The purpose of this blog is to share general information and is written to the author's best knowledge. It is not intended to be used in place of veterinary advice. For health concerns, please seek proper veterinary care.
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Bearded dragons are wonderful lizards that can have an amazing personality once you get to know them. Of course, as with any type of animal that isn’t one of the more commonly owned animals such as cats or dogs, it can be hard to find the right information on how to care for a bearded dragon.
This can present problems, as you may not be able to tell if your bearded dragon is acting right or not if you aren’t aware of what its normal behaviors are.
For the most part, bearded dragons are pretty easy to care for. As far as lizards go, they are more friendly to beginners than many others, making them a wonderful addition to any family that is looking to own some lizards.
With that being said, one area that bearded dragons can be the most finicky is with their diet. One day you might realize that your bearded dragon is no longer eating one of its staple foods.
Naturally, when your bearded dragon is not eating the way it normally does, it can be a major cause for concern. Before you jump to the fear that your bearded dragon is dangerously ill, one thing you should consider is that this is a relatively common phenomenon with bearded dragons, and it doesn’t always indicate that there is something inherently wrong.
If your bearded dragon no longer takes an interest in eating crickets, the reason might very well be that your bearded dragon is just bored of eating them.
Before you can go into the reasons why your bearded dragon might stop eating abruptly, especially if it seemingly enjoyed crickets before, you should think about all the reasons why your bearded dragon may have stopped eating.
There are ways to make sure that the problem is a matter of preference compared to a matter of health, allowing you to feel confident in knowing whether your bearded dragon is being a picky eater or not.
The Most Common Problem
The most common problem that causes a bearded dragon to seemingly lose interest in its crickets is that it is tired of eating them.
As easy as it might be for you to continue feeding the bearded dragon crickets day in and day out, your bearded dragon is going to want at least some variation in its diet. When it is fed nothing but crickets and the vegetables it needs, it will slowly begin to get bored of eating the crickets.
Your bearded dragon cannot physically tell you that it is in the mood for another sort of bug, so it will do as all toddlers do and simply refuse to eat the food in front of it. After all, this is the clearest way that it can indicate that it doesn’t want to eat the crickets.
Interestingly enough, this problem rarely comes on gradually, which is one of the reasons why it can be so concerning for owners. One day, you will wake up and feed your bearded dragon, only to find that after devouring crickets the previous day, it takes no interest in the ones that you have just set out for it and leaves the crickets to just roam around its enclosure.
There may not be any previous indication that your bearded dragon is getting tired of them until the day it gets tired of them and refuses to eat them.
There are a few ways to go about solving this problem. The easiest way is to just feed your bearded dragon another type of insect for a little bit, but not necessarily until it gets tired of that one too.
Bearded dragons enjoy rotation and variation in their diets, and it is up to you to provide that for them. Common insects that bearded dragons enjoy besides crickets include mealworms and waxworms. For many bearded dragons, this small change is enough to get them interested in trying crickets again after a little bit.
If you really want them to eat crickets, you can also begin reintroducing crickets in their diet alongside a secondary feeder insect. This gives the bearded dragon the chance to choose which one it is in the mood for, giving it that small sense of variation on a daily basis.
For many people, this can help out tremendously with making sure that the bearded dragon gets back in a cricket-eating mood again.
However, there are some bearded dragons that simply do not care for crickets. All bearded dragons have their own preferences and tolerances, which is one reason why there is no guide that says that you can feed your bearded dragon crickets for a certain number of days before changing it up.
Some bearded dragons do not care for the taste of crickets at all, leaving them completely alone no matter how hungry it might be. If it still eats other foods besides the crickets, your bearded dragon may just have a distaste for them and you will have to settle for another staple insect.
The most important part of this is that, even if your bearded dragon has no interest in crickets, no matter how easy to obtain they are, it is of the utmost importance that your bearded dragon gets its nutrients one way or another.
Remember that if your bearded dragon is showing no interest in crickets, you should not leave them hanging around its enclosure for prolonged periods of time. You may not realize it at first, but crickets can and will attack your bearded dragon when they realize that they are not actively being chased.
While these wounds may be too small to see easily, they are prone to infections, which are not good.
If your bearded dragon has no interest in crickets, but will easily eat any other feeder insect and vegetables you feed it, you may just have to take your loss, remove the crickets, and feed the bearded dragon another insect for some time until it decides to eat crickets again, if it ever feels willing to eat them.
What If it Isn’t Eating at All?
