Whether they’re warm-blooded like a cat or a puppy or even a cold-blooded one like a reptile, any bearded dragon not eating can make owners really worried. When such an event occurs, it’s only natural for an owner to seek answers and focus on determining the underlying root of this problem.
There could be a number of reasons why this may be the case with your little scaly friend, and that’s why we went out of our way to list all of the possible reasons here in this article. You need figure this out quickly and correctly so they can get back to absorbing their nutrients and grow up to be healthy and happy.
1. Natural Processes
Bearded lizards experience several changes naturally throughout their life. These changes will not only impact their ability to eat but also their behavior as a whole. I have listed some of these natural processes below along with how I have handled some of these situations with my dragon.
Brumation is the reptilian equivalent of hibernation that mammals undergo. This means they will enter a prolonged sleep state during the cold to reserve their energy until they wake again in the spring. Some go through this state due to food scarcity while others just refuse to eat, which is all right.
If they’re hungry during their brumation, then ensure there’s food and water by their side while they’re still awake, but don’t force them to eat. And once the brumation period is over, their hunger and activity levels will go back to normal.
But if you notice it losing plenty of weight during the brumation period, then you have to wake them and feed them right away. Check out our brumation protocal article.
Shedding can be due to diet, health, or environment, but is mostly caused by development and growth for babies and juveniles.
Signs for shedding are listed below..
- Dull/pale skin color
- Reduced appetite
- Bulging eyes
- Energy efficient
- Scratching and rubbing itself on several things inside the enclosure
You can give your beardie a bath once or twice a day to help them shed their skin faster and easier. Refrain from pulling their loose skin off by your fingers. This is an easy mistake and it’s quite painful for them.
A baby or juvenile will eat a lot more than they will at the adult stage. The reason for this is that as time progresses, they no longer need the amount of nutrients they would need compared to being a baby. That’s why you need to keep an eye on your baby dragon and ensure their eating habits remain stable until adulthood.
2. Tank Environment
One overlooked cause for not eating is due to the difference in the heating and lighting of their enclosure.
3. UVB Lighting
A bearded dragon’s tank should consist of proper UVB lighting which accurately emulates the radiation from the sun like their Australian outback habitat. Be sure that they get 10 to 12 hours of exposure to UVB lighting. If not, it could affect their appetite.
You can also use mercury vapor bulbs because they offer UVA, UVB lighting as well as heat. You can even use florescent tube lighting, but it’s best to keep them 6 inches away from your beardie and place it at the highest point of their platform.
If this lighting is too close, it could damage their eyes permanently.
Since these reptiles are desert dwellers, they require fairly high temperatures for survival in order to help them digest their food properly. If they’re not digesting their food, they will not be getting all the nutritional benefits from their food, which is not good for babies and juveniles.
Inspect their excrement, and if you see that the bugs are partially digested, it means the temperatures aren’t high enough. If the temperature is improperly set, your bearded dragon might not be motivated to eat at all.
- Enclosure: 90°F (32°C)
- Basking spot: 100 to 110°F (37 to 40°C) for babies 105 °F (40°C) for adults.
- Cool spot: 70 to 85°F (21° to 29°C)
- Nighttime: 70°F to 65°F (80°C to 21°C)
5. Health Problems
The appetite may be affected due to a number of health issues. Some of the most common ones are included below.
Impaction is a condition in which a blockage is caused by inappropriate types of food like mealworms for babies, indigestible objects like sand or anything else around the house, or heating like undigested food.
Depending on the intensity of the blockage, the pain they can experience will take away their desire to eat. Force-feeding will only aggravate the problem.
To take care of impaction, you must resort to either massaging, laxatives, bathing, or simply taking them to the vet.
Parasites or Infection
Infections involve parasites, which are quite concerning since they cannot only leave it malnourished but can also make them sick. Parasites will sap the nutrition from your beardie, which can soon lead to your little guy losing a lot of weight.
Any illness or parasite can be dealt with by a herp vet or any vet that specializes in reptiles. A quick check up should get you situated.
Mouth rot is a mouth infection which makes it painful for a bearded lizard to eat properly.
This infection appears either yellowish or whitish gray around its oral cavity. In severe cases, its teeth can come loose along with bleeding, increased saliva production, and their head may seem swollen.
Take your beardie to a herp vet as they can treat and remove the plate areas with a Nolvasan and Betadine solution.
Any injuries like broken bones could cause your scaly friend great discomfort and pain during eating.
If there is an obvious injury that is causing a loss of appetite in your beardie, then they should be looked over by a herp vet. The vet will check for other injuries that are less visible to the naked eye. If there’s any fracture or broken bone, it’s indicated by swelling around that area. This is a very common thing when handling babies because they’re quite fragile. So it’s best to visit the vet.
As you can see, a bearded dragon’s eating habit can be affected in more ways than one. From natural phenomenons like shedding or brumation, to serious health issues like infection, impaction, mouth rot or injury.
As long as you follow the instructions laid out for you in this article, you’ll be able to treat your reptile buddy properly and make sure they get the correct food intake to grow up healthy and happy. If you’re not seeing any progress, then you can just visit the vet and be done with the feeling of not knowing altogether.
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