Bearded dragons need protein throughout their lives, although in varying amounts, according to their stage of life. This is provided in the form of live insects, which is how dragons get their protein in the wild.
If you’re getting tired of buying and herding crickets and other insects, you may wonder if you can substitute another form of protein. Something from your own refrigerator, perhaps some of that hamburger.
Can Bearded Dragons Eat Meat?
Feeding bearded dragons’ meat will be a personal decision and giving them meat that you eat as well may not be the best choice.
However, meats that humans consume have a problem when it comes to bearded dragons. The calcium to phosphorus ratio in meats is not good, meaning that there is too much phosphorus in relation to calcium. Phosphorus will interfere with the dragon’s ability to absorb calcium, and so will render the calcium content of meat fairly useless.
It may also interfere with the absorption of calcium he gets from other foods. Calcium is such a vital part of a beardie’s diet that supplements are required to be given to dragons. You certainly don’t want to interfere with his ability to benefit from it.
There seems to be no clear consensus on the subject of dragons eating meat. Some say that it shouldn’t be fed at all to a dragon, others say the occasional tidbit is fine. You’ll just have to use your own judgment in the end, but really it shouldn’t be necessary to resort to meat.
It’s certainly easier to feed your beardie something you probably already have in your home rather than buying live insects on a regular basis, but as with any pet, you need to feed your dragon on the basis of what’s good for him, not what’s necessarily convenient.
That being said, in an emergency situation, such as your usual crickets or Dubia roaches being out of stock or you can’t get to the pet store for some reason, a little meat such as raw steak or a small goldfish can be offered.
Hamburger is definitely off the list, as it is really fatty meat. Any cured or processed meats such as ham, bacon or lunch meat are also to be avoided. They contain all sorts of preservatives, artificial color and seasonings, and usually quite a bit of salt, which can lead to dehydration and kidney strain in a dragon. Check out my article What to Feed a Bearded Dragon [The Complete Guide] for all the options.
How to Prepare Meat for Your Bearded Dragon
Any meat you offer your dragon should be finely minced. Don’t just heave a chunk of steak into the tank that he won’t be able to chew up properly. When offering these choices to your dragon, you should also watch him to make sure he doesn’t get impacted by the strange food. Your dragon’s digestive tract is just not designed for these foods.
Unfortunately, since young dragons eat mostly protein, having a young beardie is when a food emergency is most likely to crop up. It’s also easier for impaction to occur with younger dragons, so this is especially a choice used only for emergencies. Impaction of the digestion system often means a trip to the veterinarian. You could also end up with just the opposite problem, diarrhea in your dragon, which will deplete his water resources and harm the nutrient balances in his body.
Can Bearded Dragon Eat Raw Meat?
You may think that raw meat would be closest to a dragon’s natural protein sources. However, bearded dragons should not be fed raw meat. It can contain bacteria that are harmful to your pet. Just because a food is certified as safe for human consumption it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is free of all bacteria.
There are many kinds of bacteria that don’t have any effect on humans, but they could be very harmful to your dragon. This includes just about any meat you can think of, whether beef, chicken, turkey or pork. It also includes any of the internal organs, no matter how healthy you may think raw liver may be.
Besides the phosphorus problem, most meats contain a high-fat content. The extra fat may not harm a dragon in the wild, as they get a huge amount of exercise just searching for and catching prey in their daily lives.
Your dragon can’t possibly match that amount of exercise in captivity, and dragons can get overweight just as humans do. Even live insects that are allowed for dragons, such as waxworms, have a high-fat content and should be offered sparingly to your beardie.
In addition, raw meats, especially chicken, can contain harmful bacteria and even some parasites. Even if they are rated as safe for human consumption, that doesn’t mean that they are safe for bearded dragons. Dragons can be affected by substances and bacteria that don’t do any harm to a human. Also, remember that dragons are a lot smaller than a human, so even a tiny bit of a harmful substance can cause a big problem in a dragon.
