Supplementation through gut-loading
Mineral supplementation plays a vital part in keeping pet Bearded dragons healthy. One way to add these supplements to their diet is by gut-loading their food. In order to feed good quality feeder insects to your Bearded dragon, they also need to eat good quality food.
Feeder insect breeders very often choose a food that is fit for a large number of insects. Because price is a factor, these foods very often lack quality and nutritional value to Bearded dragons. It is also common to open a tub of crickets where the food is either finished or it went stale. This means the crickets in that container is probably undernourashed, dehydrated and will therefore serve as poor quality when fed to Bearded dragons. This is where gut-loading comes in.
Gut-loading literally translates to loading the intestines with a highly nutritious food. Higher Required amino acids, vitamins and minerals can also be added this way. Feeder insects such as crickets, mealworms, and Dubia roaches are easy to gut-load. Gut-loading is done by feeding insects a high quality, highly palatable and nutritious diet within a short period before feeding them to Bearded dragons. Insects are therefore the ‘transport medium’ for these nutrients, vitamins and minerals.
The gut-loading food itself can be dry or fresh. For example, the same greens which can be fed to Bearded dragons can also be fed to feeder insects. Dry gut-loading foods can be in the form of a commercial or self-made gut-loading mixtures (e.g. pellets or mesh).
Crickets are probably the most frequent insects fed to Bearded dragons. These insects are great eaters and can be fed a variety of foods. Crickets are naturally deficient in calcium. Being scavangers, cricket gut-loading is a simple process and is done by replacing their regular food with a high quality cricket gut-loading food, i.e. one that will supply additional levels of calcium. Crickets should be gut-loaded for at least two days prior to feeding them to Bearded dragons.
Various commercial insect gut-load foods are available from most specialised reptile or exotic animal pet shops. They are usually in the form of pellets or mesh. The internet can also be valuable in finding gut-loaded foods for crickets and other feeder insects. If a commercial food is not available, high quaqlity commercial cat food and a mixture of fruit and vegetables are popularly used for a small emount of crickets. Popular vegetables include carrots and carrot tops.