Can Bearded Dragons Have Yogurt, Cheese or Milk?
In this post we learn why bearded dragons can’t have yogurt and show some alternatives instead
Posted: March 3rd, 2022
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No, bearded dragons should never be given any kind of diary – this includes yogurt, milk or cheese. This is because they lack the enzyme necessary to process Lactose in their gut. This is largely of course because baby bearded dragons hatch from an egg and are never fed milk from their mothers during their baby years, unlike mammals. Thus, they’ve never needed the Lactase enzyme.
In humans a lack of the lactase enzyme is called ‘lactose intolerant’ since people without this enzyme also cannot digest milk or dairy products properly. This leads to abdominal cramping, excess gas and diarrhea. This happens because lactose – a large component of dairy products is a long chain molecule which is broken down by lactase into smaller sugar components which are then absorbed. Without lactase, the lactose stays as a long chain molecule and is instead fermented by gut bacteria. This fermentation process produces different compounds and gases, leading to the bloating, diarrhea and discomfort.
Clearly, this is a bad enough problem in humans who are, at the very least, designed to drink their mothers milk when they’re born (although there’s arguments for and against drinking cows milk). But for lizards, who’ve never evolved the need for a lactose digesting enzyme, the problems would be even worse.
But Yogurt and Milk Have Loads Of Calcium. Beardies Need Calcium
It is true that milk contains plenty of calcium (and some countries add Vitamin D), it’s of no benefit to your bearded dragon because the disadvantages of giving milk or dairy products significantly outweigh the benefits of the calcium.
The amount of calcium in milk, according to the USDA states that there is 224mg of calcium per 100g (or roughly 100ml) of milk. Which is a decent amount of course. But you may be surprised to know that Collard Greens, according to the same source, contain 232mg of Calcium per 100g. And bearded dragons can eat Collards every day – whereas they can’t ever have milk for the reasons we listed above.
So, there’s plenty of ways your bearded dragon can get the calcium they need without giving the milk, yogurt or cheeses.
Bearded Dragons, Yogurt and Probiotics
You may have heard about the benefits of probiotics for humans and other animals. You may think this translates into the need for your bearded dragon to be given probiotics too. This is very unlikely however, and there are no clinical trials we’re aware of that suggest which probiotics would be in any way beneficial to bearded dragons.
There are occasions where a bearded dragon’s gut fauna and flora can become messed up, through the use of anti-biotics or anti-parasitic medication. It’s possible that probiotics there might do some good to help restore their natural balance. This is a topic for your vet though because there’s no guarantee that probiotics that are useful to us are in any way useful to bearded dragons and they may in fact be dangerous.
It’s worth bearing in mind that humans might need probiotics because we eat food that often has levels of antibiotics already built in (through farming methods), as well as alcohol consumption which will disrupt our gut flora and fauna. Your bearded dragon shouldn’t be drinking alcohol and likely won’t have taken in antibiotics without you specifically giving it to them. Their food for example, is not cultivated in that way.
So in reality, the insects your bearded dragon eats will give them their own set of probiotics – literally as nature intended. If you really want to give them some probiotics, we have seen Bene-Bac for Birds and Reptiles to be recommended on various places online. But it’s worth checking with your Vet first.
Some sites state that you can give your bearded dragon vegan yogurts as these are made of soy milk or almond milk or other non-dairy sources. We disagree. We’re not aware of any bearded dragon in the wild ever eating soy or almonds.
Using Yogurt to Tempt Bearded Dragons To Eat
Is also a really bad idea and shouldn’t be done. If your bearded dragon won’t eat there’s a whole raft of reasons that might be. Some of which might require a veterinary checkup and perhaps a parasite check too. If they’re just fussy eaters, particularly of vegetables then Natural Bee Pollen is recommended as a good way to entice them. It’s unlikely they’ll resist eating insects because the insects wiggle and give them lots of interest.
Again, some people recommend the use of soy yogurt or almond yogurt to tempt bearded dragons to eat their salad. We don’t. Yogurt is just not a natural food stuff for bearded dragons, nor is soy nor almonds. It’s fair to say that nor is fruit or bee pollen but this is far more similar to things they might find in the wild than soy or almonds would be. You can add some little pieces of fruit to your bearded dragon’s salad to help entice them to eat instead.
Bearded dragons should not eat yogurt, cheese, milk or any other kinds of dairy products as they cannot digest it and they will come to harm from it.
There may be occasions, for example after a heavy dose of antibiotics, where you feel they might benefit from some pro-biotics. In which case they could have some Bene-Bac Plus Probiotic as it’s sometimes recommended online for such usages – but we’d recommend checking with your vet first.
Finally, some people have claimed they give their bearded dragons yogurt to help tempt them to eat their salad. This is again, a bad idea, although it might tempt them to eat their salad there are far healthier ways (because they can’t digest lactose in dairy) for bearded dragons to be coaxed into eating their salad.
All in all, we do not recommend that bearded dragons eat yogurt, cheese, milk or any dairy products whatsoever.
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1: WebMD, Lactase – Uses, Side Effects, And More. WebMD Website. Fetched from https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-540/lactase on 3 March 2022.
2: United States Department of Agriculture, FoodData Central. Fetched from https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/746766/nutrients on 3 March 2022.
Featured Image by József Szabó from Pixabay