Lizards make fantastic pets and one of the draw cards for many people is that keeping them in captivity is easy. Or is it?
Let’s start with the two most popular species of lizards kept in captivity- Blue Tongue lizards and Bearded Dragons. Both of these reptiles make great pet choices, however people are often misinformed about the best diet for these lizards when kept as pets.
METABOLIC BONE DISEASE (MBD)
Lizards being fed an incorrect diet can develop serious health problems, the most common being Metabolic Bone Disease. MBD is not new; it has been around for many years in the reptile world and is commonly thought of as a calcium deficiency. However, research in the last 5 years has shown that a lack of calcium is not the only cause of MBD in reptiles. In fact the causes for MBD are complex and multi-factorial – though imbalances in the diet remain THE major contributing factor.
- Inability to stand and move properly
- Tremors and muscle twitching
- Soft jaw and tooth disease
- Leg, spine and tail twists and bends
- Fractures and broken bones
- Eventually weight loss and death
It is important to keep in mind that these symptoms are caused by an incorrect diet, lack of adequate care and exercise. The only way to treat and prevent MBD in lizards is to get these few simple things right. It is actually quite easy to provide a balanced diet for lizards. It needs to contain vitamins, minerals, calcium, fat, protein and amino acids. BUT most importantly of all, the diet needs to be balanced.
NOM NOM OMNIVORES
Both blue tongues and bearded dragons are classed as OMNIVORES. They eat a variety of different foods including both insects, meat matter, and fruit and vegetables. Blue tongues are classified as opportunistic omnivores. They will generally eat most things they come across, with a favourite being snails! This can become a problem in captivity, because they will usually eat just about anything that goes into their food bowls, even if it is not particularly good for them – snails all day every day? Yep, they will take the opportunity!
Bearded Dragons are also omnivores, but they tend to have a diet higher in protein when they are younger, which gradually changes to a diet higher in vegetation and fibre as they reach maturity. Bearded dragons also develop problems in a captive environment, as they simply LOVE live food and many people find it easier just to feed them what they like – not necessarily the best thing for the animal!
FORMULATED DIET OR SUPPLEMENTED LIVE FOOD
There are two main options for providing your lizard with a balanced diet that will ensure they remain in peak health – without breaking your bank or your patience.
We believe the easiest way to achieve this is to use a formulated diet, like Vetafarm’s Lizard Food. Being made with fresh Australian ingredients with essential vitamins, minerals and amino acids in perfect balance, Lizard Food is suitable for both Blue Tongues and Bearded Dragons.
If you prefer to feed a live food diet, it MUST be supplemented. Crickets and meal worms are high in fat and protein, with differing amounts of chiton (exo skeleton) depending on the type and age
of the insect fed. Chiton does not contain any nutrition. While fat and protein are important for rapid growth without the addition of vitamins, minerals and calcium problems arise as a reptiles bones struggle to develop at the same pace as the rest of the body’s tissues and organs.
This makes supplementing a live food diet absolutely critical if we are to avoid deformities and other health issues caused by MBD.
There are two ways you can supplement a live food diet- either by gut load or dusting. Vetafarm prefers dusting as opposed to gut loading as it can be difficult to ensure the insects have eaten enough gut load to be beneficial. Vetafarm’s Multical Dust is a great dusting product to use, as it is the world’s first all in one powder, containing vitamins, minerals and calcium. In our opinion, live food should be dusted EVERY feed or at least every second feed.
Check out our video below for a quick demonstration on how easy it is to dust live food. It is super simple!
Whichever way you decide to feed your lizard, it is also important to provide fresh fruit and vegetables as part of the daily diet. Adult Bearded Dragons in particular rely on daily access to fruit and vegetables, being prone to obesity issues caused by high fat, high protein diets once they have finished growing.
Leafy Dark greens and red vegetables usually contain the most nutrition, so it’s a good idea to use these as the bulk of your mix. A small amount of Multical Dust can also be used in a sprinkle over vegetables.
Nutrition plays a major part in MBD in reptiles, however lighting and husbandry are important as well. Be sure you research the particular tank and lighting requirements for your lizard. You can also read our article “Keeping a Baby Bearded Dragon” which explains a basic tank setup.