As a bearded dragon owner, you know that your pet is an omnivore, so it needs to eat both veggies and animal protein (usually insects). In the wild, bearded dragons often face extreme conditions, and have adapted to eating a wide variety of foods, so they would simply eat whatever came along and the plants nearby. When kept as pets, it’s up to you to provide them with the proper foods and nutrients, and you want to ensure you’re offering a variety of foods when you feed them.
That means knowing what’s safe for your bearded dragon to consume. When it comes to feeding live animals, you might have considered snails for your pet. But can bearded dragons eat snails? The answer is yes, but with a few limitations.
Are Snails Safe for Bearded Dragons?
Snails are mostly safe for your bearded dragon to eat (we’ll look at a couple of risks below), and they can offer your pet some nutrition, too. A snail without a shell consists of 76% moisture, 19% protein, 3% fiber, and only 1% fat 1. Not only that, but a snail with a shell offers your bearded dragon a calcium boost, as the shell is made of almost entirely calcium carbonate (and having enough calcium in their diet is vital for bearded dragons!).
The nutritional value of snails can increase even further if they are gut loaded before you feed them to your beardie.
One matter to consider is whether or not your bearded dragon will even like snails. Every animal is different, of course, but bearded dragons might not be fond of eating snails, perhaps because of the mucus they produce. There’s no way to know until you try giving your pet snails to eat, but in one study 2 of wild bearded dragons in Australia, no snails were found in their diets. This may be due to a lack of snails in the habitat sampled, or it may reflect a dislike for these shelled gastropods.
Risks of Feeding Snails to Bearded Dragons
There are also some potential risks of feeding snails to your pet, of which you should be aware.
First and foremost, you must never give your bearded dragon any snails from the backyard. While grabbing snails from the wild is undoubtedly convenient, you don’t know where they’ve been. Wild snails might have eaten or gone through pesticides and fertilizers, or have parasites, which could then harm your pet. Instead, you’ll want to go with farm-raised snails (which you should be able to locate online and in pet stores).
One parasite that can be carried by snails is rat lungworm. Though this parasite doesn’t fully mature in snails, it can still be passed on when snails are eaten. And while lungworm is a parasite more commonly found in dogs than bearded dragons, there is evidence rat lungworm has been passed on to frogs in recent years, so it isn’t out of the realm of possibility.
The size of snails may also pose a possible risk to your bearded dragon. Depending on the size or the snail and your beardie, a tiny snail could be a choking hazard, or a large snail could be too difficult for them to eat. A good rule of thumb when feeding your bearded dragon is to never give it anything larger than the space between their eyes.
Feeding Snails to Your Bearded Dragon
You can give your bearded dragon live snails but limit them to an occasional treat for your pet (if they end up liking them at all). We’d also advise leaving snails to adult bearded dragons, as any snails small enough for babies and young ones would be mostly water rather than offering any true nutritional value.
Snails can make a nutritious treat for your bearded dragon, especially considering their shells are made mostly of calcium carbonate. However, there are a handful of risks involved with feeding snails to your pet, plus the chance they won’t enjoy snails at all. As long as you’re careful about considering the size of the snail you want to give your pet and always source them from a pet food supplier, snails should be relatively safe for your bearded dragon.