How to Help Make a Bearded Dragon Gain Weight

If your bearded dragon is getting skinny with every passing day, and you’re searching for answers, then keep reading this article. Bearded dragons, a unique name in the world of reptiles, are very low-maintenance reptile pets. Their hardy nature and friendly attitude solve half of the problem for their owner, removing their worries about the adjustment of the reptile. However, a few things may worry you at one point or another, and your beardie losing weight is one of them.

As your bearded dragon starts losing weight, you try to help and make it gain weight, as skinny is not a recommended body type for bearded dragons. However, before going on and making attempts for their weight gain, you must find out why they are losing weight.

Two widespread reasons would be less heat provided by the UVB light and an imbalanced diet. Warmth is essential for the bearded dragon to digest its food, and lack of heat would result in less digested food, making the bearded dragon weak.  Whereas the second reason doesn’t need any explanation, if your bearded dragon is not getting enough food, it will lose weight.

A list of reasons and treatments are explained below to help the bearded dragon gain weight.

How to tell if my bearded dragon is too skinny?

Several ways can help you identify weight loss in your bearded dragon. Keep a check on the bearded dragon to detect unusual signs; this will help see any health issue on time. Following are a few signs that show your beardie is losing weight.

Are its fat pads sunken in?

First of all, you must know what a fat pad is? It is pad behind their eyes with a slight bulge indicating a healthy and fit bearded dragon. If you find your bearded dragon’s fat pads sunken, then it’s a sign that your bearded dragon is losing weight.

Can you see their ribs?

It’s a very common sign of weight loss in your bearded dragon and in general. Your bearded dragon in normal conditions should be fit enough that their ribs aren’t visible. However, if you can see their ribs peeping out of their skin, this is an alarm that your bearded dragon is getting too skinny.

Is their skin loose?

Loose skin is an evident sign of weight loss, as it indicates where the skin used to be in healthy conditions. If you find the skin of your bearded dragon loose even if it is properly hydrated, then your beardie must be losing weight.

Ensure weight loss by giving it a warm bath, as sometimes the loose skin indicates dehydration too. If the skin gets plump and shiny right after the bath, then you don’t have to worry about the beardie losing its weight. However, if the skin hangs loose even after the bath, then your beardie is getting skinny.

Is Your bearded dragon Lethargic?

Bearded dragons are active most of the time and enjoy playing and roaming around in their territory. A dull and lethargic bearded dragon indicates sickness or something that is putting them off. Now, if you find your bearded dragon being passive, then there is a chance that it’s losing weight.

Why is my bearded dragon losing weight?

There can be multiple factors behind the weight loss of your bearded dragon. An adult bearded dragon can up to 2 months without food; however, the baby bearded dragons shouldn’t spend more than 24 hours without food, as staying without food can be fatal to their growth and health.

A list of reasons is explained below to help you understand why your bearded dragon doesn’t want to eat.

Reason#1: Parasitic infection

If your bearded dragon has parasites, then this is an alarming situation for you and your beardie. Parasitic infections in bearded dragons result in weight loss, and in some severe cases, the loss of weight would become rapid. Parasites affect the digestion of the bearded dragons directly, and in this case, you need to get your bearded dragon checked by a vet immediately.

The most atrocious and destructive parasitic infection for a bearded dragon is Cryptosporidiosis; this infection results in body wasting at a very high rate. Another infection involved in the weight loss of a bearded dragon is Coccidiosis, making your bearded dragon lose weight and get skinny.

Some other parasites that can affect your bearded dragon’s health are tapeworms, microsporidia, and pinworms. The bearded dragon can have some potential medical conditions because of the Adenovirus infection.

Other symptoms of your bearded dragon having a parasitic infection are runny or smelly droppings, which can worsen bloody droppings. It will make your bearded dragon’s belly look bloated, making the beardie lethargic and lose appetite.

In this case, clean the tank of your bearded dragon regularly, keep it isolated, and be better quarantined. Finally, take him to the vet for a check-up or feces for the fecal checkup to diagnose parasitic infection.

Reason# 2: Lack of or wrong lighting and heating

The bearded dragons have their origin in the hot lands of Australia. These cold-blooded reptiles cannot adapt to cold weather conditions and hence need warmth and heat at all times. The bearded dragons can digest their food and nutrients only in the availability of heat and light. They need temperatures around 95 Fahrenheit to 110 Fahrenheit for the digestion of food.

In addition to that, the bearded dragons need light to stay active and alert. Without light and heat, they won’t digest food easily and eventually become weak and skinny. You can use digital thermometers to avoid this situation and help your bearded dragon consume food as per the requirement.

