However, it is crucial to carefully assess the food you offer to these unique and docile reptiles, as some foods may be unsafe for their consumption.
So, mushrooms: are they safe for Bearded Dragons?
In summary, it’s generally unsafe to feed mushrooms to bearded dragons – despite these bites having essential nutrients. Although mushrooms have essential nutrients, many varieties, including wild mushrooms, are toxic to reptiles, including bearded dragons.
- Besides, the consumption of mushrooms can lead to digestive problems or organ failure in bearded dragons due to these bites having high acidity levels and an unbalanced calcium-to-phosphorus ratio.
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Risks in Feeding Mushrooms to Bearded Dragons
1. Unbalanced calcium-to-phosphorus ratio Causes Bone-related Illnesses
The calcium-to-phosphorus ratio is a critical aspect when analyzing the foods to give your bearded dragons. Phosphorus has a critical role in cell functioning and energy production. On the other hand, Calcium is required to appropriate metabolic processes, bone development, and muscle function.
However, the calcium-to-phosphorus ratio must be carefully balanced – their diet must contain a high amount of calcium compared to phosphorus.
- An imbalance where the bearded dragon’s diet has more phosphorus (than calcium) leads to lower rates of calcium absorption and thus may result in diseases like metabolic bone disease (MBD), fractures, deformities, or even brittle bones.
Bearded dragons require a diet with a calcium-to-phosphorous ratio of 2:1 or 1:1. However, mushrooms have high phosphorus ratios and may lead to bone-related health conditions. For instance, the ratio in portabella mushrooms is 1:16.3 – calcium to phosphorous.
So, feeding your bearded dragon with mushrooms isn’t good for their health. The unbalanced Ca:P ratio in mushrooms interferes with calcium absorption in the beardie’s body.
- This results in calcium deficiency which in turn leads to problems such as metabolic bone disease, muscle weakness, and the inability of blood to clot.
When the amount of phosphorous exceeds calcium, phosphorous reacts with calcium to form calcium phosphate which is difficult to absorb in the gut.
- Further, experts recommend including more foods that have a balanced calcium-to-phosphorus ratio in the dragon’s diet. Some of these foods are vegetables and calcium-dusted insects.
2. Oxalic Acid in Mushrooms Negatively Affects calcium levels
Mushrooms have a considerable amount of oxalic acid – an element that’ll negatively affect the levels of calcium that’s available in the body of your bearded dragon.
So, if you feed mushrooms to bearded dragons, the oxalic acid in the food will bind with calcium to create calcium oxalate (CaC2O4)- a compound that is insoluble and indigestible to your bearded dragons.
- So, binding calcium in an insoluble compound implies that there less calcium will be readily absorbed for proper body functioning in the beaded dragon such as in bone formation – read this may cause calcium deficiency.
As noted earlier, calcium is a vital nutrient in these reptiles as it helps in enhancing metabolic processes, nerve transmission, muscle contraction, and making strong bones.
- To make up for the low calcium levels, the body tends to get calcium from available sources such as bones. This leads to a condition called metabolic bone disease where bones become soft and weak.
Signs of metabolic bone disease in bearded dragons include deformed limbs, arched spine, limping, bone fracture, and lethargy among others.
Alternatives to Mushrooms
It’s clear, by now, that mushrooms are unsafe for your bearded dragons and so I dig deep into finding nutritious and suitable alternatives for the reptile’s diet.
1. Leafy Greens
Using leafy greens the diet of your bearded dragon will help increases the calcium levels absorbed in their bodies.
These greens will give the pets suitable and safe minerals and vitamins. Exp[erts recommend using some of these leafy greens:
- Mustard greens
- Collard greens
Bearded dragons will benefit from vegetables – as an alternative to the nutrients they could have acquired from mushrooms.
Include some of these vegetables:
- Bell peppers
The vegetable will give your bearded dragons an excellent mix of fiber and vitamins -which will significantly benefit the good health of your pet.
3. Calcium-dusted insects
Feed the bearded dragon with calcium-rich foods such as calcium-dusted insects – they’ll also offer proteins. You may require to dust these insects with some reptile-friendly calcium powder before feeding your beaded dragons.
