I have no doubt that alfalfa or rabbit pellets might make a decent substrate for bearded dragons, but I wanted to dig a little deeper on this subject.
With this information I present here, please take it with a grain of salt. This is what I have come across and I want to paint a fair picture of this substrate from both perspectives.
There is also a little of my own opinion thrown in here as well. It is hard to be impartial when you yourself have already formed an opinion.
Now that I have said that, back to the issue at hand. I have never used alfalfa pellets for bearded dragons, and I don’t plan to anytime soon.
The information that I present here will be what I have read and not from personal experience. I haven’t tried everything that is suggested for use with bearded dragons, and this is just one of those things that has never appealed to me.
Are Alfalfa Pellets the “Best” Substrate?
No, alfalfa pellets do have drawbacks just like most other substrates. These have been used by numerous bearded dragon owners who will swear by them, but there also numerous dragon owners that swear by other substrates. The substrate issue on a whole is very confusing sometimes. I know that it is to me anyway.
I don’t know if there is any one substrate that can be considered the best. Each has it’s positives and negatives. I personally like to use washed and screened playsand, but there are others that say sand is “from the devil”. Who’s right and who’s wrong? That question remains to be answered.
What are the Benefits?
I really don’t know what benefits there are for this substrate. Alfalfa pellets never seemed like an option that I wanted to use for my bearded dragons.
They probably do well with spot cleaning waste and also have a reduced risk of impaction. I think that reduction in the possibility of impaction is the biggest selling point this substrate has.
If reducing the possibility of impaction is important to you, I think that either newspaper or shelf liner would be a better choice. Though, these two substrates have some drawbacks too. What substrate doesn’t?
What are the Drawbacks?
I think that the drawbacks far outweigh the benefits for this particular substrate, at least for me they do.
Some people can develop allergies to alfalfa. The pellets also give off a strong odor when wet and can crumble into a dust that can get into your home. There is also a risk of flour beetles infesting your home.
Some veterinarians believe that there is a correlation in respiratory disease with reptiles and using alfalfa pellets as substrate.
Alfalfa pellets will grow mold when it gets wet and your dragon may inhale mold spores causing respiratory disease.
This information is referenced from The Bearded Dragon Manual. Check out the book for more great information on caring for bearded dragons. This information and also other sources of information are the reasons that I have not used alfalfa pellets.
I have seen some posts on forums that say the information in The Bearded Dragon Manual is wrong or that it is outdated. That may or may not be true, but I would rather trust someone that is somewhat of an expert in their field. I have nothing but great respect for the people that have helped compile this book.
There are people who do fine using alfalfa pellets for bearded dragons as substrate, but I am not one of them. Whether you use this as a substrate or not is entirely your decision.
You might find that it is the “best” substrate. Then again you might find that it doesn’t suit your needs at all.
As you might have guessed, this is not my favorite substrate. Though, there are people who love using alfalfa pellets for bearded dragons enough to call it the “best” substrate. Who’s right? That’s what you’ll have to decide.
As I said earlier, please take this information with a grain of salt. I am presenting what I presently know about using alfalfa pellets as a bearded dragon substrate.
I, by no means, look down upon anyone who uses this substrate. If it works for you and your bearded dragon is doing well, then it might just be the “best” substrate.