Reasons# 3: Cage mates and bullying

Bearded dragons are territorial animals who enjoy solitary life in their territory. These reptiles are very sensitive about their area, and anyone in the surrounding can stress them out. If you keep two bearded dragons or more than two in a cage, this definitely will stress out the beardies.

The bearded dragons will fight for dominance, which will disrupt the environment inside the enclosure. Furthermore, if you keep bearded dragons of different ages and sizes together, there will be a dispute over the food and other necessities you are providing. The bigger bearded dragons will eat the portion of smaller ones, leaving them deprived and hungry.

Reason# 4: Dehydration

Dehydration can cause many health issues in your bearded dragon, including loss of appetite, problematic shed, impaction, and weight loss. Dehydration can also result in loose skin, so it often becomes hard to distinguish the reasons behind loose skin. You can identify the main problem by giving your bearded dragon a warm bath; if the skin plumps back, then the beardie was just going through dehydration; otherwise, it’s a sign of weight loss.

Another sign of dehydration is impaction, which is small and thick urates. The bearded dragon may even produce slimy saliva if it’s dehydrated. To help your bearded dragon recover from dehydration, you need to mist the tank frequently or bathe the bearded dragon.

Reason# 5: Another illness/ Problem

The reason behind your bearded dragon losing weight can be some other sickness or ailment too. During egg-laying, the calcium crash makes the female bearded dragon gravid, while many become skinny after laying eggs. It’s essential to provide extra supplements to the female bearded dragon after it’s done laying eggs.

Other issues can be weak organs or problems with indigestion; in each case, take your bearded dragon to the vet.

Reason# 6: Not eating enough

Maintaining a healthy and balanced diet for your bearded dragon is crucial for its growth and well-being. Unlike adult bearded dragons, the baby bearded dragons need to eat 3-4 times a day, with a meal containing 70% protein and 30% veggies, as they are growing and require these nutrients for effective growth.

However, if you’re not providing enough nutrients to your bearded dragon, then your beardie will lose weight.

Bearded dragons growth chart

AgeWeight
Hatchling2-3 grams
One month old5-20 grams
Two months12-20 grams
Three months20-70 grams
Four months50-90 grams
Five months90-150 grams
Six months100-200 grams
Seven months120-250 grams
Eight months150-300 grams
Nine months200-350 grams
Ten to eighteen months (mature)250-300 grams (minimum) 300- 450 grams (average) 900+ grams (overweight)
Two years250-800 grams

How to fatten up a bearded dragon?

Now that you know the reason behind your bearded dragon’s weight loss, you should start taking measures to compensate for the loss and make your beardie fit and healthy again. Below are few ways that can help your bearded dragon gain some weight.

Wait for the weight

First of all, if your baby bearded dragon is thin, there is nothing that you have to worry about. This reptile doesn’t start to fluff until it reaches adulthood; the reason behind this behavior is the conversion of all nutrients for growing in length. The bearded dragons use all the energy gained through food and nutrients in lengthening their bodies.

Furthermore, the main symptom of weight loss is the exposure of the hips of this creature because of low weight and fat. Until you detect this symptom, you shouldn’t worry about the beardie’s weight.

Home-cooked husbandry

You need to review your husbandry practices if your beardie is showing symptoms of the sickness or ailment. Ensure a clean and well-maintained enclosure at all times, as the rubbish and leftover inside can be harmful to your bearded dragon if they munch it down. Furthermore, check and maintain the temperature and lights inside the enclosure; this will help your bearded dragon gain weight.

Intestinal investigations

Parasites in the intestines of your bearded dragon can make it lose weight rapidly as parasites will continue to consume all their body nutrients and fats, which will make your beardie weak and lose weight. Get your bearded dragon checked by a vet every month to avoid any physical ailments.

Finally, take your bearded dragon for a blood test too; this will diagnose sicknesses such as metabolic bones disease, blood impurities, and respiratory problems too, which also make your bearded dragon lose weight.

Feed her fat

If your bearded dragon is becoming thin and weak, you should increase the fat intake of your pet reptile. This can be done by adding fatty insects to the diet, including waxworms, mealworms, super worms. These insects have a higher ratio of fat that will help your bearded dragon gain weight and stay healthy.

Frozen pinkies and hopper mice have an incredible amount of fat in them; so, if you’re planning to make your bearded dragon gain some weight, you may feed these occasionally. Here I repeat the word Occasionally, as providing too much can harm bearded dragon’s health.

