Some pet owners start to worry when they notice their bearded dragon’s eyes are bulging. It is only natural to wonder if eye bulging is a normal behavior or if there is something wrong with your pet.
Eye bulging is a normal behavior in bearded dragons, and it usually happens when they shed. However, it can also happen if your pet is tired or hungry. Unless your bearded dragon shows other symptoms that indicate it may be sick or injured, there is no reason to worry about eye bulging.
After reading this article, you will know how to identify normal eye bulging and when to expect this behavior to happen. More importantly, you will be able to tell when eye bulging may be considered abnormal and when to seek veterinarian care.
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Common Causes Of Eye Bulging In Bearded Dragons
Although eye bulging is more frequent in baby and juvenile beardies, some adults do it too. Here is a video that shows what eye bulging looks like in a bearded dragon.
There are many theories about the cause of eye bulging in bearded dragons, but none of them have been proven for now.
Although no one is exactly sure about the cause of eye bulging, it is believed that this behavior may be due to the following reasons:
The most accepted theory regarding eye bulging in bearded dragons states that they do it when they shed to help loosen the skin surrounding the eyes and on the eyelids.
Since shedding happens more frequently in baby and juvenile beardies (every few weeks or months respectively) as compared to full-grown beardies (a few times per year), it is essential that you learn how to take good care of your pet during this process.
Another theory states that eye bulging is the bearded dragon’s way of yawning, meaning that this behavior can happen if your bearded dragon is tired or hungry.
In most cases, eye bulging happens occasionally and lasts only a moment before the eyes return to their sockets. This is more frequent when they wake up in the morning or after a nap.
Changes In Blood Pressure
Some lizards have the capability to purposely increase the blood pressure behind their eyes as a defense mechanism against predators. This theory states that bearded dragons may possess such capability.
Related to the blood pressure theory, some people believe that bearded dragons can increase the blood pressure behind their eyes in order to relieve the itch of eyes.
What If My Bearded Dragon Is Bulging Only One Eye?
Although unusual, bearded dragons can bulge only one eye at a time.
Bulging of one eye can happen due to the same reasons as they bulge both eyes, including loosening the skin during shedding season, yawning, changes in blood pressure, and to relieve itchy eyes.
When To Worry About Eye Bulging
Although eye bulging is considered a normal behavior in bearded dragons, when accompanied by other signs such as weakness or lethargy, loss of appetite, breathing difficulties, etc., it may indicate a problem.
If your beardie’s eyes have been bulging for more than one hour at a time, or if this behavior happens continually for two to three days (and your beardie is not shedding), you should take your pet to see a reptile vet.
It may be that your bearded dragons eyes are not bulging but swollen. We have created an entire article on swollen eyes in bearded dragons here.
In the book called “Reptile Medicine and Surgery in Clinical Practice”, Doneley et al. mention some of the most common causes for abnormal eye bulging in bearded dragons, such as:
Vitamin A Over Or Under Supplementation
Vitamin A is essential to maintain a healthy immune system and for the overall health of your beardie’s organs, including its eyes.
This usually happens when you accidentally under or over-supplement your bearded dragon’s diet. Therefore, it is important to make sure that your bearded dragon receives adequate nutrition.
Injuries to your bearded dragon eyes may occur for different reasons, including having an inappropriate substrate, accidental scratches with a sharp object, or getting in contact with other animals that may cause harm to the beardie’s eyes (including uneaten live insects left in the tank).
In case of eye injury, your bearded dragon’s eyes may be bulging and/or swollen. Pay special attention if this happens to only one eye.
Depending on the injury, your beardie may also have problems opening the affected eye.
If left untreated, an injury to your beardie’s eyes may lead to an infection. The risk of infection also increases when the beardie is living in an unsanitary enclosure.
Infection can happen to one or both eyes, causing bulging and/or swelling, discharge, redness around the eye, and pain.
Eye infection can happen due to bacteria or fungus, and sometimes can also be caused by parasites like mites.
In case of mites infection, tiny black, brown, and red dots can appear around the beardie’s eyes or eyelids.
Tumors, either cancer or simple non-cancerous growths, may cause bulging or swelling of one or both eyes. In this case, you will notice the tumor in plain sight on your beardie’s eyes.
If you notice a tumor, take your pet to the reptile vet for further examination.
Treatment And Prevention
Since eye bulging is normal, there is no way to prevent or treat this behavior. However, there are some steps you can take to help your bearded dragon during shedding season:
- Make sure the beardie’s tank is kept clean
- Use a digital thermometer and hygrometer to maintain humidity levels between 30% and 40%
In case of skin build-up around your beardie’s eyes, you can soak a cotton ball or pad with warm water and place it gently over the area without scrubbing or using any type of force.
The moisture will help loosen up and remove the skin excess. Be careful not to injure or irritate the beardie’s eyes while you hold the cotton ball or pad on the area.
You can also help your bearded dragon loosen its skin during shedding by misting the beardie’s body several times a day or giving it a soak in a warm (85-90°F) bath for up to two hours each day (without submerging the beardie’s head).
Other measures you can take to ensure your bearded dragon stays healthy include:
- Keep an eye on your beardie’s diet and dosage of vitamins to avoid accidental vitamin A over or under supplementation.
- Remove all uneaten live insects from the tank 20 to 30 minutes after feeding time.
- Feed your bearded dragon with a well-balanced vegetable-rich diet.
If you are still concerned about your bearded dragon’s eye bulging, seeking assistance from a veterinarian experienced with reptiles is recommended.