When beardies suddenly stop eating, it’s pretty normal to assume the worst case scenario. Especially since they can’t tell you why they aren’t eating. So, as its owner, you have to figure it out before it’s too late!
But before you start overthinking things, remember that sometimes the reason behind your beardie’s sudden lack of diet can be over simple things that you can fix in just a few minutes!
In this post, we’ll be figuring out some of the reasons why your beloved bearded dragon is not eating.
Table of Contents
Reasons why your bearded dragon is refusing to eat
They’re In Brumation:
If your bearded dragon isn’t eating, chances are that they might just be in brumation. Brumation is basically hibernation, but for lizards. They usually go into this during the winter.
When your beardie goes into brumation, most of its normal bodily functions will slow down. Since they won’t really need any kind of food, they will start eating a lot less and won’t move around that much either.
If they’re spending most of their time in the colder part of their cage, then they are probably not eating because of brumation. Keep in mind that this is not really the case every time but, it should give you an idea of what to expect.
Just try to keep them hydrated and give them food just in case they end up wanting it, since there’s really nothing else you can do during this period. Also make sure to keep the temperature maintained, because if it gets too low while there in brumation, then it could possibly turn into a serious health issue.
Mouth rot Infection:
Although the name of this infection seems a little scary, this infection is actually fairly common for a bearded dragon. Since this condition is very painful, most bearded dragons won’t want to eat. Some symptoms of mouth rot include:
- Loose teeth
- Bleeding in the mouth
- Yellow oral cavity
- Increased saliva
Even though these symptoms seem very painful, this condition is very easily treatable. Contact your vet to check your beardie out and prescribe the right treatment!
Most of your lizard suspenders usually come from the insects they eat, if you get them from a shady source then they could potentially infect your dragon with a parasite. This can make your beardie feel very sick, and lose their appetite.
But, it could also have the complete opposite effect as well, with your beardie getting an increased appetite. If you think this could be the cause of your dragon’s problems, then you should make an appointment with your vet asap.
Sufficient lighting is extremely important for the health of all kinds of reptiles and bearded dragons are no exception. Lighting can affect your beardies’ comfort level, which can also make them not want to eat anymore.
The appropriate lighting sends signals to their tiny bodies, telling them it’s time to eat. The darkness can often send the opposite signal. Your bearded dragon needs both UVA and UVB lights to stay healthy and happy.
Its also essential that you keep the lights on for at least 2-3 hours after they eat their last meal for the day, to help them digest the food. Feeding them, then turning the lights off immediately afterward, will send mixed signals which might cause them to stop eating.
Bearded dragons are a type of desert lizard that is native to Australia’s scrublands. So, If your bearded dragon refuses to feed, one of the first things you should do is check the temperature of the habitat.
Dragons who are exposed to cold temperatures on a regular basis may have difficulty digesting their food. They may also develop a weaker immune system as a result of their treatment.
Bearded dragons require a temperature range of 95 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit for basking. Temperatures should not go below 75°F at night, however, this can be reduced somewhat during brumation. Temperatures should be monitored multiple times a day with a thermometer to ensure that they remain within the proper range.
These lizards are cold-blooded and get their energy from the tank temperature. They won’t eat until they’ve warmed up completely. To aid digestion, they also require the tank to remain warm for three hours after eating.
Cold temperatures are a frequent cause of a bearded dragon’s refusal to eat, but this is easily fixable. If your dragon is wheezing or has discharge from its nose or mouth, it could be suffering from a respiratory infection caused by low temperatures and should be sent to the veterinarian.
When food, or any other object, becomes lodged in your beardie’s intestinal tract, it produces a blockage. This blockage is extremely unpleasant for the bearded dragon because it prevents it from eating.
A loss of appetite and a change in feces are the most noticeable signs of impaction. Their poop may come to a halt or become extremely tiny and gritty.
Unlike brumation, when their hunger gradually decreases, when impaction happens there will be a sudden complete loss of appetite.
Reptiles that live in enclosures with improper substrate are prone to impaction. Bearded dragons can easily eat loose substrate, which is the main cause of impaction. The risk of impaction is considerably reduced when a substrate such as a reptile carpet, newspaper, or tiles is used, especially in hatchlings and juveniles.
Sand impaction can be seen on x-rays and felt by lightly touching the bearded dragon’s stomach.
Stop feeding your bearded dragon and take them to the clinic as soon as possible if you suspect they have been affected. Impaction can sometimes resolve on its own, but it usually requires a trip to the veterinarian.
