Seeing a bearded dragon with sunken eyes can be alarming, but many owners aren’t sure how to properly diagnose the cause.
This guide will dive into why bearded dragons get sunken eyes, and what you can do about it. Fortunately, it’s often quite fixable!
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Reasons Why Your Bearded Dragon Has Sunken Eyes
Healthy bearded dragons have bright and healthy eyes. So when you notice a sudden change, it’s a cause for concern. Sunken eyes are particularly problematic, possibly indicating severe issues with your lizard’s health and well-being.
Here’s a breakdown of some of the most common causes of sunken eyes on bearded dragons, and what you can do to address them.
Dehydration is more of a widespread issue in bearded dragons than most think. People assume that because these lizards come from harsh environments, they don’t need too much hydration. However, they must consume a substantial amount of water to stay healthy.
When they don’t, signs of dehydration come out.
Expert Tip: Sunken eyes are a telltale symptom of dehydration, but you can also pay attention to other areas. For example, your lizard’s skin might lose elasticity, slowly bouncing back after you pull at it. There will also be a noticeable absence of white urates in their waste.
When a bearded dragon becomes dehydrated, their body pulls moisture where it can get it, resulting in sunken eyes and wrinkly skin.
What To Do
Unfortunately, solving hydration issues isn’t as easy as providing your bearded dragon with a water dish. Sometimes, these lizards won’t notice standing water or refuse to drink it. Therefore, you must get a little creative to hydrate your lizard.
One option is to soak your reptile for 10 to 20 minutes daily. Soaking allows your beardie to take moisture in through their skin. They’ll also lap water as they explore the soaking dish with their tongues.
To avoid sunken eyes caused by dehydration moving forward, consider installing a drip system. Typically, bearded dragons collect moisture that accumulates on leaves during daily mistings. But they may fail to consume that water.
A drip system simulates the dew on plants. It’s easy for beardies to spot and provides ongoing access to clean drinking water.
Finally, feed your bearded dragon moisture-rich foods. Plant-based foods like cucumbers and lettuce are a great way to increase moisture intake quickly and efficiently.
2. Weight Loss
Sudden weight loss should be a cause for concern. With a healthy diet and an enclosure that facilitates regular activity, bearded dragons should not have to go on diets or worry about their weight. So any change that occurs out of nowhere should be taken seriously.
The eyes are always active, and they’re surprisingly strong. Bearded dragons constantly focus on objects in the distance as they monitor their surroundings. Some of that muscle mass may decrease if they lose too much weight, resulting in a sunken look.
A general reduction in body weight may also lead to physical changes like sunken eyes. Either way, the sudden weight loss could point to health problems you can’t see.
What To Do
The first thing you should do is see a vet.
A medical issue could be to blame when weight loss occurs without much change to the lizard’s diet or lifestyle. Your bearded dragon may suffer from impaction issues, organ failure, cancer, and more. A trip to the vet is the best way to rule those complications out, allowing you to focus on providing treatment that makes a difference.
With guidance from your vet, you can create a diet plan that encourages your bearded dragon to pack on pounds. That usually includes increasing protein intake by 10 to 20 percent. Your vet may also recommend adding fatty treats like superworms. However, protein-based snacks are better for building muscle.
It’s also wise to reevaluate the habitat setup. Make sure your bearded dragon has enough room to stay active.
Parasitic infections can significantly impact your bearded dragon in many ways. Some parasites attack your lizard from the inside out, draining them of nutrients and spreading pathogens. However, some attack your reptile externally, latching onto its skin and feeding on them for sustenance.
Mites are one of the worst offenders. These tiny arthropods can invade your lizard’s enclosure, multiplying in numbers to attack in droves. They can even overrun your home, laying eggs outside the enclosure for easy access to a reptile host.
The problem with mites is that they often attack softer tissue on the body. That includes the tissue around the eyes. They accumulate in folds of the skin and often create issues like bleeding or sunken eyes.
What To Do
Dealing with mites and other parasitic infections that cause sunken eyes can be a nightmare, but you must address the situation to avoid things getting worse.
For treatment to be effective, you must eliminate them from your lizard, its enclosure, and the surrounding area. These pests can quickly migrate to another animal, spreading like wildfire.
To get rid of mites on your lizard, you can do a quick soak in warm water with a touch of soap. Alternatively, go to your vet to get a pet-safe topical solution. Prescription-strength sprays can kill them on contact.
Next, you’ll need to clean every inch of the enclosure. Toss out substrate mediums, climbing branches, and anything else you can’t clean. Mites often lay eggs in soil and crevices.
Sanitize everything you can in a bleach solution and use reptile-safe disinfectants to clean the enclosure thoroughly. Do the same for the room you keep your beardie in, focusing on carpets and furniture to get rid of as many mites as possible. If they were the cause of sunken eyes on your bearded dragon, things should return to normal eventually.
