Is it safe for a bearded dragon to eat spinach?
Are there other foods or supplements which offer health benefits?
Understanding your bearded dragon’s dietary needs is vital to maintaining its overall health and well-being.
A bearded dragon’s diet should include various fruits, vegetables, insects, and supplements to ensure the beardie gets the essential nutrients it needs for healthy growth.
Some fruits and vegetables are more nutritious than others.
In this article, we will take a closer look at which types of food a bearded dragon should eat and which ones to avoid.
Can A Bearded Dragon Eat Spinach?
According to veterinarians and animal nutritionists, spinach is considered a safe food for bearded dragons to eat. However, spinach should only be given sparingly or as a treat due to its high amounts of oxalates.
Oxalates bind to calcium and prevent it from being absorbed by the bearded dragon’s body.
Over time, this lack of calcium will cause metabolic bone disease, which is incurable and fatal to bearded dragons.
Symptoms of metabolic bone disease include shaking limbs, softening of the facial bones, lumps along the spine, and the inability of the bearded dragon to hold itself up from the ground.
Let’s look more closely at the benefits and concerns of feeding spinach to your bearded dragon.
Are There Any Benefits from Spinach in a Bearded Dragon’s Diet?
Spinach is high in protein; however, your bearded dragon will get 99% of its needed protein from live insect feeders.
The healthy calcium to phosphorus ratio for bearded dragons is 2:1, and spinach meets this ideal ratio.
Phosphorus inhibits the absorption of calcium in a bearded dragon’s body when ingested in large amounts.
Spinach is also low in sugar, and this is good for bearded dragons because they will develop tooth decay if they eat too many high-sugar foods.
What Are the Concerns of Feeding Spinach to a Bearded Dragon?
Although the health benefits spinach may offer to your bearded dragon, it should not be fed to your beardie more than once every 2-3 months.
As mentioned above, spinach is so dangerous to bearded dragons because it contains a high amount of oxalates.
Other high-oxalate greens include Swiss chard and beet greens.
Not only will the oxalates bind to calcium, but they will also attach to trace minerals and prevent them from being absorbed by the bearded dragon’s body as well.
When a bearded dragon lacks the proper amount of calcium and other trace minerals, it becomes more prone to metabolic bone disease and upper respiratory infections.
In addition to a varied diet of low-oxalate greens, a small amount of fruit, and gut-loaded feeder insects, it is essential to add a calcium and multivitamin supplement.
These supplements ensure your bearded dragon is receiving the optimal amount of nutrients to grow and thrive.
What are Other Foods Beneficial to Your Bearded Dragon’s Diet?
Fruits and Vegetables
Even though insects are a primary part of a bearded dragon’s diet, it is essential to include a variety of leafy green vegetables and fruits, as well.
Healthy, low-oxalate greens include Romaine lettuce, collard greens, mustard greens, turnip greens, dandelion greens, and kale.
Iceberg lettuce is not a healthy option since it offers very little nutritional value and consists primarily of fiber and water.
Other safe-to-eat types of vegetables include broccoli, green beans, pumpkin, tomatoes, bell peppers, and sweet potatoes, all of which are rich in vitamins A and C.
However, pumpkin should be given to your bearded dragon only as a treat, as it is a natural laxative, and too much will cause digestive issues.
Carrots are rich in beta carotene, which is essential for the bearded dragon to synthesize vitamin A, but they should also be given sparingly due to their high oxalate content.
Fruits are also essential to your bearded dragon’s diet, as they contain nutrients not found in other types of food.
Because of their lack of minerals, fruits should be fed in small amounts when compared to vegetables.
Be sure to choose low-acidic fruits to avoid any digestive issues in your beardie.
Some excellent fruit options are watermelon, grapes, apples, blueberries, figs, dates, and bananas.
Common feeder insects for bearded dragons include crickets, small grasshoppers, earthworms, silkworms, and dubia roaches.
All feeder insects should be gut-loaded with a healthy variety of fruits and vegetables.
Gut loading ensures the insects are full of nutrients to pass on to your bearded dragon.
Be sure to gut load feeder insects 12-24 hours before feeding your beardie so the insects will adequately digest nutrients.
An empty insect offers very little nutritional value when compared to a gut-loaded insect.
We have an interesting post on feeding bearded dragons earthworms if you’re looking for more feeder insect options for your pet.
Vitamin and Mineral Supplements
Calcium, vitamin D3, and vitamin A are all critical supplements to add to a bearded dragon’s diet.
Calcium is essential for healthy bone growth and the prevention of metabolic bone disease.
In most calcium powder supplements, D3 is added because it aids in the absorption of calcium by the bearded dragon’s body.
Beardies will also synthesize D3 from UV lighting, and if your bearded dragon receives the proper spectrum of UV light during the day, you should decrease the amount of D3 you are supplementing.
This will avoid a possible D3 overdose in your bearded dragon.
Multivitamin supplements should be given on alternate days from the calcium supplements.
Vitamin A is vital to preventing upper respiratory infections, but you should avoid multivitamin supplements with high amounts of vitamin A.
Vitamin A is toxic to bearded dragons in high amounts and will lead to weakened bones.
Choose a multivitamin supplement with beta carotene instead of vitamin A.
A bearded dragon is able to synthesize vitamin A from beta carotene, and its body will only absorb as much as it needs.
This process keeps the bearded dragon from ingesting too much vitamin A.
You should also avoid using any calcium or multivitamin supplements containing phosphorus.
Too much phosphorus will prevent a bearded dragon from absorbing calcium and trace minerals in its body.
