If you are googling for the answer on – how long bearded dragons can go without food, there are two options. Either you are planning a weekend getaway and need to leave your dragon alone, or your pet baby is refusing to eat. In both cases, the concern is the same – the safety of your bearded dragon.
In this article, we will answer how long bearded dragons can go without food. We will also explain the most common reasons why a bearded dragon might lose its appetite. Finally, we will give you tips on safely leaving your bearded dragon home alone - instructions, duration, and concerns.
How Long Can a Bearded Dragon Go Without Eating?
The exact answer depends on the bearded dragon's age and overall health. Generally speaking, an adult bearded dragon with a reasonable amount of fat stores can go for as much as two months without eating (not that this is recommended).
However, fast-growing bearded dragon juveniles need ample amounts of proteins and nutrients to sustain their growth and should not be left without food for more than a day.
Ideally, you should offer bearded dragons three meals per day. Just because bearded dragons can go for long periods of time without eating, it does not mean it is okay to leave them without food.
If your bearded dragon is refusing to eat, you need to get to the bottom of the behavior and identify the culprit.
Why Is My Bearded Dragon Not Eating?
There are several reasons why a bearded dragon might refuse to eat. Some reasons are perfectly normal, others require some adjusting, and finally, there are those requiring veterinary help.
Bearded dragons are particularly stress-sensitive creatures. If stressed, they may refuse to eat and exhibit pronounced biting behavior. Interestingly, stress exposure can make your bearded dragon's beard turn black.
As for stress triggers, when it comes to bearded dragons, the list is pretty long. Any changes in the living environment can result in stress and appetite loss. For example, variations in the temperature, humidity, or lighting (even within the normal range) will probably cause stress.
Another common but often underestimated stress trigger is the presence of other pets. For example, if you have a cat or dog constantly running around the dragon's enclosure, the fuss and noise are likely to result in stress.
If you want to avoid any changes in your beardies habitat to avoid stress, you should be controlling them carefully. This REPTI ZOO Reptile Thermometer And Hygrometer will let you keep an eye on the temperature and humidity, and using a highly popular Zilla Reptile Habitat Power Center will allow you to control the environment with easy-to-use timers.
2. Changes in the habitat
As mentioned, basically any change within the enclosure can result in stress and lack of appetite. This mainly refers to living conditions like temperature, air humidity, and lighting.
However, it also refers to the interior design of the habitat – adding new décor might be stressful and can take a while for your bearded dragon to get used to the arrangements.
Even repositioning the enclosure and placing it in a different location in the same room can be troublesome for bearded dragons. Not to mention how disturbing it would be to get a new cage and relocate our bearded dragon in its new habitat.
3. Temperature is not right
Temperature is one of the critical environmental factors for all reptiles. Maintaining constant and adequate temperature affects the bearded dragon's appetite in two ways.
First, it promotes increased comfort and overall wellbeing. Normally, a comfortable and relaxed bearded dragon is more likely to eat. Secondly, temperature helps with the digestion processes.
Simply put, warmth and light send signals to the bearded dragon's body that it is time to eat. On the flip side, cold and dark do the opposite.
Again, we recommend getting a Zilla Reptile Habitat Power Center to help you control the temperature.
4. They don't like the diet
Different bearded dragons have different palates, meaning they may not all like the same foods. If your bearded dragon does not like the taste of the food it is offered, it will probably stop eating.
Bearded dragons are greedy but only when it comes to foods they like. Before panicking about your bearded dragon's appetite loss, make sure it is really lost – offer various different foods and watch your dragon's reaction.
5. They have health issues
Bearded dragons can develop many health issues, but we should mention impaction and mouth rot when it comes to decreased appetite.
Impaction occurs when fecal matter accumulates in the intestines because the contractions are not strong enough for proper elimination. It can develop if your bearded dragon eats the substrate from the enclosure or if it overfeeds on the same protein source.
Mouth rot is an infection of the mouth that manifests with pain, swelling, bleeding, and tooth loss. All these symptoms combined are likely to repulse your bearded dragon from eating.
If you suspect something is not right with your bearded dragon, do not use the "wait and see" approach. Bearded dragons are particularly sensitive, and their overall health status can aggravate in the blink of an eye. Therefore, it is paramount to seek veterinary help as soon as possible.
Brumation is the reptile equivalent of hibernation in mammals. However, it is not basically the same. When hibernating, mammals are in a deep sleep state and do not need to eat or drink.
Brumation is a bit different – it slows down the metabolism and decreases the body temperature, but the bearded dragon still needs to eat and drink, but not as often.
If your bearded dragon refuses to eat because of brumation, you will also notice additional signs like increased sluggishness and unresponsiveness to stimuli. Keep in mind that bearded dragons do not go into brumation when younger than 10 to 12 months.
Since shedding is a natural process, we rarely associate it with discomfort. However, the shedding process can be quite uncomfortable because it makes the bearded dragon feel dry and itchy.
Remember the last time you felt itchy? Chances are you were moody, and eating was the last thing on your mind. The same concept applies to bearded dragons.
Bearded Dragon Brumation Explained
As a first-time bearded dragon parent, one might get scared by the term brumation – it really sounds serious and science-y. However, brumation is an entirely normal hibernation-like state that occurs in cold-blooded animals.
Bearded dragons are not the only cold-blooded animal exhibiting this behavior. Brumation is common in turtles, tortoises, snakes, and some frogs.
Although usually associated with cooler temperatures, brumation is not a seasonal habit. Basically, bearded dragons have very unpredictable brumation schedules and can go into this phase at any time.
