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One of the first signs of illness in most creatures is a loss of appetite. If your lizard is not eating then, it is natural to be worried. However, it might not be the case that your lizard has stopped eating because it is sick. Our article will try to explain some of the reasons why lizards might be refusing food.
Change in Environment
A common cause of appetite loss in lizards is anxiety and stress, which typically comes with a change in environment. For example, if you have recently bought your lizard then it is likely that it will take it some time to adjust to its new surroundings. This can cause a refusal of food for a few days until it settles in.
Even if you have had your lizard for a while, a change in its environment could be the cause of it not eating. It might be something as simple as a change of food, temperature, humidity, or lighting, or a much more significant change, such as a new enclosure. Anything new (big or small), will require some getting used to for your lizard, so during this period it might stop eating.
Lizards tend shed their skins at least once or twice per year (depending on age – younger lizards will molt more than this). Dependent on the species and when molting occurs, it is likely that the lizard will not eat for a few days. You might also notice that your lizard is hiding more and is less active than normal.
Incorrect Temperature Levels
Lizards are like other cold-blooded reptiles in that their movement is affected by temperature levels. If it is not warm enough in your lizard’s enclosure, it will have the effect of slowing down its bodily functions and it may stop moving about so much. It will also stop eating.
Since lizards cannot regulate their own body temperature, they need artificial heating to keep their enclosures at a constant temperature. The ambient temperature should be between 70F and 85F with a basking area that reaches around 95F.
If your lizard has suddenly stopped eating, it would be worth checking the temperature levels to ensure they have not dropped for whatever reason. There should be a thermometer in the enclosure to enable you to do this quickly and effortlessly.
Of course, illness can be the cause of a loss of appetite, so if you have checked other reasons why your lizard might have stopped eating but they all check out, it might then be necessary to consider it may have become ill.
Some lizards can become impacted or constipated, particularly if they have eaten some substrate that they then cannot pass. As well as this, not getting enough water can increase the likelihood of impaction.
Another cause of illness in lizards is parasites, as is infection. If you suspect that your lizard is ill, it is important to visit an experienced exotic vet who will carry out an examination to diagnose the cause and treat your pet as necessary.
How to Get Your Lizard to Eat
If you are sure that your lizard is not ill and you have checked other common causes, it could be that it is just being picky. This is not uncommon, especially when trying to get a lizard like a bearded dragon to eat more fruit and vegetables. Trying to move a young lizard to a diet that is less protein-packed can often be a struggle and you might find that yours will simply not eat its greens. So, what can you do about it?
Try mixing things up a bit to entice your lizard to try different foods. If you are constantly offering the same type of leafy greens and your lizard is outright refusing them, it might be the case that it simply does not like them. There are lots of different options and some greens might be more enticing to your lizard than others. Look for greens with a strong smell, such as basil and rocket. Your lizard might prefer these to things like spinach or kale.
If you have been leaving greens in a dish and hoping that your lizard will graze from this without much success, it might be time to try a different approach. Some lizards actually prefer to be fed their greens by hand, so you may find that they are more open to the idea of eating greens if you hand feed them.
You could also consider placing some worms in a dish with their greens as the wriggling of the worms will stimulate their hunger and might make the greens look more appetizing.
You could also try holding off on their protein-rich foods early in the day and providing only greens until later in the evening. This will teach your lizard to eat the greens if it is hungry. Remember that old adage – you have to be cruel to be kind. With an older lizard, you can offer greens every day and provide feeders such as crickets two to three times a week.
Lizard Not Eating Crickets?
A lizard such as a bearded dragon will typically enjoy a diet of crickets mixed with some leafy greens. As your lizard ages, it might also like to eat some other sources of protein such as mealworms. However, if your lizard refuses to eat crickets, you might be wondering why.
If the lizard has previously eaten crickets but has suddenly started refusing them, it could simply be down to the fact that it is fed up with eating them. Fortunately there are other foods that you can try, such as mealworms or wax worms, and all you might need to do to get your lizard to start eating crickets once more is provide some variety. Try feeding mealworms for a couple of feeds before introducing crickets again.
If your lizard will not eat the crickets again no matter what you try, do not fret. There are other types of feeder that you can offer. As long as the lizard is getting a variety of protein and greens, it should be fine.
How to Force Feed a Lizard
Force feeding a lizard is not recommended unless under guidance from an experienced exotic vet. If you are concerned that your lizard is not eating and that the cause is illness, we recommend taking it to your local vet for advice.
It is likely that your vet will only instruct force feeding (i.e. feeding your lizard pureed foods from a syringe), if it is severely malnourished and refusing to eat.
- Featured Image (Dragon Lizard): Magalhães – public domain.
- Common Grass Anole: Príncipe Castro – CC BY-SA 2.0.
- Mediterranean House Gecko: ZooFari – CC BY-SA 3.0.
- Gold Dust Day Gecko: Jurriaan Schulman – CC BY-SA 3.0.
- Western Bearded Dragon: Benny Trapp – CC BY-SA 4.0.
- Eastern Bearded Dragon: Pogona barbata – CC BY-SA 2.0.
- Central Bearded Dragon: Frank C. Müller – CC BY-SA 2.5.
- Western Cliff Anole: Fernando Herranz Martín – CC BY-SA 2.5 ES.
- Carp’s Barking Gecko: JonRichfield – CC BY-SA 4.0.
- Green Iguana: Sharp Photography – CC BY-SA 4.0.