Bearded Dragons Eat Mice [& healthy options]

Bearded dragons can eat mice however, the question is more ‘should they?’.

Newborn mice are called pinkies and will weigh no more than a gram or 2. Between 5-9 days of age mice become juveniles and are called fuzzies as they develop fur and weigh around 3 to 6 grams.

When bearded dragons eat mice they should only eat pinkies and no more than one every few weeks or so.

Obesity in captive reptiles is a significant problem. Feeding rich foods to reptiles with excessive calories, like mice, and keeping them in small enclosures with sedate lives is dangerous for their health. More in the post ‘is my bearded dragon fat or skinny?’

Mice are not a necessary addition to a bearded dragons diet nor is it a natural food since mice have been introduced to Australia, they are not native to the land.

Nutritional Value of Mice and Pinkies

AgeGramsEnergy (kcal/g)Protein (% kcal)Fat (% kcal)Calcium (mg/kcal)Phosphorus (mg/kcal)
Mouse adult27651.74753.6
Mouse pup41.729692.42.2
Nutrient content of mice. Multiply kcal x 4.184 to get kJ.
Stahl and Donoghue (2010)

There is no evidence to suggest that meat is good for bearded dragons. Their main protein source is renown to be insects. There is clear evidence that when given a proper diet of insects and vegetation that bearded dragons can live to a ripe old age. In addition, gout is far too prevalent in captive bearded dragons. When treating humans for gout, red meat is one of the first things taken out of the diet.

Mice pinkies do not provide a great source of calcium since their skeletal structure has not calcified. Once their bones have developed they are not pinkies and they are too large and furry to feed a bearded dragon. When reviewing data on the nutritional value of mice pups ensure it has come from a scientific source.

Do Bearded Dragons Eat Mice in the Wild

It is possible that bearded dragons eat mice in the wild. However, mice are an introduced species to Australia so if a bearded dragon were able to catch such a fast moving mammal then it would have occured in the last couple of centuries.

However, in all the research and scientific studies reviewed for this website over the past decade I have not yet found one that showed the gut content of wild bearded dragons to have any mice or other vertebrate. This is not to say that bearded dragons won’t eat mice or even other lizards in the wild, but more that it is not a common part of the diet. More on what bearded dragons eat in the wild here.

Feeding Live Mice to Bearded Dragons

Feeding live mice to bearded dragons is an unnecessary cruelty to animals and endangers the reptile (Redrobe, ND). Mice, like all creatures, will attempt to defend themselves and a bite can cause a lot of damage. If mice are to be fed, use humanely killed prey.

Bearded Dragons Eat Mice with Zoonotic Diseases

Mice pups supplied to the pet industry have been associated with at least two zoonotic disease being salmonella and Multistate Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis Virus (LCMV). LCMV can spread not just to humans but also to other animals.

Salmonella outbreaks in humans have been associated with frozen rodents in the US (CDC 1) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control is directly associating consistent outbreaks of salmonella since 2012 with feeder mice (ECDC).

In the United Kingdom a study by Marin et al (2018) found that 28% of 295 mice intended for feeding reptiles (including pinkies, fuzzies, small, large and extra large) were positive for Salmonella.

An outbreak of LCMV in the US in 2012 was directly associated with mice. Infection of LCMV was put down to the poor conditions the animals had to endure. Over 301,000 mice from the infected facility were shipped to 543 pet stores, 11 breeders and 7 zoos/aquariums. Once the infection was detected by authorities, action was taken to eradicate the disease including putting down thousands of mice, not just those at the facility but all the additional mice that were infected as they intermingled with other stock in pet stores and other locations. Unfortunately mice were not the only victims in the outbreak, other animals were also euthanized.

This video comes from PeTAs story on Pet Store Mice Prove Deadly by Michelle Kretzer 23-8-2012 where it was found that mice (along with hamsters and other unfortunate animals) were infected with Multistate Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis Virus.

WARNING: This video shows animal cruelty and is distressing to watch. It raises concerns on the treatment and conditions of animals in the pet trade.

Bearded Dragons Eat Mice Conclusion

Yes bearded dragons eat mice but the feeding of excessive foods can cause health issues which grow over time, sometimes years before it becomes apparent.

In addition, feeding bearded dragon mice has the risk of introducing zoonotic diseases if not obtained from a clean source.

For healthier options, see over 125 foods in bearded dragon diets and nutrition.

References

  1. CDC. Multistate Outbreak of Human Salmonella I 4, [5],12 Infections Associated with Frozen Rodents (Final Update)
  2. CDC. Update: Interim Guidance for Minimizing Risk for Human Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis Virus Infection Associated with Pet Rodents
  3. “In May 2005, CDC received reports of illness in four solid-organ transplant recipients who were later determined to have been infected with lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) from a common organ donor (1). Three of the four organ recipients died, 23–27 days after transplantation…”
  4. ECDC. Multi-country outbreak of Salmonella Enteritidis PT8 infection, MLVA type 2-10-8-5-2,associated with handling of feeder mice. European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. 2016
  5. Edison, L., Knust, B., Petersen, B., Gabel, J., Manning, C., Drenzek, C., Stroher, U., Rollin, P. E., Thoroughman, D., Nichol, S. T., and the Multistate LCMV Outbreak Working Group. (2014) Trace-Forward Investigation of Mice in Response to Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis Virus Outbreak. Emerging Infectious Diseases. 20(2):291-295.
  6. Marin, C., Martelli, F., Rabie, A., and Davies, R. (2018) Commercial Frozen Mice Used by Owners to Feed Reptiles are Highly Externally Contaminated with Salmonella Enteritidis PT8. Vol 18(9).
  7. Redrobe, S. BVetMed BSc MRCVS (ND) The Reptile Patient. Vet On-Line Priory Lodge Education
  8. Stahl, S., and Donoghue, S. (2010) Nutrition of Reptiles. In: Hand MS, Thatcher CD, Remillard RL, et al, editors. Small Animal Clinical Nutrition. Topeka (KS): Mark Morris Institute pp 1237-1249

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