Can lizards eat meat?

Lizards are a diverse group of reptiles that can be found all over the world. There are over 6,000 known species of lizards, ranging from small geckos to large monitor lizards. Lizards have a variety of diets, with some species being herbivores, carnivores, omnivores, or insectivores. A common question many lizard owners and enthusiasts have is whether lizards can eat meat.

Quick Answer: Yes, most lizards can eat meat

The quick answer is yes, most species of lizards can eat meat without issue. In the wild, many lizards are opportunistic carnivores or omnivores, meaning they will eat both plant and animal matter. Common prey items for lizards include insects, spiders, worms, snails, small reptiles and amphibians, birds, eggs, and small mammals. However, not all lizards are well-suited to eat large amounts of vertebrate meat.

Herbivorous Lizards

Some species of lizards are actually herbivores, meaning they eat only plant matter. Herbivorous lizards include:

  • Iguanas
  • Chuckwallas
  • Uromastyx species
  • Red tegus
  • Green iguanas
  • Desert iguanas

These lizards should not be fed meat, as their digestive systems are not equipped to properly break down and digest animal proteins. Doing so can lead to serious health issues. Herbivorous lizard diets should consist primarily of greens and vegetables, with minimal fruit.

Insectivorous Lizards

There are also some lizard species that are insectivores, meaning they eat mainly insects and other invertebrates. These include:

  • Chameleons
  • Anoles
  • Skinks
  • Geckos
  • Agamids

These lizards typically do not need vertebrate meat in their diets. However, they can be offered small amounts of meat protein occasionally as a treat. Their main diets should consist of gutloaded insects like crickets, mealworms, waxworms, and roaches.

Omnivorous Lizards

Most lizard species are omnivores to some degree. Omnivorous lizards that can eat both plant and animal matter include:

  • Bearded dragons
  • Blue-tongued skinks
  • Tegus
  • Monitors
  • Ackies
  • Swift skinks
  • Collared lizards
  • Leopard geckos
  • Crested geckos
  • Gargoyle geckos
  • Plated lizards
  • Spiny-tailed lizards

These omnivorous lizards can eat meat more regularly as part of a balanced diet. Appropriate meat proteins include cooked lean meats, mealworms, crickets, raw chicken, raw turkey, beef heart, tilapia, salmon, cod, eggs, shrimp, and earthworms. The protein should be calcium-loaded.

Carnivorous Lizards

There are a handful of primarily carnivorous lizard species that eat mainly insects and meat. These include:

  • Snake-eyed skinks
  • Racerunners
  • Night lizards

These lizards have a higher requirement for animal protein and do best on diets consisting primarily of insects and meat sources like mice, chicken, turkey, eggs, and fish. Fruits and vegetables should still be offered but in smaller quantities.

Feeder Insects vs Vertebrate Meat

When it comes to meat sources for lizards, there are some key differences between feeder insects and vertebrate meats that owners should consider:

  • Nutrition: Feeder insects like crickets are high in protein, fat, and nutrients. Vertebrate meats also provide protein but are lower in some vitamins and minerals.
  • Variety: Feeder insects provide variety to ensure optimal nutrition. Relying solely on one vertebrate meat lacks diversity.
  • Calcium-to-phosphorus ratio: Gutloaded insects have a better Ca ratio than pure meat.
  • Moisture: Insects provide moisture while pure vertebrate meat can lead to dehydration.
  • Fiber: The exoskeletons of insects provide fiber that vertebrate meat lacks.
  • Cost: Insects are typically cheaper than purchasing vertebrate meat on a regular basis.

For these reasons, most experts recommend feeder insects form the bulk of meat intake for omnivorous lizards, with occasional chunks of vertebrate meat offered as supplemental variety.

Best Vertebrate Meat Sources for Lizards

While feeder insects should make up the majority of lizard diets, limited amounts of vertebrate meat can provide additional protein. Some of the best vertebrate meat sources include:

  • Rodents – Mice, rats, gerbils, guinea pigs. Whole prey provides bones/organs.
  • Poultry – Chicken, turkey, duck. Can offer breast meat, gizzards, hearts.
  • Fish – Salmon, tilapia, cod, shellfish, shrimp. Remove small bones.
  • Eggs – Chicken, quail, or other bird eggs. Scrambled, hard boiled.
  • Organ meat – Beef, chicken, or fish liver, heart, kidney.

Any vertebrate meat offered should be calcium dusted prior to feeding. It can be fed whole, cut into chunks, or ground. It is best to limit vertebrate meat to no more than 20% of total diet for most omnivorous lizards.

Meat Protein Guidelines by Species

The ideal amount of meat to offer varies by lizard species. Here are some general vertebrate meat guidelines for common pet lizards:

Leopard Geckos

Can be offered pinky mice, scrambled eggs, mealworms, superworms, crickets, roaches, and occasional treats like turkey, chicken, tilapia. Avoid overfeeding protein.

Crested Geckos

Mainly insects, limit vertebrate meat to occasional treats like chicken, salmon, or eggs. Too much protein can cause health issues.

Bearded Dragons

Offer chopped meat like chicken, turkey, duck, eggs, shellfish 1-2 times per week along with daily insects. Avoid overfeeding protein.

