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Why Is My Bearded Dragon Not Eating?

Normally beardies have healthy appetites and do like to eat, but what should you do when your bearded dragon is not eating? When they are young and growing, sometimes it seems you can’t put enough food in the enclosure for them, so when your beardie suddenly stops eating, it can be a cause for concern with pet owners.

As bearded dragons grow, their nutritional needs change, and they may stop eating as much as before, or they may stop eating altogether. Sometimes it only takes a change to the enclosure such as temperature or lighting changes to get them eating again, but other times they may need a visit to the vet. Keep reading as we go over 10 reasons your bearded dragon is not eating, and what you can do about it.

Table of Contents

  1. Concerns
  2. Possible Reasons
    1. Anger
    2. Illness
    3. Brumation
    4. Pregnancy
    5. Temperature
    6. Lighting
    7. Dehydration
    8. Shedding
    9. Mouth Rot
    10. Injury
  3. FAQ
  4. Conclusion

When Should You be Concerned About Your Bearded Dragon Not Eating?

Bearded Dragon with a worm and greens hanging out of its mouth
A Bearded Dragon with a worm and greens hanging out of its mouth. – Source

Younger beardies need more nutrition than full-grown adults because their bodies are constantly growing. Babies and juveniles can go a few days without eating, as long as they are healthy, this is okay. But if there is something else going on to affect their appetite you should definitely seek out your vet.

Adults on the other hand can go longer, even weeks without eating. It’s really not healthy for them to go more than a week without eating. If you notice abnormal stools, discharges coming from the face or anal opening, swelling, shrunken eyes, or lethargy, you should reach out to your vet.

Reasons Your Beardie Might Not Be Eating

Keep reading and we will go over 10 reasons your bearded dragon isn’t eating. Most reasons can be changed at home, but others will require a veterinarian visit. We will let you know when assistance from a vet is required.

Is Your Beardie Angry or Upset?

angry-looking bearded dragon
An angry-looking bearded dragon eating a collard green. – Source

Bearded dragons are quirky little characters, it’s this quirkiness that endears bearded dragons to me, but sometimes they can be a little frustrating, especially when you’re a new owner and unsure of their random behaviors. 

When my first bearded dragon was entering the juvenile stage, he seemed to be more interested in head bobbing, showing a swollen, black beard, and asserting his dominance. I mistakenly had two in the enclosure, thinking they were social creatures. 

He spent more time trying to dominate my other dragon and being angry that he usually went a few days between meals. Finally, I got another set up, separated my dragons, and “Mr. Grumps-a-lot” started eating again. 

When bearded dragons get stressed, if they are angry, or they don’t like their food they will “retaliate” by going on hunger strike. If something has changed in their enclosure, if you have moved, or something else has stressed them out, they will start eating again when everything calms down again. 

Is it Illness?

Beardie eating out of its small purple food bowl
A Beardie eating out of its small purple food bowl. – Source

Just like you and me, when your bearded dragon is feeling ill, she won’t want to eat much, if at all. Bearded dragons are relatively healthy pets, but occasionally they will fall ill. If you notice anything abnormal with their feces, it could be an illness or parasite messing with your little beardie. 

Abnormal poops include very smelly poop, runny, discolored, poop with mucus, bloody stools, or maybe she won’t poop at all. 

Other signs of an illness can include lethargy (no energy, sleeping all the time), loss of appetite, weight loss, skin discoloration, discharge from the tail vent, discharge coming from the mouth or nostrils, and even aggression. If you notice any of these symptoms, you should visit your vet to get your beardie feeling better and ready to eat. 

Could Be Brumation

Bearded dragon with eyes closed
A bearded dragon with eyes closed. – Source

Brumation is hibernation for a reptile. As the temperatures tend to dip a little lower, the nights get longer, and the days get shorter, some bearded dragons enter into the state of brumation. They find a place to sleep and lay there for extended times. 

