There are many bearded dragon owners that look forward to feeding time. They love to see their beardies chase after crickets and devour them voraciously.
This is actually one of the best parts of bearded dragon ownership. It’s even fun to watch as your dragon moseys up to their food dish to to nibble on some greens.
Even though this is one of the great things about owning a bearded dragon, it can quickly become one of the most frustrating things as well.
There are quite a few reasons why a bearded dragon won’t eat. I’m not going to go into all the reasons at this time. I just want to touch on the more common issues why a bearded dragon won’t eat. These are just some quick little tips that I have come across over time.
Just recently I have noticed that there is a real correlation between my dragon’s appetite and the temperatures in their cages. I can hear many of you saying to yourself right about now, “Well, duh!”.
Even so, this is a real breakthrough to me. Well maybe not a huge breakthrough, but at least a light went on inside my head.
As summer came and temperatures rose inside my house, I was in a constant battle to keep the temps in my dragons cages under control. I did this by using a dimmer switch on my basking lights, but that’s another newsletter.
As I was battling the summer heat, with my powerful dimmer switch, I would sometimes go over and under my desired temperature (not all at once however).
“Aha,” you say, “He makes mistakes.”
Yes, it’s true. I have been know to blunder from time to time. I don’t like to admit it, but I guess you would have found that out sooner or later.
As the temperatures in my dragon’s cage wasn’t optimal, my dragon’s appetite also wasn’t optimal. Direct correlation? I think so.
A bearded dragon needs an optimal body temperature to digest their food. We all pretty much know this, for the most part. What I didn’t really understand is that a dragon might not eat, if they don’t have proper temperatures.
Actually, your temperatures have to be off more than a little for your dragon to lose its appetite. I have exposed myself again!
If your dragon is overheated, I guarantee you they will not eat. Their instincts will be on surviving, and at the time of overheating, surviving doesn’t include food. They will focus more on trying to cool down.
If they are too cold and can’t warm up, they probably won’t eat as well. If they do eat when they are cold and don’t have access to a high heat source, the results won’t be pretty. The food they eat will actually start to rot inside their stomachs. It’s actually better for them if they don’t eat when their cold.
Now, are you a bad person, if you don’t have perfect temperatures in your dragon’s cage every single second of the day? Yes…….er…I mean No!
As you have probably guessed, I am guilty of not having perfect temps all the time myself. Though, I do correct them as soon as possible.
It’s not whether you keep perfect temperatures every second of the day, but how quickly you notice and correct them. I do, however, keep proper temperatures fairly consistently, but there are times when they do go awry.
If your dragon isn’t eating, check out their temperatures. This is a very easy thing to resolve. You might have to wait a little while for your dragon to either warm up or cool down for them to eat.
If your dragon’s hungry, it will eat when an optimal body temperature is reached. You can check out more information on proper temperatures at my bearded dragon heating page.
I want to say that these are just tips and hints for when your bearded dragon won’t eat. This isn’t a cure all for this problem. These tips are here to provide at least a little insight into your dragons loss of appetite.
In any event that your dragon isn’t eating for prolonged periods of time and is having substantial weight loss you need to see a vet. Now that I have thoroughly covered my rear lets proceed. Shall we?
Age of Bearded Dragon
Some of the reasons for loss of appetite have to do with poor husbandry, but not all. There are quite a few causes for this that are not preventable.
I mention age as another reason. What does that have to do with anything? Well, there a couple things that can go along with this.
If you have owned your dragon since they were little, you might have noticed that they would gorge themselves silly sometimes. I have seen my young dragons eat 50, 75 and even 100 hundred crickets a day.
They would even wander over to their food dish later and eat greens and dragon food on top of all the crickets. It was amazing to see them have such hardy appetites. I could barely keep them in crickets.
You might be thinking “That’s great but what does this have to do with anything?.”
Ah…that’s the question isn’t it? It has a lot to do with loss of appetite, or “perceived loss of appetite”. If you are used to your dragon wolfing down 50-100 crickets a day, you might start to think that they should eat like this every day.
