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Seeing your bearded dragon bulge its eyes can be a scary experience. This particularly applies to pet parents who are new to keeping beardies. Moreover, most bearded dragon keepers are only familiar with behaviors such as head bobbing and arm waving.
Bearded dragon eye bulging behavior occurs due to four main reasons. It could be that your bearded dragon is preparing to shed, has itchy eyes, is yawning, or has purposefully increased its blood pressure.
More often than not, beardie parents talk about eye bulging in bearded dragons. In as much as this behavior is common in beardies, it can easily go unnoticed. Besides, it only occurs for a limited period after which, the eyelids revert to their normal shape.
However, if you are a keen beardie keeper, you must have seen your bearded dragon bulge out its eyes. To offer more explanation, let us go through the above-listed reasons for eye bulging in bearded dragons.
#1. Bearded Dragon Eye Bulging When Preparing To Shed
Bearded dragon eye bulging in preparation for the shedding process is one of the reliable theories commonly used to explain why beardies bulge out their eyes. Like all species of reptiles, bearded dragons shed their skin periodically as they grow. The skin shedding process is scientifically known as ecdysis and occurs naturally in healthy bearded dragons.
Expert beardie keepers report that their bearded dragon’s eyes often bulge just a few days before they start shedding. By bulging their eyes, beardies can stretch out the old layer of skin covering the eye region. This causes the outermost layer to peel more easily, thus hastening the shedding process.
If you have been keeping pet reptiles for a while, then you must be aware that the eye region is one of the areas that is mostly affected by stuck shed. So eye bulging is, in fact, a solution to the shedding problem in bearded dragons. It aids in the loosening of the skin on the eyelids and the adjacent areas.
#2. Eye Bulging In Bearded Dragons Due To High Blood Pressure
Increased blood pressure in the beardie’s eye region can also cause your bearded dragon’s eyes to bulge. Reptile specialists purport that bearded dragons can redirect blood flow to the tissues surrounding their eyes.
As a result, there will be a gradual increase in blood pressure, causing the eyelids to expand outwards. This theory is attributed to the horned lizards’ ability to increase blood flow in the eye region. These lizards engage in this behavior when they are threatened by predators.
As such, bearded dragon experts believe that beardies have the same capability. However, a lot of research still needs to be done to ascertain if bearded dragons can purposefully increase their blood pressure.
#3. Bearded Dragon Bulging Eyes to Alleviate Itching
The other theory that is often used to explain eye bulging in beardies is that they do this to relieve itchy eyes. A bearded dragon’s eyes are unique in that there is a cavity behind them. Beardies can fill this cavity with blood should there be a need to do so.
According to professional bearded dragon keepers, itchy eyes can prompt a beardie to fill the aforementioned cavity with blood. This will, in turn, alleviate the itching, thereby providing the bearded dragon with the comfort that it needs.
Nonetheless, like the theory just before it, this explanation is not as credible as the first theory.
#4. Bearded Dragon Bulging Out Eyes after Yawning
Like humans, bearded dragons yawn from time to time. This behavior is common during morning hours when bearded dragons wake up from their slumber. Some beardie keepers have noticed that their bearded dragons occasionally bulge out their eyes after yawning.
There is no clear explanation as to why they do this, so further research can help explain this mystery. Plus, not all bearded dragons bulge out their eyes after they are done yawning.
Note: It is understandable if some of the theories don’t seem to hold water because more research is yet to be done on this topic. As for now, these are the possible explanations for eye bulging behavior in beardies
Baby Bearded Dragon Eye Bulging
Baby bearded dragons bulge out their eyes for the same reason that adults do. In fact, baby beardies and juveniles are more likely to bulge out their eyes than their adult counterparts. This is because they shed their skin at a much higher rate than fully grown bearded dragons.
To ensure that nothing is wrong with your bearded dragon, you can examine their eyes. If there are no visible signs of an underlying health condition, an exotic vet can help identify the problem.
Why Do Bearded Dragons Close One Eye and Keep the Other Open?
Keeping bearded dragons can be very interesting since they display a variety of unique behaviors. The closing of one eye is one of the common behaviors that pet beardies often display. This can occur due to a range of factors:
Inappropriate and Insufficient Lighting
This is probably one of the main reasons why your bearded dragon may be closing one eye. Bearded dragons need both UVA and UVB radiation to stay healthy. In captivity, they mostly get this from artificial light sources such as mercury vapor bulbs and fluorescent bulbs.
If the light inside the enclosure is too bright or too dim, it may affect the eyes of your beardie. The light output should be kept at 8% to 10% to avoid possible complications.
Incomplete shedding is a common problem in bearded dragons. If the skin around the eye region is shed partially, your bearded dragon may experience discomfort. This may force them to close the affected eye and keep the other open.
You can remove stuck shed from your bearded dragon’s eyes using moist cotton swabs. Gently rub the stubborn shed using the cotton swab repeatedly until it is soft enough to peel off.
Response to Environmental Stimuli
Beardies can also close an eye when focusing on the things in their environment. It can be a live insect inside their enclosure or any other thing that they perceive as prey.
In case you are not sure why your bearded dragon is closing its eye, you can consult a veterinary doctor.
Can Bearded Dragons Pop Their Eyes Out?
