If you own a bearded dragon, then you may be wondering whether you can offer them cheese. It makes sense considering they have a high requirement for calcium but can this food be safely fed? Here is what you should know.
So, can bearded dragons eat cheese? Bearded dragons should not eat cheese. In fact, they should not eat any dairy as their digestive systems cannot digest it. Eating dairy offers no advantages to bearded dragons and can end up harming them so other calcium sources should be sought out and offered instead.
Bearded dragons need calcium in their diet, and while cheese is a rich source of calcium, bearded dragons must obtain calcium in alternative ways to eating dairy.
While cheese may be safe and health-promoting in some ways for us humans; for bearded dragons it’s another story entirely.
Let us now take a closer look at just why this is the case.
Why Is Cheese Not Safe For Bearded Dragons?
Cheese and dairy are often recommended as good sources of calcium and protein. While this is true for us humans, and while bearded dragons need both nutrients, it gives off the false impression that it is a suitable food to include in the diet.
Unfortunately, it’s actually one of the worst things you can look to feed.
Bearded dragons are reptiles, with one of the most significant distinctions from mammals being that they do not lactate.
As such, females do not produce milk, nor do any bearded dragons drink milk in their infancy.
For this reason, beardies have not evolved to possess or produce the necessary enzymes in their stomachs to break lactose down.
Lactose is a carbohydrate, and it comes as no surprise to learn that most reptiles cannot tolerate it.
And all cheeses contain lactose in varying degrees, it is unavoidable.
Beyond this, beardies are equally unable to digest the milk proteins found in cheese and are not even able to absorb the nutrients cheese may possess.
So regardless of the type of cheese you had in mind to feed your beardie – it should not be offered.
While cheese is an ideal source of calcium and protein, both of which are crucial in a bearded dragon’s diet, cheese, and any other dairy product are not a good option. In fact, there is no advantage of feeding it at all.
What Can Happen If A Bearded Dragon Eats Cheese?
All bearded dragons are by default, lactose intolerant. They have their unique own digestive system that does not contain the enzymes to break down lactose – whether it be by cheese or any other form of dairy.
Therefore, consuming cheese will likely result in negative outcomes. Even small amounts can lead to digestive upset, bloating, and diarrhea.
In larger amounts impaction can occur. In beardies who are fed daily over an extended period of time, damage to the digestive tract has even been observed.
Bearded dragons would theoretically be able to eat cheese if they could drink milk; however, the only fluid these lizards should drink is water.
Water is all they need to stay hydrated. It is completely irresponsible to offer cheese or any dairy product to bearded dragons or to any reptile for that matter.
If your bearded dragon drinks milk by accident, make sure you watch your pet closely and contact your vet if you were to notice any abnormal behaviors, reactions, or responses.
Can Bearded Dragons Eat Other Dairy Products?
No, bearded dragons cannot eat other dairy products for the same reasons they cannot eat cheese.
Other dairy products must be avoided, as well. This includes milk, yogurt, cream, butter, and ice cream.
Most dairy products are high in fat in addition to containing lactose. Consuming foods high in fat can cause kidney failure and digestive upset.
Dairy is a food that should be totally avoided. The negative outcomes greatly outbalance any potential benefit.
Some owners believe it’s okay to give their beardie vegan alternatives to dairy products like almond or soy milk. However, these foods are equally not recommended.
Better Food Sources For Calcium and Protein
If you are concerned about the lack of calcium in your beardies’ diet, you can dust their food with calcium powder.
This works particularly well and is an approach undertaken by many owners.
One thing to consider is that you must ensure any calcium dusting is done in moderation, factoring in your beardie’s age and health status.
Too much calcium can cause bone health issues and is inappropriate too. So, it is best to check with your vet ahead of any supplementation.
One other factor to improve your bearded dragon’s calcium absorption is to ensure their enclosures are fitted with UV Lamps.
As for the protein aspect of dairy, certain insects are much more appropriate and health-promoting. Crickets, such as this Fluker’s product from Amazon, are ideal.
Remember, baby bearded dragons require more protein in their diet as opposed to when they are adults.
As bearded dragons age, they naturally become more herbivorous as their protein requirement reduces.
Fresh drinking water is also important and will help to keep your beardie hydrated. This is equally important for their health and well-being.
Other Foods Bearded Dragons Should Not Eat
Bearded dragons enjoy and do best with an omnivorous diet where the ratio of plant protein to animal matter changes according to their age.
These lizards eat mostly insects as babies; at this life stage, their diet needs 80% animal matter and 20% vegetable matter.
As bearded dragons grow and become adults, they need more vegetables in their diet until the ratio ends up at around 50/50.
Veterinarians and reptile specialists are keen to stress the importance of this balance and ensuring you feed an age-dependent diet.
While there are specific foods that bearded dragons should eat; mostly green leafy vegetables, flowers, and the occasional fruit, there are food sources that should be strictly avoided.
So, aside from dairy products, bearded dragons should not consume any of the following foods, and why:
- Avocado – Bearded dragons can eat most fruits and vegetables; however, avocados must be avoided. This is because avocados contain oxalic acid, which, even in small quantities, can make your beardie very sick. If ingested in higher quantities, it could be fatal.
- Beet tops – Beet tops can hinder calcium absorption. Calcium is crucial in a beardies diet, so it is best to avoid this one.
- Fireflies – Fireflies are toxic to beardies and can even kill them.
- Lettuce -Lettuce is the least harmful to beardies of all the foods mentioned on this list; however, lettuce has nothing to offer bearded dragons in nutrition. Lettuce can also cause problems with the digestive tract and can cause diarrhea.
- Rhubarb – Rhubarb can be fatal to bearded dragons, one to avoid at all costs.
- Spinach – Spinach hinders calcium absorption, which is problematic as beardies need calcium in their diet. If spinach is offered to your beardie as the occasional treat, it is unlikely to do much harm to your pet.
If your beardie was to consume any of the foods mentioned above, you must contact your vet at the earliest opportunity. You need to get your beardie the support they need before their condition has the chance to deteriorate.
The simple fact that bearded dragons are reptiles who do not produce milk for their young is good evidence to suggest that milk-based dairy products including cheese are not natural to this reptile.
In fact, unlike mammals, bearded dragons cannot obtain any nutritional benefit from such foods – regardless of what they can offer to us humans and some other animals.
This is simply because they cannot safely digest cheese or any other dairy.
They cannot absorb the nutrients that they can provide.
Instead, it is likely to do harm.
Dairy is high in lactose; a simple sugar (carbohydrate) that all reptiles are known to not be able to break down.
A lot of dairy, and most cheeses, are also high in fat. This macro-nutrient is high in energy and must not be over-provided in the diet.
Vegan alternatives to dairy products also do not a bearded dragon any good. Perhaps they may not be as harmful but they are equally not beneficial.
Aside from cheese and other dairy products, make sure you avoid other toxic foods.
Instead, it is best to stick to suitable foods with appropriate calcium supplementation in the form of a safe supplement.
Bear in mind that you should stick as close to their natural diet as possible, and make sure to get the balance of nutrients right to keep your beardie happy and healthy.
Can Bearded Dragons Drink Milk?
Bearded dragons should never drink milk, regardless of what animal it is from. A bearded dragon does not have the digestive enzymes and capabilities to safely process it. In fact, there are no advantages to a bearded dragon of drinking milk; all the nutrients, vitamins, minerals and protein can be acquired through other foods. All milk will likely do to your bearded dragon is lead to negative health outcomes, starting with digestive upset and distress.
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.