Monitoring your bearded dragon’s physical condition is an important part of keeping your lizard healthy.
Many illnesses show physical signs, and recognizing these signs early will aid in proper diagnosis and treatment of your beardie.
The most common illnesses and injuries involve the tail or the head, and it is easier to see when problems occur in these areas.
So what does it mean when your bearded dragon won’t open its eyes?
The most common reasons a bearded dragon won’t open its eyes are dehydration, damage to the cornea, bright lighting, illness, and vitamin deficiency. Fortunately, these causes are easily treated and preventable with a proper diet, a well-maintained environment, and regular vet visits.
It is not uncommon for reptiles to have eye problems. It is vital to seek veterinary care if you notice any issues with your bearded dragon’s eyes to get a proper diagnosis.
While most eye problems are not inherently dangerous to your beardie, they may signify other, more serious, health issues.
Keep reading to learn more about why a bearded dragon won’t open its eyes, as well as information on simple solutions and preventative measures.
Causes For Bearded Dragon Not Opening Eyes
This section will look at the common causes for a bearded dragon not opening its eyes.
These causes include:
- Damage to the cornea caused by sharp objects or aggressive behavior
- The lighting in the enclosure is too bright
- Illnesses such as metabolic bone disease, upper respiratory infections, stuck shed, or mite infestation
- Vitamin deficiency, particularly vitamin A
Dehydration is a common reason a bearded dragon will not open its eyes, and it is a problem because beardies tend not to drink water from a bowl.
In the wild, bearded dragons learn to recognize moving water from creeks or rivers, so they tend to lose interest in still water in captivity.
Other signs of dehydration include lethargy, constipation, and sticky saliva.
Damage to the Cornea
A bearded dragon’s eyes may be damaged either through sharp objects in its enclosure or by aggressive behavior from another beardie.
Another cause of cornea damage is a loose substrate, particularly if it contains sand.
These tiny sand particles will easily get in your lizard’s eyes and cause it not to open them.
Bites from another beardie or a leftover cricket may cause eye injury and lead to infection or swelling, keeping your lizard from opening its eyes.
There are reptile drops to help dislodge the particles from your beardie’s eyes, but you must be extremely careful not to cause any further damage.
You should never use tap water to rinse your lizard’s eyes because the water is not sterile and may cause an eye infection.
If the light in your bearded dragon’s enclosure is too bright, this will also cause the reptile to keep its eyes closed or squint.
If the enclosure is too small for the type of lighting you want to use, it will not only be difficult to have a proper temperature gradient but there will not be anywhere for your beardie to escape the bright light either.
Full-spectrum, coiled bulbs, such as the ones made for plants, are too small to distribute UVB rays across the enclosure evenly, and they will damage your beardie’s eyes as well.
A UVB tube light works best, and using light timers ensures you will not forget to turn the light on or off.
A schedule of 12 hours on, 12 hours off will give your beardie adequate UVB light every day.
Certain illnesses may also cause your bearded dragon to keep its eyes closed.
Closed eyes are one of the symptoms of metabolic bone disease, along with:
- Limb Deformities
- Loss Of Appetite
Metabolic bone disease is incurable, and if you suspect your bearded dragon might be suffering from it, you should seek veterinary care right away before the disease progresses.
If you notice your bearded dragon keeps its eyes closed and there is nasal discharge and open-mouth breathing, this is a sign of an upper respiratory infection.
These infections are common in reptiles, and it is often due to improper humidity in the enclosure.
Mites are also a problem for bearded dragons, and poor hygiene practices cause them.
If your beardie doesn’t open its eyes, you should inspect the area for the presence of mites.
These tiny blood-suckers also like to hide in the ears and folds on the lizard’s body.
You will also notice the mite’s feces, which look like specks of dirt.
We have a detailed post on the topic of bearded dragon mites if you suspect your pet may be having an issue with them.
You should also be mindful of your beardie’s appearance when it is in the shedding process.
You want to ensure there isn’t any stuck shed, which will lead to circulation issues and infection.
A stuck shed is most commonly seen on the tail or limbs, but it will also occur near the reptile’s eyes.
