Frequently labeled as a vegetable, tomatoes are a healthy and delicious addition to any salad or taco. So you may be wondering if you can share this veggie-like fruit with your reptile friend. Can bearded dragons eat tomatoes?
As is the case for many fruits, the answer is qualified. Yes, bearded dragons can safely eat tomatoes...but only a small amount served once a month.
Why Can’t Bearded Dragons Eat Tomatoes Every Day?
Before we take a look at the benefits of tomatoes, let’s look at why they can’t be a staple in your beardie’s diet.
Digestive issues and dehydration. Tomatoes are very acidic, which can cause digestive problems like diarrhea. This in turn dehydrates your beardie.
Vitamin A toxicity. Tomatoes have a decent amount of Vitamin A. This isn’t a problem in and of itself, but if you feed too many tomatoes (or other Vitamin A-rich food) combined with Vitamin A supplements, your beardie can develop some uncomfortable symptoms from Vitamin A overdose. These include swelling, decrease in energy, weight loss, and dehydration.
Poor nutrition. Bearded dragons absolutely need calcium to live a happy and healthy life. Tomatoes are a very poor source of calcium, to the point where it just doesn’t benefit dragons to eat them often. Low calcium alone is a good reason not to feed much of a food to your beardie.
Too much phosphorus. Phosphorus is kind of like bearded dragons’ kryptonite. This is because phosphorus binds with calcium in the body, preventing it from being absorbed into your beardie’s bloodstream. Bearded dragons need calcium to thrive, so if they consume too many foods with a lot of phosphorus, they can develop metabolic bone disease (MBD). If left untreated, this disease can paralyze and kill dragons.
It isn’t just the phosphorus content that makes tomatoes unsafe for regular feeding, however. Tomatoes do contain a little calcium...but the phosphorus outweighs it by almost six times.
Bearded dragons should only regularly eat foods that have a calcium to phosphorus ratio range of 1:1 to 2:1, with calcium being predominant. This greatly helps reduce your beardie’s chance of developing MBD and other health issues. If a dragon regularly eats foods with an unbalanced phosphorus to calcium ratio with phosphorus being predominant, this can quickly deteriorate their health.
Acid content. Your vet will probably tell you to avoid feeding citrus fruits to your dragon. This is because they contain a lot of citric acid, which is harsh on bearded dragons’ digestive system. Although tomatoes are not botanically considered citrus fruits, they do contain citric acid in a smaller quantity. This makes them unsafe for regular consumption since they can cause severe diarrhea and dehydration.
How Often Can Bearded Dragons Have Tomatoes?
Despite all of these red flags that tomatoes have, they don’t quite make the “do not feed” list for bearded dragons. The occasional piece of tomato actually offers your beardie some great health benefits:
- Despite being a fruit, tomatoes are quite low in sugar, which promotes your dragon’s heart health.
- Tomatoes are a wonderful source of Vitamin A, which in the proper dosage will help strengthen and maintain your beardie’s immune system, vision, reproduction, and growth.
- There aren’t very many oxalates in tomatoes. Oxalates are similar to phosphorus since they absorb calcium and can, in high amounts, cause MBD and even cause reproductive issues in females.
How Can Bearded Dragons Eat Tomatoes?
Bearded dragons can really only handle about a quarter of a tomato every month. This isn’t much, but it’s better to be safe than sorry with a food that has so many potential risks.
You can use that tomato treat to entice your beardie to eat his salad. Here is the best way to serve it:
- Thoroughly wash and peel the tomato.
- Remove the seeds.
- Cut the flesh of the tomato quarter into little pieces.
Pro Tip: Tomatoes can be served raw, so you don’t have to worry about cooking them.
Can Bearded Dragons Eat Tomato Leaves and Stems?
Tomatoes are actually part of the nightshade family. Their stems, leaves, flowers, and vines all contain alkaloids, which are extremely poisonous. Definitely do not give any of these to your beardie!
What Can Bearded Dragons Eat More Often Than Tomatoes?
If you’re looking for an alternative vegetable or fruit to feed your beardie, try some of the following:
- Acorn squash
- Bell peppers
- Green beans
- Sweet potato
- Yellow squash
Vegetables and fruit are a key part of your bearded dragon's healthy, balanced diet, and tomatoes do have some great benefits to offer. Just make sure you feed your beardie the proper amount.
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