One of the quickest and easiest remedies to solve the above problem is to offer another form of food for your stubborn bearded dragon to eat, but what happens if it doesn’t want to eat that either?
This has the potential to be indicative of a larger problem, though it could also very well just be a sign of stress. There are a few things to check for if your bearded dragon is not eating anything, and not just ignoring the crickets.
First, you need to consider if there are any conditions that may be causing your bearded dragon undue stress. Much like people, if your bearded dragon is stressed out, it may not have much of an appetite.
Common stressors for bearded dragons include changes in their environment (lighting, temperature, and humidity), being moved to a new enclosure, or close contact with other pets in the house, such as cats or dogs passing by the enclosure regularly.
Paradoxically, your bearded dragon can also become stressed by a change in diet. This means that if you change its diet to try and accommodate a seeming loss of interest in crickets, this may inadvertently stress your bearded dragon out enough that it may not want to eat anything.
This is a troublesome situation that you will want to be mindful of, but it can easily be mitigated by making sure that there are at least some fresh vegetables for your dragon to eat, once it realizes that everything is okay.
If you have recently adopted the bearded dragon, or if you have just moved it to a different place in your home, this massive change in scenery can be considerably stressful. After all, you have changed your bearded dragon’s entire view of the world as it knows it.
It may take a bit for your bearded dragon to feel comfortable eating again, and the most that you can do in this case is wait. Eventually, your bearded dragon will become hungry enough that it will overcome its stress to have something to eat.
Make sure to keep your bearded dragon’s enclosure as stable as possible in terms of lighting, temperature, and humidity. Changes to these can also cause stress for your little lizard.
Once you have a routine set up and you have found a level where your bearded dragon is comfortable (while making sure lighting and temperature is sufficient), you should not change it for any reason unless there are impending health consequences.
Finally, seeing a cat, dog, or even a stranger pass by the enclosure frequently can be stressful for your bearded dragon. It doesn’t know what that strange creature is going to do, even if you know that your bearded dragon is completely safe.
Remember to keep your bearded dragon in a quiet and generally low-trafficked area so that the chances of this stressing your bearded dragon out are minimal.
In general, when facing a stressed bearded dragon, the most that you can do is try to get its environment back to normal and simply wait the stress out. You should still provide food at normal feeding intervals, but remember not to try and handle the bearded dragon too much if it is already stressed out.
While this may be frustrating, remember that in a worst-case scenario, bearded dragons can actually survive up to two months without food, assuming that it is full-grown and properly fed.
This means that, while it won’t be pleasant for either you or your bearded dragon, if it doesn’t feel like eating for a couple days, this isn’t going to be nearly as dangerous as it is with most mammals and other animals.
This does not apply to young bearded dragons, or bearded dragons that are significantly older or have other underlying health conditions. This is simply a fact to remember so that you do not panic if your bearded dragon doesn’t eat for a couple days.
Speaking of older bearded dragons, many older bearded dragons may not have an appetite. As they age and do not have as much of a need for energy for growing, they will not have the same drive to eat as a younger bearded dragon does. If this is your first bearded dragon, you may not expect this to happen.
However, it is completely normal for older bearded dragons to begin tapering down on how much they eat, especially if you are feeding it on the same basis as you would feed a young and growing bearded dragon.
Finally, there is the problem that everyone fears: a genuine health issue. There are times when your bearded dragon may not be eating because it is actually sick, and it does not feel up to eating.
The most common cause of this type of appetite loss is due to impaction. To put it simply, impaction is when the intestines of the bearded dragon become blocked for one reason or another.
This can be caused by one of two common occurrences. It could be that your bearded dragon has eaten too much substrate, as substrate is not something that most animals can digest properly. It could also be that your bearded dragon has had too much of the same type of protein. This is another reason why variation is so important for bearded dragons.
If you are worried that your bearded dragon has an impacted digestive system, you should look for other signs of illness as well, as this is a problem severe enough to impact more than just appetite.
Typically, bearded dragons with an impaction will be fatigued and will be more lethargic than normal, as they cannot properly absorb nutrients due to a stoppage in their entire digestive system.
Impactions are not something that can be easily fixed by oneself without the resources of a vet, so if you do reckon that this is the case, the first thing you should do is take your bearded dragon to the vet.
While this may stress it out temporarily, it can be worth it in the end if it solves the problem. You should worry about getting your bearded dragon some help first, before you try and solve the problem that caused the impaction.