Too stressed out:
A bearded dragon not eating is the biggest sign of stress or anxiousness. Not wanting food, laziness, pacing, aggressiveness are all signs of stress.
There are many causes of chronic stress:
- Wrong tank temperature or humidity.
- Small enclosure (less than 75-gallons).
- Aggressive tank mates.
- Bad diet.
- Improper handling.
A bearded dragons will probably be stressed when first brought home. But this usually goes away as it gets comfortable in its new home over time.
If your bearded dragon is expressing any indications of illness, this could be the cause of its reluctance to eat.
Is your bearded dragon spending a lot of time laying about and not doing anything? Are there any soft bones? Is it swaying in any way? It could be suffering from vitamin and mineral insufficiency (particularly calcium) as well as MBD.
Is it pooping normally? Does it have diarrhea, or blood in the poop? It’s possible that your bearded dragon is constipated, impacted, or infected with parasites.
Have you noticed your female bearded dragon digging or becoming agitated, but she hasn’t laid any eggs? It’s possible that she’s egg-bound.
Is your bearded dragon gaping, puffing up when inhaling, expelling violently, and possibly producing bubbles? Low temperatures and heavy humidity may be causing your bearded dragon to develop a respiratory infection.
If your bearded dragon is losing its balance and tilting its head, It may have suffered a head injury or an ear infection.
A bearded dragon that is wounded is likely to stop eating, especially if the wound is severe. Injuries that are severe or infected should always be treated by a veterinarian.
There are numerous potential sources of injury, the majority of which may be avoided:
Tank decoration with sharp and abrasive edges might injure them, especially their fragile stomachs and toes. Make sure that all of the decorations are safe for reptiles and that they don’t have any sharp edges or corners.
Allowing live insects to walk freely in your bearded dragon’s enclosure might be harmful. Crickets have been known to eat the feet and tails of lizards. After that, the wounds could become infected.
Minor wounds can be treated with warm water and antibiotics at home. Unless your bearded dragon is diseased, a little wound will usually not prevent it from eating.
A bearded dragon that is dehydrated will not have a healthy appetite. This is due to the fact that water is essential for digestion and the passage of feces through the digestive tract. The skin of a dehydrated bearded dragon will be loose, the eyes will be sunken, and the saliva will be slimy.
If the temperature in the tank is too high your bearded dragon may become dehydrated. Please keep in mind that bearded dragons get most of their water from food.
As a result, it’s essential to gut-load their feeder insects (by offering bugs, water crystals or fruits/veggies as a source of water) and provide fresh vegetables and fruits. Bearded dragons like to lick moving water or water sprayed on the nose rather than sip water.
Spray some water on your bearded dragon’s nose and let it lick it to help it stay hydrated. If your dragon isn’t interested in water, try diluted fruit juice instead (3 parts water: 1 part juice). You can give them diluted grape, apple, and other permitted fruit juices.
Bearded dragons shed their outer layer of skin as they mature, a process known as ecdysis. Their skin turns white and papery as a result of this process, and it is rubbed off in patches.
The frequency and length of shedding vary greatly depending on the age of the bearded dragon.
It can take up to two weeks for a huge adult to shed completely. It’s possible that a juvenile will shed in a day or two. Younger dragons can shed once a month, twice a week, or even every two weeks. Adults may only shed once or twice a year.
Check to see if your bearded dragon is about to shed if you find he isn’t eating as much as usual. This is the most likely cause of white papery skin.
Beardies may eat less or not at all before and during shedding. Within a week of shedding, they should be eating regularly. After the majority of his skin has been lost, they will resume eating. Some animals, particularly hatchlings and juveniles, retain their appetite and continue to eat.
They shed their hair all their lives. For long-term owners, the cycle of decreased appetite and shedding becomes typical. It might be intimidating for first-time keepers, and it takes some getting accustomed to.
Fasting for a few hours during shedding should have no effect on their weight, however, they may become lethargic and cranky. Unless you’re assisting with a stuck shed, give them time and don’t try to manage them.
They’re being bullied:
While some people keep their bearded dragons together, this is not really the smartest idea.
Bearded dragons are solitary lizards who compete fiercely for food, sunbathing, and hiding sites, among other things. As a result, one bearded dragon refuses to eat either because others will not allow it or simply because it is afraid.
There’ll be an alpha and beta (main and submissive bearded dragons) in the group. A submissive dragon will be slow and will not try to obtain items that it requires.
When it comes to housing two bearded dragons, the only option is to house two females. Even in ideal living conditions, they can grow to dislike each other.
A minimum of a 130-gallon tank is required, as well as distinct basking and hiding areas, basking areas, and other amenities.
