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Bearded dragons are susceptible to a variety of eye problems. Sunken eyes, in particular, are predominant in captive bearded dragons. However, most bearded dragon keepers often don’t understand why their beardies have sunken eyes.
So, what does it mean when a bearded dragon has sunken eyes?
Sunken eyes in bearded dragons often indicate an underlying health problem. It is primarily caused by dehydration but can as well come about due to extreme weight loss.
Nonetheless, other factors can cause sunken eyes in beardies as you are about to find out. Moreover, a bearded dragon’s eyes can tell you a lot about its health. As such, you should always pay close attention to the shape, placement, and color of your beardie’s eyes.
Below are some of the common reasons for sunken eyes in bearded dragons:
Bearded dragons are native to the arid and semi-arid regions of Australia. As such, they can go for days without drinking water. This does not, however, mean they don’t need it. Like all living organisms, a bearded dragon’s body requires water to perform its biological functions.
That being said, if a beardie goes for too long without getting water, they can suffer from dehydration. As mentioned earlier, this is the leading cause of sunken eyes in bearded dragons. Plus, dehydration can predispose bearded dragons to a wide range of health complications.
You should, therefore, see to it that your bearded dragon stays hydrated at all times. Since bearded dragons are well adapted to living in desert conditions, they get most of their water from the food they eat. Feeding your beardie fresh greens and juicy insects can help replenish the moisture in their bodies.
But most importantly, ensure that you provide your beardie with a bowl of clean water. Additionally, you should change the water regularly for hygienic purposes.
Common Signs of Dehydration in Bearded Dragons
The good thing about bearded dragons is that they will always react in a certain way if something is not right. It is your responsibility as a pet parent to identify and know what each response means. If you are not familiar with the signs of dehydration in beardies, your bearded dragon may suffer under your care without you knowing.
Below are some of the things that can tell you your bearded dragon is dehydrated:
If you suspect your beardie is dehydrated, you should check the consistency of their saliva. The best way to go about this is by observing the bearded dragon’s mouth as you hand feed it.
Dehydrated bearded dragons often have sticky or string-like saliva. However, if you are having a difficult time getting your beardie to open its mouth, it would be wise to take them to the vet.
A lack of or insufficient moisture can cause a bearded dragon’s skin to lose its elasticity. As a result, the skin may appear droopy or wrinkled. Nevertheless, the skin of some beardies naturally appears wrinkled.
By performing a pinch test, you can determine whether dehydration is the cause of the problem. And as the name suggests, a pinch test requires you to pinch various parts of the beardie’s body.
If the skin immediately bounces back to its original shape, it means your bearded dragon is well hydrated. On the other hand, dehydrated skin will take a longer time to bounce back. Aside from being wrinkled, the skin of a dehydrated beardie may become flaky.
Note: The pinch test should be done gently to avoid causing injury to your bearded dragon.
Lethargy is a general sign of a range of health complications in bearded dragons, including dehydration. In the wild, beardies often minimize their movements to conserve energy and water.
The same applies to captive beardies since they are more likely to become lethargic when dehydrated. If your bearded dragon is lethargic, you should schedule an appointment with a veterinarian as soon as possible.
Bearded dragons may lose their appetite as a result of dehydration. The beardie in question may consume small amounts of food or may fail to eat at all. If this goes on for a while your bearded dragon may become sick.
Death can also occur due to starvation in worst-case scenarios. As such, you should consult your vet before the problem escalates further.
Reduced Bowel Movements
Water is necessary for the digestion process. Dehydration will not only slow down digestion but can also cause fecal matter to harden in the gastrointestinal tract. This, will, in turn, cause constipation, which is somewhat similar to impaction.
Changes in Poop
The texture and appearance of the excrement may also change due to a lack of water. Bearded dragon poop consists of three components: uric acid, urine, and fecal matter. Urine is often produced when there is an excess of water in the bearded dragon’s body.
A bearded dragon suffering from dehydration may fail to produce any urine. The amount of uric acid will also be reduced. Uric acid makes up the white part of bearded dragon poop.
Also, the fecal matter may become excessively dry. All these changes occur because your beardie is trying to conserve the little water it has in its body.
How to Prevent Dehydration in Bearded Dragons?
Dehydration is a common problem in beardies and should be dealt with appropriately. Besides offering clean water, you can keep your bearded dragon hydrated by misting its skin regularly.
In addition to this, ensure that you mist the enclosure to increase humidity levels. You should also consider giving your beardie warm baths to prevent their skin from drying out.
The second reason why your bearded dragon may have sunken eyes is that they are underweight. Bearded dragons store fat behind their eyes and other parts of the body. The fat reserves provide them with energy during brumation or when food is scarce.
Brumation is a period in which bearded dragons and other reptiles go into a state of inactivity. They don’t eat, and neither do they drink water. During brumation, beardies break down the fat pads behind their eyes to meet their dietary requirements.