If you’re considering trying cat or dog food on your dragon, that’s not a good idea either. Dog food especially has too high a protein content for beardies. In addition, these foods contain flavorings and artificial colors designed both to attract the dog or cat and to impress the human buyer. They just aren’t suitable for your beardie at all.
Can Bearded Dragons Eat Cooked or Raw Fish?
In the wild, a dragon may eat fish, but rarely. It’s not known as one of their natural foods. While fish may not contain as much fat as some other meats, many times fish contain oils that are not good for a dragon.
Some reptiles that spend time in water may eat fish occasionally, such as certain monitor lizards, but bearded dragons come from desert or woodland conditions and don’t even encounter fish much of the time. It’s not a good idea to feed your dragon fish, whether cooked or raw. This includes any canned fish such as tuna or salmon.
Raw fish especially can contain parasites or harmful bacteria. Just because something is safe for humans to eat it doesn’t necessarily follow that your beardie can eat it safely. Any food can contain substances or even bacteria that won’t bother you but may make your beardie sick or lead to other kinds of deficiencies or health problems.
Eating excessive amounts of fish can lead to a depletion of Vitamin B3, or niacin, leading to a health problem. Even a few small fish once in a while can cause quite a bit of damage. Seafood is also on the Do Not Feed list. However, in a protein emergency, a goldfish may be suitable, especially with a fully adult dragon. More than one is not a good idea. Minnows contain too much oil for your dragon. If your wanting to feed them fish for the vitamin’s get more information in my article Should I Be Giving My Bearded Dragon Vitamins?
Can I Give My Bearded Dragon Meat Every Day?
While it may seem to be a good way to vary your dragon’s diet, it’s really not good to give your dragon meat at all. As previously mentioned, there is just too much phosphorus, fats and other undesirable substances in meats.
They may eat it and may like it, but your dragon’s diet has to be monitored much like that of a small child. He’ll try things that just aren’t good for him. Just because he seems to like a certain food it doesn’t mean that it’s good for him or that he should eat it.
Should I Give My Bearded Dragon Lean Meat
Lean meat may be better than fatty meats such as hamburger, but again, it’s something that really isn’t desirable to feed a dragon. It’s not something he needs to eat, and with all the controversy about feeding dragons “people” meat, it’s a better choice just to leave it off the menu. That being said, if you end up with a food emergency, lean meat would definitely be a better offering than fatty meat.
Should I Give My Bearded Dragon Fat Meat?
Any fatty meat should definitely not be fed to your dragon. While dragons can and do eat some live insects containing fats, such as waxworms and some other worms, even these should be offered only occasionally. Besides the fact that dragons can get overweight, which is not any better for their health than it would be for yours, fat from meats such as hamburger is often in a different form and may actually be worse for your dragon.
What Type of Meat Can Bearded Dragons Eat?
The only meats acceptable to feed to a bearded dragon are cooked:
* Lean turkey
* Chicken breast
They should be finely minced and should not have any seasonings on them whatsoever. Be aware, however, that meats such as chicken actually do not contain much, if any, nutritional value when it comes to dragons.
These should only be offered as an emergency protein source when live insects just aren’t available. Again, you need to keep an eye on your pet after he eats it for any sign of digestive system trouble which may signal impaction.
Bearded dragons are noted for the wide variety of foods that they eat, making them easier and less expensive to care for than some other reptile pets. Adult dragons, especially, are less of a problem as their diet consists mostly of plant materials such as vegetables and greens.
Considering the long list of foods that are good for your dragon, it really doesn’t make much sense to take a chance on something that may harm him. It’s probably best to just leave meats alone when it comes to your dragon, except as an emergency protein source when live food isn’t available.
When a particular food or group of foods is in question as to the suitability or there is a variety of opinions on the subject, why take a chance? Your beardie can be kept healthy and happy for a long time without ever sharing your meat.