Occasionally, a bearded dragon will bulge their eyes. While this can be alarming – especially if it’s the first time you’ve seen it – it is typical behavior.
Typically, the eye bulging will last momentarily before your bearded dragon returns to normal. No one really knows why they do it, but some theories are floating about.
In this article, we’ll explore possible reasons why bearded dragon eye bulging occurs so you can figure out why your bearded dragon’s eyes look a little different.
Bearded Dragon Eye Anatomy
A bearded dragon’s two eyes are located at the sides of their skull. Due to their placement, bearded dragons can see more than humans and have a broader vision.
In humans, with our eyes pointing forwards, our focus is on what is in front of us. Though some peripheral vision reaches our shoulders, we need to move our body or neck to change what we’re looking at.
In bearded dragons, they can see over their shoulders and in front of them simultaneously.
You might also have heard that bearded dragons have a third eye! This is barely visible and isn’t like their other two eyes. This third eye appears as a grey spot between their other eyes and the top of their skull.
The bearded dragon’s third eye won’t bulge! Even though it doesn’t have vision, it is vital to bearded dragon survival. It detects changes in light, thus protecting the bearded dragon from predators and regulating its circadian rhythm.
Bearded Dragon Bulging Eyes – Why Does It Happen?
There are many intriguing behaviors as far as bearded dragons are concerned. However, bearded dragon eye bulging is one of the most fascinating and unusual behaviors.
It can be baffling and worrying when you see a bearded dragon’s eyes bulging; realistically, no one knows why they do it. Experts are trying to determine why this happens, but they have a few theories.
The possible reasons include:
- To aid the shedding process
- Due to high blood pressure
- Eye problems
- Genetic traits
Let’s look at these in more detail.
To Aid the Shedding Process
The most talked about theory regarding bearded dragons bulging eyes is for the shedding process.
It is believed that bearded dragons bulge their eyes to loosen the tight skin around their eyes and on their eyelids to prepare for shedding. Experts think this is because bearded dragons tend to do this more often when they’re younger – and baby dragon shedding occurs much more frequently than adults.
Unlike snakes with their single one-piece shed, bearded dragons shed in different patches, which makes it more difficult. In addition, there are often stubborn shed areas that take longer to come away. This is usually in the tail area and around the toes, but it can also affect the face.
The shedding process is not comfortable either, so the eye bulging could help speed it up, so it’s over more quickly.
Before, During, or After the Shed?
Some bearded dragon owners report that their beardies bulge their eyes before and during the shedding process. However, some report that this happens for a short while once the shed has been completed.
This could be explained by the bearded dragon making sure all loose skin has gone.
High Blood Pressure
Though eye bulging can be normal behavior, it could also be concerning. Another expert reason suggests high blood pressure could cause eye bulging.
Some other lizards, like the horned lizard, are known to increase their blood pressure behind the eyes for defense. Bearded dragons can also do this.
There isn’t any concrete evidence to prove this theory. Still, it would be logical to assume beardies eyes bulging could be for this too.
However, if your beardie does this for more than an hour or a few times in a short time, you should have a reptile veterinarian check his blood pressure.
Another reason why beardies bulge their eyes could be due to actual problems with their eyes. This might be as simple as an itch, foreign objects in the eye, or a bacterial infection.
If you suspect an infection, whether a bacterial or fungal infection, you should always get your bearded dragon checked by a reptile vet.
A bearded dragon eye infection might also show swollen eyes as well as the eyes bulging.
Yawning and Eyes Bulging
Many bearded dragon owners think eye bulging occurs when a bearded dragon yawns or after they have yawned. But, again, there is no proof to support this theory, so it could be a link.
Some bearded dragon morphs have episodes of the eyes bulging more than others. Silkbacks are notorious for this, and it is entirely normal behavior to see these morphs with bulging eyes.
It is just something they do and isn’t related to a foreign object being present or high blood pressure.
What Does Bearded Dragon Eyes Bulging Look Like?
If you’ve heard about this but never seen it, you’re in for a shock.
The eye bulging that bearded dragons do is pretty unforgettable and not at all subtle. You should familiarize yourself with what it looks like so that you don’t mistake an eye infection for simple eye bulging.
