There has been much debate on whether or not Bearded Dragons can or should eat mice.
At first glance, it seems that such a straight forward question should warrant a straight forward response, and the answer is actually more straightforward than the debate suggests, but then why is there a debate at all?
This article unpacks the Bearded Dragon-Mice debate, and if you have a pet Bearded Dragon, make sure you read this article carefully to better understand your pet’s dietary needs and desire for eating mice.
Can Bearded Dragons eat mice?
The two most important questions are as follows: can Bearded Dragons eat mice and are mice good for Bearded Dragons?
The first question is the easiest to answer. Yes, Bearded Dragons can eat mice without serious, immediate consequences. There is little to no debate regarding this point. Bearded Dragons are omnivores, and those that live in the wild have diets that consist of around 75% animals and 25% plants. Therefore, it is not unusual at all for wild Bearded Dragons to eat mice in the rare chance that they get the opportunity to do so. And so, a Bearded Dragon in captivity can thus stomach a mouse if you feed him one.
However, the conversation does become less black and white when discussing the second question. Much of the existence of this specific debate can be attributed to the fact that wild Bearded Dragons and captive Bearded Dragons have different diets. This is because in the wild, Bearded Dragons are opportunistic eaters—they never know what their next meal will be or when it will be—so they eat whatever they can get. In captivity, however, if you are properly taking care of your dragon, the dragon’s diet no longer requires certain foods: mice is one of them.
In short, it is not recommended that you feed your Bearded Dragon mice. Mice are high in protein and fat, and these levels are considered to be too high for a captive Bearded Dragon’s diet. That being said, if your Bearded Dragons eat mice every few weeks or so, they will not die from it, but it should be said that there really is no reason for them to eat mice. There are plenty of healthier options to feed your Bearded Dragon such as dead insects, fruits, and vegetables.
Another point that some Bearded Dragon owners make is that the Bearded Dragon dietary needs varies between each Bearded Dragon. For example, Bearded Dragons that are suffering from malnutrition or are pregnant may have stronger dietary needs for foods high in protein and fats. Thus, it is less frowned upon if Bearded Dragons eat mice if they have a specific dietary need for them, but then again, there are always healthier options for them to eat.
Should I feed them live or frozen mice?
If you have decided to ignore all of the information in this article thus far and have decided that you must feed your Bearded Dragon mice, please DO NOT feed them live mice. There are many reasons for this.
First, it is simple cruel and inhumane to do so. You can buy mice that have been humanely killed and ready for pet consumption, so why intentionally torture a live mouse by dropping one in your Bearded Dragon’s tank? Just don’t do it.
Second, live mice can be aggressive when put in dangerous, stressful situations (such as a Bearded Dragon tank). Some people have reported live mice to have injured their captive dragon, and fatally in rare cases.
Lastly, live mice can carry diseases that frozen mice would not carry. This is because the freezing cold temperature stops the growth of any diseases or pathogens in the mice that could otherwise be present if not frozen. If you must feed your Bearded Dragons mice, just make sure that you buy them frozen and make sure to thaw them before you feed them to your Bearded Dragons.
Can Bearded Dragons eat pinkies? What are pinkies?
Pinkies are simply baby mice. So, can captive Bearded Dragons eat them? Yes, Bearded Dragons can eat pinkies…but should they? No, they should not. Like adult mice, pinkies are high in protein and fat, making them a poor source of nutrition.
A Bearded Dragon’s digestive system is not equipped to digest a lot of fat at once. Any fat that it does not digest is stored, and because Bearded Dragons lack vigorous exercise, this extra stored fat can build up in its fat glands and lead to obesity and other serious health problems over time.
Obesity in captive Bearded Dragons is a huge problem. Feeding rich, fatty foods to them with lots of calories, like pinkies, and keeping them in small tanks with little room for movement sets up for an unhealthy lifestyle. Therefore, the best thing you can do for them is give them a healthy, balanced diet…one that does not include mice.
If you are adamant that your Bearded Dragons eat mice, they should be given pinkies and not adult mice because adult mice are too large for Bearded Dragons to eat.
And again, if you must have your Bearded Dragons eat mice, give them pinkies occasionally as a treat, not as a core staple of their diet. Also, the smaller the pinkie, the less the fat content. Pinkies are essentially junk food for mice. Although they will not kill your Bearded Dragons right away if your Bearded Dragons eat them, pinkies are a very unhealthy choice and can cause health problems down the line, such as fatty liver disease and obesity, if you continue to feed them to the dragons.
Lastly, it should be said that you should always listen to your vet. Do not feed anything to your Bearded Dragons that your vet does not recommend, and more fundamentally, if you do not have a vet for your Bearded Dragons, get one!