Consequently, the area around their eyes may appear sunken with time because they are losing weight. Besides, bearded dragons can lose up to 30 grams of their weight when brumating. Poorly fed bearded dragons may lose even more weight since they have fewer fat reserves.
Common Causes of Weight Loss in Bearded Dragons
Bearded dragons can also lose weight due to illnesses. Although beardies are hardy creatures, they can be affected by several diseases. Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD) is one of the diseases that you should worry about in bearded dragons.
It is caused by a lack of calcium in the body and often weakens the beardie to a point that it can’t move or eat. As a result, your bearded dragon will suffer from starvation, leading to extreme weight loss. This will cause the tissue adjacent to the eyes to retract, resulting in sunken eyes.
Bacterial infections and other health problems can lead to a loss of appetite, thereby bringing about the same effect.
Intestinal parasites such as pinworms and roundworms are known to cause weight loss in bearded dragons. Severe cases of parasite infestations often cause diarrhea. This can lead to dehydration, which results in sunken eyes.
External parasites are equally dangerous and may spread infections to healthy bearded dragons.
How to Restore Fat Pads on Bearded Dragons?
There are several ways through which you can help your bearded dragon increase its fat reserves. This will remedy the sunken eye condition and also keep the bearded dragon in a good state of health.
Treat Underlying Infections and Diseases
Appropriate treatment should be offered to combat bacterial infections or any other type of illness. It is always good to take your pet to the vet before using any medication.
With the help of a veterinarian, you will be able to know the true cause of the problem. Additionally, the vet may instruct you on how best you can care for your bearded dragon during recovery.
Once the problem is eradicated, the fat pads will increase in size. As such, the eyes will no longer be sunken.
You can fatten an underweight bearded dragon with sunken eyes by feeding it protein-rich insects. Beardies like to feed on crickets, superworms, Dubia roaches, silkworms, waxworms, etc.
Superworms and waxworms are highly preferred during the fattening period. However, both contain a high fat content and should only be fed to beardies occasionally as a treat. This is done to prevent obesity and other complications.
Adult bearded dragons require more greens than insects, so ensure that you feed the correct amounts. Also, sick bearded dragons should be fed daily throughout the recovery period.
Inappropriate Temperature And Humidity Levels
The other reason for sunken eyes in bearded dragons has to do with the conditions inside the terrarium. To prevent possible health complications, the temperature levels in the enclosure must mimic that of the bearded dragon’s natural environment. The same applies to humidity since both have a direct impact on your beardie.
As you already know, beardies are adapted to desert-like climates. Their bodies can only achieve optimal performance when the conditions are right. Any deviation from what is required may cause serious health problems that may cause the beardies’ eyes to be sunken.
Recommended Temperature for Bearded Dragons
Applying the right temperature setting is very important since beardies are cold-blooded. This means they cannot regulate their internal body temperature on their own. Instead, they rely on ambient heat for temperature regulation.
If the temperature is too high or too low, your bearded dragon may suffer from several complications. Moreover, inappropriate temperature conditions can cause dehydration. And as highlighted earlier, this is one of the main reasons for sunken eyes in beardies.
It is best that you provide your bearded dragon with multiple temperature zones. To elaborate, the enclosure should have a basking area and a cooling spot. You should keep the temperature in the basking spot between 88°F and 100°F.
The cooling area, on the other hand, should be at 77°F to 85°F, while nighttime temperatures should be around 70°F to 75°F.
Recommended Humidity for Bearded Dragons
Bearded dragons thrive in low moisture conditions. Therefore, you should keep the humidity levels inside the enclosure at a minimum. This will help you prevent infections such as scale rot and other opportunistic diseases.
Beardies require humidity levels of about 20% to 40%. You can use a hygrometer to ensure humidity is kept at the appropriate level. The REPTI ZOO Reptile Thermometer Hygrometer can help you gauge both temperature and humidity.
If you do everything correctly, your bearded dragon won’t become sick or have sunken eyes.
Baby Bearded Dragon Sunken Eyes
Baby beardies can also have sunken eyes if they are not given proper care. This mostly occurs if they are on a low-nutrient diet. Young bearded dragons that are between 0 and 4 months should be fed daily.
This prevents dietary problems that can lead to excessive weight loss. You should keep your baby bearded dragon in conducive conditions to avoid illnesses.
Like adult bearded dragons, baby beardies should be provided with vitamin D3 and calcium supplements. This will promote proper bone development, thus preventing MBD and other diet-related health problems.
How to Fix Sunken Eyes in Bearded Dragons?
The best way to fix sunken eyes in beardies is by dealing with the specific cause. For instance, if you identify dehydration as the causal factor, you can provide clean water.
Basically, you can apply any of the preventative measures discussed above. Weight loss resulting from an illness can be countered by treating the underlying disease.
From our discussion, it is evident that you can prevent your bearded dragon from having sunken eyes. It all comes down to providing proper husbandry.
With the right care, you won’t have to worry about dehydration, bacteria, and diseases. Additionally, your bearded dragon should be provided with adequate humidity and temperature levels.