Have you ever wondered if you are overfeeding your pet bearded dragon?
How much food is too much when it comes to feeding a beardie?
What will happen if you overfeed your pet lizard?
Are there any consequences other than having a heavy lizard to care for?
If you have asked yourself any of these questions, you are on the same page as many other reptile owners.
Properly feeding your bearded dragon is one of the most important aspects of keeping it happy, healthy, and able to live a long life.
This article will discuss the proper feeding schedules for baby bearded dragons and adult bearded dragons, how to tell if you are feeding your beardie enough, and the dangerous consequences of overfeeding a bearded dragon.
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Can You Overfeed A Bearded Dragon?
Yes, you can overfeed a bearded dragon. If overfeeding happens your bearded dragon will become bloated, lethargic, and experience various health issues. It’s crucial to keep your pet on the correct diet pattern.
As reptile owners, we understand the urge to express your love and affection for your pet.
We also understand the easiest and most common way we humans do this is through food.
Even though you may think of the occasional extra portion or fatty insect treat as harmless, it is best to refrain from treating your beardie regularly.
Instead of treating your bearded dragon with food, consider rewarding it with enjoyable activities like swim time or toy obstacle courses.
Like most animals, a bearded dragon’s dietary needs change as it grows and ages.
Let’s look at an appropriate feeding schedule for every stage of your reptile’s life.
Baby Bearded Dragon Feeding Schedule
As babies, bearded dragons require higher amounts of protein than adults to grow and develop properly.
It is important to know what age-appropriate meals consist of when owning and raising a bearded dragon.
Bearded dragons under one year of age should consume a diet made up of 70 percent insects (protein) and 30 percent vegetation (leafy greens, vegetables, and fruits).
The intervals of feedings start frequently and decrease as the beardie ages.
For a baby dragon zero to three months, you should feed it three to five times per day, every day.
We suggest baby lizards consume anywhere between 30 and 80 live crickets per day, spread throughout several meals.
As a general rule of thumb, these insects should be no larger than the space between the lizard’s eyes.
Determining the number of crickets per feeding will depend on your pet lizard’s overall size and the average number of insects it will consume in one sitting.
Any uneaten insects should be removed from the enclosure and saved for the next meal.
Keep in mind; baby bearded dragons still need to consume vegetation.
Consider providing a small salad as its middle meal of the day to break up the cricket feedings.
When your beardie is between the ages of three months and eight months, you should still feed it a protein-rich diet.
The overall diet should still consist of 70% insects and 30% vegetation, with 30 to 80 insects per day.
The main difference in the feeding routine for this age is the number of meals per day.
While you will still provide your beardie with frequent feedings, you should work your way down from three to five meals per day to twice-daily feeding sessions.
You need to continue to provide your baby dragon with salad as a part of its diet.
Remember, vegetation is still only making up approximately 30% of its overall diet.
The final time your bearded dragon will require a protein-heavy diet is between the ages of eight months and one year.
Juvenile foods are the same as baby foods.
Again, the difference in food requirements falls in the frequency of meals.
Now, you should only provide your bearded dragon with once-per-day feedings.
Crickets are staple insects, and you should still provide your bearded dragon with 30 to 80 insects per day.
The exact number of insects will vary from lizard to lizard.
Pay attention to how large any uneaten portions of food are and adjust the meals accordingly.
By the age of one year, your bearded dragon should already have a taste for veggies.
If your beardie is approaching its first birthday and is consistently favoring insects over vegetables, provide it with a salad in advance.
A fresh salad at the beginning of the meal will help to keep your dragon healthy.
Adult Bearded Dragon Feeding Schedule
Once your bearded dragon reaches its first birthday, the types of food it requires will change drastically.
Up to this point, you should have been feeding your pet a diet consisting of 70% insects and 30% vegetation.
This is because baby beardies will get most of their protein from insects.
Adult beardies require the exact opposite ratio of insects to vegetables.
Now, your bearded dragon’s diet should consist of 70% vegetation and 30% insects.
The frequency of feeding will also change drastically once your lizard reaches adulthood.
Since adult beardies are fully grown, it is important to decrease the feedings of insects drastically.
These reptiles rely less on protein once they reach their mature size, and keeping their access to insects and other protein-heavy food options high will undoubtedly lead to overeating and obesity.
You should feed full-grown adult bearded dragons a total of 50 insects per week.
Bearded dragon experts suggest implementing a three-day feeding cycle with a consistent variety in the diet.
We suggest the three-day feeding schedule is easy to follow and an excellent way to ensure your pet reptile is not overfed.
The first day’s meal should be a fresh salad.
The second day’s meal should be made up of 50% of the recommended weekly insects.
The third day should be a fasting day for your adult dragon. Simply repeat this three-day feeding cycle once you have completed the third day.
The idea of skipping a day of feeding may seem like a strange concept to some owners.
If you are questioning this feeding cycle method, keep in mind these reptiles have very different dietary requirements than humans and overfeeding this breed is detrimental to their health.