This stuck shed will form a film over the eyes and cause the beardie to keep them closed.
It is not uncommon for a vitamin deficiency to be the source of your bearded dragon’s eye problems, especially when it comes to vitamin A.
The deficiency causes the reptile to have swollen eyes, which will hinder its ability to keep its eyes open.
In addition to eye problems, a vitamin A deficiency will also cause respiratory issues and other swollen mucous membranes such as the gums.
Treating a vitamin A deficiency is tricky because too much vitamin A is toxic for a bearded dragon.
You will need to use a supplement with beta carotene, which allows the reptile’s body to convert only what it needs into vitamin A.
It is also important to ensure your bearded dragon is getting adequate calcium and vitamin D3.
These two nutrients are vital in preventing metabolic bone disease, which causes eye problems, severe bone deformities, and painful death.
Calcium deficiency is easily preventable with the proper calcium powder supplement.
Vitamin powder supplements are easily given by dusting your beardie’s food before feeding time at least twice per week.
You can read more about this in our calcium guide for bearded dragons.
Bearded Dragon Won’t Open Eyes: Solutions
Now we know some of the causes for a bearded dragon to keep its eyes closed.
In this section, we will learn about some simple solutions, including:
- Properly hydrating your bearded dragon
- Changing the substrate and removing any sharp objects or aggressive tank mates from the enclosure
- Adjusting the lighting
- Seeking veterinarian care
- Providing your beardie with vitamin supplements
Keep Your Bearded Dragon Hydrated
Ensuring your bearded dragon is adequately hydrated is vital to their health.
Since beardies are known for not drinking water from a bowl, it is best to provide them with a shallow water dish big enough for them to get into and soak.
This will make the water dirty very quickly, so you may need to change the water several times per day.
Another method to hydrate your bearded dragon is by giving them a warm bath in shallow water once a week.
Ensure the water is warm enough for your lizard, and add more warm water when necessary.
Take care not to overfill the bath, however, because your beardie could drown.
You should also never lay your beardie on its back during a bath, as this also poses a risk for drowning.
Your bearded dragon’s food will also provide a small amount of hydration, with vegetables and greens having more water content than insects.
Ensure the heat light in the enclosure is not warming the entire tank too much.
Excessive heat will cause a beardie to become dehydrated quickly, especially if there is no cooler area to escape to.
Monitoring temps in your beardie’s enclosure is a very important part of the reptile’s care.
Create a Safer Environment
The tiny particles in a loose substrate, especially sand, will easily get into your bearded dragon’s eyes and cause damage to the cornea.
To combat this issue, consider using a loose substrate mix without sand or using one of the smooth substrates available such as reptile carpet, adhesive shelf liner, paper towels, or special ceramic tile.
Reptile carpet such as this Zilla Reptile Liner is the most affordable and durable option.
Inspect your beardie’s tank carefully for any objects which might cause injury to the eye.
Remove any objects you think are a danger and replace them with safer alternatives with rounded edges.
If your beardie has a tank mate, you will need to regularly monitor them to ensure no aggressive behavior.
An aggressive bearded dragon will bite or scratch its tank mate, causing potential eye and bodily injuries as well as other cuts and abrasions.
Larger beardies will bully smaller ones, and you should never have more than one male in an enclosure because they will become territorial and aggressive.
When you feed your bearded dragon live insects, you should always make sure you remove any uneaten food within 15-20 minutes.
Leftover insects, primarily crickets, have been known to nip at bearded dragons and cause eye and tail injuries.
Feed your bearded dragon in a separate tank to be completely safe, so the insects do not have a place to hide.
Adjust the Lighting
Bright lights will cause your bearded dragon to keep its eyes closed or squint a lot, so it is essential to check the lighting both inside and outside of the enclosure.
Your beardie needs to get at least 12 hours of a UVB light source (check out my favorite by Repti Zoo) every day, and you need to ensure you are using the correct bulb for the size of your tank.
The light does not need to cover the entire enclosure to provide shady areas for your beardie to cool down.
Your local pet store will be able to help you find the proper lighting for your enclosure.
You will also need to check the lighting in the room where your beardie’s enclosure is located.
