Bearded dragon eye bulging is an interesting behavior that can look quite bizarre. And because of this, many owners aren’t sure if it’s cause for concern or not.
This guide will cover everything you need to know about eye bulging in bearded dragons, and if you need to take action.
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What Do Bulging Eyes Look Like On A Bearded Dragon?
Eye bulging is a normal behavior for bearded dragons, but it still catches many owners off guard. When this phenomenon happens, your beardie pushes its eyes away from the sockets. The eyes look noticeably more rounded instead of the normal, flattened shape beneath the brow ridge.
Think of it as an inflated balloon. The skin around the eye appears inflated as the eyeball moves further out. It’s an alarming sight that most owners won’t forget after seeing it for the first time.
Why Do Bearded Dragons Bulge Their Eyes?
There are several reasons for bearded dragons eye bulging. Most of them are normal and benign. However, this behavior can occasionally indicate potential health problems.
Here’s a list of the most common reasons bearded dragons bulge their eyes, so you can determine which one applies to your pet.
1. Shedding Preparation
In most cases of bulging, the behavior is nothing more than shedding preparation. Full-grown beardies shed their skin a few times a year. It’s an arduous process that involves ridding the outer layer of skin to unveil the new layer beneath.
It occurs in patches instead of all at once (like you see with snakes). Some parts of the body are more difficult to shed than others.
So why is the eye bulging? The skin around the eye is delicate and stubborn. In many cases, it’s the last bit of skin to fall off.
Many beardies will bulge their eyes to loosen the skin. When they push the eyes forward, they’re pushing the soon-to-be-shed skin along with it. But because the upper layer of skin is beginning to separate, it can start to loosen with bulging.
Owners often report eye bulging shortly before shedding. Some beardies will continue to bulge throughout the shed cycle and even after it looks finished. It’s common for beardies to bulge their eyes repeatedly to ensure they get every last bit off.
Here’s one of the more mysterious reasons for eye bulging. Some experts believe that this action is akin to human yawning.
It’s an involuntary action that occurs whenever the lizard is tired or hungry. Like you can’t help but yawn when you’re exhausted, beardies can’t help but bulge their eyes!
This behavior may accompany more traditional mouth-yawning, but most bearded dragons will move their eyes instead of opening their maws.
Expert Tip: You can usually tell if eye bulging is a yawn because it only occurs for a few moments. The bulge is quick, and the eyes return to their normal position. You’re more likely to observe the behavior early in the morning, shortly after waking up from a long nap.
3. High Blood Pressure
This theory behind bearded dragon eye bulging is new. Researchers are still studying it, so the concrete evidence to support it is scarce. However, it’s definitely plausible.
Experts believe that bearded dragons share a unique ability with another interesting lizard. More specifically, they tend to react similarly to high blood pressure.
Horned lizards can increase blood pressure around and behind the eyes. There are a few reasons why the horned lizard does this. It may be a defense mechanism, and the reptile could use the ability to control blood pressure.
The theory is that bearded dragons do the same thing. While experts are still learning about it, many believe it’s a response to blood pressure changes. When blood pressure increases, your beardie may bulge their eyes as a form of regulation.
Increasing the blood pressure around the eyes relieves the rest of the body. It’s a response to a genuine health concern.
You can distinguish this type of eye bulging from others because it lasts longer. While yawn-based bulging is brief, it lasts longer due to blood pressure issues. Your beardie may bulge their eyes for over an hour several days in a row.
If the behavior persists beyond that, visiting a vet and exploring treatment options to help regulate your lizard’s blood pressure is wise.
4. Too Much Or Too Little Vitamin A
Here’s another potential health-related cause for eye bulging in bearded dragons.
Vitamin A is an essential nutrient for bearded dragons. It plays a vital role in maintaining a strong immune system. It’s also crucial for general health and ocular health.
Bulging and swelling can occur when your beardie doesn’t get enough Vitamin A or gets too much. The tissue around the eyes can swell, giving the appearance of bulging. However, the vessels and tissue behind the eye can also cause physical changes that force the eye away from the socket.
Whatever the case, please take it as a sign to bring your pet to the vet. Your vet can analyze your bearded dragon’s health and determine if they’re experiencing an overdose of Vitamin A or a deficiency.
It’s always recommended to provide multivitamin supplements when feeding a bearded dragon. However, they can have too much of a good thing. Your vet will help you find the right balance to ensure optimal health.
5. Dealing With Itchy Eyes
Another possible reason for this oddball behavior is to get relief from itchiness!
Bearded dragons can get itchy like you and any other animal. The problem with itchiness around the eyes is that they can’t always use their arms to get relief. Doing so could lead to severe damage.
So, they do the next best thing. Bulging the eyes out fills the area with blood. It’s a great way to address itching without physical scratching.
There are instances when the eye gets itchy. Most often, it’s due to stubborn skin during shedding. However, mites can also cause uncomfortable situations.
6. Eye Infections
Eye infections are one of the most worrisome causes of eye bulging. The behavior is usually normal and nothing you should worry about. But when it’s a byproduct of infection, you must seek veterinary care as soon as possible.