Do All Bearded Dragons Bulge Their Eyes?
Though all bearded dragons can likely bulge their eyes, some won’t do it at all.
Some bearded dragons bulge their eyes frequently, while others do it rarely or not at all. So it could be possible to own a bearded dragon and never see his eyes bulging until a few years in.
It is down to chance – you might see eye bulging a few times in a row and never catch them doing it again.
How Long Does Eye Bulging Last?
If you notice a bearded dragon’s eyes bulge, it will likely be a few seconds to a couple of minutes. After that, you’ll probably not see them doing again for a while.
It is possible to see your pet doing this on and off for more than an hour, especially if they are trying to loosen all the skin around the eyes for shedding.
You might still see this for other reasons if they’re not shedding. In terms of time bulging, though, they’re usually brief.
Is Bearded Dragons Eye Bulging Unhealthy?
Mostly, bearded dragons bulge their eyes for benign reasons. It doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with your beardie. As always, though, if you’re worried, get your bearded dragons checked out.
After all, no one really knows why eye bulging occurs, so it’s worth a health check.
If the eye bulging occurs when shedding, it is probably nothing to worry about. However, if beardies display this behavior over several days and aren’t going through the shedding process, you should seek advice.
It’s likely nothing sinister, but it’s always best to get checked.
Is There Anything You Can Do to Help Beardies with Eye Bulging?
There isn’t much you can or should do when your beardie has bulging eyes. However, if you’re worried about your beardie’s blood pressure or he bulges his eyes numerous times for more than one hour, it’s probably good to see a vet.
Whatever the cause, it’s a good idea to use this opportunity to check your bearded dragon’s habitat to ensure it’s set up correctly. This means checking the temperature and humidity.
Regarding temperature, you’ll need to check this is right in the cooler areas of the enclosure and the basking spot. You can get some relatively cheap temperature guns online if you haven’t got a reliable temperature gauge.
Humidity-wise, it’s essential to get this right too. Though shedding is natural, if the humidity levels aren’t correct, it becomes challenging for bearded dragons to shed, which could cause more eye bulging.
Signs of Eye Problems in Bearded Dragons
Healthy bearded dragons will have bright, clear, and alert eyes.
Aside from eye bulge, other things could be wrong with your bearded dragon’s eyes.
If you notice dull eyes, it could be due to shedding, or it could mean something isn’t quite right. If discharge is present, it’s likely to suggest there is an infection that needs treating.
Suppose your bearded dragon has a swollen eye rather than an eye bulge. In that case, this could be down to hypervitaminosis A, which means they have consumed too much vitamin A.
Vitamin A is essential for a healthy immune system and contributes to organ and eye health. However, bearded dragons can also consume too much of it. It’s unlikely to be the case if you’re feeding your beardie an adequate diet and aren’t supplementing it with vitamin A.
You should, however, be aware of foods that are high in vitamin A and not feed too much of them to your beloved pet.
If your beardie has an injury or scratch to his eye, you might see it looking swollen. This is because bearded dragons close their eyes when they’re injured in this way too.
Here are some common reasons for eye injuries:
- Poor substrate
- Sharp objects in proximity
- Uneaten live food in the enclosure.
If you’re using a loose particle substrate like sand, this can cause eye irritation. If this happens, you should change the substrate to a reptile carpet or ceramic tile, for example, and then get some eye drops from your reptile vet.
To prevent this and use a solid substrate, be sure to remove live feeder insects that haven’t been eaten after 20 minutes. Insects that are left free to roam can cause damage when they attack.
Another possible eye problem is down to tumors. These could be growths around the eye or inside the eye itself. But, again, you’ll need to take your bearded dragon to the vet if you suspect tumors.
Final Thoughts on Bearded Dragon Eyes Bulging
Though it’s hard to say why your bearded dragon’s eyes are bulging, it’s important to remember that most of the time, it is entirely harmless.
Firstly, it could be down to shedding to loosen the skin or another innate behavior designed to regulate blood pressure.
You only need to observe your bearded dragon and see a vet if the eye bulging continues for more than an hour.
It’s also important to know what actual eye bulging looks like so that you don’t mistake swollen eyes from a beardie bulging his eyes.