If your beardie seems out of sorts, low energy, and on the thin side – you may have a malnourished bearded dragon on your hands. We all know these reptiles are notoriously picky eaters. But if they appear not to be getting enough nutrients, it’s our job as their keepers to make sure our scaly friends get the right balance of vitamins, minerals, calcium, fats, and protein.

In this blog, we will discuss:

  • What malnourishment is.
  • Some everyday situations that may appear to be malnutrition but are not.
  • The top 5 signs that you may have a malnourished bearded dragon.
  • 4 ways to correct malnutrition in your bearded dragon.
  • And finally, why feeder insects, like dubia roaches, are an excellent way to keep your beardie’s diet balanced.

Even if your dragon seems perfectly healthy now, this information could save their life in the future, so let’s dig in!

What is Malnourishment?

Malnutrition is a condition that develops when a human or animal doesn’t get enough of the minerals, vitamins, and other nutrients needed to maintain healthy organ function and tissues. Malnutrition can happen both when your dragon is undernourished and over-nourished.

It’s important to remember that bearded dragons will go through several cycles each year where they may appear ill or malnourished, but in reality, they are perfectly healthy.

Please consider the following situations before deciding your bearded dragon is malnourished:

  • Brumation – This naturally occurring hibernation cycle typically occurs in the fall or winter in response to changes in natural light. During brumation, your dragon may appear lazy or experience a loss of appetite.
  • Shedding – During shedding, you will notice your dragon’s color becoming duller, and their eyes may appear to be puffed out. These signs are a normal part of a healthy shed cycle.

Baby beardies will shed their skin as they grow, which can happen several times a year. However, mature bearded dragons may only shed their skin once or twice per year.

If you suspect something is off with your dragon’s health and have ruled out brumation and shedding, it’s time to inspect them further for the tell-tale signs of bearded dragon malnutrition.

5 Tell-Tale Signs of a Malnourished Bearded Dragon

Below, you will find the 5 most common signs of an imbalance in nutrition:

  1. Thin tail – A healthy beardie should have a robust (but not too large) tail. A boney or thin tail is a common sign of a malnourished bearded dragon.
  2. Deflated fat pads – Bearded dragons have fat pads on their heads. If your dragon appears to have deflated fat pads, it could be missing critical nutrients in its diet. Many people are concerned with too much fat in their dragon’s diet. That is an important concern because it can lead to fatty liver disease – but typically, this problem is not as common as most reptile keepers may think.
  3. Lethargy – If your dragon seems more sluggish and less alert than usual and you have ruled out hibernation, shedding, and problems with the light and/or temperature in their enclosure, malnutrition may be to blame.  
  4. Calcium deficiency – Common signs of calcium deficiency in beardies are poorly developed “Gumby” bones that break easily, rickets in breeding females’ tails, and “bobblehead.” To learn more about the importance of calcium in your pet reptile’s diet, please read our blog, The Importance of Calcium for Reptile Health.
  5. Obesity – As mentioned above, too much fat in your reptile’s diet can become a problem. As with humans, the body doesn’t function as it should when carrying too much unnecessary weight. If you have a giant, chunky dragon with visceral fat pockets on its abdomen, or abnormally large fat reserves on the head, over-nourishment may be the culprit.

A Word About Bearded Dragons and Parasites

In bearded dragons, there are good parasites, and there are bad parasites. The good parasites help with processes like digestion, while the bad parasites lead to severe health problems like malnutrition.

The only way to confirm one way or another is to test for parasites. If you suspect your dragon’s health may be suffering due to a parasite, schedule an appointment with a veterinarian for a stool test right away.

To learn more about parasites that may affect your bearded dragon’s health, read about the 4 most common reptile parasites here.

4 Ways to Correct Malnutrition in Your Bearded Dragon

Image showing a reptile keeper checking to see if they have a malnourished bearded dragon by holding it in their hand
It’s important to regularly inspect your bearded dragon for signs of malnutrition.

If your bearded dragon is looking worse for the wear, your first step should be to contact a veterinarian specializing in exotic pets. Your vet will examine your dragon to rule out any other health problems like parasites before recommending a new feeding plan. If you’ve noticed your dragon is on the thin side, it’s important to adjust their diet and enclosure so they can get the nutrients they need to stay healthy.

Your vet may recommend all or some of the following strategies for getting your beardie’s nutrition back on track:

  1. Adjust their light setup – Improper lighting is one main reason why your beardie may lose their appetite.
  2. Offer your dragon a cornucopia of nutrients – Offering a wide variety of healthy foods is a great way to keep your bearded dragon’s nutrition balanced. This is especially important if they are young and still growing.

What does a healthy diet look like for a bearded dragon?

  • Fruits and vegetables – most importantly, leafy greens – but you can also give them fresh treats like apples, carrots, mango, peaches, squash, and strawberries in moderation. 
  • Feeder insects – like superworms and dubia roaches.
  • Supplements – bioavailable calcium supplements are an excellent addition to your dragon’s diet.
  • Entice them with an exciting diet –Bearded dragons are notoriously picky eaters. It’s our job as their keepers to ensure their diet is filled with the right balance of vitamins, minerals, calcium, fats, and protein. To learn some excellent strategies for getting your persnickety beardie to feast, read our blog, Encouraging Picky Eaters with Dubia Roaches.
  • Increase the frequency of feeding sessions – You may also want to feed your dragon more often than usual if they are malnourished. Allow them to eat as much as they’d like for 10 minutes 2-5 times a day.

Ensure a Balanced Diet for Your Dragon with Dubias Today

Dubia roaches are a turbocharged superfood for your bearded dragon. Nutritionally, they beat out other popular feeder insects like crickets.

Take a gander at the difference in the nutritional breakdown:

MoistureFatFiberAshCa:P Ratio
Crickets Nutritional Value18%  73%6%2%2%1:9
Dubia Roaches Nutritional Value21%65%9%5%1%1:3

Additionally, dubias are a great source of calcium and ideal for gut loading. This hack will ensure your bearded dragon ends up extracting the most nutritional value from their food possible.

Keep Your Dragon’s Nutrition in Tip-Top Shape With Dubias Today

It can be unnerving when our dragons seem unhealthy. But with a bit of attention, care, and a balanced diet, your beloved beardie will be well on their way to becoming a shining beacon of health and vitality.

Ready to revolutionize your bearded dragon’s diet with delicious, nutritious, and fun-to-eat dubia roaches?