How Long Can Bearded Dragons Go Without Eating?

It can be quite concerning when your Bearded Dragon stops eating.

Is it normal? How long can bearded dragons go without eating?

Under normal circumstances, a bearded dragon needs to eat every few days. If your bearded dragon has stopped eating, it might be a sign of illness. If your bearded dragon is brumating (and was healthy going into brumation), it can go without eating for up to 2 months and without drinking for a few weeks.

Let’s go into more detail about how long they can go without food in each circumstance. If you’re looking to find out why a bearded dragon isn’t eating and whether it’s dangerous or not, my guide here might be a better fit.

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My Beardie Stopped Eating, What’s Going On?

Bearded dragons, like their other reptile cousins, are cold blooded.

That means that our scaly friends can’t warm themselves from within like we do. The lizard relies on the sun’s rays for energy, like so many other ectothermic creatures.

If it’s too cold in your bearded dragon’s enclosure, it will become lethargic and unable to eat.

That should be the first thing you should check if your bearded dragon isn’t eating. Make sure your basking area’s temperature is 95-110F and the other end of its enclosure is 80-90F.

If it is significantly lower, this could be the issue.

How Temperature Affects Eating In Bearded Dragons

There are only two real reasons that your bearded dragon is not eating. The first is an illness. Let’s assume that isn’t it because if it is, then you should be consulting a veterinarian. The other most common reason a bearded dragon will stop eating is temperature.

Remember what I mentioned earlier about reptiles being ectothermic? Well, without warmth, they have a hard time digesting food. Many lizards also go into a sort of hibernation period in the wintertime. And bearded dragons are no exception.

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Brumation And The Bearded Dragon

Winter comes even to central Australia. But it isn’t like North America or even Europe. Australian winter comes in May and ends in August, with the coldest months being June and July. It can get as cold as forty degrees Fahrenheit (five degrees Celsius), and the highs are around sixty-eight degrees Fahrenheit (twenty degrees Celsius). And just like in North American or European winters, the days are shorter also.

These colder temperatures often trigger brumation in bearded dragons. Brumation is the reptile equivalent of the mammals’ hibernation. When a bearded dragon goes into brumation, not only can they sleep for days on end, they can also lose their appetite and even stop eating altogether.

Not eating can continue for days, even weeks. The temperature has a lot to do with it. The temperature has everything to do with it. Well, aside from nighttime as a beardie will never eat at night unless it’s starving. Usually, they just sleep through the night. But, getting back on point with temperature, if you have a bearded dragon and it isn’t eating, check the temperature and make sure the conditions are optimal.

Another consideration during the brumation period is to watch for signs of weight loss. When a valid brumation period is occurring, the reptile’s metabolism and other functions slow to a crawl. It means the lizard will be very still, or sleep a lot, and not require much energy. If the lizard is moving around a lot, it will need more power and will need to eat more. Therefore, if you notice the bearded dragon losing weight, there could be a severe issue. That is if they are still offered food and refuse it while still losing weight. It is something that if they are active and refusing to eat, you should likely consult a veterinarian as it could be due to illness.

Bearded dragon, Pogona close up, shallow dof.Bearded dragons go through a type of hibernation called brumation. File ID 127879205 | © Balazs Lengyel | Dreamstime.com

Maximum Length Of Time Without Food

During the brumation period, if the reptile is healthy before the brumation, then it is possible for the bearded dragon to potentially survive for up to a month and a half to two months. Of course, testing this on a captive animal is not recommended. Often in the wild, bearded dragons go for days to a few weeks at most without eating. And that is during the winter months in a brumation cycle.

If you have a pet bearded dragon, and you are keeping it at optimum temperatures, the bearded dragon should not stop eating for more than a few days. If this is the case, I recommend you seek out veterinary assistance. If it’s an illness, it could be a form of intestinal coccidiosis. It is a parasitic disease caused by a protozoan. This sickness causes symptoms like anorexia, lethargy, and even diarrhea. With the first two symptoms may also be mistaken for brumation. That’s why it’s essential to watch for weight loss. That is a critical sign that something is wrong. In any case, if you are concerned, you should consult a qualified veterinarian for further assistance.

