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Reptiles/Chinese Water Dragon - Refusing all food


I have a female wild-caught Chinese Water Dragon of unknown age (purchased in May 2011, was told was approximately 6 months of age) who has recently decided to refuse almost all food items. She's been slowly rejecting different prey items one at a time for months now, until she was on a diet of only mealworms/kingworms, with the occasional superworm and a once a week f/t pinky mouse.

With everything I've read and researched myself, I've found that it's quite common for this species to get bored of their food so variety is key. As such, I've always done so, but she eventually limited herself to just a few feeder items and now I fear she's become bored of what she was currently eating, and she doesn't appear interested in anything else.

Could she be rejecting food out of boredom? Or could it be something else e.g. seasonal?

I've heard various things that this species will starve itself to death in an attempt to hold out for something appealing. Is that true? Or if she gets hungry enough, she will eat, regardless of what's offered?

As well, she got to the point where she would only eat food offered by hand, and because she had gone for a stretch without eating, I complied just to get her to eat something, and she has been fed that way ever since.

I would love to get her to eat a variety of food items and be able to eat independently. I'm also hoping that any dependencies/expectancies I may have created can be reversed.

Her activity levels are mostly normal, although she slowed down a bit both in activity and eating when it got quite cold here a couple months ago, and has spent more time in the cooler parts of her enclosure, sleeping. Outside of her enclosure, she's very active. Her coloring is also good, very bright, with bright eyes.

Habitat - 65gal tank. I have a 5'x4x3' custom enclosure waiting for her, but as she is disabled from a fall back in June, the vet recommended I keep her in the 65gal until she's a bit older, and then build a hammock of sorts to help her out in the new enclosure. The 65 gal has a wire lid that is covered in half packing tape to seal in humidity.

Substrate - reptile carpet

Humidity - ranges from a low of 60% to a high of 85% throughout the day. Has a fogger on a timer along with two pools and a live pothos plant to help with humidity.

Temps - range from about 84-88F on the warm side during the day, and about 78-82F on the cool side, with a basking spot of approximately 90-92F. The temps drop down to about 75F at night.

Lighting - a Reptisun 10.0 UVB tube light that's <6 months old, a 100W basking light, and a 75W ceramic heat emitter that's left on 24/7. Lights come on at 8am and off at 10pm.

Vet history - May 2011 - treated with Panacur for parasites (pinworms), June 2011 - X-rays and anti-inflammatories prescribed for leg injury. Was told the leg should heal up on its own because there were no signs of breaks, but if it didn't heal right, surgery would be the only option in fixing the leg. Due to the inherent risks of surgery, and the fact that she still uses the leg (just has difficulty with climbing and running) I opted not to.

Food offered - crickets, mealworms, kingworms, superworms, butterworms, mealworm beetles, silkworms, hornworms, phoenix worms, pinky mice, collard greens, butternut squash. She used to readily eat dusted crickets, butterworms, and phoenix worms. She has always rejected hornworms, silkworms, and veggies. In September, she stopped eating the crickets and worms, and started eating mealworms/kingworms, along with the occasional pinky. When it got colder here, she slowed down her eating, and will usually eat between 1-5 kingworms or superworms a day, or one pinky a day. All prey (with the exception of the pinky) are gutloaded.

Feeding schedule - food offered daily around lunchtime, and removed at lights out.

Supplements and schedule - as worms won't retain powder, I've been supplementing her with liquid calcium carbonate (prescribed by vet) twice a week, and once a week with Reptivite with D3 multivitamin mixed into the liquid calcium.

Last time ate - 3 days ago - pinky mouse

Water - two pools with filters serve as water source/bathing/bathroom. Changed every two days. Drinks every morning (and I presume, throughout the day as urates are always present several times a day).

When last defecated - today, but very little. Has no food in her as I count all prey items offered and none have been missing.

Shed - ongoing. Has been shedding different parts of her body for the last couple months. Currently still has to shed parts of her back, her one leg, and part of her tail.

Other animals? No - she's the only one in her enclosure, and all sides are covered so she can't see out or snout rub (which she was prone to do when I first got her).

I'm hoping that's everything, if there's anything else you need to know, please let me know.

Thanks very much

For some reason I was not notified of this pending question. I will get back to you with a complete response soon. I am currently battling bronchitis which has likely become pneumonia and I'm under medication tonight. Be patient and I will attempt to cover this in the next 24-48hrs.

