than half of a bearded dragon’s diet should consist of healthy greens such as mustard greens, collard greens, and kale.
If you find yourself with an underweight beardie, but you are feeding it all of the essential vitamins and minerals it needs in its regular diet, you may need to look for warning signs of a health issue.
There are two scenarios where feeding mice to your pet is acceptable and possibly necessary.
- Pregnancy: If your bearded dragon is heavily pregnant and in need of extra protein, a baby mouse here and there may be helpful.
- Illness: If your pet was recently ill and needs to regain its strength quickly, then you might consider briefly adding mice to the menu.
Unless your bearded dragon falls into one of these two categories, you should not be contemplating whether or not to feed it mice.
Simply stick to live feeder insects as their source of protein.
If you consider feeding mice to your beardie and it’s pregnant or weak from an illness such as parasites, you should consult with your vet before making any final decisions.
What Kind of Mice Should You Buy To Feed Bearded Dragon?
There is only one type of mouse which should be fed to your bearded dragon, but it is available for purchase in two forms.
Newborn mice, also referred to as pinky mice, are the only rodents you should be purchasing for your reptile.
Pinky mice are newborn mice only a few days old.
Once these mice reach approximately one week in age, they are considered fuzzy mice.
Fuzzy mice are more developed than pinkies and are too large and less nutritious.
An adult mouse is entirely out of the question when looking for mice to feed your pet lizard.
An adult mouse is much too large for a beardie to eat and digest.
Feeder mice are available for purchase live or frozen.
No matter which form you decide to purchase for feeding, you must remember pinky mice are the only mice acceptable for your pet reptile.
A pinky mouse, also referred to as feeder mice, is a newborn mouse.
Ideally, the best bearded dragon mice are one to three days old.
They are considered immature mice at this age, and most of their bones have not yet developed.
Since these newborn mice lack bones and are very small, they make for the only acceptable mouse to feed your adult bearded dragon.
Once the bones in the mice begin to form and harden and grow fur, they are fuzzy mice.
They are no longer considered immature mice, and their nutritional value decreases significantly.
The sizes of mice matter greatly for bearded dragons.
These reptiles are prone to impaction and need their food to be appropriately sized to avoid any discomfort or health issues.
Feeder mice are not recommended for healthy lizards because of their high fat and protein content.
Adult bearded dragon diets only require 30% insect or animal protein.
Baby bearded dragons need 70% protein; however, mice should never be fed to baby beardies.
Feeder mice are too large for their digestive systems.
Let’s take a look at the protein and fat content and other essential nutrients in mice.
The following chart contains nutrition information for 100 g of pinky mice, with relevant nutrients listed.
|Calcium (Ca)||160 mg|
|Phosphorus (P)||90 mg|
As shown above, the protein and fat content of 100 g of pinky mice is extremely high.
It is also worth noting the calcium to phosphorus ratio (Ca:P) is 160:90 or 1.78:1.
This is a beneficial ratio for bearded dragons.
We will compare the Ca:P ratio of pinky mice to fuzzy mice in the next section and discuss the change in protein and fat content.
A mouse falls into the fuzzy mice category once it has reached approximately one week in age.
At this point, the bones have begun developing in the mouse, and its nutrition information has changed drastically.
Fuzzy mice will never have a place in the proper diet of a bearded dragon, whether it is healthy, pregnant, or recovering from any illness.
These mice are too large and bony and will increase the risk of impaction drastically.
If you are looking to feeder mice as a temporary food source for your pet, you should only be purchasing pinky mice.
The following chart contains the nutrition information for 100 g of fuzzy mice.
|Calcium (Ca)||140 mg|
|Phosphorus (P)||180 mg|
As seen above, the values of each of the four nutrient factors we are discussing have changed in only a few days.
The protein has decreased by approximately one-third, and the fat content has nearly doubled.
The calcium and phosphorus ratio has also been affected, going from 160:90 to 140:180.
Now, the phosphorus levels are higher than the calcium levels.
Since you should always strive for the calcium content to be twice as much as the phosphorus content, this ratio is not beneficial when striving for a nutritious diet.
If you are feeding a mouse to your beardie, provide it with a food source containing high levels of protein and some fat.
Since the protein content decreases significantly and the fat content doubles from pinky mice to fuzzy mice, the benefits of the treat are lost.
An adult mouse is much too large to feed to your adult bearded dragon.
Allowing your pet to attempt to eat a live adult mouse is dangerous to their health and well-being.
A fully grown live mouse is challenging to kill and poses a higher threat of injury than a live pinky or insect.
Even if the adult mouse was frozen and is provided to your pet lizard once thawed, there is a high risk of impaction.
The drawbacks of providing this form of meat to your beardie outweigh any possible benefits associated with it.
Frozen mice are another viable option if you are in a situation where you need to feed mice to your pet lizard.
Again, the only safe and acceptable mice to feed your pet are newborn pinky mice.
If you are unable to find live pinkies or you would prefer not to feed your pet beardie, live newborns, you have the option of purchasing frozen mice.
Most pet stores carry both live and frozen feeder mice.
If you opt to purchase the frozen mice, there are a few steps you will need to take to prepare the mice for feeding properly.
When you are preparing a meal of frozen mice for your beardie, you will need to take the time to defrost the mice thoroughly.
These mice need to thaw out for two reasons.
The first being a frozen mouse will be much too hard to eat.
Beardies have very delicate teeth, and a frozen mouse, pinky or not, will be too tough to eat.
The second important reason to thaw your frozen mice before feeding is because bearded dragons cannot digest food at extreme temperatures.
Foods which are too hot or too cold will upset the digestive system of your beardie and possibly lead to further health problems.
A frozen mouse will have a temperature well below 32° degrees Fahrenheit (0° C).
Ideally, you will want to increase the temperature of the mouse to be somewhere between 86 and 95° degrees Fahrenheit (35° C).
Thawing mice is similar to thawing meat.
If you leave them out on the counter, they will likely grow bacteria quickly and run the risk of making your bearded dragon sick.
The best way to thaw out your frozen mice is to portion out the appropriate serving size into a sealed bag.
Once you have done so, place the bag in the refrigerator or submerge it in a bowl of lukewarm water.
On average, it will take one to two hours to thaw out a pinky mouse.
Whether you have decided to submerge your bag in lukewarm water or defrost it in the refrigerator, you will need to check the mice are at an optimal temperature before feeding them to your lizard.
While it is true bearded dragons can eat pinky mice, they should not be provided mice regularly.
Some owners may be inclined to feed pinkies to their beardie as a treat.
This is not recommended.
A better alternative for an occasional treat is a live hornworm.
These insects have a high calcium level and are an excellent choice when looking for a rare snack for your bearded dragon.
There are very few situations in which you should consider feeding pinky mice to your pet dragon.
If your beardie is heavily pregnant and lacks essential nutrients, or if it is weak and was recently ill with intestinal parasites, you may consider briefly adding pinkies to their food dish.
If you decide to add mice to the menu, remember only to purchase pinky mice, whether they are live or frozen.
Fuzzy mice and adult mice are entirely out of the question when it comes to feeding bearded dragons.