And the phase can last from several days to several weeks. Some bearded dragons can come out of brumation and be active for a couple of days and then go back into this sleep-like state.
Plus, some bearded dragons may never go into brumation, while others can repeat the phrase several times per year. Interestingly, both males and females go into brumation, but males usually "wake up" sooner than females.
Before going into brumation, your bearded dragon will burrow itself underground or find a secluded, dark, and relatively cold place. Having burrows, caves, plants, or another natural décor is helpful at this point.
During the brumation period, the bearded dragon may not drink, eat, defecate, or move. It is also unresponsive to outside stimuli like poking or prodding.
Normally, despite the lack of food intake, bearded dragons do not lose significant weight during brumation. This is because they are not moving, and their metabolisms slow down, thus compensating for the food deprivation.
With the brumation explained, it is customary to wonder why bearded dragons have to go into brumation. Well, the answer is bearded dragons have no reason to go into brumation, but the behavior is innate and regulated by their biological clocks.
In their natural habitat, wild bearded dragons go into brumation to survive through cold periods with scarce food and water resources. Pet bearded dragons live in constantly regulated environments, but the behavior remains.
Finally, we should say a word or two about preparing your bearded dragon for brumation. The first step towards being prepared is making sure the bearded dragon is healthy, free of internal and external parasites, and empty bowels.
During the brumation period, the bearded dragon may not drink, eat, defecate, or move.
You can encourage your bearded dragon to defecate by soaking it in water and performing a gentle massage on its abdomen. It is also important to keep the temperature and humidity in the enclosure relatively constant.
It is highly recommended to have your bearded dragon checked by a vet specializing in exotic animals at least once per year. In the wild, many bearded dragons go into brumation because of a health issue and then never wake up. In bearded dragons kept as pets, you can avoid this scenario by practicing regular wellness checkups at the vet.
You can prevent your bearded dragon from going into brumation (which is perfectly fine because it does not really need it in the first place) by ensuring constant temperature, humidity, and lighting within the enclosure and providing ample amounts of food and water.
Even if your bearded dragon goes into brumation, you can interrupt the cycle by handling or offering food and water. However, if your bearded dragon is perfectly healthy, there is no need to interrupt its brumation.
Instead, you can let it rest – give occasional baths to promote proper hydration and gradually decrease the UV light to support your bearded dragon's survival tactics.
How Long Can I Leave My Bearded Dragon Alone For?
One of the perks of parenting a bearded dragon is that these pets are incredibly low-maintenance. Having a cat or a dog means tons of obligations while having a bearded dragon means providing attention no more than once or twice per day.
However, does being low-maintenance mean you can leave a bearded dragon alone? The answer depends on the timeframe. Simply put, bearded dragons can safely be left home alone over the weekend or, in more extreme cases, for three to four days.
Anything more than three or four days is risky and potentially endangers your bearded dragon's life (maybe not immediately, but stress triggers long-term consequences).
You can set up a small pet webcam, so you can keep a close eye on your bearded dragon while you are gone.
If you are planning a less than a three-to-four-days trip, you need to do some preparations. First of all, you should give the enclosure a thorough cleaning and ensure the water source (dripper, fountain) is working correctly. Of course, it goes without saying that you need to fill up the water source and leave plenty of food.
When talking about food, we should mention that it is advisable to bulk your bearded dragon on protein before leaving. More precisely, the day before you go, you should offer two large protein meals (roaches, crickets, or worms) and two salads. Then, on the departure day, you can give one more insect meal just before leaving.
Keep in mind that roaches can hide, and crickets can bite your dragon if left unsupervised. Therefore, it is best to offer worms just before leaving, and your bearded dragon will feed on what is left of them after the meal the next time it feels hungry.
Another important consideration is the enclosure location. It would be best never to place the tank under direct sun exposure as the heat can quickly turn the terrarium into an oven.
Then, you should set the lighting timers and check their functioning. The same applies to your home thermostat.
Finally, you can set up a small pet webcam, so you can keep a close eye on your bearded dragon while you are gone. If you have frequent traveling plans, the webcam is an investment that will pay off.
We love this Petcube Pet Monitoring Video Camera with HD live streaming video, 2-way audio, 8x zoom, and night vision. It's the perfect way for checking in on your pet to make sure everything is okay. If you suspect something is wrong, you can call a friend and ask them to pop over.
If you are planning a more extended trip, looking into your bearded dragon's care alternatives is vital. For example, you can board your dragon in a boarding facility or hotel for reptiles. Another option would be to hire a bearded dragon pet sitter or ask a friend, relative, or neighbor to pop over and check on your dragon daily.
Summing Up – How Long Can a Bearded Dragon Go Without Food?
A healthy and adult bearded dragon can go without food for an impressively long time – from few weeks to two months. The same concept does not apply to bearded dragon babies and juveniles that need significant amounts of protein on a daily basis.
Still, if you are planning a trip and leaving your bearded dragon home, keep in mind that your bearded dragon cannot stay alone for more than three days. On the other hand, if your bearded dragon lacks appetite, it is advisable to schedule an appointment with your vet.
Ivana Crnec is a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine specialized in domestic carnivores. She graduated from the University Sv. Kliment Ohridski, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Bitola, Republic of Macedonia. Ivana is a certified canine nutritionist and also certified in HAACP food safety system implementation. She currently works as a veterinarian while completing her postgraduate studies. Her research has been published in international journals.
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.