Have you ever wondered, “Can bearded dragons eat earthworms?”
A good bearded dragon diet is pretty simple: veggies and insects, with extra supplements like calcium thrown in. But it’s natural to want to add variety to your pet’s diet! Pet owners often ask what other foods they can feed their bearded dragons. Earthworms are easy to find and most bearded dragons love them. So “can bearded dragons eat earthworms?” is a typical question for beardie owners to ask.
In this post, we will explore the answer to the common question, “can bearded dragons eat earthworms?” Keep reading to learn the pros and cons of feeding earthworms to bearded dragons—and the potential risks associated with this practice.
Why Would You Want to Feed Earthworms to Your Bearded Dragon?
First, let’s look at the advantages of feeding earthworms to bearded dragons.
- Earthworms are a good source of protein. Bearded dragons require high levels of protein in their diet, and earthworms can help provide this.
- Earthworms are low in fat, which underscores their healthy protein content.
- Earthworms are easy to digest. They are soft-bodied and have a high moisture content, making them easier to break down in a bearded dragon’s digestive system. This could make earthworms a good food choice for bearded dragons who have trouble digesting tougher foods.
- Earthworms are easy to obtain. They can be found in most gardens, or ordered online or from a pet or bait store.
But don’t rush off to feed earthworms to your bearded dragon just yet! Keep reading to find out why earthworms may not be the best thing to feed your pet.
2 Good Reasons NOT to Give Your Beardie Earthworms
While earthworms can provide some nutritional benefits to beardies, there are also potential risks. These should be considered carefully when asking yourself “can bearded dragons eat earthworms?”
Let’s look at the two most important reasons to think twice before feeding earthworms to your bearded dragon.
One risk is that earthworms may carry pathogens that can be harmful to bearded dragons. For example, earthworms can carry Salmonella bacteria, which can cause serious illness in bearded dragons and their owners.
One study published in the Journal of Wildlife Diseases found that earthworms collected from the wild could harbor Salmonella bacteria and pass it on to reptiles. The study stated that “earthworms are frequent food items for many reptile species, and the presence of Salmonella in their gut contents suggests that earthworms could serve as a vector for the transmission of this pathogen” (Chang et al., 2012).
Another study published in the Journal of Herpetological Medicine and Surgery reported a case of coccidiosis in a bearded dragon. The disease was traced back to feeding it earthworms that were infected with the coccidian parasite Isospora amphiboluri (Dorrestein et al., 2005).
These studies do provide evidence of the potential risk of feeding bearded dragons earthworms. However, it’s important to note that scientists don’t yet fully understand how frequently earthworms may harbor pathogens. Factors such as their environment, diet, and geographic location may affect whether they are likely to carry any nasties and to what extent.
Keep in mind, too, that some pathogens, such as the ones mentioned, can be spread from pets to humans.
There are no specific species of earthworms that have been identified as toxic to bearded dragons. However, some earthworms may contain toxins that can be harmful to reptiles.
According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, “earthworms have been reported to contain toxic substances such as tannins and heavy metals, so it is best to collect them from an area free of pollutants”.
Additionally, a study published in the Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine confirmed that some earthworms may contain heavy metals, which can be harmful to reptiles. The study notes that “earthworms from some areas may contain high levels of heavy metals, particularly lead and cadmium, and these levels can vary significantly within relatively small areas” (Paul-Murphy, 2000).
How to Safely Feed Earthworms to Bearded Dragons
If you decide your answer to “can bearded dragons eat earthworms” is yes, it’s essential to take steps to minimize the potential risks. One way to do this is to purchase earthworms from a reputable source. Some pet food suppliers sell earthworms that are specifically raised as feeders. These earthworms are typically free of harmful pathogens and toxins, making them a safe choice for your bearded dragon.
Another practice that may reduce the risk of illness from earthworms is to thoroughly wash and clean them before feeding them to your bearded dragon. This can help remove any harmful bacteria or toxins that may be present on the earthworms. You may also consider keeping your earthworms in soil you know to be clean and feeding them chemical-free organic matter for a couple weeks before feeding them off to your pet.
As with any new food, it’s important to introduce earthworms slowly and in small amounts to ensure that your bearded dragon tolerates them well.
Can Bearded Dragons Eat Earthworms? You Decide
In conclusion, while earthworms can provide some nutritional benefits to bearded dragons, there are also potential risks to consider. As we’ve seen, earthworms can carry harmful pathogens and toxins that can harm bearded dragons.
As a responsible pet owner, you will need to decide for yourself whether the benefits outweigh these risks. And if you do decide to go ahead, it’s essential to take precautions to minimize these risks. (Or, you can play it safe and stick to proven feeder insects like dubia roaches instead.)
What do you think? Can bearded dragons eat earthworms? Do you feed them to your beardie? Why or why not?