A well-balanced diet is vital to your beardies as it gives them the energy needed to support various bodily functions like breathing, walking, digestion, etc., as well as nutrients required for growth, development, and optimum health.
Since food has many roles in these pets as well as any other animal, it would be concerning if these they stop eating.
Reasons or causes
Adult bearded dragons can go for a few days to about a week without eating. However, babies and juveniles must eat every day since they are still growing and need more energy. Fortunately, they always have an enormous appetite.
However, at times, one or the other reason may make bearded dragons to stop having their meals as usual. For instance, they may reduce (not eat much or enough) or refused entirely to munch their food or drink water.
Some of the reasons why this lizard may not be dining or drinking include the following:
1. Housing them together
These pets prefer a solitary life, and they can live without being lonely so long as their terrariums have furniture and other enrichments. However, some new owners may house their beardie together, imagining they will be keeping each other company.
While it may sound perfectly ok, it is not since as they grow into adulthood, they will start competing for resources like food, water, and basking rocks or spots. In such a case, the subservient beardies may not bask or drink, and in most instances, they will spend most of their time hiding.
2. Wrong habitat setting
As semi-arid and arid reptiles, these pets thrive in sunny, dry climates. Therefore, if you are keeping them in captivity, ensure they have the right warmth and UV light setting since both are important. Some of the roles they play include:
- UVA light helps regulate circadian rhythm, seasonal and daily activities like eating, basking, boosting health, etcetera.
- UVB helps in the synthesis of vitamin D3 essential for calcium absorption.
- Heat or warmth aids in digestion, a reason why you should let your these lizards bask for at least an hour in the morning before feeding them.
Therefore, if UV light and terrarium temperatures are not at peak levels, expect your bearded dragon not to munch as usual.
3. Nutritional and vitamin deficiencies
Some vitamins and minerals help to boost immunity and need to eat in these pets. Consequently, a lack will mean poor appetite and health, something that will hamper usual feeding in these pets.
Always ensure you dust their diets with calcium, vitamin D3, and other multivitamin supplements as well as give them nutrient-rich foods, including gut-loaded feeder insects, veggies, and treats of fruits.
4. Some illness, conditions, and parasites
Most diseases and conditions like dehydration, impaction, metabolic bone disease, respiratory infection, constipation, injuries, mouth rot, etc., are possible causes. Similarly, this problem may occur if this lizard has intestinal parasites such as coccidia, hookworms, and so on.
Always ensure your beardie has regular vet check and let your vet check him if he goes for a few days without eating. These checks may help reveal any underlying diseases and conditions since these pets tend to hide sickness symptoms.
When they are about to brumate, bearded dragons reduce eating until they finally stop entirely. However, they will sporadically drink water to stay hydrated. During this time, they may go for weeks to as many as about 3-4 months without food.
To know this reptile is brumation, check for other signs such as sleeping more, sleeping early, less defection, hiding more, not pooping, and so on.
Since it is a natural process, you need not worry about them not having any food provided that they don’t lose weight significantly.
If they are not eating after brumation, give them a little more time as they will slowly adjust and being feeding as usual.
Since it causes symptoms such as loss of appetite, shedding may also be a reason why your bearded dragon is unwilling to gobble up his or her food. Baby and juveniles will shed more often than adults since they are growing fast.
Check for other signs and behavioral changes that happen when these reptiles are about to shed, such as lethargy, being skittish, eye-bulging, rubbing themselves against objects as well as things such as their skin becoming dull, having elevated skin patches, and all that.
7. Being picky eaters – not eating crickets, roaches, etc.
Don’t always assume refusal to eat is a sign that something is wrong. No. Some bearded dragons are picky and prefer certain foods while they will not munch others. For instance, they may eat crickets, or roaches while they refuse to eat mealworms, veggies or silkworms.
To know if yours is choosy or not, you need to vary the foods you offer them, including veggies, feeder insects, and fruits. If they eat some and refuse others, it may be an issue of preference.