You are what your food eats

This is a counter statement of a famous saying, “You are what you eat”; however, when you’re talking about bearded dragons, they are cute but odd as well. The insects that they are being provided with are gut-loaded. This means the nutrients which you want to pass down to your beardie are fed to the insects.

Gut loading will carry essential nutrients to your bearded dragon seamlessly, which will improve the health of beardie by keeping it fit.

Proper proportions of prey

It’s essential to maintain a balance in the number of veggies and insects you’re feeding your beardie. The young bearded dragons must be provided with a meal of insects 3-4 times a day, seven times a week, to help the beardie gain weight.

You can offer your bearded dragons as many insects as they can eat in 10 minutes. Do not forget to check the size of the food you’re putting in front of the bearded dragon. Chop the veggies to the gap between the dragon’s eyes, and the insects that you’re feeding him shouldn’t be any bigger than the size between the two eyes.

Reassess and Adjust Their UVB Setup

The UVB light has a direct effect on the appetite of your bearded dragon. If your dragon is losing weight because it has lost appetite, there is some problem with the heating and UVB light. The bearded dragons cannot digest food without proper heat between 95F- 110F; the cooler temperature will slow down their metabolism, making them thin and weak.

Keep a check on the UVB light and heating lamps; you can do this by using a digital thermometer to check the temperatures.

High-fat foods to give your bearded dragon

If you intend to make your bearded dragon gain some weight, you have to feed them a high-fat diet. Following is a list of food items that are rich in fat, and you can use it to help your beardie gain weight.

squashLeafy greensCarrotsEggsParsely
WaxwormsMealwormsSuper wormsDubia Roaches ( Low fats but adds variety to the diet of the bearded dragon)Phoenix worms
Frozen pinkies (occasionally)Hopper mice (occasionally)   

When to take your bearded dragon to the vet?

If the question arises in your mind, check the symptoms mentioned below; these will help you decide when you should take your bearded dragon to the vet.

Excessive hiding

Bearded dragons love to bask in the sun when they are in the wild; in captivity, they most of their time on the porch basking in the UVB light. However, if your bearded dragon is hiding in the enclosure, then there’s something wrong with its health.

Take your bearded dragon to the vet if you witness this situation.

No feces

This may be a result of impaction, which is a repercussion of dehydration. The reason behind defecation varies from one species to another. Common reasons can be inappropriate diet and less food. Check the beardie diet; if you find it appropriate, then plan a visit to the vet for a proper check-up of your bearded dragon.

Hips are visible

It’s an evident sign of weight loss, which goes to show that your bearded dragon is way too skinny or might be going through the metabolic bone disease. If you have been providing a properly balanced diet to the beardie, this condition indicates parasites or digestive problems.

Get your bearded checked and treated by a vet in this situation. As parasites may harm the internal organs of the beardie if not treated on time.

Sudden weight loss

This is also an alarming situation. If you have changed the bearded dragon’s diet, it might have a hard time adjusting. Give him some time; however, if you’re feeding the same old balanced diet and notice sudden weight loss, you must visit the vet to check your bearded dragon.

An extreme change in behavior

The bearded dragons are very sociable and friendly with their owner once they get used to their touch and voice. However, if your bearded dragon is acting weird or you notice a change in their behavior, then there must be something bothering him. Check for symptoms and have him checked by the vet to ensure good health.

Other reasons not related to stomach problems

Some other reasons and symptoms you need to check to have your beardie checked by a vet are listed below.

  • Mouth hanging open
  • Discolored stomach
  • Cloudy eyes
  • Swollen body parts
  • Disfigured tail or limb
  • Damaged snout
  • Shaky behavior
  • Sunken eyes
  • Discoloration of the inside of the mouth

Conclusion

Finally, if your baby beardie is not gaining weight, that’s not a big deal as it uses all the nutrients to grow in length. However, for adults, the visibility of hips and ribs, sunken fat pads, and loose skin is a sign of weight loss.

In each case, find out the reasons behind the bearded dragon’s weight loss. If it’s just the diet, add fatty foods to the diet or enough nutrients for the beardie’s health. However, if the diet is acceptable and you see symptoms such as loose droppings, impaction, swollen limbs, and tails, then you must get your bearded dragon checked by the vet.

Lastly, follow your instincts, as your gut will never lie to you.

About Tariq Aziz

I am working as Chief editor at MY BEARDIES. I have been working in the publishing business for over a decade now. I love reptiles and I love talking about them. I have years of experience in herpetoculture. I have cared for many reptiles including bearded dragons, geckos, and skinks since childhood.

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