Some foods under this category include:
- Dubia Roaches
You can supplement calcium for the reptiles through substrates – Experts recommend using some considerable substrate in the diet of these reptiles to supplement the calcium levels in their food – but this must be done in moderation to avoid impaction or digestive problems.
Mushroom Toxicity for Bearded Dragons
Although some mushrooms are included in the human diet, there’re a few species of toxic mushrooms. They are potentially harmful to both humans and animals including bearded dragons when accidentally ingested.
Out of the common mushroom species, only a few species are lethal. Many others will only lead to noticeable symptoms when ingested by humans or animals.
- Distinguishing between edible and poisonous mushrooms is extremely difficult because they share a lot of similarities.
- That’s why misidentification is the leading cause of mushroom poisoning in humans.
Mushrooms can grow anywhere there’s high moisture content including the yard, garden, basement, garage, and so on. To avoid accidental ingestion by your bearded dragon, kids, or other animals it’s advisable to get rid of any wild mushrooms.
Some of the common toxic mushrooms include:
- Amanita phalloides
- Amanita muscaria
- Amanita pantherina
- Scleroderma citrinum
Related: Can Bearded Dragons Eat Cabbage?
1. Symptoms of Mushroom Poisoning in Bearded Dragons
Bearded dragons are usually confined to their tanks or terrarium. However, some beardie owners may once in a while take their pets outdoors to get some warmth from the sunlight.
- If your bearded dragon accidentally eats poisonous mushrooms in the yard, it may fall sick within a short time or even die.
Symptoms of mushroom poisoning vary depending on the pet’s vulnerability and the mushroom species. Below are some symptoms to look for in case your bearded dragon or other pets accidentally eats toxic mushrooms:
a. Gastrointestinal Irritation (GI):
It is the first sign of mushroom poisoning and may entail diarrhea and vomiting. These symptoms occur within 6 hours and may last up to 24 hours. However, if GI is not accompanied by other symptoms, it’s an indication of mild poisoning. Thus, it may not require major veterinary intervention.
b. Muscarinic Effects and GI:
If gastrointestinal irritation is accompanied by muscarinic effects such as pupil constriction, tear production, and drooling, these could be signs of more serious poisoning. In this case, your bearded dragon needs veterinary attention as soon as possible.
c. Muscarinic Effects, GI plus Lethargy, and Depression:
Apart from the muscarinic effects and gastrointestinal irritation, severe symptoms like lack of energy, depression, bleeding, and seizures. Eyes and the mucus membrane may turn yellow indicating possible liver damage.
These could be symptoms of Amanita phalloides mushrooms popularly known as death cap. Symptoms begin within six hours and may last up to 20 hours. Serious clinical attention is required to avoid fatality.
d. Hallucinogenic Syndrome:
Though nontoxic the ‘magic mushroom’ causes hallucinogenic symptoms such as staggering, seizure, depression, muscle problems, or coma in severe cases. Since these mushrooms are illegal, it’s unlikely to find them in someone’s yard.
The only possible place your pet may pick ‘magic mushroom’ is from the trash. If such symptoms are observed, serious veterinary intervention is required.
2. How to Prevent/Deal with Mushroom Poisoning
Mushrooms grow anywhere as long as there’s high moisture content. They can grow in the yard and damp places like in the garage, or basement.
When you take your bearded dragon outdoors – keep them caged, there’re chances of ingesting toxic stuff including mushrooms. Here are tips for preventing/dealing with mushroom poisoning.
- Remove any mushrooms that are growing in your home. Common areas to check for mushroom growth include the yard, flower garden, near woodpiles, outdoor water points, and so on.
- Ensure your bearded dragon does not stray to the garden or yard.
- If you cannot immediately identify a mushroom, treat it as toxic. Therefore, you should contact your vet in case of suspected mushroom ingestion.
- If you can locate a piece of the ingested mushroom, take it with you to the veterinarian.
- If the bearded dragon defecates or vomits after mushroom ingestion, take with you a sample of the poop or vomit to the animal clinic.
The high acidity levels and unbalanced calcium-to-phosphorous ratio in mushrooms can lead to deteriorated health in your bearded dragon. In addition, some mushrooms are very poisonous which makes them unfit for bearded dragons.