8. They are stressed – may turn black and not eat
Stress might be the other reason why your bearded dragons stop eating. Housing them together, relocation, being new, small habitats, wrong terrarium setup, vet visits, excessive handling, poor diets, and so on may stress these pets.
If stressed, expect them to lose appetite, glass surf, be sluggish, have stress marks, turn black, hide more, bask less, and be more aggressive. Therefore, they will not eat less or not at all.
While young, these lizards can have 3-4 meals a day. However, as they grow, this can decrease to once or twice in a day or even lesser. Sometimes, they may go for several days without food. If caused by aging, there is nothing to worry about because it is perfectly normal as long as they are not stressed or unwell.
If your beardie is gravid (carrying eggs), she may stop having her meals as usual when she is about to lay eggs. To know she is about to lay eggs, she will start scratching or digging the substrate. In such a case, provide her with a nesting box to lay eggs. Remember, even females living alone may carry unfertile eggs.
11. New diets
Sometimes, giving them a new kind of food like freeze-dried crickets, or mealworms, or commercial diets that come in pellet form may be a cause. These pets may not recognize them as food since they are not moving like live feeder insects.
12. Bad feeding bowls
Having eep and narrow feeding bowls may make it difficult for these pets to access their food. To avoid this, always go for large enough food and water dishes that are shallow to make food move visible and easy to access.
How to make your bearded dragon eat
There are many strategies you can employ to encourage your beardie to eat. However, your success will depend on the underlying causes.
1. Forced feeding
Except for common causes such as brumating, shedding, nesting, aging, picky eaters, consider syringe feeding once you have consulted your veterinarian, particularly if they are losing weight or sick.
There are complete kits such as Fluker’s Repta+Boost Insectivore & Carnivore High Amp Boost that come with a feeding syringe that will ensure these pets have fluids and nourishments quickly.
If you have the food you want to force-feed them, the Lixit Hand Feeding Syringe will be a suitable feeding syringe for these pets if you have pureed foods like insects, veggies, or fruits.
If you don’t know how to force-feed, let your vet or someone with experience teach you. Also, there are some videos online that may guide you too.
2. Give appetite stimulants
Sometimes, these pets will not have their meals due to poor appetites. Various things can cause appetite loss. In such a case, consider appetite stimulants. One excellent choice is the Zilla Reptile Health Supplies Jump-Start Appetite Stimulant.
3. Treat diseases, illness, and conditions
Let your vet treat any disease, injuries, or conditions that make these pets suffer from anorexia (appetite loss). Also, he or she will teach you how to feed and hydrate these pets.
Besides, you need to give them supplements to boost their immunity. An excellent choice that will neutralize free radicals, support respiratory, maintain eye and mouth health as well as stimulate their appetite is the Amber Technology Reptaid XL Immune Support for Large Reptiles.
However, if they weigh less than 250 grams, go for the Amber Technology Reptaid Immune Support for Small Reptiles.
4. Mask in their favorite food
If they have foods they like, try masking other foods with these with them. For instance, sprinkling, blending as well as mixing their favorites with new food to encourage them to eat.
If you are using dried feeder insects or pelleted foods, mixing them with veggies may encourage these pets to have such diets.
5. Feeding with tong
Dangling their food such as worms or veggies with a tong may make them recognize them as food. Zoo Med has a good Super Deluxe Stainless-Steel Feeding tong that will do this work perfectly well.
While hand feeding is also ok, you need to take care as they may accidentally bite your fingers as they are trying to pick their food.
6. Have terrarium plants
If humidity allows you to do so, you can plant safe and edible terrarium plants as they will give your bearded dragon a chance to forage their food as they do in the wild.
7. What else?
Finally, always cut their food to correct sizes or give them live feeder insects that are smaller than the gap between their eyes to avoid impaction. Also, don’t over-dusting as it makes foods less palatable and be very patient.