Bearded dragons are known for being voracious eaters, which is why it can be very worrisome when they go off their food. This may or may not be a problem – some dragons are picky and moody.
As soon as you recognize your bearded dragon is not eating, it is easy to get worried that YOU may have done something wrong. While not eating is a reason to be concerned, bearded dragons are not the same as humans. Depending on their age, they can sometimes go days without eating.
In this article, you’ll learn how to discover why your bearded dragon is not eating; common symptoms you need to be aware of; and the recommended way to approach the solution without causing additional or unnecessary stress to your bearded dragon.
NOTE: As bearded dragon lovers we make every effort to share the best husbandry tips and resources. But please understand that this information should not be substituted for professional advice from a certified herpetologist.
Why is my bearded dragon not eating (or pooping)?
As you read on you will learn that all the reasons we share have a universal connection:
Something has changed!
• Did you recently buy or relocate your dragons?
• Have you changed their lighting in the last 3-6 months?
• Did something change in their diet?
The first thing we recommend is to think back on recent days and see if you can recall anything that changed. Or did you notice something different about their behavior?
Following are some of the most common reasons that may give you clues as to why your bearded dragon is not eating.
1. Brumation (CYCLICAL): Starting at about 1 year old your bearded dragon will brumate at certain times of this year. This means much like a bear during the winter, they will go into a hibernation period. During this time they will find a cool place in their enclosure and not move much. They may also be in a deep sleep for a couple of days at a time.
Treatment: Allow your bearded dragon to rest as much as they need. But make sure that they stay hydrated. You can use a dropper to give them water. Just drop a few droplets on their snout. You can also puree their salad in a blender or juicer and feed them through a baby syringe if you are concerned about them not eating.
2. Impaction – What kind of substrate are you using? Is it sand or loose wood chips? Your bearded dragon could have accidentally ingested substrate.
Treatment: Change the substrate to slate tile or contact paper (kitchen cupboard or drawer liners). Repticarpet is also a simple to maintain substrate.
3. Lighting – A bearded dragon needs to receive proper UVB lighting to digest their food. Have you changed your light in the last 3-6 months?
4. Shedding (CYCLICAL) – Does your bearded dragon’s scales look dull in color? Is the tip of their tail gray? Have their eyes been bulging out more than usual? Then your bearded dragon might be going through the shedding process. During this time they are itchy and occupied with getting through their shed and have much motivation for anything.
TREATMENT: Give them a warm soak for 15 minutes one time per week to help make the shedding process more comfortable. But don’t try to peel any scales/skin that is loose or peeling off. The exception is if it is blocking their mouth breathing passage or cuts off their circulation.
5. Illness or Infection – Is your bearded dragon eating gut load insects (those that have been brought from an approved store)? Your dragon might have a parasite or some kind of internal infection and they are not motivated to eat or they feel sick when they eat.
TREATMENT: Call and schedule an appointment with your herp veterinarian asap. If possible, take a feces sample the night before. Place it in a plastic baggie and leave in the refrigerator (up to 24 hours).
6. Mouth Rot – Have you noticed any discoloration or dry or cracked skin around your beardies mouth. Your bearded dragon might have an infection in or around their mouth (or teeth) and eating is painful for them.
7. Relocation – Did you recently buy your bearded dragon? Or maybe you moved their tank somewhere different in the house. Did you separate them from another dragon in a tank? Or did you add another bearded dragon to their tank? Any one of these reasons that change their environment, can cause to stress and may be the reason they don’t feel comfortable to eat for a few days.
8. Age – Do you know if your dragon is a baby, juvenile or an adult? Some adults can eat daily while others only can eat every couple days. Bearded dragons don’t need to eat as much because they aren’t growing.
As your bearded dragon gets older, their eating habits change a little. This is especially common and noticeable as they grow out of their baby months (when they tend to eat the most and frequently) to their juvenile stage.
The only reason you should be worried is if your bearded dragon goes off food and they are losing weight. You should have a small scale on hand to immediately start monitoring his/her weight. If the dragon starts to rapidly lose weight, it could mean he has parasites!
9. Pregnancy – If you have a female bearded dragon over the age of 1 year that shares her tank with a male dragon, she might be pregnant and ready to lay her eggs soon. Gently feel her underbelly and see if it feels lumpy or like small grains of dried rice.
But check this out, if you have a female bearded dragon over the age of 1 and she has not been with a male she could still be pregnant with infertile eggs! Fascinating, huh? She may scratch in different areas of her tank as she looks for a place to burrow (dig). So give her a temporary box with some top soil. Increase her calcium, give her silkworms as her staple insect and increase her warm baths and soaks. This will help the pregnancy go smoothly, otherwise, her eggs may rupture inside and kill her. Infertile eggs can be recognized because they look hollow, flat and a yellow tint.
10. Constipated/Diet – When is the last time your dragon pooped? And what color was it? If it is a funny color or different color than it normally is – think back if you fed them something different or a food that was that color i.e. puree pumpkin might result in orange poop. Or were they outside of their tank recently and maybe accidentally ate something that you did not see?
11. Temperature – What are the temperatures? Dragons can go off food because it’s too warm or too cold in their environment. You should be providing a basking temperature of 105-110 degree Fahrenheit and a cool end in the 80’s, which can be measured using a digital thermometer. If it’s too cold, they won’t eat because they can’t digest and the food will rot in their stomach. If it’s too hot, they’ll be way too uncomfortable to even think about it.
Also, make sure their water bowl is NOT in their tank. If a water bowl is in the tank it will cause the humidity levels to constantly change and also make an unhealthy environment from your bearded dragon as it will be difficult for them to naturally regulate their body temperatures.
While these are the most common reasons overall – Poor lighting and an unhealthy diet are among the most common preventable reasons that bearded dragons stop eating, get sick and prematurely die.