Avocado makes a great snack, or a great dip when mushed up into guacamole. Its even touted as a healthy food for us humans but can the same be said for bearded dragons? Is it healthy and beneficial for them to consume, should we be looking to offer it or could this food actually be entirely problematic and even dangerous? I decided to do some research into this green fruit. I would like to share what I have been able to find here today.
So, can bearded dragons eat avocado? Bearded dragons should never be fed or eat any avocado, even in small or limited quantities. Avocados are not appropriate for several reasons. Firstly, they are high in a compound called Oxalic acid. This prevents nutrient absorption and the ability for beardies to use Calcium. Equally, avocados are high in calories and fat (which needs to be limited in the diet). Eating avocado, even in small amounts, will likely result in your bearded dragon becoming sick. In the long run it can lead to severe health complications, and even death.
Avocados are just not a suitable food. Thankfully there are many others we can look to offer our beardies, and that better serve their health and well-being.
Discovering that Avocados can be fatal is quite a surprise, especially to new bearded dragon owners. Let us now take a closer look at why these just should not be offered and provided, even in small amounts.
Why You Should Not Feed Avocados To Your Bearded Dragon
Perhaps the most significant reason to avoid feeding Avocados to a bearded dragon is due to the Oxalic Acid content.
This is a compound that you will need to become familiar with when keeping a bearded dragon.
In excess, it can cause a wide range of health issues and complications. It is also found in a number and range of vegetables; especially those that we may assume are safe.
Perhaps the main example would be spinach, but it is also found in higher quantities in other dark leafy greens such as Kale.
Oxalic Acid is a natural compound to many plants, and is known to bind to minerals to form Oxalates. In the context of your beardie, this binding essentially means that they become less, or completely unavailable for absorption.
Bearded dragons require a number of vitamins and minerals in order to remain healthy.
One of utmost importance is Calcium. This is required in high amounts and even needs to be carefully balanced with another minerals called Phosphorous (the ideal ratio of Calcium to Phosphorous is 2:1 in favor of Calcium according to reptile veterinarians).
For your bearded dragon, consuming a higher amount of Oxalic Acid (Oxalates) through the diet means less calcium, along with other important minerals, are available for absorption. This has an adverse impact on a number of bodily functions.
So, you need to be very careful with foods that contain oxalates, because they are difficult to completely avoid. They can build up and become problematic before we even realize.
The second main reason why Avocados must be avoided, is that they are high in calories and the macro-nutrient fat.
Here is the energy content of just 100 grams of Avocado – which is around half of an averagely sized avocado:
As we can see from the table above, there is a lot of fat and also carbohydrate in even a small serving.
Overfeeding will likely result in obesity and should be avoided at all costs for health reasons.
It is true that most cases of overfeeding are accidental, and often as a result from owners giving their beardies too much fat, too often. This usually happens with fattier grubs, like waxworks, but the same result would occur from feeding avocado.
Again, we can see that the calcium/phosphorous ratio is unfavorable in the fruit itself. At 12mg/52mg, it is naturally (1:4 calcium to phosphorous in ratio) – and that’s before the Oxalates reduce the bio-availability of calcium even further!
Lastly, we must remember that bearded dragons cannot chew. They consume their food by swallowing. A lot of avocados are hard and often fed underipe.
Unless an avocado is appropriately prepared and mushed up, it would be a choking hazard and risk to a beardie.
Importance Of Calcium For Bearded Dragons
Calcium is one of several important minerals that bearded dragons need to thrive.
In fact, they need quite a bit of calcium. This is why it is recommended to dust their food with a safe calcium supplement.
Below, you will find a rough overview of how much calcium you should be dusting on their food at each stage of their life:
|Baby (0-2 Months)||Daily food dusting with a calcium supplement|
|Juvenile (2-12 Months)||Calcium supplement food dusting, every 2nd day.|
|Adult (12 Months +)||Calcium supplement food dusting, every 3rd day.|
As you can see, older bearded dragons have a lower requirement for this mineral (as they are not growing) however its still a very important mineral nonetheless. It plays an essential role in ensuring strong bones and preventing complications that arise from a weakened bone structure.