If the lights in this room are very bright, you will need to change them using bulbs with lower wattages.
Seek Veterinary Care
When an illness is suspected to be the cause of your bearded dragon’s closed eyes, it is always best to seek veterinary care right away.
Proper treatment of any disease is important to keep it from progressing and leading to long-term issues.
Upper respiratory infections are usually treated with antibiotics, and mite infestations are treated with a topical solution.
Metabolic bone disease does not have a cure, but if the condition is still in its very early stages, the symptoms may be treated, and calcium supplements will help stop disease progression.
When it comes to a stuck shed, you should never remove any of the attached skin because this could lead to open wounds and infection.
Instead, you should soak your bearded dragon in a warm bath for 30 minutes a day for 2-3 days.
If there is still a stuck shed present, you will need to visit your reptile vet for help to avoid circulation problems and necrosis.
Add a Vitamin Supplement
Vitamin A deficiency will cause problems with a bearded dragon’s eyes, so it is important to ensure your lizard gets the nutrients it needs to stay healthy.
A multivitamin supplement with beta carotene is the best choice to ensure your reptile is getting the right amount of vitamin A, we really like this multivitamin.
Bearded dragons metabolize beta carotene into vitamin A, but only in the amount their body needs.
Beardies are unable to process excess vitamin A, and it builds up in their system, which is why giving them too much will cause a vitamin overdose.
Calcium and vitamin D3 supplements are also excellent additions to your beardie’s diet, and they are used by lightly dusting the prey with calcium right before mealtime.
Gut loading ensures the insects have nutrients in their body, which they will then pass on to your beardie.
Calcium and D3 supplements may be given up to three times per week, but a multivitamin supplement only needs to be added once per week.
A well-rounded diet will give your beardie most of the nutrients its body needs, so there is no need to over-supplement.
Leafy greens such as the following are all excellent sources of nutrition to add in with the feeder insects:
- Collard Greens
- Mustard Greens
- Turnip Greens
- Green Beans
- Cactus Pad
- Yellow Squash
Be sure to chop the pieces of veggies into bite-sized pieces for your beardie to avoid a choking hazard.
Avoid giving your beardie prey consisting of too many fatty insects, such as mealworms, hornworms, or super worms.
These worms may be offered in small quantities occasionally as a treat; feeding too many will lead to obesity and other health issues.
Some bearded owners leave calcium dust in a small food dish for the beardie to lick whenever it wants.
However, this is usually met with mixed results, and most beardies will not lick the calcium dust on their own.
If you have concerns about adding a vitamin supplement to your bearded dragon’s diet, it is best to consult a veterinarian.
They will be able to diagnose any underlying vitamin deficiencies and recommend the best diet and supplementation for your beardie.
Preventing Eye Issues In Bearded Dragons
Most eye problems in bearded dragons are easily preventable with proper care.
Start by checking the enclosure environment to ensure the proper humidity and correct temperatures are being met.
Bearded dragons need a humidity level of around 30%-40%, and they need a temperature gradient along the enclosure ranging from:
- 75° degrees Fahrenheit (24° C) on the cool end.
- Up to 100° degrees Fahrenheit (38° C) on the warm basking end.
Use a hygrometer to measure humidity levels and invest in a good thermometer to measure temperatures every day.
If you need a new thermometer, we like this one on Amazon.
You should also commit to a regular cleaning schedule for your beardie’s enclosure.
Feces should be removed every day in addition to wiping down any soiled areas and ensuring there is clean water available.
Once per month, you will need to remove everything in the enclosure for deep cleaning.
Clean any accessories in the enclosure with soap and water, and thoroughly rinse everything before allowing it all to dry.
The entire enclosure should also be completely sanitized with a mild cleaning solution before putting it all back together.
A varied diet with proper vitamin supplementation will go a long way in keeping your bearded dragon healthy.
Be sure to offer your reptile a variety of greens and vegetables as well as gut-loaded feeder insects at every feeding.
Finally, an annual vet visit will alert you of any health issues your beardie might have.
Your veterinarian will be able to recommend any changes you need to make to keep your reptile healthy and happy.