Dandelions have developed an unfortunate reputation over the years. To many people they’re seen merely as annoying weeds; something to dig out the lawn before they set seed.
Yet for many generations these saw-toothed leaves were considered a useful food source; there are even historical records of dandelion roots being dried, ground, and used to make a warming beverage.
If, like me, dandelions seem to sprout freely around your garden despite your best efforts, what can be done with them? Should they simply be thrown onto the compost heap, or can they be fed to your bearded dragon instead?
Bearded dragons can eat dandelion leaves. Even better, while it’s tempting to look down on dandelions as annoying weeds, they’re actually packed with nutrients and can represent a very useful (and free!) foodstuff for your beardie.
How Often to Feed Dandelions To a Bearded Dragon
Dandelion leaves can be fed to your bearded dragon regularly. They can be considered a staple of your bearded dragon’s diet when fed as just one element in a varied, balanced meal.
When in season, dandelions can be fed daily to your bearded dragon. They should, however, be the only food stuff offered to your bearded dragon, and should always be combined with other foods.
Nutrients Found in Dandelions
The humble dandelion is surprisingly blessed with nutrients. Most notably for reptile keepers, dandelion leaves are surprisingly high in calcium. As we all know, calcium is crucial for healthy bones.
Historically, diurnal lizards like bearded dragons have been at risk of skeletal issues, caused either by insufficient UV light, or by a lack of calcium in the diet. Any food high in calcium, such as dandelion leaves, can help to stave off these risks, and keep your bearded dragon in full health for years to come.
But calcium is far from the only benefit of feeding dandelion leaves to your beardie. Dandelion leaves are also high in fiber; making up around 7% of the leaf. High fiber foods help to aid the smooth functioning of the digestive system, reducing the chances of constipation or impaction.
Like so many other edible green leaves, dandelions are rich in other vitamins and minerals too. Notable on the nutrition charts are vitamin A, riboflavin and iron.
And as if this wasn’t enough, dandelion leaves have one more trick up their sleeve. Dandelions are low in carbohydrates and in sugars. This can help to keep your bearded dragon at an appropriate weight, in contrast to high-sugar foods (such as many fruits) which can lead to unhealthy weight gain if fed too often.
Oxalic Acid Levels in Dandelions
Oxalates are a serious consideration when it comes to selecting foodstuffs for your lizard. High levels of oxalic acid in food can make it harder for your bearded dragon to absorb calcium. And as previously discussed, sufficient calcium is crucial for a happy, healthy bearded dragon.
Dandelions have a moderate amount of oxalic acid in them.
While for many other foods a moderate-to-high oxalate level is often enough to suggest such foods should only be fed occasionally, this isn’t necessarily the case with dandelion leaves.
There are two reasons why the moderate oxalate level shouldn’t worry you too much. Firstly, the level is not high – just moderate. There are popular foodstuffs with far higher levels (such as sweet potato and carrots) but these can still be used as part of a balanced, varied diet.
The second reason this shouldn’t rule out dandelions as a food for your bearded dragon is down to the calcium levels, which we’ll cover in the next section.
Calcium:Phosphorus Ratios in Dandelions
When assessing foods for reptiles, an important consideration is the calcium to phosphorus ratio. It is generally agreed that the optimal ratio of these two nutrients is 2:1. The closer we can get to this number, the easier your bearded dragon will find it to build and maintain a healthy skeleton.
Dandelions have an impressive calcium:phosphorus ratio of 2.8:1.
This is much higher than many other common foodstuffs. Apple, for example, only has a 0.7:1 ratio for contrast.
The exceptionally high calcium levels mean that dandelions can form an important and valuable part of your bearded dragon’s diet. Even used in small amounts, it can help to counteract the very low levels of calcium found in many other foods.
Additionally, whilst we highlighted the moderate oxalic acid levels earlier in this article, the fact that calcium levels are so high, means the oxalates should be less of a concern.
All in all, dandelion leaves represent one of the best sources of calcium available, making them a valuable addition to any bearded dragon menu.
Reasons Not to Feed Dandelions To Your Bearded Dragon
By now we’ve seen all the benefits of feeding dandelions to your bearded dragon. But of course for balance it’s worth highlighting why you might not want to feed them to your pet.
Firstly, of course, dandelions generally can’t be bought from your local supermarket. You’ll need to go out and pick the leaves yourself. This can mean extra effort.
It can also risk introducing weed killers and other chemicals to your pet. If you opt to pick dandelions for your bearded dragon it is a good idea to either only pick them in your own garden, or miles out in the countryside. Dandelions found near a road, in a local park etc will all be at risk of dangerous chemicals.
Then of course there’s the fact that dandelions have a “season”. They tend to die back in winter, and regrow in the spring. Dandelions therefore aren’t really a foodstuff you can offer year-round. Instead, it’s something to feed during the summer and then swap for something else as fall comes around.
Next, as mentioned, dandelions have a reasonable oxalic acid content, though perhaps this is rather offset by the high calcium levels they contain.
And lastly, quite frankly, some bearded dragons simply don’t like the taste too much. In truth, dandelion leaves can be quite bitter, so don’t be offended if your beardie refuses some of the more tart leaves you offer.
How to Prepare Dandelions for Your Bearded Dragon
Dandelion leaves should be fed fresh and raw. As mentioned earlier, only pick dandelion leaves from areas where you can be certain no weed killers or pesticides have been used. Either pick them from your own garden if you grow organically, or pick them miles out in the countryside far from chemical sprayers etc.
Wash the leaves thoroughly under running water, then finely slice them. Add them to a bowl comprising other beneficial fruits and vegetables and feed.
The standard rules of feeding bearded dragons all apply; don’t feed too much and be sure to remove any uneaten food before it has a chance to spoil.
- Lava Tarantula / Theraphosinae sp. Panama / Davus sp. Panama Care Sheet - February 4, 2023
- Psalmopoeus victori / Darth Maul Tarantula Care Sheet - February 4, 2023
- Can Praying Mantis Eat Wax Worms? - February 4, 2023