Certain illnesses can be debilitating. A sick bearded dragon will have no energy to eat, and their health can quickly plummet. Not only do they lose weight, but you’ll see many physical symptoms. Sunken eyes are just one of them.
Unfortunately, bearded dragons can suffer from a wide range of medical issues.
Impaction occurs when the lizard eats a piece of substrate or consumes too many hard-shelled insects. They have trouble processing foods, leading to waste accumulation and impaction.
Renal failure is when a lizard’s kidneys can no longer filter blood. They will become lethargic as their eyes change.
Beyond that, bearded dragons can suffer from debilitating fungal and bacterial infections. Your lizard is not immune to health issues, and you must address those problems as soon as possible.
What To Do
Never ignore a bearded dragon with sunken eyes or any other symptom of illness. The best thing you can do is seek veterinary assistance. Proper diagnosis is the first step to treatment, and that’s something only your vet can do.
If you don’t already, consider going to a vet specializing in exotic animals like bearded dragons. They have more experience and knowledge about the unique intricacies of reptile health. As a result, they can usually spot issues quickly and provide accurate diagnostic results to better understand what’s going on.
Depending on the issue that’s causing sunken eyes, your vet may provide prescription medications, dietary changes, or even surgery. Heed their advice and do what’s best to restore your lizard’s health.
5. The Enclosure Is Too Hot
Bearded dragons like heat, but they have their limits. When conditions are too hot, they can suffer in many ways (with sunken eyes being one of them).
The ideal setup for a bearded dragon tank is to have a temperature gradient. On one end, you need a basking lamp with temperatures between 95 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit. The other side will be significantly cooler, but it should always be above 70 degrees.
It doesn’t matter how well you maintain temperature settings or what equipment you use to keep conditions perfect. Things happen! Your equipment can malfunction, or you might experience a particularly hot day that brings the heat up in your enclosure.
Whatever the case, that sudden change will cause dehydration, sunken eyes, and many other health issues if you don’t take steps to correct it.
What To Do
It’s always a good idea to invest in digital thermometers, and don’t have just one! Install a couple on both sides of the enclosure to maintain that stable temperature gradient.
When you notice that temperatures are rising, adjust your equipment accordingly. Focus on the lighting rig and any non-light-based accessories in the enclosure. For example, you might have under-tank heating mats that malfunction and turn on during the day.
Consider opening some vent ports to allow cool air to come in. You can also move the tank away from south-facing walls or away from direct sunlight.
6. Not Enough Vitamin A
Your bearded dragon requires many vitamins and minerals to stay healthy. You likely already know about Vitamin D3, but proper amounts of Vitamin A are also crucial.
Vitamin A plays a substantial role in a lizard’s development and ongoing health. It helps maintain the tissue in the eyes, throat, and more. The vitamin also impacts reproductive health, muscles, bones, etc.
There’s a delicate balance between getting too much, too little, and insufficient Vitamin A. Too much of the stuff can be lethal. But when your bearded dragon isn’t getting all the Vitamin A they need, it’ll experience problems like sunken eyes and frequent illness.
What To Do
Fortunately, fixing this problem is as easy as modifying their diet.
Many bearded dragon owners focus on insects for food. However, they need a healthy mix of insects and leafy greens. The leafy greens are where your lizard gets Vitamin A.
Add more foods like kale, watercress, and mustard greens. You can also invest in Vitamin A powder supplements to get your beardie the boost it needs.
7. Humidity Problems
Finally, your bearded dragon could be suffering from low humidity levels. Any seasoned reptile enthusiast will tell you that humidity is one of the most important environmental conditions to maintain. However, newer hobbyists will often focus less on humidity and more on other factors like temperature.
Everything matters, but humidity is one of those environmental factors that can negatively affect your bearded dragon’s health in several ways. Improper humidity can cause fungal problems, bacterial issues, respiratory infections, and more. Sunken eyes are often a byproduct of one of those health problems.
Low humidity can also lead to changes in eye pressure, causing the eyeballs to sit deeper in the head than you’re used to seeing.
What To Do
Like temperature problems, consistent monitoring is paramount. Invest in an accurate digital hygrometer and make it visible around the clock.
Ideal humidity levels are between 35 and 40 percent for bearded dragons. When levels get low, mist the habitat. You can also install an automatic mister for a more hands-off approach.
If levels climb too high, all you have to do is open ventilation holes to encourage natural evaporation.
Proper humidity levels can improve your bearded dragon’s health all around. It helps with shedding, keeps your lizard comfortable, and makes it easier to avoid debilitating diseases or infections. Not only that, but you won’t have to worry about this being a cause of sunken eyes in the future!
Now that you know what causes a bearded dragon to have sunken eyes, you’ll be able to act quickly and take the appropriate steps if you ever see this in the future.
And always remember, if you’re unsure about what to do, call your vet. They’ll be able to help you get to the bottom of things and get your pet healthy again.