Bearded Dragon Diet
A balanced diet is a key to keeping your reptile friend healthy.
Once your bearded dragon reaches adulthood, their diet staples consist mainly of dark leafy greens and vegetables high in calcium.
Like most other reptiles, food with calcium is incredibly important for bearded dragons.
Some staple foods high in this mineral include kale, mustard greens, collard greens, and dandelion greens.
Dusting the insects with a calcium supplement or gut loading the insects 12-24 hours before feeding is also good for maintaining a healthy diet.
It is important to avoid an over-indulgent diet for your pet lizard.
Its main source of protein comes from the live insects you provide, consisting of crickets.
You may also feed other insects such as mealworms, butter worms, and earthworms to your beardie; however, its worm intake should be limited.
Worms are fattier insects, and feeding your pet too many will lead to health issues.
For a more in-depth look at what foods you should feed your adult beardie, check out our other bearded dragon articles for feeding charts and additional feeding tips.
Here is our post on how much it costs to feed a bearded dragon for some helpful guidelines and average costs.
Warning Signs and Consequences of Overfeeding Of Bearded Dragons
If you have been following a different feeding schedule for your bearded dragon or have been providing it with foods which differ from our suggested foods, you may be wondering if you are overfeeding your pet reptile.
Warning signs of overfeeding to look for in your pet bearded dragon:
- Drastic weight gain
- Bloated appearance
- Lack of appetite
- Difficulty or inability to move the rear part of the body
Some warning signs are easier to spot than others.
For instance, if your bearded dragon seems to be bloated or is gaining weight at an abnormally fast rate, the reasoning may be obvious.
You will most likely deduce you are either overfeeding your pet, feeding it the wrong foods, or both.
Lethargy in your bearded dragon is a possible warning sign for many conditions; however, it is a tell-tale sign of a beardie who is overfed.
This lack of energy comes from the animal gaining too much weight.
When a reptile is overfed like this, its body is weighed down and slowed by the massive amount of energy needed to digest the frequent large meals.
A lack of appetite is a slightly less obvious sign of overfeeding.
If you are feeding large meals too frequently, a lack of appetite may occur because the bearded dragon does not have enough time to digest its food between meals.
A bearded dragon refusing food may also be a sign of impaction.
Impaction is essentially a nicer way of saying your bearded dragon is suffering from painful constipation.
If there is an impaction in the digestive system, it means the animal is not passing food through its system.
Impaction can result from several instances, including feeding the animal food too large for it, such as insects larger than the space between its eyes.
It may also occur from overfeeding your beardie and providing it with fatty insects instead of more fibrous, nutrient-dense foods.
Impaction is quite common in this species, and you are usually able to alleviate the situation at home.
Gently massaging your bearded dragon and giving it a warm bath will most likely do the trick and get the digestive system back in motion.
If home remedies are not alleviating the situation and the impaction persists, take your bearded dragon to see the vet immediately.
An impaction which does not pass is a possible life-threatening situation.
Impaction may also lead to difficulty or the complete inability to move the rear part of its body.
If the impaction is large or a food bolus forms in the stomach, the mass will put pressure on the spinal nerves.
If this pressure is not alleviated immediately, the paralysis may become permanent or worse.
A prolonged food bolus which is not treated immediately is a fatal condition.
Even without any serious side effects showing in your pet, long-term overfeeding is still detrimental to its health.
An overweight bearded dragon’s joints will become strained and weak from bearing the extra weight and pressure for a prolonged period.
A beardie with a poor diet is also at risk of developing a fatty liver.
This excess fat will ultimately lead to bodily dysfunction and organ failure.
The best way to prevent overfeeding your bearded dragon is to stick to a consistent and strict feeding pattern.
Animals generally benefit from routine, and bearded dragons are no exception.
Feeding your beardie on the three-day cycle, as we discussed earlier, will help control the amount of food provided without much thought.
You will also want to be mindful of the quality of food you are feeding your pet.
Feeding a reptile small portions of fatty foods or foods lacking essential vitamins and minerals is possibly just as bad as overfeeding it.
Feeding your bearded dragon insects such as mealworms or butter worms on occasion if you want to give it a special treat is completely acceptable.
You just need to be mindful of the quantity and consistency of these treats.
Treating your pet with fatty foods every week will do more harm than good.
Do your best to keep your bearded dragon’s enclosure properly heated and lit with UV lights.
A poorly kept environment or a stressful living situation will lead to an unhealthy dragon with inconsistent eating habits and a diminished ability to properly digest its food.
Overfeeding a bearded dragon is dangerous to its health at any stage of life.
Establishing poor eating habits as a baby or a juvenile will hurt its growth and ability to learn healthy eating habits later in life.
If you notice you have been overfeeding your pet reptile, do your best to reverse the situation immediately to avoid associated health risks.
If your bearded dragon is experiencing any overeating symptoms, or if you are struggling to feed it, seek medical attention immediately.