Bearded dragon brumation can last up to three months but usually doesn’t go that long. To tell if your dragon is going through brumation they will start sleeping a lot more, typically in a hiding place or shaded area, and they will stop eating. Even though brumation you should leave food in your beardie’s enclosure in case they wake up feeling hungry. 

He might wake up once or twice a week, or possibly even daily, eat a little bit, then go back to sleep. During this time, it’s best not to disturb him. Let him sleep and he will come out of it soon enough and be back to his feisty self. 

As long as your dragon is healthy, looks good, and everything is normal in the enclosure, brumation will not hurt them. Their metabolism slows down, allowing them to eat much less and still be healthy. 

Is She About to Lay Eggs? 

Bearded dragon laying eggs
A bearded dragon laying eggs. – Source

Even female bearded dragons who have lived alone all their lives can still lay a clutch of unfertilized eggs. Think of chickens, they do the same thing. The term for a bearded dragon with eggs inside them is gravid. 

A gravid female will act very differently from one that does not have a clutch of baby bearded dragons growing inside her. The gravid female might become restless, or she could become lethargic. She could start glass surfing, attempting to dig because they want to lay eggs in the substrate.

Most often she will refuse food for some time, laying eggs is a stressful business. You will soon know if your beardie is gravid because her belly will get bigger, and you will either see or feel marble-sized lumps inside.

If your little lady is gravid, you’ll need to add some bedding substrate for her to dig in so she can lay her clutch. Vermiculite works great for this time, and make sure you still have light and heat in the enclosure. Provide food even though she may not eat until after she has laid them.

If your dragon hasn’t laid her eggs in a month since you first noticed the eggs, you’ll need to contact your vet because she may be egg-bound. That means she is having trouble passing the eggs and will need help from the vet to induce the laying process.

Temperature Could be Off

Bearded dragon taking in the heat of its tank lamp
A bearded dragon taking in the heat of its tank lamp. – Source

One of the easiest problems to check for when your beardie isn’t eating is to check the temperature in the enclosure. If it’s too cool inside, your beardie isn’t going to move much and may have trouble digesting food, so they don’t eat as much, if at all.

The best way to check the temperatures inside your beardie’s enclosure is by using this Infrared Thermometer from Amazon.

You should have a basking area that is between 105℉-110℉, and a cooler side between 75℉-85℉. If your tank is several degrees lower than the cool side, it may be too cold for your beardie to properly digest their food, and the cool temps make it hard for him to move around.

Is the Lighting Off?

small basking bearded dragon
A small basking bearded dragon. – Source

Your bearded dragon needs plenty of UVA/UVB light to stay healthy and synthesize Vitamin D. We recommend changing your light bulb every 6 months, because over time the amount of UVB diminishes, which can lead to metabolic bone disease in your precious beardies. 

Taking your bearded dragons outside during warm, sunny days is great for them to get the UVB they need. If you haven’t replaced your bulb in some time, it’s probably a good idea to go ahead and change it out. A great bulb for bearded dragons is this Zoo Med ReptiSun 5.0 UVB bulb. 

It Could be Dehydration

Happy-looking dragon sticking its tongue out at a worm
A happy-looking dragon sticking its tongue out at a worm. – Source

Bearded dragons rarely drink water. In the wild, arid regions bearded dragons tend to get most of their water needs met by eating juicy foods and feeder insects, and by licking mist off surfaces. Dehydration is a common problem for beardies which can lead to a lack of appetite. 

To tell if your bearded dragon is starting to become dehydrated is to gently pinch the skin and pull it away just a little bit. The skin should quickly pull back to place on a well-hydrated beardie. Loose, wrinkly skin—not shedding—and sunken eyes are a sign of advanced dehydration. 

Mild dehydration can be treated at home, but if your dragon is very lethargic or exhibits symptoms like sunken eyes and very loose skin, you should see your vet immediately. 

