The Bearded Dragon is an amiable, lively little lizard that makes a great pet because of its tolerance and its unique habits. Bearded Dragons are omnivores, which means they eat a combination of plant matter and animal ingredients.
Being an omnivore doesn’t mean that they can just eat anything, however, and one foodstuff that bearded dragons shouldn’t be given is sunflower seeds. Apart from the potential for the seed husks to cause impaction, the seeds also have a lot of phosphorus in relation to the amount of calcium they contain. The phosphorus binds to calcium, preventing the digestion of that calcium, so if the ratio of calcium to phosphorus is too low, a Bearded Dragon can suffer calcium deficiency. Calcium deficiency can cause brittle bones, muscle twitching, and potentially even deformities in the limbs.
Read on for more information on Bearded Dragons, including what to do if your Beardie has eaten sunflower seeds, and why calcium deficiency is a problem for these lizards.
Bearded Dragon Diet
Bearded Dragons are omnivores. They eat insects like mealworms, roaches, and crickets, as well as vegetables and greens including kale and bell pepper. They can be given a small amount of fruit occasionally, as a treat. Fruit shouldn’t be given every day and should only make up a small portion of the reptile’s diet. Most owners gut load insects before feeding them, which means feeding the insects nutrients (fattening them up) to be passed onto the Bearded Dragon when they eat the insects.
When young, Bearded Dragons should have a diet that consists of 80% insects and 20% plant matter. But, when they become adults, this should be flipped so that their diet consists of 80% plants and 20% insects.
Can Bearded Dragons Eat Sunflower Seeds?
Bearded Dragons shouldn’t eat sunflower seeds. The seed husks cannot be digested, which means that they can sit in the gut and cause impaction. This means that the Beardie cannot pass bowel movements because of a blockage. Impaction can end up requiring surgery that can cost up to $1,000 or more depending on the severity of the condition as well as factors like where you live and the availability of a reptile veterinary specialist.
Another reason that Bearded Dragons should not be given sunflower seeds is that they are high in phosphorus. Beardies need a diet that is higher in calcium than phosphorus and while it is possible to balance this out using other foods that are higher in calcium, it is best to avoid treats and other foods that are too high in phosphorus.
Calcium to Phosphorus Ratio
The ideal calcium-to-phosphorus ratio for Bearded Dragons is between 1.5:1 and 2:1, which means that you should be feeding between 50% and 100% more calcium than phosphorus. Sunflower seeds have a ratio of just 0.13:1 which means it contains more than 7 times as much phosphorus than calcium. As well as being an undesirable ratio for any food, such a high level can be difficult to balance out using other foods.
Calcium Deficiency In Bearded Dragons
Phosphorus binds to calcium, which then prevents the body from being able to properly digest and use the calcium. As such, the Bearded Dragon needs to consume enough calcium to essentially cancel out the phosphorus it consumes, as well as extra to digest and use. By not providing enough calcium, compared to the amount of phosphorus consumed, you can cause a calcium deficiency in lizards.
Calcium is used to strengthen and support bones, and a deficiency can lead to weakened bones and potentially even malformation of the limbs.
Can Bearded Dragons Eat Sunflowers?
Although sunflowers themselves are less likely to cause impaction in your Bearded Dragon, they still have a highly undesirable calcium-to-phosphorus ratio, so you should not feed these to your Beardie either.
What Should I Do If My Bearded Dragon Ate Sunflower Seeds?
If your beardie has munched on a few seeds, don’t panic. They are not toxic, just harmful if fed regularly or in large amounts. If you’re worried that your Bearded Dragon has eaten quite a few, offer them some kale when they are ready to eat again. This leafy green is high in calcium, high in fiber, and low in phosphorus. It can help offset the high phosphorus in the sunflower seeds, and hopefully help move along any husks in the digestive tract. If your beardie is showing any signs of impaction (no feces, lethargy, inappetence, swollen abdomen), contact your vet immediately.
Can Bearded Dragons Eat Fruit?
Fruit is generally high in phosphorus, which is one reason why you shouldn’t feed too much fruit to Bearded Dragons. You will need to measure the amount of calcium and phosphorus and ensure that you meet the ideal ratio. Fruit is also high in sugar, so too much fruit can cause your Bearded Dragon to put on extra weight. The FoodData Central page is a great place to check the nutrient values of various foods, using the SR Legacy Foods tab.
Apples are not toxic to Bearded Dragons, but they are high in sugar. If you do want to feed a small amount of apple, occasionally, ensure you wash it thoroughly to get rid of any pesticides and chemicals used during growing. Remove pips and get rid of the skin to avoid impaction.
Bearded Dragons are omnivores and they enjoy a diet that combines both insects and vegetables. They can also have a small amount of fruit every few days and can benefit from being given some herbs and plants. Sunflower seeds, and sunflower plants, should be avoided, however, as they contain too high a level of phosphorus, which can lead to a calcium deficiency in your Bearded Dragon.
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