A fresh, juicy tomato has many uses. It can be added to a sandwich to add zest and zing or to soups and stews when cut up.
It can be eaten just as it is, thanks to its great taste. But what about your bearded dragon friend? Could they also take part in this nutritious fruit?
This article will tell you all you need to know.
Can Bearded Dragons Eat Tomatoes?
Yes, bearded dragons can eat tomatoes. Ripe tomatoes are healthy treats containing Vitamins A and C, fiber, water, and essential minerals. However, be sure to follow our vet-approved feeding guidelines as tomatoes contain oxalates, and overfeeding may lead to calcium deficiency and metabolic bone disease. Avoid feeding leaves, stems, and green tomatoes as they contain a toxin called solanine.
Tiny portions of ripe tomato are a good treat for a beardie as they contain water, fiber, and some vitamins and minerals.
- Dr. Edele Grey, DVM
Tomatoes will not harm the bearded dragon if eaten, as they are not toxic to the reptile. "One concern with tomato, however, is the presence of oxalic acid in them.", veterinarian surgeon Dr. Edele Grey points out. Tomatoes are acidic in nature, and the nutritional content of these fruits is not sufficient to sustain a bearded dragon like the insects and leafy greens of his diet do.
So yes, bearded dragons can have tomatoes, but how much and often is another thing. We'll get into that in a minute.
Health Benefits: Are Tomatoes Good for Bearded Dragons?
Yes, tomatoes as a treat are OK for bearded dragons. They do have health benefits involved, which is why they can be offered once a week or two weeks.
Bearded dragons can develop cancer. Tomatoes contain antioxidants like lycopene, which may decrease the risk of developing cancer.
Antioxidants also protect the body from free radicals, which causes aging of the cells and play a role in heart disease, and other diseases.
Great for Vision
Lycopene also supports healthy eyes. Other great compounds in the tomato that help with vision include beta carotene and lutein. These compounds support healthy vision and guard against eye conditions like macular degeneration and cataracts.
Aids in Digestion
Helping keep your bearded dragon regular is important for their comfort and, of course, health. Tomatoes are great for this because of the water and fiber in the fruit.
Health Risks: Are Tomatoes Bad for Bearded Dragons?
Tomatoes are not inherently bad for the bearded dragon. If you give your bearded dragon a tomato and they eat it, they won't get sick. However, it is similar to candy for human beings: it's non-toxic, but it's also not nutritionally sound. Thus, tomatoes should be only served as a special treat.
Here are some reasons to be careful when feeding your bearded dragon tomatoes:
Oxalic acid is fatal when given to bearded dragons in very high amounts. It is for this reason that you should limit the amount of tomato given to bearded dragons – and why avocado is not to be given to your beardie at all.
"Oxalic acid binds with calcium, which prevents it from being absorbed by your beardie, and as you're undoubtedly aware, calcium is an essential addition to your beardie's diet for their health.", Dr. Grey explains.
Remember, calcium is one of the bearded dragons' most necessary nutrients: it helps guard them against deficiency, which can lead to metabolic bone disease.
Make sure you feed just a small slice of tomato, or offer up half a cherry tomato, and keep it reserved for a special treat. Too much tomato could lead to calcium deficiency and severe health issues.
Leaves and Stems Should Be Avoided
The stems and leaves of the tomato plant should be avoided because they contain compounds called tomatine and solanine. These are alkaloids and have a negative impact on the health of the bearded dragon.
Tomatine is toxic, and when ingested in large doses, can lead to gastrointestinal issues, damage to the heart, and liver. The highest concentration of this compound is located inside the leaves and stems, as well as unripe tomatoes.
The bottom line? Make sure you cut off all the leaves and stems of the tomato before you even think about serving this fruit to your bearded dragon.
Pesticides Are A Problem
Pesticides are a real problem when it comes to buying tomatoes. The Environmental Work Group, or EWG, has created a list known as "The Dirty Dozen," which showcases the top 12 fruits and veggies prone to pesticide residue; tomatoes weigh in at number 10.
The best thing to do when you buy your produce is to purchase organic produce untreated with pesticides, grow some yourself at home, or wash them very thoroughly upon bringing them home. It will help prevent your bearded dragon from consuming any pesticides that could make them sick.
Tomatoes out of a can are NOT to be given to your bearded dragon. These can have extra sodium or seasonings and preservatives that can be harmful to your bearded dragon. Stick with fresh tomatoes only and keep the canned goods for yourself.
