Rio Reptiles

 

Importance of Understanding Proper Nutrition

     
  Proper care starts with nutrition.  Nutritional value plays a vital role in every aspect of a reptiles metabolism.  It is very important to learn what foods will help keep your dragon healthy and why those foods are necessary, but it is even better to have an understanding of what your dragons food contains and why those contents are important for maintaining good health.  Lighting and temperatures are just as important but first things first.  
 

Probably one of the most beneficial things to be learned is on the importance of calcium, its metabolism,  and role it plays in the bodies of all living creatures.  In order to avoid a common but avoidable condition known as metabolic bone disease or mbd, foods high in calcium and supplementation are needed but balance is the key. 

Calcium interacts with phosphorus in the body to form bone but needs to be in a usable form in the body in order for this process to take place.  Equal amounts of each are needed but insects are very high in phosphorus so by feeding veggies with a high Ca:P ratio a balance can be achieved.  Calcium also needs assistance being absorbed by cells and this is where vitamin D in the proper form is used.  The most effective form of vitamin D is the kind the body manufactures when exposed to proper UV levels.  The vitamin D found in supplements may or may not do much good

Next you have to learn which foods to avoid or feed sparingly so that proper calcium levels and metabolism are not inhibited or blocked.  Foods that have high levels of oxalates, goitrogens or vitamin A, spinach for example, should be fed sparingly or in some cases avoided.  These substances and diets high in fat can actually bind calcium making it unusable in the body as well as affect the use of vitamin D. In turn too much vitamin D or improper balances of A, D & E can cause the same problems you’re trying to avoid.


This is a very basic level of the concept, but now you can see how calcium levels can be affected in more ways than one and why balance is so important.  The resulting problems can end up as metabolic bone disease and possible kidney and other organ failure.

To help further understand the full scope of mbd, I highly recommend reading this article by Melissa Kaplan called Calcium Metabolism and Metabolic Bone Disease.

 
 

For a superior  list of food items and their contents, take the time to visit www.BeautifulDragons.com and click on the Nutrition Link.  Here you will find a huge list of foods and their recommended allowances. 

For the ultimate resource on nutritional values, check out the USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory

Due to conflicting information from research I have done personally, I will be publishing a food chart of my own with the nutritional values I have looked up.

 
  Bearded dragons are omnivores which means they eat insects and vegetables.  As with vegetables, insects are available in a variety of types to provide maximum protein and other nutrients.  This is where phosphorus comes in, insects are very high in phosphorus which is why you need to try to balance the intake with vegetables low in phosphorus.  A growing dragon needs a substantial amount of protein to support its fast metabolism and growth rate and will eat little greens until they get older so this is where supplementation helps the balance.  You will find that as they get older their appetite for greens will come naturally if provided daily and become a favorite!  
 


Here is a basic list of staple greens that will be most beneficial to your dragons nutrition

Remember to occasionally change the greens you are feeding because your dragon can
become deficient in vitamins from too much of one thing.

Alfalfa Leaf (Not Sprouts)  
Dandelion Greens  
Cactus Pad (Prickly Pear)  
Collard Greens  
Turnip Greens  
Endive (Chicory)  
Escarole  
Kale  
Butternut Squash  
Acorn Squash  
Spaghetti Squash  
Summer Squashes (yellow & zucchini)  
 

 

 

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