A bearded dragon is a friendly pet but its nutritional needs can seem a little complex if you are a beginner. If your new pet suddenly stops eating, you might worry that it’s going to die! But is your fear always justified? Read on to know more.
How long can bearded dragons live without food? It depends on its age, weight, general health, etc. But usually, a fully grown healthy dragon can live for anywhere from a few weeks to up to 3 months without eating food. Younger dragons, who need protein for their growth, are not able to survive without eating almost every day.
If your bearded dragon has stopped eating, there could be a variety of reasons for this behavior. They include stress due to change in environment, changes in diet, sickness, etc. One more common reason for staying away from food is that the dragon is going through a hibernation-like phase known was ‘brumation’.
In any case, do note that the dragon still needs to be provided water for drinking. This article will walk you through all that you need to know if your bearded dragon has not been eating food.
Why does a bearded dragon stop eating food?
The major reasons for this are discussed below.
This is by far the most common reason why bearded dragons stop eating. It is a hibernation-like phase where bearded dragons in the wild bury themselves under the soil. During this phase, they neither eat nor defecate and don’t move. All bearded dragons brumate during the winters in the wild.
Bearded dragons in captivity can brumate when the seasons change or they might not brumate at all. So, if you see your dragon has near-zero movement along with an aversion to food, it could be brumating. Remember that even if your pet is not eating food during brumation, it still needs water.
The brumation period can last for several months.
You shouldn’t really be worried except if you feel that your pet has lost considerable weight. In this case, taking the opinion of a vet is advisable.
Change in environment
If bearded dragons sense a change in their living environment, it could cause them stress. This, in turn, can result in loss of appetite. If you have changed the location of the terrarium or changed the terrarium entirely such as using a larger one, your pet might react to the change by withdrawing from food.
Give them some time to adjust to the new surroundings and monitor them closely to see if they start eating again. If you have added new accessories to their terrarium or removed certain familiar things, try to go back to how their tank was earlier and see if that makes them feel more comfortable.
Changes in the food
Bearded dragons can react with surprising willfulness when it comes to eating something they are not comfortable with. If you try to replace something they like with new food, they might stop eating.
Giving in to this behavior and going back to the food they like will teach your dragon to pull off the same trick every time you try to change their diet. It is better to stick to what you think is the best food for your pet. Ultimately, when it realizes that the food is not going to change, it will back down.
However, monitor the dragon carefully during this time. If you notice weakness and drastic weight loss, it’s time to give in to the pressure and give your pet its favorite food. However, that´s unlikely to happen unless your bearded dragon is sick.
A bearded dragon needs heat in its surroundings in order to maintain healthy digestion. If the temperature is too cold, it might not feel the urge to eat food. The terrarium should ideally have a hot area for basking at about 95-110 degrees and a colder area maintained at about 80-85 degrees.
The younger the dragon, the hotter basking area it needs. In the absence of a basking area, a bearded dragon might stop eating. So, if you have made changes to the terrarium recently, check if the temperature within the tank is off.
If you need help with the lighting for your beardie tank, read this article.
Stress due to other reasons
A bearded dragon can be stressed due to other reasons such as:
- Sharing a tank with another bearded dragon (Read here why you shouldn´t house them together)
- Being able to see another bearded dragon from its tank
- The terrarium being too cramped for the dragon to roam freely
- Overstimulation due to a lot of people around the tank
- Continuous loud noises or vibrations in the house due to construction or maintenance work, etc.
One of the signs of a stressed bearded dragon is the darkening of its color. The stress also results in an aversion to food.
A sick bearded dragon giving up on food is quite rare. But, if you suspect this is the case, you should take it to a vet immediately to get the correct diagnosis and treatment.
What to do when a bearded dragon stops eating food?
In most cases, all you need to do is have patience and wait for your pet to start eating again. If the reason behind not eating food is stress, you can help your pet destress. A few tips are given below.
- Don’t keep two bearded dragons in the same tank.
- If the sight of another dragon in a different tank is bothering your pet, move the other tank to a different place in the house.
- Make sure the terrarium is large enough for your bearded dragon.
- If you have a lot of visitors in the house that is causing the stress, cover the terrarium with a towel when the house is crowded.
- Try to keep the noise level in the house down.
- Give your stressed dragon a warm bath.
- If the pet is new, don’t handle it too much until it gets used to you.
If the dragon is young or if it is showing signs of extreme weakness, you can try force-feeding it.
How to force-feed a bearded dragon?
It is best to avoid force-feeding a bearded dragon that does not want to eat. This exotic animal knows when to eat and should be left alone in most cases. However, if it is growing very thin and a vet recommends it, you can follow the below process.
- Hold the bearded dragon gently but securely
- Pry open its mouth by tugging at its lower jaw
- Quickly place some food inside the mouth
- You can also use a syringe and feed the dragon some baby food
How long can a bearded dragon go without heat? Heat is vital for a bearded dragon. If for some reason the dragon has been deprived of sufficient heat for more than 24 hours, you need to monitor it closely to look for any worrying symptoms.
More on bearded dragons and heat here.
How long can bearded dragons go without pooping? Bearded dragons will usually poop once every 1-5 days. If your pet has not been having a bowel movement for more than eight days and is behaving in an unusual manner, it likely needs a visit to the vet. Of course, this does not hold true during brumation when it can go without pooping for weeks together.
How long can a bearded dragon live? A bearded dragon in the wild can live for 5-8 years. In captivity, the dragons can live for up to 10 years on an average. However, when properly cared for, they can even live up to 12-13 years.