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What Do You Feed a Malnourished Bearded Dragon?

If your bearded dragon has ever reached an unhealthy point, you know the level of stress it can cause you! Hopefully, you won’t reach the point where your pet is malnourished, but if you do, we’re here to give some tips on how to help them.

Starting with food, one of the things you can try is blending up some crickets with collard greens and water. This way you have a liquified substance to feed your beardie. You can also try baby food, such as squash or green beans. It’ll quickly give your pet lots of great nutrients. You’ll want to syringe feed it in small amounts to your bearded dragon.

How to tell if a bearded dragon is unhealthy?

There are many different signs that indicate stress and health issues in bearded dragons. We’ll go through some of them so that you know what to look out for.

Cloudy/Sunken Eyes

It’s not a good sign if your beardie’s eyes are cloudy; they should be clear and alert. If their eyes are sunken, this also is not a good sign. Make sure to notice if there are any types of changes with their eyes, and be prepared to take them to the vet.

Loss of Movement

If your beardie is acting lethargic at all, that’s not a good sign. They could be malnourished or have an internal parasite. Make sure you notice if they aren’t acting normal and stay still most of the time. This is something you’ll want to get checked out.

Runny Stool

This is a good indicator that your bearded dragon is stressed out.

Loss of Appetite

If your pet isn’t eating, it’s not a good sign. It could be for multiple different reasons, such as an internal parasite or stress levels.

Black Inside of Mouth

If you notice that your beardie has some dark coloration happening in their mouth, it could be mouth rot, a bacterial infection.

Dark colored Stomach

This is mainly a sign of stress, which can happen during changes in a bearded dragon’s life. If this happens to your pet, make sure to give them space and take away whatever is stressing them out.

How do I fatten up my skinny bearded dragon?

If you’ve noticed your bearded dragon is on the skinny side, it’s important to get them the correct nutrients so they can stay healthy.

  • Adjust their light setup

A major reason why bearded dragons lose their appetite is that their light is not hot enough or located not close enough to them.

  • Give them a nutrient-rich diet

If your bearded dragon is young, this is especially important. Make sure to dust their crickets in a calcium supplement. Give your beardie some vegetables and greens every once in a while. They need to have a balanced diet to ensure they’re getting the nutrients they need. Consider giving them:

  • Squash
  • Strawberries
  • Peaches
  • Carrots
  • Apples
  • Parsley
  • Mango
Malnorished Bearded Dragon eating mealworm

Some nutrient-rich insects are:

  • Mealworms
  • Superworms

You also can consider feeding your beardie more often than normal if they are malnourished. Feed them as much as they’ll eat for 10 minutes. You can do this 2-5 times a day.

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However, do note that not all vegetables fits the bill. For example, lettuce are not good for bearded dragons. So remember to do a bit of research before choosing the right food for your beardie’s recovery.

How to open my bearded dragon’s mouth for force feed?

To force feed a bearded dragon, you’ll need a syringe to insert the food puree into. You’ll have to be careful while doing this, making sure not to exert too much pressure and harm your pet.

Tools you’ll need

  • Syringe
  • Vegetables
  • Fruit
  • Vitamin Supplement
  • Mealworms

Make the Puree

You’ll want to add equal parts of vegetables, mealworms and fruit, and then add the vitamin supplement with a little bit of water. Blend together and insert into syringe. If you have to do this more than once, try mixing up what you give your beardie. You don’t want them to grow bored or uninterested with the food, so try different combinations. As long as it has the nutrients they need, it should help them get back on the right track.

Open the Mouth

Using your fingers, apply some pressure to the bearded dragon’s mouth. You should be putting your fingers about 3 centimeters behind the bearded dragon’s nose. Press firmly, but not too strong, and their mouth should open.

Use Syringe to Feed

As soon as their mouth is open, take the syringe to feed them. Insert it into their mouth, and do it quickly, as they will try to resist and close their mouth shortly after you begin. Place the syringe near the back of their throat.


Feed them

Start inserting the puree into their mouth slowly. Press a little bit on the syringe, then let your pet swallow before you move on. It’s very important to do this slowly so that your bearded dragon doesn’t choke.

Force Feeding as Last Resort

Make sure you only force feed if you really have to. This is something that may stress your beardie out, and cause them to lose trust with you. Talk to your vet before you attempt this, and make sure they give you the go ahead. Do not force food your pet because they aren’t eating, as there are many different reasons why they could be refusing food. Bearded dragons can actually go a long time without food, so don’t immediately attempt to force feed them if they go a few days without eating.

In some cases, force feeding may actually not be good for your bearded dragon’s health, as they will associate feeding time as something negative. It may cause them to only want to eat less and less, and may break some of the trust existing between the two of you, so only use it if you need to. In the cases where a beardie is very malnourished, this is an important step to getting them back to being healthy. Make sure you’re careful when force feeding, and follow the steps listed above. If you are too rough, you can harm your animal further, so ensure you know what you are doing before you begin.

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How to Give Nutrients Without Force Feeding

  • Give treats

A few ways to get them the nutrients they need without force feeding them include sneaking in treats. While your beardie may refuse to eat greens, you can probably get them to eat other fruits or vegetables. They will pick out the foods they want to eat. Hopefully you’ve observed the types of nutrients your beardie enjoys, so if they ever reach a point where they’re malnourished, you are prepared to give them what they will want to eat.

giving treats to bearded dragons
  • Wait it out

Your pet can go a week or two without food, so one option you have is simply to wait it out until they decide to eat. They could be stressed for many reasons, such as changing habitats or having an incorrect UV light. You want to make sure you are doing everything you can to keep your bearded dragon happy and healthy. Don’t worry right away if they aren’t eating, just simply keep an eye on them and observe their other behaviors. As long as you look out for the negative signs, you should know when something actually is wrong.

  • Hand Feeding

Another thing you can do is hand feed. Some bearded dragons don’t like being hand fed, while some of them do. It’s one thing to try if your beardie isn’t eating though. They may appreciate the change of scenery with their food and decide they want to eat.

  • Use fresh food

Also make sure you are using fresh food. If you have dead crickets or mealworms, they may not be super appetizing to your beardie. Try mixing their diet up, and give them greens, fruits, veggies, crickets, and mealworms. This way they won’t be bored with their food, and you can notice which foods they like, and which foods they refuse to eat.

  • Start healthy

The life span of a bearded dragon depends heavily on its daily diet. If you are feeding them a balanced diet from the beginning, hopefully they will never reach the point where they are malnourished.

Make sure to have vitamin supplements, such as Vitamin C, and dust your mealworms and crickets in it. Ensure that your bearded dragon isn’t exhibiting any of the behaviors that were listed above.

We hope this was helpful to you, and that now you feel ready to take care of a malnourished bearded dragon. You are prepped on how to force feed, if you ever have to, and you know all of the signs to watch out for with your beardie. Hopefully you are giving your bearded dragon a balanced diet that will keep them from reaching the point where they don’t have all the nutrients they need.

As long as you’re constantly mixing up their diet, and ensuring they’re eating regularly, your pet should thrive. Feed them all of the fruits and vegetables they need, and they’ll thank you for it! This should also help create bonding time between you and your pet, and cause them to associate positive memories between you and the food. Best of luck, and happy feeding!