Blue-Tongued Skinks

Can handle more vertebrate meat. Offer chopped chicken, turkey, eggs, fish, shellfish, pinky mice 2-3 times per week along with insects.


Need high protein diets. Can be fed rodents, poultry, fish, eggs more frequently along with insects.


Also need high protein. Can offer chopped meat, eggs, rodents daily along with insects.


Herbivores, do not feed vertebrate meat which can cause serious health issues.


Mainly insects, limit vertebrate meat to occasional treats like eggs or chicken.


Primarily insects. Can offer occasional meat treats but avoid overfeeding protein.

How to Prepare Vertebrate Meat for Lizards

When preparing vertebrate meat for lizards, follow these guidelines:

  • Select high-quality, fresh, human-grade meat when possible.
  • Wash/clean the meat thoroughly to remove contaminants.
  • Cook meat to safe internal temperatures to kill pathogens.
  • Cut into bite-sized pieces appropriate for the lizard’s size.
  • Lightly dust meat with calcium powder before feeding.
  • Store any uneaten meat properly in the refrigerator for no more than 3-4 days.
  • Variety is important – rotate different protein sources.
  • Do not overfeed protein or ignore proper gutloading of insects.

Taking these steps helps ensure lizards get the benefits of supplemental vertebrate meat safely.

Risks of Too Much Vertebrate Meat

While limited amounts of vertebrate meat are fine for most lizards, there are some risks to be aware of with overfeeding meat:

  • Nutritional imbalance if insects/veggies are restricted.
  • Dehydration since meat lacks moisture.
  • Constipation from lack of proper indigestible fiber.
  • Gout caused by excess protein breakdown.
  • Kidney problems or organ failure.
  • Obesity and fatty liver disease.

That is why most experts recommend vertebrate meat make up no more than 20% of the diet for omnivorous lizards. Herbivores like iguanas should get their protein from plant sources instead of meat.

Signs a Lizard Is Eating Too Much Meat

Some signs that a lizard may be getting too much vertebrate protein include:

  • Lethargy/decreased activity level.
  • Swollen limbs or joints.
  • Abnormal uric acid deposits or white chalky substance on the skin.
  • Thickened tail.
  • Loose stool or constipation.
  • Sudden weight gain or obesity.
  • Lack of appetite.
  • Difficulty shedding.
  • Dehydration.

If a lizard displays any of these warning signs, reduce or stop vertebrate meat intake and have the lizard seen by an exotic vet. Catching gout or organ problems early vastly improves chances of recovery.

Can Lizards Eat Raw Meat?

Raw or undercooked meat carries risks of transmitting harmful bacteria like salmonella to reptiles. All vertebrate meat fed to lizards should be fully cooked to safe internal temperatures to kill potential pathogens. Follow these cooking guidelines:

  • Poultry (chicken, turkey, duck) – 165°F (74°C)
  • Fish/shellfish – 145°F (63°C)
  • Pork, beef, lamb – 145°F (63°C)
  • Ground meats – 160°F (71°C)

Thoroughly check there are no raw spots remaining when meat is cooled. Freezing meat for several weeks can also help kill parasites before feeding.

Can Lizards Eat Cooked Bones?

Small, soft, fully cooked bones from poultry, fish, and small mammals are generally safe for lizards to ingest in moderation. Avoid large, weight-bearing bones which are hazardous due to splintering risk. Remove any bones after 24 hours to prevent spoilage in the enclosure.

Can Lizards Have Dairy Products?

Lizards are lactose intolerant and lack the enzyme lactase needed to properly digest milk sugars. Dairy products like milk, cheese, yogurt, or butter should not be fed. Small amounts of cooked eggs are fine since the lactose has denatured.

Can Lizards Eat Fruit?

While lizards are mainly insectivores/carnivores, some fruits can provide beneficial nutrients. Good fruits to offer lizards occasionally in limited quantities include:

  • Figs
  • Papaya
  • Mango
  • Berries – strawberry, blueberry, blackberry
  • Melon
  • Banana
  • Tomato
  • Apple

Avoid citrus fruits which are too acidic. Fruits should be occasional treats, not diet staples.

Best Vegetables for Lizards

Unlike fruits, vegetables should make up a larger portion of herbivorous lizard diets. Some of the best veggies for lizards include:

  • Collard greens
  • Mustard greens
  • Dandelion greens
  • Turnip greens
  • Squash
  • Bell peppers
  • Carrots
  • Sweet potato
  • Green beans
  • Broccoli
  • Kale
  • Endive
  • Escarole

Rotate a variety of chopped veggies daily for herbivorous lizards. Most should be calcium-dusted.


Most lizards are insectivorous or omnivorous, meaning they can safely eat limited amounts of meat from vertebrate sources as part of a balanced diet. Appropriate meat proteins include cooked poultry, fish, eggs, mammals, and organ meat in moderation. However, feeder insects like gutloaded crickets and roaches should still comprise the bulk of protein intake for optimal nutrition. Overfeeding vertebrate meats can cause obesity, gout, and organ problems in lizards if calcium-to-phosphorus ratios are ignored. Herbivorous lizards like iguanas should get their protein from plant sources only. Following proper guidelines for vertebrate meat intake allows pet lizards to thrive on a well-rounded diet that meets their nutritional needs.

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