Difference In Food Type And How It Affects The Bearded Dragon

As I am sure you are aware, the bearded dragon is an omnivore. And a big pig. They are hungry little lizards. And in captivity, the Pogona vitticeps can grow incredibly quickly. One of the observations of anyone who has a growing bearded dragon is that they will try to eat you out of house and home.

The ideal diet for a bearded dragon is a mixture of bugs, vegetables, and some fruit even. I won’t get into all the particulars of the diet here, but we will discuss a bit about how some foods are better at adding valuable nutrition to the lizard’s diet. A balanced diet will increase a lizard’s overall health and allow the reptile to go longer without food, should a cold winter come, and the reptile’s brumation cycle becomes active.

In the wild, a bearded dragon eats a variety of fruits and natural vegetation indigenous to the central Australian continent. They also eat any bugs like ants, beetles, or others that they can find and catch. The voracious diet of these little omnivores doesn’t stop there, though. These little pigs will even eat other lizards who are small enough to fit into the dragon’s mouth.

In captivity, the diet is going to be different than what the lizard would eat in the wild. Consider a balanced diet of fruit and vegetables as recommended by your veterinarian, and also a typical staple is the addition of crickets. These should be lightly dusted regularly with approved calcium and vitamin D supplement. Unless, of course, you have decent full-spectrum lighting with the right amount of ultraviolet to allow the lizard to be healthy. Most of the time, in North America or European households, this will not be the case, and the diet will need supplementing with calcium and vitamins.

As long as the lizard eats a proper and varied diet, it should be relatively healthy. Health plays a significant role in how the bearded dragon can tolerate colder periods. This means they will be better able to fare a hunger strike, should brumation occur. That’s one of the reasons it is so important to keep your bearded dragon happy, healthy, and warm.

What About Water?

Bearded dragons are hardy and resilient lizards. They make excellent pets due to this hardiness and of course their great little personalities. We know that these lizards come from the desert regions of central Australia, but how long can they go without water? Is it the same for food as it is for water?

As with humans, bearded dragons cannot survive for long periods without water. They do better than humans, though. Humans can survive about a week without water, some more, some less. But a bearded dragon, if healthy and entering brumation, can likely go upwards of a month.

Like with food, this should never be tested on a captive pet. Just know that your lizard will survive a day without water, but you should always try to keep fresh water supplied to the lizard at all times. But remember, stale and dirty water is not good either, so keeping it clean and new is essential.

Conclusion

A healthy bearded dragon who enters brumation might go as much as a month or more without food.

And only up to a maximum of a few weeks to a month without water.

In captivity, it is essential always to provide food.

If temperatures are optimal and your bearded dragon is not eating and losing weight, you should seek the advice of a local and qualified veterinarian.

With that being said, if you suspect any kind of illness with your lizard, check with your vet. It’s always best to practice caution when dealing with your pet’s health.

And with what great pets the bearded dragons make, they deserve it.

Bibliography

  1. Philippe De Vosjoil, Terri M Sommella, Robert Mailloux, Susan Donoghue, Roger J. Klingenberg; The Bearded Dragon Manual: Expert Advice for Keeping and Caring For a Healthy Bearded Dragon. Lumina Media, September 27, 2016
  2. Central Bearded Dragon. Australian Museum. Accessed April 9, 2020. https://australianmuseum.net.au/learn/animals/reptiles/central-bearded-dragon/
  3. Paul Raiti (2012) Husbandry, Diseases, and Veterinary Care of the Bearded Dragon (Pogona vitticeps). Journal of Herpetological Medicine and Surgery: September-December 2012, Vol. 22, No. 3-4, pp. 117-131.