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Can Bearded Dragons Eat House Flies? Vet-Reviewed Safety Facts

Melody Russell

By Melody Russell

Can Bearded Dragons Eat House Flies

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Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Alice Athow-Frost

Veterinarian, BVM BVS MRCVS

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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A common question among bearded dragon owners revolves around the suitable dietary options for their reptilian pets. This question gets even more pertinent when the potential food source can conveniently be found in most households—the common housefly (Musca domestica). So, can bearded dragons eat houseflies? While eating a housefly every once in a while won’t harm them, house flies shouldn’t be a regular part of bearded dragon’s diet.  Wild caught insects may contain harmful pesticides and diseases, and they don’t offer the necessary nutrition that bearded dragons need. This article aims to discuss why houseflies are not ideal dietary inclusions for bearded dragons and suggest healthier alternatives.

bearded dragon divider

Nutrition and Bearded Dragons: The Basics

Bearded dragons are known for their omnivorous diet, meaning they can eat both plants and insects. An ideal bearded dragon diet involves a mixture of vegetables, fruits, and insects, giving them a balance of nutrients necessary for their overall health and well-being.

Younger dragons require more protein for their growth and development, typically sourced from insects. Adult bearded dragons, on the other hand, lean towards a more herbivorous diet, with insects making up a lesser proportion of their meals. The shift in dietary needs underlines the importance of feeding your bearded dragon the right foods at each stage of its life.

Moreover, a key consideration for the diet of bearded dragons is the calcium-to-phosphorus ratio. Ideally, their food should have a 2:1 ratio of calcium to phosphorus to prevent metabolic bone disease, a common ailment in pet reptiles.  There is very little reliable information written on the nutritional analysis of the adult house fly; the pre-pupae stage is well studied due to interest in them for protein rich animal food. However, it is not thought that adult house flies are  suitable as feeder insects for a bearded dragon.

a bearded dragon with the mouth open
Photo Credit: Deb Kletch, Shutterstock

Houseflies: A Nutrient Analysis

Houseflies, while abundant and easily accessible, do not make a good meal for bearded dragons. The primary reason is that they are not thought to provide the necessary nutrients a bearded dragon needs, although more scientific research into this needs to be done.

The Unhygienic Nature of Houseflies

Houseflies are scavengers and are often found around unhygienic places, such as garbage, feces, and decaying organic matter. They are potential carriers of various harmful bacteria, viruses, and parasites, which pose a risk to the health of your bearded dragon. Feeding houseflies to your pet exposes them to the potential risks associated with consuming these pathogens.

Houseflies and Disease Transmission: A Risk to Bearded Dragons

As unassuming as they may seem, houseflies are notorious carriers of numerous disease-causing organisms, capable of transmitting over 100 pathogens that can lead to various diseases.1 Let’s dive deeper into understanding what these diseases could mean for your bearded dragon.

  • Bacterial Infections: Houseflies are constantly coming into contact with a wide array of bacterial pathogens, which is due to their proclivity to thrive in unsanitary environments! The common housefly can actually pick up bacteria like Salmonella from their own contaminated feces or even food waste and transmit them to our unassuming bearded dragons. Salmonella doesn’t usually cause a bearded dragon to become ill, as most bearded dragons have Salmonella present in their gasto-intestinal tract anyway. If your bearded dragon is otherwise unwell due to dietary or environmental factors, it might be more likely to become ill from Salmonella   As Salmonella is often present in the gastro-intestinal tract of a bearded dragon without causing illness to them, it is vital to remember that it definitely can cause disease in humans.  Always remember to wash your hands thoroughly after handling your bearded dragon and be especially careful if you are immunosuppressed or if children are handling the beardie.
  • Parasitic Infections: Houseflies can also serve as vectors for several parasitic diseases. One such example is protozoan parasitesg coccidia. The most common species found in bearded dragons is Isospora amphiboluri. Houseflies can carry these small parasites on their bodies or in their digestive tract. Bearded dragons infected with these parasites might show signs of weight loss, diarrhea and loss of appetite (anorexia). Left unchecked, these parasitic infections can severely impact the overall health and vitality of your pet.  Frequent fecal analysis of your bearded dragon’s feces, carried out by your veterinarian, is highly recommended.
  • Viral Infections: In the world of disease transmission, houseflies are also capable of transmitting certain viruses. Even though the specific effect of each virus can vary, many viral infections in bearded dragons can lead to symptoms. Some viruses can result in long-term health impacts, compromising the immune system of our scaly bearded dragons and making them more susceptible to other harmful diseases.