Aha……we’re getting to the fun part. Bearded dragons do not continue eating like this their whole lives. You will even notice a slow down as soon as they reach 5 to 6 months of age.
I know that I have experienced this myself. One day your dragon is eating 100 crickets and the next day they are eating 5, 10, 20 or even a big fat 0 crickets.
When bearded dragons are young, they are growing really fast. They need all the food they eat to help them grow. They especially need the protein from crickets. Dragons will usually grow the most in their first 6 months of life.
They still continue to grow after this but they slow down substantially compared to their younger days. If your bearded dragon doesn’t want crickets one day or eats very few, don’t panic.
It is hard not to panic, because you start wondering what could be wrong. Are they sick? Do they have internal parasites? Is the world coming to an end?!?!
Whoa….slow down there. If your dragon is healthy (perky, attentive) and not losing weight (probably won’t happen after one day of not eating), don’t worry.
I have seen days where my dragons refuse crickets all together, or they eat one or two from the coaxing I do. I have also seen them carry on like this for a couple of days and then eat about 20 to 30 crickets after this time.
This might not be all due to the age of my dragons, but it is one of the factors. I will talk about some others in upcoming newsletters.
How do I know this? I have seen it from observing my own dragons. There isn’t any information out there about this, so I didn’t know at first why my dragons didn’t continue to eat like they usually did.
I made observations and came to the conclusion that my dragons just aren’t really hungry all the time.
Wow…….if you, at some point, thought I was smart, that statement probably just crushed your opinion of me.
I suppose some of the things that I talk about are common sense, but these “common sense” things can also be easily overlooked.
We can get so hung up on major issues and don’t look at the simple things first. It’s always better to start with the simple things and then work your way up.
What can I do?
The first is you can do is don’t panic. If your dragon skips a cricket feast one day, don’t panic. If your dragon will only eat a couple of crickets, don’t panic.
If the sky is falling down on us and the end of the world is imminent, start to panic!
All joking aside. I know that it’s very worrisome when your bearded dragon differentiates from the norm, but sometimes it really isn’t that much to worry about.
I know about worry, because I do it myself. If something is a little different, I panic. I don’t follow my own advice very well.
I’m really putting this information out there for people like me. If you are calm and cool as a cucumber when things go wrong, then this isn’t for you. If you are a worry wort, like me, you’re in the right place.
The best thing you can do when your dragon isn’t interested in food is keep an eye on them. If they appear healthy and perky, you might just have to wait until they get hungry.
You can always leave greens and some sort of dragon food in a dish so your dragon can free feed. I have noticed that when my dragons won’t eat crickets, they will eat greens and dragon food. Though, they like to do it on their schedule and when I’m not looking.
How do I know they are eating? Their greens and food seem to mysteriously vanish.
You can also offer them water through an eye dropper or medicine dropper. This will at least let you know they are getting liquids, and ease your mind a little.
Bearded dragons live in a harsh land in the wild. They have adapted to a land so harsh that many people couldn’t survive in it.
I should know, I watched Animal Planets Outback Week : – )
Seriously though, bearded dragons are adapted to live with very little water and sometimes very little food.
If your dragon has a fat tail and is at a healthy weight, than they can skip a meal if they aren’t that hungry. They will not perish if they don’t eat their regular 30 to 100 crickets a day.
Though, they might perish if they keep that eating pattern up their whole lives.
As your dragon gets older, they just don’t need as much food as they once did. You might even notice them shunning prey items in favor of greens, vegetables and fruits, which is not a bad thing. This a very natural progression for an animal that is considered a “true omnivore”.
As I said earlier if your dragon looks sick, is losing weight, and hasn’t eaten for days, you need to see a vet. Don’t let non eating get out of hand.
How can you tell a sick dragon from one that’s just skipping a meal? Trust me, you will be able to tell.
Your dragon won’t be attentive and will be lethargic. They will also have a sickly appearance about them. For more information on this see my Bearded Dragon Health page.