In the meantime, try to follow up with details on the prescribed medications. I am sure the liquid calcium is probably glubionate or gluconate, rather than carbonate. Please state the concentration and amount you are giving. I would also like to know the specific anti-inflammatory given previously, concentration and dose if you have that, along with the concentration and dose of the panacur given previously, and the duration of both. Thanks - Mick

Wild caught animals will starve themselves in captivity yes, but this generally would manifest in the first few months and she probably wouldn't have survived the year. It would be helpful to know if she is displaying signs of stress.

You state "June" that she suffered a fall. Could you be specific in detail. Is this the same injury that was treated in June 2011 that you referenced, or was this in June of this year?

What is the nature of her disability? Is she climbing?

I will also need a follow up answer to my previous questions in order to go further.  


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YOU WILL GET A REJECTION OF YOUR QUESTION IF YOU FAIL TO FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS TO QUESTIONER IN FULL!. I am primarily here to assist with health concerns. I am here for the more difficult questions. Not for questions that you could research & easily find the answer yourself. My standards are that you provide DETAILED and RELEVANT background history on your pet before you ask me any question about it other than GENDER or ID. The requested information is in the instructions to questioner. Failure to answer each of those questions to provide that background, will result in your question being rejected. I can answer questions related reptile husbandry, identification (esp. in Texas and the SW), legal aspects, and advanced level medical care. I am the director of Wichita Falls Reptile Rescue (TX), a wildlife rehabilitator specializing in reptiles, a founding member of The Society for Horned Lizard Preservation, a subscriber to the International Veterinary Information Service,, educational content contributor to, and a Dept of State Health Services accredited animal control instructor (CE) for reptile handling. I do most of my own veterinary care in-house, including minor surgery and necropsy. I am most experienced in Chelonia with box turtles and common smaller tortoises; and in Squamata with everything from Anoles, Geckos, Beardies, and Monitors, to venomous snakes. I am most known for my expertise with horned lizards (Phrynosoma). With snakes, my primary expertise is in Crotalids (rattlesnakes), but I can answer a broad range of questions about various species. I am not aware of any reptile related question that I would not be able to provide some reasonable answer for. I have a direct style and may tell you something you did not want to hear; but the welfare of the animal comes FIRST with me, and I will always reflect that position in my answer, despite how it might make you feel.


I am a non-academic herpetologist with 25+ years reptile experience, and I am an accredited Texas Dept of State Health Services Animal Control Instructor for Reptiles (CE). I am a reptile rescuer, reptile wildlife rehabilitator, and subscriber to the International Veterinary Information Service, wikivet, and article/journal content contributor to Lafebervet. I have medical and scientific resources available, and I perform in house reptile veterinary care for my rescues. I am not a vet, but I read from the same materials and have had to correct quite a few in the past. The average vet is not well versed with reptile physiology and medical treatments.

Animals that I am currently caring for, or have significant rehabilitation and husbandry experience with: Horned Lizards (5 species); Eastern and Western Box Turtles; Painted, RES, YBS, Soft-Shell, and Cooter aquatic turtles; Russian Tortoises; Fire Bellied Toads; Fire Bellied Newts; Ornate Horned Frogs; Green Iguanas; Desert Iguanas; Spiny Lizards; Long Nosed Leopard Lizards; Anoles; Racerunners; Collared Lizards; Bullsnakes; Eastern Ratsnakes; Great Plains Ratsnakes; Kingsnakes; Gartersnakes; Cornsnakes; Boas; Pythons; Bearded Dragons; Water Dragons; Massasauga Rattlesnakes; Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes; Leopard, Mediterranean, Golden, Indo-Pacific, African White-Spotted Geckos; Savannah Monitors; Jeweled Curly-Tailed Lizards; Long-Tailed Grass Lizards; Fox Squirrels; Deer Mice; Hispid Cotton Rats; Merriam's Pocket Mice; Eastern Cotton-Tails; Blue Bar racing pigeon; Budgies; Asian Forest Scorpions.


Co-Founder & Director: Wichita Falls Reptile Rescue

Founder: The Society for Horned Lizard Preservation

Publications contributor. The Horned Lizard Husbandry Manual - self published 75 pages of care information on genus Phrynosoma.

Wikipedia entry "Horned Lizards" - contributed to a majority of the content., and various reptile related forums and email lists under the handles "fireside3" and PhrynosomaTexas".

My hands-on field, rehabilitation, and captive husbandry experience beats a PhD any day of the week. I am also a state accredited animal control instructor for reptile handling.

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I was requested to provide my care manual on the Desert Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma platyrhinos), for the Montreal zoo. My manual is also used by several other zoological institutions in N. America. I also teach reptile education to summer camps, and instruct wildlife rehabilitators on live saving and rehab techniques with reptiles.

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