Is your bearded dragon refusing to eat?
Did your vet suggest force-feeding, but you’re not sure how to do it?
We hope you never have to, but it’s good to know how to force-feed a bearded dragon.
Force-feeding a bearded dragon boils down to using a syringe filled with fruit, veggie, worm, and supplement puree to insert the mix into the beardy’s throat. You should apply gentle but firm pressure to the sides of its mouth, 3 centimeters behind its ears to open the mouth.
Read on for more details and major health ideas.
Table of Contents
Steps To Force Feed A Bearded Dragon
In this section, we’ll quickly walk you through how to force-feed a bearded dragon.
Don’t do this unless you’ve talked to your vet first.
What You’ll Need
Here are the things you’ll need:
- Small syringe (no needle)
- Vitamin supplement
The syringe is needed to get the food inside the beardy’s throat.
It is recommended to mix up veggies, fruits, and mealworms.
Vegetables and fruits will give essential vitamins while a mealworm will just taste good and convince them to start eating again.
A vitamin supplement is essential for replacing lost nutrition while the reptile is sick or not eating.
#1 Create Your puree
Use equal parts of vegetables, fruits, mealworms, and a dose of a vitamin supplement and blend it all into a puree.
If needed, add a little bit of water to loosen it up.
Put the puree into the syringe and fill it up.
Fill the syringe up to 1 tablespoon with the puree.
#2 Force Open The Mouth
Now, it’s time to force open the bearded dragon’s mouth.
Take your thumb and forefinger and apply some pressure on both sides of the bearded dragon’s mouth.
Your goal is to aim for is around 3 centimeters behind the top of the nose.
As you apply pressure to the crease on the upper and lower jaw, the mouth of your pet should be opened.
When you begin applying pressure, start with a firm but gentle one and then gradually increase the strength.
Don’t immediately apply a strong pressure, or you may injure your pet.
#3 Insert Syringe To Throat
As soon as you see the mouth open, insert the syringe into your pet’s mouth.
The beardy will begin forcing its mouth back closed quickly, so be prepared.
Gently force the syringe into the mouth up to the back of the bearded dragon’s throat.
Once the tip of the syringe is in place, move onto the next step.
#4 Slowly Depress Syringe
Slowly push the plunger on the syringe to insert your puree directly into the pet’s throat.
Do this bit by bit.
Going too fast could cause your pet to choke.
A good strategy is to press a little bit and then wait for the reptile to swallow.
When it swallows, then press a bit more at a time.
Do this until the whole tablespoon is gone.
Repeat as often as your vet suggests.
Note: Did your vet not tell you how often to do this?
Call back and see; there is no hard and fast rule for this situation, so you need to confirm with a medical professional.
Now you know how to force-feed a bearded dragon.
Is It OK To Force Feed A Bearded Dragon?
Yes and no.
Yes, force-feeding a bearded dragon is possible and OK, but only with veterinary approval!
Not asking your vet when your bearded dragon isn’t eating can cause significant problems in the long run.
Common side effects of force-feeding include:
- Raising stress
- Breaking bonds
- Building negative associations with food
- Injuring the throat
This is why a vet will provide many other options before suggesting this unless your pet is malnourished or ill.
If your beardie is at a healthy weight, don’t assume something dire is happening when they stop eating.
These pets are picky and stubborn sometimes.
You’d be surprised how long a bearded dragon can go without eating.
Give some of the other options (see the section below) before attempting to force-feed.
Why Do I Have To Force Feed My Bearded Dragon?
There are two main reasons a vet will suggest you force feed your pet:
- An illness or severe malnourishment has made it so the pet needs more than it will typically eat.
- An injury or other stressful condition prevents the bearded dragon from currently eating its power.
When either of these conditions have been met, a vet will decide if force-feeding is needed.
Don’t take this decision on yourself, or you could be endangering your pet’s life.
Do NOT force feed your pet only because it’s not eating.
There are other reasons a bearded dragon may not be eating, which aren’t so dangerous they require force-feeding.
Other Ways To Get Bearded Dragons To Eat
In this section, we’ll discuss some other ways to get bearded dragons to eat.
Test these first before going to force-feeding.
#1 Sneak In “Tasty” Foods
Bearded dragons are like kids.
While they can technically eat most fruits and veggies, they’ll pick their favorite “chicken nuggets” (in this case, mealworms and other high-fat insects) any time.
If your pet is refusing to eat their greens, sneak in the occasional mealworm while feeding.
Don’t overdo it, or they’ll get full on the worms.
Further reading: How many mealworms to feed bearded dragons
#2 Wait It Out
If this doesn’t work, you may just have to wait it out.
Beardies are picky, and they also are sensitive.
When there is a change to a diet or habitat, they can go for a long time, refusing to eat.
Keep offering food regularly and give it a week before you begin to panic.
#3 Feed From Your Hand
Sometimes a bearded dragon won’t naturally recognize the thing as food if it’s a new addition to the diet.
Using your hands to feed it may help it realize the new veggie is food and begin to eat it.
#4 Select Fresh Food
You may not realize it, but food and insects may be less-than-fresh while seeming good to you.
When the bearded dragon smells it, something may tell the reptile to hold off on eating it.
Getting a new batch of fresh food and feeding this to your bearded dragon is ideal.
Now you know how to force-feed a bearded dragon — knowing how to do this when a vet tells you it is time may be needed to save your reptile’s life.
Be sure only to do this when under the instructions of a veterinarian, keep all materials ready, and don’t squeeze the beardy’s mouth too hard when opening.
Do this, and you’ll get through, OK.