The Guts of a Dragon
Whether you’ve just received a new pet or you’re a seasoned reptile aficionado, it’s important to remember that the diet of your scaly pal is of utmost importance to their vitality and overall quality of life. But it’s not just nutrients that your pets need; they also need food that promotes a healthy gut. This is especially true with bearded dragons, which tend to live for 4-6 years in often unforgiving terrain.
But how does the bearded dragon’s natural habitat affect its eating habits, and what impact does it have on how you should feed your pet?
While there are many conflicting claims made about bearded dragon health, we’ve done the research to help you sort fact from fiction. Read on to find out additional information as well as some highly useful tips to promote a healthy gut in your beardie!
Where do bearded dragons come from?
Bearded dragons originate from Australia and are typically found in the central and eastern regions of the area. Though Australia actually placed a ban on their export in the 1960's, a large enough breeding population was already in the United States— making future exports unnecessary.
A bearded dragon in Lewiston, Australia. Photo taken by Louise Merigot and uploaded to iNaturalist.
The natural bearded dragon habitat typically consists of an arid climate, like a desert or canyon, and has scarce amounts of water. This is why the typical home setup for a beardie includes a heat lamp and a dirt or sand substrate. Bearded dragons have thrived in inhospitable areas like these for generations despite food scarcity, so they can’t really afford to be picky eaters.
What is an opportunistic hunter?
Now that we’ve taken a look at a beardie’s natural environment, we can fully understand its habitat’s implications on bearded dragon diet.
The reason why beardies are able to thrive in areas with little water and scarce amounts of food is due to their natural ability as opportunistic hunters; they eat what they can get and don’t really fuss over food types. In fact, a scientific study analyzing the stomach contents of free-roaming Australian beardies confirms this.
Bearded dragons are omnivores, and its stomach is able to accommodate large quantities of plant and insect materials— as well as the occasional rodent or even smaller lizards. We recommend feeding your pet our Omnivore Blend because it's designed around their natural dietary inclinations— lots of leafy greens and veggies, a variety of insects, and small amount of whole lean rabbit for additional protein and calcium.
Tips for feeding your bearded dragon
With an understanding of where bearded dragons come from — as well as the effects this has upon their diet — it’s easy to understand how to optimally feed your pet at home. However, you should still take some precautions when feeding your bearded dragon in order to help maintain proper gut health and prevent issues such as impaction or parasites. Keep reading for more tips on how to do this!
Based on your bearded dragon’s age, you’ll want to adjust the amounts of the types of food you give to them. For example, young beardies prefer a diet higher in protein than older dragons. For this reason, you want to reduce the amount of meat and insects given to your pet as it gets older and increase the amount of vegetables given to them instead.
This doesn’t mean that younger bearded dragons dislike vegetables; in fact, it’s vital that you include these in your pet's diet in order to provide them with hydration. Failing to provide proper leafy greens in your pet’s diet can lead to constipation. However, keep this ratio in mind if you find your beardie being especially picky with his or her food!
Wild-caught vs. domestic feed
Here’s another important tip for you to consider when feeding your pet. While beardies will eat insects and the occasional rodent in the wild, don’t feed them any wild-caught mice or insects. Even insects that might be used as bait and tackle when fishing are off-limits. Wild animals and insects can contain harmful parasites which can have a severe negative impact on your pet’s gut health.
Although some parasites such as pinworms are common among otherwise healthy bearded dragons and won’t cause any damage, the introduction of additional parasites can be disastrous for their health— as one study on two beardies in Japan proves. Additionally, feeding your pet a poor diet can increase their stress levels and decrease their immune systems, which can make these otherwise harmless parasites deadly.
Now you should have a better understanding of what your bearded dragon likes to eat and why. However, if you go to the pet store and still don’t know which types of food to pick, you can always ask one of the professionals for their opinions and factor that along with the information you've learned here today. Alternatively, you can let us handle the hard work for you and take advantage of our specially-designed bearded dragon food.
The bearded dragon is a highly resilient and rewarding pet to own. Hopefully, this guide sets you and your lizard friend on the path to a long and loving friendship!