Bearded dragons cannot pop out their eyes even as they bulge them. Beardies have strong eye muscles that hold the eyeballs in place, so the chances of them popping out are close to zero. Plus, a bearded dragon’s eye sockets provide enough space for the eyeballs.
Most beardie keepers often freak out when they see their beardie bulge out their eyes for the first time. Well, you will be happy to know that your beardie won’t hurt its eyes, and neither will they lose them.
Is Bearded Dragon Eye Bulging Something To Worry About?
The eye bulging phenomenon shouldn’t worry you since it’s normal for bearded dragons to do this. It is important to note that beardies bulge out their eyes temporarily.
If your bearded dragon’s eyes have bulged for long hours, you should take them to the vet. There is a possibility that they are suffering from an eye infection. The veterinarian will perform a physical examination and may also run blood work.
If you’d like a good resource for treating eye bulging in bearded dragons, be sure to take a look at our guide on the top over-the-counter antibiotics for bearded dragons.
What Causes Eye Infections in Bearded Dragons?
Eye infections in bearded dragons are mainly brought about by bacteria and fungi. Both the former and the latter thrive in unhygienic conditions, so ensure that you clean your beardies enclosure regularly. However, certain factors can predispose bearded dragons to eye infections:
Commonly referred to as a lack of vitamin A, hypovitaminosis A mostly affects beardies that are on a poor diet. Bearded dragons are omnivores, meaning their diet should include both insects and plant material.
A lack of vitamin A can weaken the immune system, thereby predisposing the beardie to bacterial and fungal infections of the eye. You can prevent this by providing your bearded dragon with a varied diet that is equally nutritious.
Fresh vegetables such as collard greens, dandelion leaves, mustard greens, and turnip greens can offer essential nutrients. Gut-loaded insects are also recommended.
Ectoparasites such as mites can cause severe eye irritation in bearded dragons. Consequently, the affected eye may swell/bulge over time. Parasites can also carry pathogens from one bearded dragon to another, thus spreading the infection.
In most cases, the wounds caused by parasites become infection sites. You can combat mites using Natural Chemistry’s Reptile Mite Spray.
Loosely packed substrates such as sand can cause eye irritation. This can occur if the particles come into contact with delicate parts of the eye. If the problem is not remediated in good time, it can worsen, thus exposing the beardie to infections.
Signs of Eye Infection in Bearded Dragons
Bearded dragon eye infections can be fatal if treatment is not administered early. Knowing the common signs of eye infections can help you save your bearded dragon’s life:
An abscess is a pus-filled cavity that is often characterized by swollen lumps in the affected areas. Bacterial infections can cause pockets of pus to form behind the beardie’s eyeball. This can easily be mistaken for eye bulging, so you should be able to differentiate the two.
Severe bacterial infection can result in blood poisoning. Ensure that you schedule an appointment with your vet before the infection gets out of hand.
If you suspect your bearded dragon may have a cyst or tumor around its eyes, be sure to check out our article outlining different treatment options.
Inability to Open Eyes
Infections can cause pain and discomfort, so your bearded dragon may be unable to open its eyes. If this is the case, you shouldn’t force the beardie to open its eyes as this will do them more harm than good.
Instead, you should reduce light brightness inside the enclosure. Appropriate treatment should be administered after consulting a vet.
Swelling Around the Eyes
Swollen eye tissue can also indicate the presence of an infection. Nonetheless, not all eye swellings in bearded dragons are caused by infections. As discussed earlier, beardies can bulge out their eyes when they are shedding.
Why Does My Bearded Dragon Have Crusty Eyes?
Crusty eyes is also another sign of bacterial infection in bearded dragons. What happens is that the infection causes irritation, thereby triggering excessive production of eye fluids. You can treat most bacterial eye infections in bearded dragons using Fluker’s Reptile Eye Rinse.
The solution is non-irritating but is super effective when it comes to combating infection-causing pathogens. Nevertheless, the best way to safeguard your bearded dragon against eye infections is by maintaining good hygiene.
How to Help a Bearded Dragon with Bulging Eyes
Watching your bearded dragon bulge its eyes out can be troubling. Nevertheless, there is nothing much that you can do to stop this or help the beardie. Since the behavior is harmless to bearded dragons, you can just let it pass.
Besides, beardies often bulge their eyes for a few seconds or minutes. Prolonged eye bulging should, however, be a cause for concern.
Why Does My Bearded Dragon Close Its Eyes While Awake?
If your bearded dragon keeps both of its eyes closed most of the time, it could mean there is an underlying problem.
Irritation caused by foreign debris can prompt a bearded dragon to close its eyes. If you suspect something is in your beardie’s eyes, you can rinse it out using a saline solution prescribed by a vet.
As a safety precaution, you should never use medication that you are not sure about. This will not only worsen the problem but may also kill your bearded dragon.
Bearded dragons have a habit of bulging out their eyes. As discussed above, eye bulging can help beardies loosen their skin during the shedding process. Both adult and baby bearded dragons can exhibit this behavior, so you should not be worried.
However, you should keep a close eye on your bearded dragon to ensure the bulging is not bacteria-related. Regular visits to the vet can help you detect fungal and bacterial infections before the condition worsens.