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When you get a new pet, you often worry about what they can eat? Many of our pet friends cannot process many of the foods we find on our plates. Green and other veggies (and bugs) are staple foods for adult and baby bearded dragons. Carrots happen to be a favorite food choice for bearded dragons.
Carrots can be a very healthy vegetable option for humans, but are they safe to feed to a bearded dragon?
In short, yes, bearded dragons can eat carrots. However, let’s look more into the nutritional value of sharing your veggies with your bearded dragon.
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1. Nutritional Value of Carrots
Carrots have a lot of nutritional value. This veggie is packed with vitamins, especially Vitamin A and Beta-carotene, and fiber.
- Vitamin A and beta carotene help promote healthy skin, a healthy immune system, and good vision
- Beta carotene is also vital for the reproductive system and encourages growth
- Fiber is used to aid with digestion
- This fiber is essential to the diet of bearded dragons because it allows the bearded dragons to digest the exoskeletons of the insects it loves to eat
These vegetables are known as root vegetables. Root vegetables have high water contents. Carrots contain nearly 90 percent water (88%) which can be pretty refreshing in warm and dry climates. High sugar content (up to 60%) makes carrot a sweet treat and encourages consumption. This increased carbohydrate value also makes carrots a great source of energy.
- Be mindful that overconsumption of water may reduce consumption of other foods
- Consuming fewer foods may negatively impact energy levels and nutrient intake
Carrots have low values of other nutrients as well:
- Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) 300-700 mg/kg DM: helps with immunity, management of blood pressure and heart function, reduces the risk of developing chronic diseases
- Protein (11-12%): Vital to promote cellular growth and regeneration and is the building block of bones, muscles, skin, and cartilage
- Ash and mineral matter (less than 10%): This content is related to the dirt that carrots grow in
- Reminder: Be sure to wash raw carrots thoroughly before you or your bearded dragon take a bite!
Colorful Tip: The nutrient content in carrots can help with the coloration of your bearded dragon. Including carrots in their diets can encourage them to develop deeper and richer coloration of their skin. It helps improve the condition of the skin as well!
The Bad Side of Carrots?
Carrots, unfortunately, are not particularly high in calcium content. They also contain oxalates and phosphorous that make it difficult for calcium to bind with blood in the body, leading to the development of painful kidney stones. Calcium is required for the development of strong teeth and bones. Eating too many carrots can stop them from getting calcium from other foods by taking too much room in their belly.
Be Careful of Supplements
If your bearded dragon is taking vitamin A supplements, you need to be careful with feeding them carrots. Feeding your bearded dragon both Vitamin A supplements and Carrots can lead to Vitamin A toxicity. So, consult your veterinarian if your bearded dragon receives Vitamin A as a supplement before including any Vitamin A-rich food (like carrots).
Vitamin A Toxicity (Hypervitaminosis)
Due to commonplace nutritional deficits in reptiles, it is common for them to receive Vitamin A supplements. Reptiles such as bearded dragons have usually prescribed a dose of 5000-10,000 IU/kg. A toxic dose typically takes months to accumulate in the body. Harm occurs when either through diet or supplements the reptile receives 50,000 to 100,000 IU/kg.
Significant levels of vitamin A in the body lead to toxicity which has adverse effects on the body.
Vitamin A toxicity overwhelms liver function and can lead to damage to tissue and skin.
- Grab the lotion! A symptom of vitamin A toxicity is dry, flaky skin.
- Additional symptoms of Vitamin A toxicity you may notice with your bearded dragon are:
- Skin ulceration or sloughing
- Decrease in energy
- Weight Loss
- In extreme cases, the dermis and muscle can become exposed, leading to rapid dehydration and death
- Also, extreme damage to the skin can be a precursor to bacterial and fungal infections
- Interference with the absorption of Vitamin D can cause metabolic bone disease
Before changes are made to an animal’s diet, a medical examination including a review of their current diet and supplements should be performed. Choosing oral medications alongside foods rich in vitamin A rather than injections is a better option to prevent over supplementation.
2. Can I load up their plate?
Too much can definitely not be a good thing. It is recommended that bearded dragons eat carrots once or twice a week. Sorry, they just aren’t safe to have every day of the week.
A typical diet for an adult bearded dragon will follow the 80/20 rule. Plants make up 80 percent of what they eat. Insects are the remaining 20 percent of a bearded dragon’s diet.
Baby dragons depend more on an insect heavy diet since they are not quite ready to digest plants fully (80% insects, 20% plants).
3. Can Bearded Dragons Eat Any Type of Carrots?
There are so many colors, sizes, and styles of carrots available to eat. This leads bearded dragon owners to wonder what type of carrot is the best to feed their bearded dragon.
Carrots come in so many different colors. White, yellow, purple, orange, although carrots may not look alike, share most of the same nutritional values, including Vitamin A. So regardless of the color, carrots are safe once or twice a week.
Raw vs. Cooked
I know for me, my favorite part of eating a carrot is the crunch. Crunchy raw carrots are my favorite because of the satisfying sound. However, your bearded dragon can safely eat both raw and cooked carrots. Just remember that cooking carrots cause the vegetable to lose some of their nutrients.