At the end of the day, housing two or more bearded dragons together isn’t worth it because there are too many dangers. You won’t be able to keep an eye on them all the time, so anything could happen. Even the tiniest behavioral signals that a bearded dragon is agitated may go missed by you. So, it’s best to keep your dragons apart.
They’re just picky:
Bearded dragons are intriguing and expressive lizards who will often express their negative emotions through a lack of interest in food or even aggression.
Small changes in diet, temperature, or lighting can sometimes be enough to trigger this. Larger changes, such as a new tank or a move, can also cause your dragon to lose its appetite.
Fortunately, this response usually settles with time. If your dragon continues to not eat its food, it’s possible that a recent change you made isn’t settling well with them, and you’ll have to go back to your old system.
Changing the food they used to eat, how frequently you fed them, increasing or decreasing the lighting of their tank are all examples of this.
How to get them to eat
Offer them some vegetables that are still in the ground:
In the wild, bearded dragons eat their vegetables straight from the ground. If you have a garden with fresh vegetables, let your beardie roam around and choose the food it wants to eat itself, it should come naturally to them. This will reduce their stress levels and increase their enjoyment!
Grow a dozen trays of vegetation to allow for plant rotation in order to save, regenerate, and maintain good hygiene.
Chemical fertilizers should be avoided because they will likely result in high levels of nitrates in the food. It’s also bad for the environment.
Try hand feeding them:
Hand-feeding plants can also help to pique interest. Try combining vegetation and a worm in such a way that the worm cannot resist taking the vegetation with it. When offering food, be careful how the food is held so your bearded dragon does not bite you. Feeding tongs will protect you, but make sure your bearded dragon’s teeth aren’t damaged.
This method can also be used to serve whole leaves. To attract attention, use movement such as waving it in front of the bearded dragon.
It’s possible that the bearded dragon will try to eat it. Make sure your bearded dragon does not become reliant on hand-feeding; it should not be done on a regular basis.
Give them some fruits:
If your bearded dragon has a favorite fruit, try juicing, mash, or finely Chopping it and sprinkle it over the other vegetation. Fruit such as berries, apples, and other fruits are popular choices.
Feed some of the flavor-enhanced food to your bearded dragon by hand or leave it with him. See which one works the best for you!
Hang the vegetables in the tank
Vegetation can be given to your beardie by attaching whole leaves in a bunch and suspending them at the top of the cage. Leaves can also be held in place by hand or any other means that allows them to be tugged on.
Bearded dragons can pick at the leaves in this method, cropping them like they do in the wild. It’s so much more enjoyable for picky bearded dragons to be able to eat the greens in their natural state.
Never give up:
You should stop giving them feeders for a few weeks until they realize they need to eat their greens. You can gradually reintroduce feeders once they’ve started eating their greens.
If your dragon is an adult, consider giving them feeders only 2-3 times per week and greens on a daily basis. Just keep an eye on their weight at all times.
Bearded dragons prefer to avoid their food in the hopes of getting something better, so giving in will only reinforce this childish behavior.
Force-feeding a Bearded Dragon
Force-feeding a bearded dragon is okay, but only with veterinary permission! When your bearded dragon isn’t eating, failing to consult your veterinarian can lead to serious problems in the long run.
The following are some of the most common side effects of force-feeding:
- Increasing anxiety
- Severing ties
- Creating negative food associations
- An injury to the throat
This is why, unless your pet is malnourished or ill, a vet will provide many other options before recommending this. If your bearded dragon is at a healthy weight, don’t assume anything bad is going on when they stop eating.
You will require the following items to force-feed:
Vegetables, fruit, mealworms, and a small syringe (no needle) Vitamin supplement
The syringe is required to insert the food into the beardy’s throat. Mix vegetables, fruits, and insects.
Vegetables and fruits provide essential vitamins, whereas mealworms simply taste good and persuade them to eat again. A vitamin supplement is required to replace lost nutrition while the reptile is ill or not eating.
Blend together equal parts vegetables, fruits, mealworms, and a vitamin supplement to make a puree. If necessary, add a splash of water to loosen it up. Fill the syringe halfway with the puree.
put the puree into the syringe and gently take the tip to the back of your beardies throat. Then slowly insert some of the purée until they swallow it.
When your bearded dragon stops eating, you should always look into all the possibilities to rule out any serious habitat or health issues.
Making sure your beardie is healthy, has the right temperatures, and is getting enough UVB exposure is critical to getting them to eat again! And, if in doubt, take them to a reptile veterinarian just to be on the safe side!