One of the first signs that something is amiss with your reptile is when they’re not eating. The problem for the layperson is that there are many reasons why your bearded dragon isn’t eating. Fortunately, there are a few go-to reasons, so keep an eye out for the following problems and their solution.
Reason #1: Stress and Environmental Factors
The first thing to do is to ensure everything is good within the lizard’s habitat. Improper temperature and sudden changes in their surroundings can cause a bearded dragon to quit eating.
If you’ve recently made any changes to the tank or its surrounding, you may have found your culprit. You should also check to make sure that your heating pads, lights, and other equipment are all functioning properly. They should have a basking area at ~100-110°F, and the rest of the tank should run from 75-80°F.
If everything is functioning properly, but there’s been a big change around their tank in the last few days, don’t panic. Any sort of environmental change shouldn’t keep them from eating for more than a few days. A healthy, adult bearded dragon can go a long time without eating.
Reason #2: Shedding or Physical Injury
The next thing to look out for is shedding. When a beardie sheds, they often won’t eat for a while. The dry and itchy skin flaking off isn’t great for the appetite after all.
Likewise, even a minor injury may keep your pet from eating for a couple of days.
Both are easily recognizable.
Injuries are usually obvious, and you should inspect your lizard at least once a day to make sure they don’t have any. They’re most often caused by bad terrain in your lizard enclosure, but fights among lizards housed communally also happen. In either case, you should figure out what’s causing it and remove the source of the problem.
Shedding is a bit more difficult to recognize until it’s in full swing. Young Dragons molt more frequently, but lethargy and loss of appetite are usually the first signs your lizard is going to shed. Others include:
- Skittish behavior
- Not wanting to be handled
- Irritated patches of skin
- Rubbing on the environment
- Eye inflation
If the above signs are present, your pet is most likely going into a shed.
If that’s the case, you’ll just have to wait it out. The only thing you can do to help is not handling the animal and provide a shallow bathing dish with a rough surface. Sandstone is a good material for helping with sheds.
The shed will be over in a few days, and their appetite should resume shortly.
Reason #3: Brumation
While bearded dragons don’t hibernate, they do go into a state of dormancy called brumation.
Not all lizards go into brumation, however, and many captive-bred specimens simply never go into it. While it’ll change care for a bit, it’s not dangerous for your lizard unless it’s very young. If that’s the case, then consult with a veterinarian, but it’s a rare problem in juvenile lizards.
Signs of brumation include generally slowing down. The reptile’s metabolism slows, and they begin to move very slowly. They’ll often spend almost all of their time burrowed in the substrate or hiding in a cave.
The problem for most owners with brumation is that it’s not expected. In the wild, these lizards go dormant during the winter months. But in captivity, it can happen almost at random. They may stay like that for a couple of weeks or a couple of months.
On top of that: the symptoms are close to those of many illnesses as well.
The key difference is that most illnesses will have other obvious symptoms. If in doubt, talk to your vet, but it’s a subject that any Bearded Dragon owner should know more about.
One important thing to note: a brumating lizard will not lose weight. If your lizard seems to fit the bill but has any serious physical changes, you’re probably dealing with an illness.
Reason #4: Impaction
There’s one more common cause before we get to anything scary, so if nothing above has sounded right, don’t panic yet.
Impaction of the digestive system occurs when a bearded dragon takes in something too hard to digest. It binds together in the intestines and creates a blockage in their bowels, which leads to health complications.
It’s rarely fatal when caught in time, and you may be able to handle the problem at home.
The most common causes of impaction are improper substrates, too large of prey, and lower temperatures. Finding out why your lizard is impacted is important. Make sure you have a safe substrate, and you’re not feeding them anything bigger than the space between their eyes.
Baby lizards poop around once per day, but older lizards may only expel waste once a week or so. Keeping an eye on your lizard’s schedule is important so you can catch the problem earlier rather than later. In addition to not going, the lizard may also begin to walk with a stiff-legged gait.
A warm bath is often the easiest way to keep your lizard’s bowels flowing. Place your pet in a bath that’s around 100°F for 20-30 minutes, periodically adding warm water to keep the temperature up. Bearded dragons will often defecate preferentially in water, and this is sometimes enough.
If that’s not enough, a bowel-loosening massage may be in order.
You can learn how online, and it’s an easy enough process. (Watch the video below)
Then you need to solve the problem that caused the impaction in the first place.
Reason #5: Illness
Your lizard can fall prey to any number of illnesses, ranging from parasites to viral diseases. Like humans, many general symptoms occur in Beardies, and appetite loss is at the top of the list.
Some symptoms that indicate illness include:
- Discolored scales
- Dark beard
- Gasping for air
- Discharge from nose and mouth
- Weight loss
Bearded dragons will naturally try to hide their symptoms, which is why a daily look-over is so important.
Illness isn’t as common as some people think (constipation or brumation, for instance, both mimic symptoms to untrained keepers), but it does happen. Bearded dragons can suffer from a range of disorders, but they’re often treatable.
The important thing is to get your lizard to a vet quickly if you see any symptoms. Hopefully, you have someone on the hook. Not every veterinarian can treat reptiles. If you’re in need, then you can find a vet online.
Common Questions About Bearded Dragons Not Eating
How long can a bearded dragon go without eating?
A bearded dragon can go up to 2 months without eating due to their relatively slow metabolism.
That’s obviously not good for them, but if there’s a problem with their appetite, you have some time to react.
Baby lizards need to eat every 24 hours, so appetite problems are more serious with juveniles.
Can a bearded dragon’s diet affect its appetite?
Yes. Impaction from large prey is the most common effect, but some people feed their lizard insects too often. This can make your lizard reject the vegetables which make up most of their ideal diet.
Some just dislike certain foods, even if they’re safe. So try a couple of different things before you decide there’s a further problem with a new Beardie.
What if my bearded dragon will only eat insects?
On occasion, some adults will only chase insects and ignore plant matter.
When that happens, you need to correct the problem.
The high protein intake of an insect-only diet can cause kidney problems. It will also make most captive dragons obese.
Hunker down for a fight, but offering different greens and veggies until they eat is recommended.
Consult a vet if the problem persists for too long.
Can I use appetite stimulants for my bearded dragon?
You can, but it’s not recommended as the first course of action.
Keeping your pet healthy without supplements is ideal, but sometimes the help is needed.
I recommend the stuff from Fluker’s, which is often used in rescue environments. They can be a lifesaver for very stubborn lizards.
How can I prevent impaction in my bearded dragon?
Lots of vegetables and careful attention to the size of prey insects.
The Beardie will sometimes have trouble digesting chitin, but the big problem in most cases is overly large animals.
You should make sure any insects fed to you Beardie are smaller than the space between their eyes.
There are many reasons that your pet may not be eating.
Proceed carefully to determine the cause, but most of the time, you’ll be able to fix it at home.
Don’t worry too much unless you have a serious vet diagnosis.
Just proceed with the knowledge above, and you’ll be well on the way to a healthier bearded dragon.