Pets can gain weight just like we can, so it is important to take this into account and care for them accordingly. Especially as a new beardie owner, you might be unsure of how to keep your pet healthy and this can lead to some mistakes.
In your mind, insects, fruits, and vegetables don’t seem like they’d be all that calorie-laden, but in the wrong quantities, they can lead to a fat bearded dragon in no time. So what causes a bearded dragon to gain weight and how should you avoid it?
How Bearded Dragons Get Fat
You wouldn’t expect it to be such a common problem, but the truth of the matter is that many dragons gain weight without their owners noticing the problem. They appear to have a balanced diet and you’re not feeding them anything outside of the three food groups they typically eat out of, so what could be the problem? Well, some lesser-noticed culprits cause them to gain weight, and you could be accidentally doing all of them.
Beardies need insects in order to get the right amount of protein necessary for their diets. Baby dragons especially need a hefty amount of protein to grow healthy and strong. However, some insects are better for your little one than others.
There are certain bugs and worms that provide good protein, water, and fat, but there are others that are too high in fat for your bearded dragon to be able to eat more than as an occasional treat. Waxworms for instance are very high in fat and should only be used as a treat because too many can cause your bearded dragon to put on weight quickly. They are a very tasty snack, but your beardie may get accustomed to the high-fat content, and then they won’t want insects that are better for them.
Butterworms are also not the best worms to give your dragon, even if they are high in calcium. They don’t have the best nutritional value for your bearded dragon and if you feed them a majority of insects that are not nutritionally dense and high in fat, they are bound to start gaining weight. It is important to know what insects are best for your beardie to eat so you aren’t giving them treat insects as a main meal component.
Fruits and Veggies
Plant-based foods are incredibly important to your dragon’s diet. Especially for adults, leafy greens, certain vegetables, and the occasional fruit make up the majority of their diet so you need to ensure that they are getting the right vitamins and minerals from these foods. The issue that can arise with some of these foods is giving your dragon too much fruit or too many vegetables that don’t offer proper nutrition.
Most fruits are so high in sugar that they are supposed to be considered treats for your little guy. They should only be given to them sparingly and if you’re feeding them too much fruit they can start gaining weight and also developing health problems like mouth rot. They need a balanced diet in order to thrive and while they may enjoy fruit, they need far more leafy greens and healthy vegetables in their bowls.
They can also become too accustomed to the sweetness of fruit and refuse to eat the other things in their bowl so fruit should only be given sparingly. They thrive far better on dark greens and healthy vegetables like carrots and carrot tops, squash, or peas.
Feeding Too Frequently or Too Much
Even if they aren’t eating the wrong things, they could be eating too much or too frequently. You may need to feed a baby dragon every day, but adults don’t need that frequent feeding. The ideal feeding schedule for adult dragons is insects one day, vegetables another, then nothing and repeat. If you’re noticing your dragon starting to look overweight, then you may be feeding them too frequently.
Even if you think you’re not feeding your little dragon enough, your beardie doesn’t need a huge amount of food for every meal. You should go by your vet’s recommendation and also consult other beardie owners to see if what you’re giving your pet is best. If your little dragon has already put on weight, your vet might recommend a diet to help them slim back down.
Health Risks for Fat Bearded Dragons
Once your dragon has gained weight it is important to try and rectify the situation as quickly as you can. Your beardie is a small creature and added weight can really hurt their joints and cause a whole host of problems that can make their life really difficult. Fatty Liver Disease can develop if your beardie becomes overweight and then the liver will no longer be able to break down things the way that it should.
Their joints and bones can’t take the pressure of them being too big, so it is imperative that they remain a healthy weight. Their organs can also suffer from too much fat around their bodies and it can cause other issues like heart disease or diabetes. Your beardie may even begin to huff or wheeze when they breathe because the weight is pressurizing their lungs.
This can affect fertility for females, or if she is pregnant it can make birth more difficult as the added fat obstructs the eggs’ normal path out of the body.
Your beardie will also have their lifespan cut short as the weight can hurt their body and cut down the time they have with you. Your pet is important to you, so we know that you want them to live a long and fulfilling life. That means the extra weight needs to come off so they can stay happy, healthy, and by your side for a long time.
What To Do
One of the best things you can do when you notice your little guy is overweight is take them to the vet. Your veterinarian will be able to tell you how much they’ve gained and how best to assess the situation. They will likely check your beardie for any other health issues so that they can help you get your pet back to proper health in no time.
There are things you can also do at home to help regulate your bearded dragon’s weight as well. Changing the way you feed your beardie can actually make all the difference in the world. By forcing them to slow down when they eat, you can help control their diet a little.
You can use a plate or feed them by hand as a way to spread out their food so they don’t eat it all in one go. You’ll also want to keep high-fat foods for the morning rather than at night, as they’ll have a better chance to burn off that energy instead of letting it just turn into fat overnight. Letting them forage for their food as well can help them burn some calories while they are hunting for their meal.
Do not feed them every day, they don’t need that much food. Feed more beetles instead of worms as they are lower in fat and higher in protein. Giving them greens and then other food every other day is one of the best ways to get your little dragon back to optimal health. Essentially you’ll be doing a regimen where there are a few days they won’t have a meal but spaced out with days they’ll be eating greens and lean protein.
If you’re worried that your little guy might be hungry, don’t be so concerned. The adults do not need to eat every single day and feeding them every day is bad for their health. If you’re really concerned about the weight they’ve gained as well you can also start taking them on walks.
There are bearded dragon harnesses so your little buddy can safely and effectively go on walks with you without any risk of them getting loose or hurt. They also really love to run around in tunnels, mazes, or hides, and if you set up a specific area for them to play they can get the exercise they need while also having fun and bonding with you. Swimming is also another great option as you can fill up your bathtub or a kiddie pool with a couple of inches of water so they can splash around and play.
You may also see your beardie putting on weight before they brumate. If you suspect that brumation is near, don’t try and get them to lose weight, they’ll need the extra calories to burn while they are asleep. When a bearded dragon wakes from its long nap they’ll have likely slimmed down quite a bit as they will be working off of the excess fat to keep them alive during that time.
If you have any other worries or concerns, your vet is your best asset to help you keep your beardie around for a good, long time.