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Any good pet owner knows that a happy, healthy pet is a pet that is eating. . Lizards are not different in that respect. So, when your baby bearded dragon suddenly stops eating or being interested in food, it’s a red flag for observant pet owners to be concerned.
Baby bearded dragons need to eat more regularly than adults – around two to three times a day minimum according to reptile veterinarians.
If your baby bearded dragon is suddenly not eating as much, or has stopped eating altogether, it may be due to temperature issues, stress, shedding, food problems or even medical issues.
|Too Cold||Warm the tank slowly and provide an appropriate basking light for your bearded dragon. Consider adding a timer to ensure the light is on for the desired time.|
|Too Humid||Move your dragons water source as far from the light as possible. Reduce the surface area of the water source or remove it entirely and provide water in other ways. Ensure good airflow in the tank to allow moisture to escape.|
|High Stress||Try to identify and then eliminate or reduce stressors. If the stress is another animal, try housing your bearded dragon alone. If people stress him out, try blocking off one side of the tank to give the dragon more privacy.|
|Shedding||Shedding may cause decreased appetite but it should subside once shedding has finished.|
|Too Full||Overfeeding can cause issues with your bearded dragon. In this case monitor for signs of medical issues caused by overeating and then reduce food offered to an appropriate level.|
|Picky Eater||If you are sure your bearded dragon is not eating enough, try offering a wide variety of safe fruits and vegetables, as well as mixing up the types and sizes of insects offered.|
|Illness||Bearded dragons, especially juveniles but including all ages, can contract a variety of illnesses that cause anorexia or decreased appetite. If you think your bearded dragon might be ill, it is best to consult a veterinarian.|
|Worms/Parasites||Bearded dragons can be host to a variety of different internal parasites. In juvenile bearded dragons, coccidiosis is quite common. Adults commonly have worms but typically these don’t cause any issue unless present in very large quantities.|
|Constipation||Constipation is actually quite common in bearded dragons. Bowel movements can be encouraged by warm water soaks of up to 8 – 12 hours in duration.|
|Brumation||During the winter bearded dragons may enter a type of “hibernation” called brumation. This temporary period of decreased activity also leads to decreased appetite. Brumation does not typically occur in baby bearded dragons so you should consult with a reptile expert before assuming this is the case.|
Common Reasons Baby Bearded Dragons Stop Eating
Getting the right temperature for reptiles is a tricky thing, and your cold-blooded lizard is particularly susceptible to fluctuations in heat and coldness. If the temperature in their terrarium is too high, that can lead to dehydration. Because of this loss of water, the digestive system is affected, leading to a loss of appetite.
Cool conditions or very humid conditions can also disrupt your baby bearded dragon’s internal systems, leading to respiratory infections that can decrease appetite.
And, if it’s too cold, your dragon’s body may be triggered into thinking it’s brumation (reptile hibernation) season and their body may shut down and prepare, meaning they will cease to eat. Warming them back up and slowly reintroducing food will be key.
When in doubt, assume warmer conditions are better. Bearded dragons, no matter their age, need high temperatures, and babies especially do. Higher temperatures are essential in helping them digest their food. (source)
Baby bearded dragons are by nature anxious creatures. (source) The calm, cool, reptilian exterior is a bit of a mask for what amounts to a bundle of nerves. They’re quite susceptible to stress and new changes can really upset them.
If you have just brought your baby beardie home, it will take them a while to get acclimated to their new abode. Similarly, if you have made any recent changes (moved houses, changed rooms, switched up their terrarium, etc.) expect your bearded dragon to be on edge.
It may not even be obvious environmental changes that have stressed out your beardie! Stress can be internalized if there is friction between cage mates.
For example, if you have two bearded dragons together, one may overpower your baby, creating intense competition for food, sunbathing spots, hiding spots, etc.
All this pressure and bullying can stress out a baby (or an adult, even). (source)
In addition to hiding more, sleeping to excess and shying away from human interaction, a stressed dragon’s appetite is often affected first. In fact, they may take up to a week before eating anything at all after a major change happens. They should begin eating again before two weeks, though, or they may be seriously in danger of dying of starvation.
It’s important, too, to remember that once your dragon starts eating again, it may still be another two or three weeks before their eating habits are fully back to normal.
Simply shedding their old skin while growing in the new can also disrupt their appetites.
Babies shed more often than adults too – every one to two weeks versus two to three times total a year – and this can result in more frequent bouts of lethargy and decreased appetite.
Lack of appetite, though, will usually pass in a few days after shedding is complete. For a baby bearded dragon, it’s growth that is causing the skin to shed so frequently. If your baby bearded dragon is growing, he is eating. That means there probably isn’t anything to worry about.
Tracking length and weight regularly is one of the best ways to ensure your bearded dragon is on track as well as identify if / when she starts losing weight.
If your baby bearded dragon feels too full, they will likely stop eating until they have room again. Overfeeding your pet can cause them to stop eating for a while. Best case scenario, they’re making room for more food.
However, overfeeding comes with more inherent dangers, such as torn guts or an impaction, which will not only lead to your dragon not eating but open them up to more serious health risks.
On the other hand, you may just find yourself with a picky eater! Some bearded dragons have particular tastes and they may simply not like their food. What they eat in their youngest days can greatly influence how picky they’re as they age, too.