Baby vs. Large Carrots
Baby carrots are my favorite because they are bite sized, and I can carry them anywhere easily. For your bearded dragon, large carrots are preferred. Many owners of bearded dragon owners will warn you not to bother with baby carrots at all—just feed the big ones. Baby carrots contain preservatives designed to help keep them fresh. Preservatives can be harmful to your reptile. Thorough washing of the baby carrots is crucial to remove toxic preservatives. A good rule of thumb is to put into practice that even if the carrots have been washed, you’ll need to wash them again.
An even better choice when picking carrots is to choose the fresh ones. A fresh garden grown carrot is an excellent treat for owners who may have a green thumb. If you are horrible at gardening or just don’t have the space to grow anything, you always have the option to buy organic carrots from the grocery store.
Avoid Carrot Tops!
Carrot tops are full of something called oxalates. Oxalates swim around in the bloodstream of your reptile and stop the absorption of calcium by the blood. This is bad because if too much calcium builds up in their body, this can lead to the development of kidney stones-ouch!
If your bearded dragon likes eating carrot tops, limit them to being a monthly or bi-monthly treat.
4. How Should I Prepare Carrots for my Pet?
Regardless of if you give your bearded dragon raw or cooked carrots, there are several simple steps that you should take before feeding carrots to your pet.
Proper preparation of carrots includes steps such as checking each carrot, thoroughly washing it, and cutting it properly. These steps don’t take much time and are critical for the health and safety of your pet. Although bearded dragons can eat carrots, the owner must prepare them the right way to avoid health complications in the future.
When choosing your pet’s carrots, first decide on what type they will eat. Carrots can come fresh from the ground, frozen, or even in a can. Really the choice depends on the preference of the owner. The fresh vegetable will have the highest nutritional value. Since carrots lose nutritional value through heat, it is more beneficial to serve raw carrots overcooked.
Select carrots that look healthy. The carrots should have healthy skin, fresh tops, and a vibrant color. Steer away from carrots with dark spots or rotten, moldy areas.
Fresh carrots from the ground often carry dirt or ash residue. In store, carrots are often treated with chlorine solutions, preservatives and still have traces of pesticide and herbicides.
Clean your Carrots First!
I cannot stress enough how important it is to wash and clean carrots thoroughly before cooking or eating them.
- Use clean, cold running water to rinse your carrots multiple times
- Put some muscle behind your cleaning
- Scrub hard and cover all surfaces of the top and skin of the carrots
- Water is not enough. Use a vegetable scrubber or brush to make sure none of that dirt hangs on.
Vegetable scrubber we use for all the veggies we feed our beardies:
Chop the Carrots!
Chopped or sliced carrots can be too large to handle. Pieces of carrots that are too big for your pet to handle can pose as a choking hazard or lead to impaction (a hard blockage stuck in the digestive tract). Carrots should be prepared into small, fine pieces before giving them to your bearded dragon.
- A cheese grater can help create manageable pieces of carrot for your pet.
- Shreds should be around 1.5 inches long and medium width to make them easier to chew.
- If a cheese grater is not available, slice the carrot into fine slices with a kitchen knife.
If you do decide to cook your carrots, the softer texture will make them easier to chew. Although since the chocking risk still remains, it is best to cut the pieces to smaller sizes still.
- It is common for bearded dragons to have issues with their teeth.
- Teeth sensitivity is extremely painful and can lead to reluctance to eat and a poor diet.
- Softer food choices can allow your pet to continue to eat the foods that they love.
5. Now, Let’s Eat
Thankfully, carrot preparation does not require owners to be master chefs. There really is no preferred way to serve carrots to your bearded dragon.
Bearded dragons love a good salad, so the next time you find yourself on a health kick, be sure to toss a salad for them too!
Mixing carrots in with other healthy greens and veggies will ensure that your bearded dragon eats a variety of nutritional foods. Not only is this important to maintain moderation in eating carrots, but it also provides that there will be an intake of enough necessary vitamins and minerals.
Plating is not a major concern, although we recommend that you place your reptile’s food in a sturdy and shallow bowl. Using a shallow bowl makes it easier for your pet to reach its food and helps reduce of them tipping over their food bowl. Spill proof bowls save so much time with clean up.
Food for Thought
New pet owners have so many worries. Food and what to feed your pet is a major concern. Bearded dragons need many healthy greens and vegetables in their diet, but are carrots a safe choice to feed them? Now we know that carrots are healthy to feed your bearded dragon. In moderation, that is.
Carrots contain many vitamins and nutrients that are helpful to the proper growth of their body. However, over indulgence can lead to vitamin A toxicity, intestinal blockage, and the development of kidney stones. Closely watch your pet’s diet and supplement intake to catch any of these ailments.
Even though carrots should not be an everyday food for your pet, they can still be a tasty treat on occasion. Your bearded dragon will surely appreciate a few colorful carrots shreds popping up in their next meal.