Feeding Guidelines - Tomatoes for Bearded Dragons
One tiny slice of tomato, or half a cherry tomato, given once per week or every two weeks, is OK. It's a fun way to provide enrichment to your bearded dragon and give him or her something to look forward to each week.
An occasional piece of tomato is safe, but never feed more than once per week and only feed small amounts to avoid upsetting their tummy.
- Dr. Edele Grey, DVM
Good preparation begins with smart shopping habits. Begin by locating a ripe, red tomato- these contain less of the compound tomatine. Try to buy organic tomatoes if you can.
Once you get them home, wash them right away. Store them properly- such as in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator- until they are ready to eat.
Once you are ready to serve the tomato, make sure the stems and leaves are cut off and discarded. Now, carefully cut s tiny slice of the tomato and place it inside the habitat for your beardie to enjoy. "Remember that beardies don't chew their food, so always offer bite-sized pieces of treats to prevent choking.", Dr. Grey comments.
You can place it on a ceramic feeding dish, or some beardie owners prefer to add it on top of mustard greens or kale. Observe your bearded dragon to see if they like the fruit. Be sure to remove any uneaten food from your dragon's enclosure once your reptile is done eating.
One cup of sliced or raw tomatoes has the following nutrition facts:
- 32 calories
- 170g of water
A tomato is no substitute for the water dish, but the high levels of water contained in the fruit can help your beardie maintain a healthy level of hydration.
- 2.2g Fiber
This helps to keep your bearded dragon feeling full and eliminating on a regular basis. It also helps aid in digestion. Sometimes, bearded dragons consume insects that have hard shells made of chitin, and these can be quite difficult to digest. Thus, the occasional tomato may help prevent constipation and indigestion.
- 5.8g Carbohydrates
Carbs are essential as part of your bearded dragon's diet as it is a source of energy for your reptile. Carbohydrates are found in crickets, a staple beardie food.
- 18 mg of Calcium
Calcium is critical for your bearded dragon's good health as it is necessary to maintain a healthy bone structure. Most of the time, bearded dragons get their calcium from a reptile supplement their owner dusts on the insects, but the fact that the tomato has a small amount contained within may help your bearded dragon get more of what he needs.
- 427 mg of Potassium
Potassium helps balance fluids in the body and aids in the prevention of kidney stones and osteoporosis. Blood pressure may also be lowered as a result of consuming enough Potassium.
- 24.7 mg Vitamin C
The benefits of Vitamin C are nearly endless. This vitamin is key to keeping the immune system in top shape and keeps skin looking and feeling healthy.
As you can see, tomatoes make a great treat to give your bearded dragon once every week or two weeks. You can also offer a piece of cherry tomato for your bearded dragon, as these are easier for them to eat and portion control.
Just make sure that you keep this treat one you serve in moderation- even though tomatoes are great for us humans, they don't have "the right stuff" for bearded dragons.
Make sure to choose tomatoes that are organic if possible, and always thoroughly wash them before cutting them up and serving them.
Can bearded dragons eat tomato leaves?
No, bearded dragons can not eat tomato leaves. The vines of the tomato plant contain alkaloids called solanine and tomatine, which are toxic to them. Bearded dragons can eat the tomato fruit itself if it is fed as an occasional treat. Still, the stem, leaves, vines, and green tomatoes should not be fed to your bearded dragon.
Metabolic bone disease is, unfortunately, a relatively common disease we see in bearded dragons.
Part of what causes this disorder is a calcium deficiency, so you're advised to dust your pet's live food with calcium or provide calcium supplements in other ways. Contributors to calcium deficiency can also be due to other compounds binding with calcium, which makes it unavailable for your beardie's body to absorb.
Oxalic acid is one of these compounds and found in tomatoes, so they should only be given as occasional treats and in small amounts. Green/unripe tomatoes and the leaves/stems of the plant contain toxic compounds and should never be offered to your bearded dragon.
- Dr. Edele Grey, DVM
Edele Grey, BSc, MVB, PGCertESM, MRCVS was born and raised in Ireland on a farm, so she was destined for veterinary-related work from a young age. Dr. Grey attended the only veterinary university in Ireland, the University College Dublin, and graduated in 2013. Since graduation, Dr. Grey has worked with a range of exotic, companion, and production animal species.
NOTE: Advice provided within this article by FeedingMyPet.com is not a substitute for veterinary advice. Please discuss your bearded dragon's specific dietary needs (based on his weight, age, and health status) with a veterinarian.