There’s no doubt that spinach is a superfood for humans. Rich in fiber, antioxidants, and lots of vitamins and minerals, we can eat spinach every day to boost our health. But that’s not quite the case for bearded dragons. Too much spinach, and they could get seriously sick or even die.
So can bearded dragons eat spinach at all? If so, how much?
The good news: spinach doesn’t have to be avoided at all costs. It can actually benefit your dragon in very small amounts.
How Often Can Bearded Dragons Eat Spinach?
Some Dragon Keepers don’t feed their pet spinach at all because they don’t want to risk it. That’s completely fine—spinach is by no means necessary to bearded dragons’ development. However, spinach should be perfectly fine on rare occasions (a few leaves every couple months). Of course, if your beardie has underlying health concerns, you'll want to talk to your vet first. Here are some of the nutritional perks of a little spinach every once in a while:
Low sugar content. Beardies don’t thrive on a high-sugar diet. In fact, bearded dragons who consume too much sugar, especially on a regular basis, can suffer from fatty liver disease, diabetes, obesity, and even life-threatening heart failure. Spinach contains virtually no sugar, making it a heart-healthy option for the occasional salad.
Healthy calcium to phosphorus ratio. Bearded dragons should rarely eat phosphorus-rich foods, especially foods with more phosphorus than calcium. It’s much safer for bearded dragons to regularly consume foods with a calcium to phosphorus ratio of 1.1 or higher so the amount is at least balanced.
This is because phosphorus binds with calcium and prevents it from being absorbed into your dragon’s blood. Since calcium is such a vital mineral for bearded dragon survival, long-term consumption of phosphorus-rich foods can be extremely harmful, resulting in Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD) and even death.
Spinach is one of those foods that contains both calcium and phosphorus, but there is more calcium in it than phosphorus. So it’s safe for beardies—beneficial, even—as far as that important ratio is concerned. If that was the only factor we had to consider, bearded dragons could eat spinach all the time without an issue.
Vitamins and minerals. Spinach is called a superfood for a reason. It’s got quite a few vitamins and minerals that dragons need as well as humans:
- Iron, which helps oxygen flow to the body’s organs
- Folate, which regulates tissue growth and cell functions
- Fiber, which smooths out the digestion process
- Vitamin A, beta carotene, and Vitamin C, which fortify your dragon’s immune system, vision, reproduction, and growth
- Vitamin K1, which regulates blood clotting
As you can see, even just a few bites of this nutrient-packed leafy green will give your dragon’s health a boost.
Can Bearded Dragons Eat Baby Spinach?
You might be wondering if baby spinach has significantly different nutritional value than plain old spinach, and if that means your dragon can eat more of it. The truth is, any kind of spinach—baby or not—needs to be seriously limited in your dragon's diet. Bearded dragons can eat baby spinach as infrequently as regular spinach.
Why Can’t Bearded Dragons Eat Spinach Leaves All the Time?
Despite all these incredible benefits, spinach has one fatal flaw for bearded dragons: it is chock-full of oxalates.
As you may know, oxalates can be deadly for bearded dragons because they bind with calcium in a dragon’s body, preventing that much-needed mineral from being absorbed into the bloodstream.
This can cause metabolic bone disease (MBD), a terrible condition in which a dragon’s limbs become warped and even paralyzed.
If your dragon is not receiving too many foods high in oxalates, and if you are providing calcium supplements, then there’s no problem with feeding spinach on occasion. But spinach can actually kill your dragon if you feed too much or too often, even if your dragon is on calcium supplements. The same goes for other oxalate-rich greens, like Swiss chard, carrot tops, and beet greens.
Call your vet immediately if you ever notice any of these MBD symptoms:
- Shaking limbs or tremors
- Softening jaw and face bones
- Weakness and fatigue
- Stunted growth
- Swollen rear legs
Luckily, this painful disease is easily preventable with proper diet and calcium supplements.
There is one other reason spinach can’t be a staple veggie for your beardie: Vitamin A and beta carotene content. Although this doesn’t pose as big of a risk as the oxalates, it’s something you should know about.
Bearded dragons can safely eat foods with Vitamin A. In fact, they need Vitamin A in their diet. But problems can occur when your dragon is on Vitamin A supplements and consumes too many foods with Vitamin A. In some cases this can cause Vitamin A toxicity in your dragon (also called hypervitaminosis A or simply overdose of Vitamin A).
Symptoms of this issue include:
- Decrease in energy
- Weight loss
Pro Tip: Always check with your vet before putting your bearded dragon on Vitamin A supplements. That way, you can come up with a plan to make sure your beardie doesn’t get too much Vitamin A.
How Can Bearded Dragons Eat Spinach?
It’s pretty easy to feed spinach to your beardie:
- Purchase organic spinach when possible.
- Make sure the spinach is thoroughly washed to prevent any pesticides or dirt from making their way into your dragon’s body.
- Chop the leaves to eliminate any possibility of choking, and place them into your beardie’s veggie bowl. There’s no need to cook the spinach since raw spinach contains more nutrients than cooked spinach.
- Feel free to add other veggies, greens, or pieces of fruit to the spinach salad. Then watch your beardie gobble it all up!
You can serve spinach alone or mix it with staple greens and other veggies such as carrot tops, bell peppers, and sweet potatoes. If your dragon is a picky eater who turns away from greens, you can always top off the salad with a few enticing pieces of sweet fruit like grapes, strawberries, or bananas.
Pro Tip: Got a picky eater who isn't too fond of bugs? Some Dragon Keepers have success hiding Dubia roaches or other feeder insects in the greens.
Just make sure you’re only giving your beardie a little bit of spinach every other month or so, to keep your dragon safe.
If you have questions or would like to give feedback, please email us at [email protected]