It is essential to note that the pathogens carried by houseflies are not just a risk for bearded dragons but can also pose significant health risks to humans. This further emphasizes the need to control housefly populations and prevent them from becoming a source of food for your bearded dragon.

While it can be challenging to diagnose specific diseases in bearded dragons due to their stoic nature, any changes in behavior, appearance, or eating habits should prompt a consultation with a vet. Regular check-ups can help detect and address any health issues early on, ensuring your bearded dragon remains in optimal health.

Houseflies
Photo Credit: AnnaD81, Shutterstock

Preventive Measures

It’s often said that sidestepping a problem beats fixing it. In this case, steering clear of wild houseflies as a meal option is a good idea.  Instead, using more nutritionally beneficial, calcium dusted and gut loaded insects such as Dubia roaches and crickets is a much better option.. Ensuring your bearded dragon’s surroundings are spick-and-span is important to reduce the attraction of houseflies to the vivarium and to lessen disease spread. Habitual habitat tidying, appropriate handling of waste, removing old foods, and providing a fresh, varied diet can be monumental in preserving your pet’s well-being.

Alternatives to Houseflies

When considering alternatives, it is important to choose insects that are both safe and nutritionally beneficial;

  • Dubia Roaches: Dubia roaches are a popular choice for many bearded dragon owners due to their high protein content and relatively soft exoskeleton. They are also easy to breed, making them a cost-effective option.
  • Crickets: Crickets make an excellent choice for a bearded dragon’s diet. They are rich in protein and relatively easy to keep. However, they should be gut-loaded with calcium rich foods, meaning fed a nutritious diet before being offered to your pet. This method ensures your bearded dragon gets additional nutrients when they eat the crickets.
  • Hornworms: Hornworms, also known as Goliath worms, are another viable alternative. These worms are high in water content and can help keep your bearded dragon hydrated.

Mealworms or wax worms are not recommended as they are high in fat, lower in protein, and have a hard exoskeleton, which can cause digestion issues.

It’s important to remember that feeding your bearded dragon with a varied diet and live insects helps prevent boredom and ensures they receive a mix of different nutrients.  It is very important to remove any insects that haven’t been eaten from the enclosure as uneaten crickets will take a bite at your bearded dragon.  Feeding your beardie its insects in a separate enclosure will reduce the risk of escaping crickets remaining in your bearded dragon’s habitat and taking a bite later.

Bearded dragon about to eat dubia roaches
Image Credit: Attezor, Shutterstock

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Conclusion

Understanding the feeding habits of bearded dragons and the nutritional content of their food is a significant aspect of their care. While it may seem like they can eat anything, it’s essential to consider the nutritional value and safety of the food before offering it to them. Although houseflies are a common sight in our homes, they are not a suitable food source for bearded dragons due to their potential to transmit disease and their poor nutritional content.

It is recommended that owners invest time in understanding and providing a varied and nutritious diet for their bearded dragons. This will contribute significantly to their health and longevity. It’s about creating an environment that mimics their natural habitat as closely as possible and providing a diet that aligns with their needs. And remember, if ever in doubt about what to feed your bearded dragon, consult with a reptile veterinarian to ensure you’re providing the best possible care.

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Featured Image Credit: Vinicius R. Souza, Shutterstock

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