What Not To Feed Bearded Dragons (8 Worst Foods To Avoid)

Bearded Dragons aren’t overly demanding compared to many lizards. But there are definitely some things they shouldn’t be allowed to chow down. Whether it’s toxic, hard to digest, or just plain bad for them, here’s a list of some of them. I’ll explain along the way what makes them bad to help you make better choices overall as well.

What can’t a bearded dragon eat? Read on!

1. Lettuce

Lettuce is a terrible source of nutrition for your lizard. Beardies also love it since it always feels fresh and crisp when you throw it in.

Lettuce isn’t even empty calories: it’s nutritionally useless for the pet. Iceberg lettuce, in particular, is little more than water and a bit of fiber. Even Romaine lettuce, which is the healthiest kind, is low on the list of greens you should be providing.

Avoid lettuce whenever you can. While it’s not dangerous, it is potentially useless for your pet’s health. It will just fill their stomach instead of providing the nutrients they need to remain healthy in the long run.

2. Spinach

Spinach is another common green which isn’t great for your pet. The problem arises from the high affinity of spinach to absorb calcium, which can actually strip it from your lizard’s system.

Calcium deficiency is no joke, and most owners spend quite some time avoiding it. It’s the reason for calcium powders and gut loading insects, for instance. You really don’t want your dragon eating anything which removes calcium from their diet.

Spinach is very good for humans, but that doesn’t make the transition in this case.

Stick with things like collard greens or cabbage if you need a common source of greenery for your lizard’s diet. It will keep the reptile much healthier in the long run.

3. Avocado

Unfortunately for your pet’s taste buds, avocados are a no go for beardies. In addition to being expensive, they contain large amounts of oxalic acid and a toxic compound called persin.

Oxalates affect calcium metabolism, and they also interfere with magnesium levels. Neither of these is good things, so avoiding foods that contain high levels of oxalates is just good husbandry.

On the flip side, persin is more than a nutritional hazard. It’s an antifungal compound that’s toxic to most animals, primarily contained in the fruit’s skin and core. Unfortunately, the low levels that seep into the green matter are enough to make a bearded dragon ill and even result in death a few hours later.

Avoiding avocado isn’t just for health. It’s a matter of life and death.

4. Beet Tops

Beet tops would seem to be a reasonable green to add, but unfortunately, oxalates rear their ugly head once again. These greens will inhibit calcium metabolism in your lizard and cause damage over the long run.

They’re not overly toxic if only fed once or twice, but it’s dangerous to make them a staple. Calcium deficiency is the main thing to manage with a bearded dragon’s diet, so it’s best to just leave these out entirely.

Again: stick with things like cabbage, chard, and kale, and you’ll be on the right path. Since greens make up 50% or more of a healthy dragon’s diet. The ingredients you want to avoid are oxalates. Just look up the nutritional profile before you start adding greens.

5. Random Insects

Look, sometimes it feels expedient to grab a couple of grasshoppers out of the field instead of buying more crickets. Or to wonder if your bearded dragon may enjoy something from the garden.

Just don’t. The problems range from poisonous insects to parasites. Chances are your bearded dragon didn’t grow up in your back yard; things that aren’t problematic to the local reptiles may kill your lizard.

There are just too many variables.

While most insects may be harmless, a few arthropods are known to be highly toxic to beardies.

  • Lightning Bugs/Fire Flies
  • Scorpions
  • Spiders
  • Centipedes

But really, you should just avoid all of them entirely. If you’re not convinced… well, this happened to a random garden mantis. The same parasite also infects crickets. Any insects from out of a controlled environment should be considered out-of-bounds.

6. Live Mice

Some people like to watch their animal hunt, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Millions of mice and rats are fed to snakes every year, after all.

But bearded dragons really shouldn’t be hunting live mammals. They’re often large enough to eat a mouse once fully grown, but they will fight once cornered. The size difference isn’t enough to keep your dragon from getting injured by a frightened rodent.

They’re also not all that healthy for the lizard. While wild specimens often prey on rodents opportunistically, they also move a lot more than any captive lizard. The fat and protein content is a bit excessive for their daily needs.

If you must feed mice, only feed hairless pinkies. You can freeze them overnight to humanely euthanize them or buy them frozen. In any case, allow them to reach around 85° for proper digestion as well.

In all honesty, it’s just much easier to feed roaches or crickets to supply your lizard’s protein. As a once-a-month or so treat, the occasional baby mouse will be fine. Just don’t overdo it.

7. Rhubarb

Another one that you can’t feed your pet is rhubarb. The entire plant contains compounds that are toxic, including anthraquinone glycosides and oxalic acid.

The overall effect is simple: rhubarb makes green dragons sick. It can also kill them in sufficient quantities.

If your lizard does get ahold of some, you should administer water to try and thin the effect and contact an emergency vet immediately. Untreated, your lizard may encounter some life-threatening problems.

8. Citrus

The alluring smell of citrus is one of the big reasons your bearded dragon can’t eat them. The smell is created by a variety of thick essential oils in the rind, and the internal smell and taste come from acidic compounds.

That adds up to making all citrus off-limits for your pet. The rinds are particularly toxic, but the flesh is nearly as bad for your lizard. The consequences come in the form of foul and frequent feces.

Oranges, lemons, grapefruit, tangerines… just avoid any citrus fruit entirely.

And, hey, at least you won’t have to bother with the peels.

Keep It Simple

There are a surprising array of foods that aren’t healthy for our lizards. If you’re asking yourself “what can’t bearded dragons eat?” then do your research. The main things to look out for are organic toxins and high levels of oxalates. Add some common sense when it comes to protein time, and you’ll have their diet down pat!

The key to avoiding serious problems? Simply make sure that your lizard has a steady, known diet, and you’ll be fine!

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