The optimal calcium to phosphorus ratio for bearded dragons is 2:1, and many of the feeder insects they eat already contain high amounts of phosphorus.
How Should Calcium and Multivitamins Be Used in a Bearded Dragon’s Diet?
Calcium and multivitamin supplements come in the form of powders.
These powder supplements should be very lightly sprinkled onto the fruits, vegetables, and live insects your bearded dragon eats.
For insects, it is easiest to dust them by placing them in a plastic container, adding a small amount of the supplement powder, covering them with a lid, and gently shaking to coat the insects.
How Often Should Supplements Be Given to a Bearded Dragon?
Knowing how often to offer your bearded dragon supplements is essential, as even too much of a good thing will become harmful for your beardie.
In addition to avoiding supplements containing Vitamin A, you should also avoid giving your bearded dragon too much calcium.
A high-calcium diet will eventually lead to Hypercalcemia, a condition causing the muscles and bones to weaken.
Hypercalcemia will become fatal if left untreated.
Never give a bearded dragon, no matter what age, any type of supplement more than once a day.
Calcium and multivitamin supplements should be given on alternating days.
Hatchling and juvenile bearded dragons have a slightly different supplement schedule than adults.
Baby bearded dragons should have their food dusted with calcium five times per week.
Multivitamins should be given to hatchlings twice a week, on alternating days from the calcium supplement.
Juvenile beardies should receive a calcium supplement four times a week and multivitamins twice per week.
Adult bearded dragons should be given a calcium supplement 2-3 times a week, and multivitamin supplements should only be provided once per week.
What Foods Should You Avoid Giving to Your Bearded Dragon?
You should avoid ever feeding your bearded dragon iceberg lettuce, as it does not contain any nutritional value and will cause diarrhea due to its high fiber and water content.
Like spinach, beet tops are another green you should feed sparingly due to their high-oxalate content even though they offer good vitamin A and magnesium levels.
Avocado should never be given to bearded dragons due to its extremely high amount of oxalic acid.
A minimal amount of avocado will make your beardie sick, and if fed over time, it will lead to death.
Rhubarb is another vegetable you should never give to a bearded dragon.
Because of high oxalates, rhubarb is very toxic to bearded dragons, even in small amounts.
If your beardie accidentally eats some rhubarb, you should seek veterinary care immediately.
Never let your bearded dragon eat fireflies because they are also highly toxic to beardies and other reptiles.
Fireflies have the potential to be fatal to your bearded dragon if ingested.
How Do You Give Water to Your Bearded Dragon?
Fresh, clean water should be provided every day in a shallow, stable bowl.
The water should be changed, and the bowl should be disinfected daily.
Misting the vegetables you feed to your bearded dragon with water is also a great way to keep your beardie hydrated.
It is also safe to directly mist your bearded dragon with water or soak it several times during the week to ensure proper hydration.
Keeping your bearded dragon hydrated not only keeps them healthy but also aids in the shedding process.
Always be sure to thoroughly wash your hands after feeding or handling a bearded dragon or its water dish.
Bearded dragons may carry bacteria or parasites which are not harmful to them but will cause illness in humans.
What Should You Do if Your Bearded Dragon Refuses to Eat?
There are many reasons why a bearded dragon refuses to eat, and not all of them are cause for alarm.
A bearded dragon needs warmth to digest its food properly, so if yours is not eating, the first thing you should do is check the temperature in your beardie’s enclosure.
Optimal daytime temperatures for your bearded dragon should be between 75-85° degrees Fahrenheit (29° C), with a basking area between 88-100° degrees Fahrenheit (38° C).
If the temperature is too low in your bearded dragon’s enclosure, the animal may go into a hibernation process known as brumation.
Brumation in reptiles differs from hibernation in mammals because reptiles will still need to drink water to stay hydrated, while mammals do not.
It is perfectly normal for a bearded dragon to briefly awaken during brumation, drink some water, and go right back to sleep.
Shedding is another reason a bearded dragon will refuse to eat and is not a cause for concern.
The entire shedding process usually lasts one or two days, and once completed, your bearded dragon should resume its regular eating habits.
Never help the shedding process along by peeling loose skin from your beardie, as doing so will make your pet more susceptible to irritation and possible skin infection.
Less common reasons a bearded dragon will refuse to eat involves illness, parasites, or stress.
Impaction from the accidental ingestion of loose substrate or other foreign objects will cause a bearded dragon to lose its appetite.
Avoid using loose substrates made from sand or clay, as these are accidentally eaten with a beardie’s meal and will build up in the stomach.
Over time, these tiny particles will form a blockage in the bearded dragon’s intestine, making defecation difficult or impossible.
Using a smooth substrate such as reptile carpet or tile will significantly lower the chance of bearded dragon impaction.
Keeping your bearded dragon calm is also vital to maintaining its appetite.
If your bearded dragon is not eating and there are no obvious physical symptoms, assess your beardie’s habitat and ensure it is not placed in a bustling area of your home.
Avoiding high-traffic areas and large windows will help keep your bearded dragon calm and relaxed.
While spinach is a safe food for bearded dragons, it should only be fed sparingly as a treat due to high levels of oxalates.
These oxalates prevent calcium from being absorbed by the bearded dragon’s body, and over time, this lack of calcium leads to metabolic bone disease.
There are many other low-oxalate vegetable alternatives, and they offer the nutrients your beardie needs to maintain good health.
Along with a balanced diet of fruits, live insects, and vitamin supplements, your bearded dragon will maintain good health for many years.