Infections can occur when bacteria and fungi overtake the habitat. This usually happens when you don’t clean the enclosure as often as you should. It’s important to spot clean messes and perform deep cleans every few weeks to keep bacteria and pathogens at bay.
When your beardie suffers from an infection, you’ll know it. In addition to eye bulging, the eye usually becomes discolored. You may see some discharge in the tissue around the eye.
Sometimes, pus-filled abscesses form.
General swellness is common, too. Serious infections can cause the tissue around the eye to swell so much that your beardie can’t open their eyes comfortably.
Infections need professional treatment. Fortunately, most cases are easy to resolve with a course of antibiotics from your vet.
7. An Eye Injury
Unfortunately, bearded dragon eye bulging can also be a response to physical injury. In these cases, the bulging is not a voluntary action. Usually, it’s swelling and infection that causes the eyes to move out of place.
Injuries can come from numerous things. Your beardie can brush their eye against something sharp or abrasive. Sometimes it’s even the substrate that’s to blame.
Whatever the case, you can usually tell if an injury is the culprit because the bulging may only occur in one eye. Depending on the severity of the issue, you may also see swelling in the tissue surrounding the eye or discharge.
Schedule a vet visit if you suspect your beardie is injured. Even minor injuries can turn serious if infection occurs.
8. Tumors Or Growths
Finally, tumors and growths could be to blame for eye bulging. Before you panic, not all tumors are cancerous. The only way to know for sure is to visit a vet for a biopsy.
Tumor-related bulging is easy to differentiate. In most cases, the growth will be visible near the eye. Depending on its shape and size, the tumor could force your beardie’s eye out of place to create a bulged look.
What Does It Mean If My Beardie Only Has One Eye Bulging?
Beardies don’t always bulge both eyes simultaneously. While you’re most likely to see both eyes bulge when yawning or shedding, you may only see one eye change.
The reasons why this might happen are identical to why you might see both eyes bulging. It could be because of blood pressure changes, yawning, itchiness, etc.
That said, seeing one eye bulge could also indicate targeted issues. For example, if the behavior happens because of an injury or infection, you’re more likely to see bulging occur in only one eye. The same goes for tumor growth.
Don’t be afraid to get closer for inspection. Look for any telltale signs of trouble, like discharge or swelling. If you notice anything out of the ordinary, go to your vet for a full analysis and treatment.
Is It Normal For Baby Bearded Dragons To Bulge Their Eyes?
Baby bearded dragons can bulge their eyes like adults, so don’t be too alarmed when you see it!
Many new owners don’t expect to see eye bulging that early, so it comes as a surprise. But the reasons behind this behavior are the same as they are for adults. While the juveniles are still growing and developing, they have the same strange abilities to move their eyes out of place.
The most common reason for eye bulging in baby bearded dragons is yawning out of hunger or trying to relieve an itch. However, it can also occur because of blood pressure fluctuations or shedding.
Remember that baby bearded dragons shed much more often than adults. Young baby reptiles shed every few weeks. The frequency tapers off as they reach the juvenile stage. At that point, beardies shed every few months.
Shedding becomes increasingly more sporadic as the reptile ages and reaches maturity.
With more shedding comes more eye bulging, so it’s common to see babies moving their eyes out of place.
How Long Will Eye Bulging Typically Last?
As mentioned earlier, eye bulging is normal for this lizard species. But as you can see from above, there are both normal and not-normal reasons why they do it. So when should you get worried?
Generally, bearded dragon eye bulging will be brief. The most it will last is a little more than an hour when a beardie does it to manage their blood pressure or deal with shedding. They may bulge their eyes out for an hour or so for several days.
That’s normal. But if it becomes more frequent or lasts longer than an hour, there could be a serious underlying health issue.
Keep an eye on your lizard and watch for other symptoms. If eye bulging becomes frequent and your beardie isn’t shedding, go to the vet.
The same rule applies whenever bulging occurs alongside other worrying symptoms like lethargy, swelling, or discharge.
You know how your bearded dragon usually acts. If you notice that they’re bulging their eyes and not acting like they normally do, visit a vet. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
Unless a specific injury or infection is causing the behavior, you don’t have to worry too much about eye bulging with your bearded dragon. Your vet will recommend appropriate treatment to address health issues related to the bulging.
In situations where it’s nothing more than shedding or itchiness, the best thing you can do is provide great care. Clean your beardie’s tank regularly to control bacterial and fungal growth.
During shedding, consider misting the tank or soaking your lizard in water to help remove excess skin. You can even use cotton pads to remove stubborn skin that doesn’t want to fall off.
It’s normal for your bearded dragon to bulge its eyes. Keep an eye on your lizard’s overall health and continue providing top-notch husbandry. If you notice anything unusual about your bearded dragon’s behavior and demeanor, it’s worth going in for a health checkup to get swift treatment.
As you can see, bearded dragon eye bulging is rarely anything to worry about. However, it’s always a good idea to know the reason!
If you still have questions about this behavior, or it’s persisting, we recommend that you contact your vet. In our opinion, it’s always best to play it safe.