When it comes to feeding babies, keep in mind that most of their diet, around 50 – 80%, should be feeder insects, while adults should have around the same percentage of fresh fruits and veggies!
If your bearded dragon seems to be turning its nose up at what you offer, experiment with different bugs and different vegetables until you find the ones they actually enjoy eating.
Loss of appetite is a classic sign of an underlying medical issue. While not eating by itself isn’t tied to one illness in particular (it can be a co-symptom of many sicknesses), when combined with other symptoms, it could mean any of a variety of problems:
- Vitamin and mineral deficiency, calcium deficiency: Lack of motivation, increased lethargy, lack of energy. Soft bones or kinks in their tail or back. Shaking. (source)
- Ear infection or head trauma: Loss of balance, head tilting, excessive head shaking.
- Constipation, impaction or parasites: Irregular bowel movements, lack of bowel movements, diarrhea, blood in the stool.
Constipation or impaction can occur if your bearded dragon has ingested something it shouldn’t, such as wood chips or sand or small rocks, which is why they’re never recommended to be used in terrariums.
This can also occur if your beardie has eaten bugs that are too large. Too big insects can cause tears in their gut, leading to paralysis and bloody stool. When your dragon is constipated, they will most likely be and feel backed up, resulting in a sharp decrease in appetite and not eating.
- Respiratory infection: Gaping, gasping or puffing. Forcefully exhaling. These infections are especially common during bouts of low temperatures and/or high humidity.
- Egg-bound (Females): Anxious or excessive digging, overprotective or aggressive behavior without having laid any eggs.
- Stomatitis: Refusal to eat, swelling around the mouth, excess saliva and pus.
Stomatitis makes it simply too painful for your bearded dragon to eat. This is a serious condition that will likely mean a trip to the vet and treatment with antibiotics, as well as changes to your beardie’s environment.
Though it may not sound like a good time, force-feeding may be a necessity if your bearded dragon has gone too long without eating. Especially if they’re a baby, force-feeding may save their life.
Your local reptile veterinarian can advise when and if force feeding is necessary for your bearded dragon.
Generally, this is an action that should be initiated if you have reached the two-week mark of your lizard not eating at all. It’s relatively simple to do, though -simply secure your dragon, gently pull down on their lower jaw, insert food and close their mouth back up.
Your best strategy though is to minimize the risk of your bearded dragon experiencing a loss of appetite in the first place. Keep their water supply full and fresh, but don’t exclusively focus on that.
Dragons are not really prone to drinking freestanding water but prefer to lick at moving water. Spray some droplets on your beardie’s nose or let some trickle down the terrarium wall.
Also, provide them with fresh, watery fruits and veggies as part of their diet. Ensure the insects they’re being fed have also been allowed a lot to drink and so are full of water.
Create and stick to a feeding schedule to promote regularity. Set out specific times that you feed, two to three a day, and allow your baby bearded dragon 15 – 20 minutes to eat as much as it can. Always provide water-rich bugs and vegetables for them to choose from.
According to Reptiles Magazine, babies need higher basking temperatures than adults. Ensure they have spots that are around 100 – 110 degrees Fahrenheit and invest in a UVB light.
Another important thing to do to ensure your baby bearded dragon is healthy is to track its weight. This will allow you to ensure they’re not losing any weight (and are preferably gaining weight in reasonable amounts) and so you can keep an eye on whether you need to increase feedings.
It’s recommended to weigh your baby at least once a week. A jewelry or kitchen food scale is ideal, as it will allow you to get specific down to the nearest 0.1 gram.
Track your baby’s weight at each weighing to view progress and to see if any weight loss issues are cropping up. My free printable reptile care sheets include a growth chart to track weight and length, meal tracking sheet and tank cleaning log. Get them free in the resource library by signing up for the newsletter!
How long can a bearded dragon go without food?
Hibernation (a.k.a. brumation, in reptile terms) is when their body naturally goes into a shutdown mode. Indoor domesticated bearded dragons, thanks to temperature-controlled environments and moderated living spaces, most likely won’t experience the full effects of brumation, though.
However, during this winter bodily shutdown period, a baby bearded dragon can survive without food for 2 – 4 weeks, whereas healthy adults can go without food for around 2 – 3 months.
In fact, experts even advise reducing both the frequency and volume of food for your bearded dragon why she is brumating.
During this time, healthy adults should still maintain their body weight. Because of this, some owners of adult dragons forgo feeding their pets for just a few weeks during this time, especially if the dragon is a picky eater.
Under non-brumation conditions, baby bearded dragons cannot go much longer than a week before they’re in serious health. If you’re approaching week two of them not eating at all, a veterinarian’s attention may be necessary as they may not survive much longer.
Bearded dragons don’t typically brumate for the first time until they are at least 10 – 12 months old. (source) If your bearded dragon is still very young, brumation may not be the answer you are looking for when it comes to your baby’s appetite issues.
Bob Doneley (2006). Caring for the bearded dragon. North American Veterinary Conference, Orlando , Florida, USA, 7-11 January 2006. Gainesville, FL, USA: North American Veterinary Conference.
Raiti P (2011): Husbandry, diseases and veterinary care of the bearded dragon, Pogona vitticeps. Proceedings of the 18th Annual Conference ARAV, Seattle. 36–48.