Can bearded dragons eat cheese?

Written by: Annemarie Dutton
Last updated on:

The Cheezy Truth About Bearded Dragons And Cheese

Cheese is a common human dairy product.  Unfortunately, not all human food should be fed to bearded dragons.

So, can bearded dragons eat cheese?

The short answer is no. Bearded dragons should not eat cheese.  Dairy products are not good for beardies.

Why Cheese Is Not Safe For Bearded Dragons

Cheese and dairy are often recommended as good sources of calcium and protein. But they are not suitable foods for a bearded dragon and have no nutritional value.

Bearded dragons are reptiles that do not lactate. Females do not produce milk, or do baby bearded dragons drink milk in their infancy.

Beardies have not evolved to produce the necessary enzymes to break lactose down in their stomachs.

Lactose is a carbohydrate and most reptiles are lactose intolerant.

Beardies cannot digest the milk proteins or absorb the nutrients found in cheese.

You should never feed cheese to your bearded dragon.

What Are The Risks When Bearded Dragons Eat Cheese?

When bearded dragons eat cheese, they may suffer from diarrhea, bloating, and an upset stomach. The severity of their reaction may depend on the amount of cheese digested.

When eaten in large amounts, beardies may suffer from impaction, which occurs when food is not digested. Bearded dragons’ digestive systems do not have the enzymes needed to break down lactose.

The worst outcome is damage to the digestive tracts which happens if bearded dragons eat cheese over a period of time.

Can Bearded Dragons Eat Any Other Dairy Product?

Bearded dragons can not eat any dairy products.   Water is all they need to stay hydrated.

Most dairy products are high in fat in addition to containing lactose. Consuming cheese and other dairy foods high in fat can cause kidney failure and an upset stomach.

All Dairy products must be avoided. 

Let’s Explore Calcium And Adult Bearded Dragons

As bearded dragon owners, you know how vital calcium is for bearded dragons’ health and wellbeing. New and longtime owners alike often wonder if they provide enough calcium for their pets. 

WHY BEARDED DRAGONS NEED CALCIUM

Bearded dragons need calcium for the following reasons:

  • Bone development
  • Muscle contractions
  • Proper egg development & good reproductive health in females

SIGNS OF CALCIUM DEFICIENCY IN BEARDED DRAGONS

Alert your vet immediately if you notice any signs of metabolic bone disease in your bearded dragon. These include:

  • Lack of appetite
  • Lethargy and weakness
  • Stress
  • Constipation
  • Receded lower jaw
  • Swollen limbs and jaw
  • Bumps along the spine or bones
  • Soft jaw and facial bones
  • Bowed limbs and arched spine
  • Fractures and broken bones
  • Greenstick fractures (folded or bent bones)
  • Trembling and twitching limbs
  • Tremors and seizures
  • Paralysis or difficulty moving

Dragons’ bodies need calcium.  Otherwise, it starts pulling calcium from its bones, causing metabolic bone disease (MBD), which is one of the most common diseases among domestic bearded dragons.  It is also preventable with proper care.

Metabolic bone disease refers to a severe painful skeletal disorder caused by a lack of calcium. The disease causes severe bone, muscle, and tissue damage, resulting in paralysis or death. 

Other Suitable Foods For Calcium And Protein

If you are worried about the lack of calcium in your beardies diet, you can add an appropriate calcium supplement to its regular meal. 

If you use calcium powder,  do so in moderation, adjusted for your beardie’s age and health. 

Too much calcium can cause bone problems, so check with your vet about supplement questions you might have.

Even with proper supplementation, it is still essential to provide calcium-rich foods to your beardie. Leafy greens are excellent sources of calcium, especially these options:

  • Collard greens
  • Dandelion leaves
  • Mustard greens
  • Turnip greens
  • Kale 
  • Rosemary

Another way to improve calcium absorption is ensuring their enclosures have UV lamps.

Certain insects are much better and healthier sources of protein – crickets are a great example. 

Make sure you get your beardie’s insects from a feeder insect supplier. Never feed your bearded dragon bugs you find outdoors. They may have parasites and trace amounts of pesticides, which are dangerous to your pet lizard.

Baby bearded dragons need more protein in their diet than do adult beardies. As they age, they become more herbivorous as their protein needs lessen.

Other Harmful Foods Bearded Dragons Should Avoid

Bearded dragons have an omnivorous diet where their plant and animal matter ratio varies according to their age-dependent diet needs.

As babies, beardies eat mostly insects. Their diet requires 80% animal matter and 20% plant matter. As they grow into juvenile bearded dragons, they need more plants until the ratio becomes 50/50. An adult bearded dragon’s diet should have a balance of 75/25.

While certain foods that bearded dragons should eat, you should avoid other foods at all costs. 

Aside from cheese and dairy products, beardies should avoid eating avocados because they contain oxalic acid. 

Even in small quantities, this acid can make your beardie very sick and if ingested in higher amounts, lethal.

Beet tops and rhubarb should also be avoided.

Lettuce is the least harmful food for bearded dragons. However, it has no nutritional value and can cause problems in the digestive tract and diarrhea. 

Spinach should also be avoided as it hinders calcium absorption. If you offer your beardie some spinach as an occasional treat, it is unlikely to cause harm.

If your bearded dragon consumes any of the foods mentioned above, consult a vet as soon as possible.

Final Thought

That bearded dragons are reptiles who don’t produce milk for their young suggests that dairy products like cheese are not natural for them to eat.

Continually research any new food you wish to add to your bearded dragon’s diet.  Certain foods that seem healthy to humans can be fatal to your bearded dragon.  If unsure, please contact your vet for advice.

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