One of the best ways to help treat mild dehydration is by giving them a regular bath. This helps because of their curious nature, they will “taste” the water, or lick some moisture off themselves. My beardies usually don’t drink anything from the water I provide in their enclosure, but they will drink in the bath. 

You can also mist your dragon on a regular basis, and/or offer juicy foods like watermelon, applesauce, strawberries, watercress, or zucchini. You can also mist foods so when she eats, she consumes a little more water.  

 Shedding

Bearded dragon shedding its skin in sand
A Bearded dragon shedding its skin in sand. – Source

The process of shedding can be an irritating, and itchy time for your bearded dragon. This feeling could overpower the need to eat until the irritation and itchiness are gone. Does your bearded dragon have patches of white or lighter colored skin on them, or maybe it’s starting to peel away in a few places?

It may be more important to your bearded dragon to finish shedding before its appetite returns. To help alleviate the symptoms of shedding, you can give him a warm bath to soak in or mist him. The added moisture will help moisten the skin so that it comes off easier. 

Even though you may want to help by pulling the loose flaps of old skin off, this can hurt or even injure your pet. Let the skin come off on its own. Once the shedding is finished, your dragon should have a healthy appetite again. 

Mouth Rot

Bearded dragon opening its mouth
A bearded dragon opening its mouth. – Source

Mouth rot sounds like something from a horror movie, but it can actually be a common problem for reptiles. Fortunately, this illness is easily treated by a qualified herp vet.

Mouth rot in beardies can be painful. I would assume it’s like having a raging toothache, for me personally, that’s about the worst pain I’ve felt. This would definitely affect your beardie’s appetite. 

Symptoms of mouth rot include; increased salivation or drooling, bleeding around the mouth, abscesses in the mouth, head swelling, gum swelling, and/or thick mucus in the mouth. If you notice any of these symptoms in your little buddy, take him/her to the vet quickly. They can assess and get your pet back to health quickly. 

Injury

close up of a bearded dragon
Close up of a bearded dragon. – Source

Nobody wants to see their little dragon injured, but sometimes it still happens despite all our best efforts to prevent it. They have tiny bones, especially in their legs, feet, and tail that can, unfortunately, become injured, especially if they are sharing an enclosure with other dragons. 

Injuries can be painful enough to suppress a bearded dragon’s appetite. 

Injuries don’t have to be just broken bones. They can get cuts, scratches, or other injuries. If you notice swelling, infected skin, misshapen limbs, or anything else that looks like an injury, get your pet to the vet.

FAQ

Will a bearded dragon starve itself? 

A: A healthy bearded dragon will not starve itself to death. A bearded dragon with an underlying health issue or an unchecked, untreated illness may seem to starve itself, but most likely the cause will be from the illness itself.

How long can a bearded dragon go without eating?

A: Healthy adult bearded dragons can probably go up to a couple of months without eating, but this is extremely unhealthy unless they are going through brumation. Even then they most likely will get up at some point to eat a little bit before returning to sleep. Babies and juveniles need more high-protein foods more often, to remain strong and healthy. 

What do I do if my bearded dragon won’t eat? 

A: Take a look at your set up, temperature, lighting, and possible stress, and check your dragon for illness or injury to see if there is a reason your bearded dragon will not eat. If you can’t find a reason your bearded dragon will not eat, and it has not eaten in a week, contact your vet for assistance.

That’s a Wrap

If your bearded dragon has stopped eating, stay calm and assess the situation. It may be something as simple as adjusting the temperature or lighting in your set up, or maybe your beardie is protesting and will start eating again soon. 

If you suspect illness, see symptoms that cause concern, or something more severe, don’t hesitate to contact your vet for further assistance. 

Your beardies can’t talk, but with research, patience, and good bearded dragon care you will understand your pets better and help to provide great care for them. We hope this article has been informative and entertaining. If so, leave us a comment below, we love hearing from you!  

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