Too low a calcium availability can happen for a number of reasons. Here are the main ones to be aware of:
- Inadequate diet (with too many high phosphorous foods),
- Insufficient supplementation (such as calcium food dusting)
- Inclusion of too many calcium inhibiting substances (like Oxalates from Avocados).
- Improper or insufficient lighting – primarily UVB – which is required for calcium absorption.
- Weakened digestion (most commonly occurs from enclosures without insufficient heat).
Of course, too much calcium can also be provided too – and this commonly occurs with over-supplementation. This is something you do need to be aware of too.
Nonetheless, insufficient calcium can result in a condition known as Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD). It is one of the most common health conditions in bearded dragons and results in bone abnormalities, pain, discomfort, and if it progresses and is not treated, can result in death.
Here are the most commonly observed symptoms of this condition, and signs it may be developing in your beardie:
- Twitching, whether across the full body or within particular body parts e.g. the head, tail etc.
- Lethargy and weakness
- Swelling and softening of the lower jaw and facial bones (‘rubber jaw’)
- Fractured bones,
- Inability to walk, or dragging themselves along.
While this issue is common and is upsetting to see, thankfully it can be prevented ahead of time. If you catch the condition early enough you can also help to reverse some of the symptoms.
Below, we will briefly discuss some practical ways to help your beardie better absorb calcium and avoid MBD from developing to begin with.
How To Ensure Your Bearded Dragon Gets Enough Calcium
We now know that avoiding high oxalate foods, including Avocados, is one of your foremost priorities. This will help to ensure your bearded dragon does not lose any of the calcium they would otherwise get through their normal diet.
From there, you can look to introduce a calcium supplement (like Rep-Cal available on Amazon). You should look to sprinkle this on your beardies food in accordance with their age. So, using the recommendations above this will be daily (in a baby beardie), every 2 days (in a juvenile beardie) and every 3 days (in an adult beardie).
Equally, providing high calcium insects, like crickets and grasshoppers is advised.
Lastly, you can actively boost how your bearded dragon processes and absorbs the calcium they get in their diet.
You can do this by ensuring their enclosure is set up with sufficient UVB lighting. This will let your bearded dragon bask and produce Vitamin D3. This vitamin is required in order for a reptile to actively use calcium and other minerals.
Plus, UVB lighting will help provide heating that will keep your beardie sufficiently warm. This supports bodily processes such as the optimal digestion of food (preventing impaction).
Other Foods To Not Feed Your Bearded Dragon
Lastly, before we summarize what has been discussed here today, let us briefly look at other foods that should not be fed at all.
The following foods should be added along with avocados as foods to completely avoid offering:
- Lettuces – are essentially just water and a small amount of cellulose (a type of vegetable fiber). There is little to no nutrition in lettuce and reports from bearded dragon owners suggests that too much can lead to diarrhea and other digestive issues.
- Spinach/Beet Tops and Rhubarb – all three of which are known to be very high in Oxalates (just like Avocado). As there are better vegetable and greens options to feed, these are best avoided.
- Wild Insects will likely be carrying parasites or pesticides/herbicides from plants they have landed on. Insects should always be store bought and from purposefully harvested colonies.
Avocados should never be fed to a bearded dragon. And there is no need to feed them or benefits of doing so. There are plenty of other more suitable, more nutritious foods available.
By refraining from feeding avocado, you can naturally reduce your beardies oxalate intake, support the intricate balance of Calcium to Phosphorous and also reduce the total energy/fat intake of the diet.
Ultimately, as a bearded dragon owner, it is imperative that you are aware of the importance of calcium in the diet, and it being sufficiently absorbed.
You need to monitor for the potential development of Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD) as it is common in these reptiles and can result in an upsetting degradation in the quality of your beardies life. Some symptoms cannot be reversed and in the worst case scenarios, it can even lead to death.
So, do all you can by keeping calcium inhibiting foods like Avocados out of the diet. From there, be sure to supplement accordingly, introduce calcium rich vegetables/insects, and provide the sufficient UVB lighting they need.