Why Is My Bearded Dragon Closing His Eyes? (Vet Tech Explains)

Why Is My Bearded Dragon Closing His Eyes

Bearded dragons are fascinating animals that are also one of the most popularly kept pet reptiles. These lizards are known for their unique appearance and lovable behavior. One of the things that bearded dragons often do, is sit with their eyes closed.

This behavior might appear cute and harmless, but can sometimes indicate an issue. If you’ve noticed that your bearded dragon hasn’t opened their eyes for a while, you’ll probably start to ask questions like;

Why is my bearded dragon closing his eyes?

When bearded dragons sleep, their eyes are closed. If you pet your bearded dragon on the head, they’ll often close their eyes as a reflex. But, if your bearded dragon seems to have their eyes closed for prolonged periods of time it could mean that they’re experiencing dehydration, infection, discomfort, or an eye injury. 

This article will go over every explanation for why your bearded dragon is closing his eyes. Before we jump straight into our list of reasons, let’s talk a little bit about bearded dragons and their reptilian eyelids.

Do Bearded Dragons Have Eyelids?

Eyelids are one of the many ways in which reptiles are anatomically different from humans.

Not all reptiles even have eyelids! Snakes have a specialized cap-like covering that goes over their eyes. Some lizards like geckos actually have two eyelids. Bearded dragons are among the reptiles that have two pairs of eyelids.

The upper eyelid is a traditional eyelid made up of skin, just like the eyelid that we humans have. But, bearded dragons also have another eyelid that’s called the nictitating membrane.

The nictitating membrane is a transparent see-through third eyelid that can be used to protect and moisten the eye while still maintaining vision. So bearded dragons are able to close either their nictitating membranes or both sets of eyelids at once.

For the purpose of this article when we talk about bearded dragons closing their eyes will be talking about them closing their outer eyelids. Let’s talk about some of the reasons why your bearded dragon might be closing his eyes.

13 Reasons Why Your Bearded Dragon Is Closing His Eyes

It can be so concerning when your pet changes their behavior. Many pet owners tend to think that a change in behavior automatically means something is wrong. Every situation is different, but if your bearded dragon just started keeping his eyes closed, don’t panic.

Keep reading to find out some of the explanations for why your bearded dragon might be doing this.

Reason 1: They’re Sleeping

Let’s start with the most straightforward reason your bearded dragon might close their eyes, sleeping!

Just like humans, bearded dragons need their beauty rest. They typically sleep during the night and take short naps during the day, this diurnal sleeping pattern is natural, and if your bearded dragon closes their eyes while taking a nap, that’s normal!

But, if your bearded dragon is keeping their eyes closed for extended periods of time, it might be a sign of another underlying issue. Bearded dragons are one of the pet reptiles that should still be awake for most of the day.

Reason 2: They’re Uncomfortable

When animals are uncomfortable, they may close their eyes in pain.

Since animals can’t directly tell us that they’re feeling uncomfortable for some reason, we need to be able to read their body language to understand what’s going on. It’s been proven that animals may squint, blink, or close their eyes more than normal when they’re experiencing pain.

Bearded dragons might even close their eyes in anticipation of an uncomfortable stimulus, such as unwanted handling. If you notice your bearded dragon is keeping their eyes closed try and make sure that they’re not in any discomfort or pain.

Reason 3: They’re Protecting Themselves

So why is your bearded dragon closing their eyes when you pet it or when it eats?

Even though your bearded dragon may feel comfortable in this situation, it’s likely to still close their eyes as a reflex to protect themselves from potential danger. We know that you would never poke your bearded dragon in the eye. However, your pet does not know this!  It’s totally natural for your bearded dragon to close their eyes while being petted.

Bearded dragons will also instinctively close their eyes while eating to protect them from flailing bugs. Bearded dragons eat all sorts of creepy crawly creatures, like mealworms and cockroaches. As your bearded dragon is eating, they might chew and be a little bit messy. It’s totally possible that one of the legs of these critters could end up in your bearded dragon’s eye. To protect themselves, they’ll likely chew with their eyes closed.

Reason 4: They’re Having A Difficult Shed

Bearded dragons who are having difficulty shedding might keep their eyes closed for long periods of time.

When bearded dragon shed their skin, they also need to shed the skin from around their eyelids. Most of the time this skin falls off effortlessly. In other cases, the skin might get stuck on places like the bum or the toes of your beardie.

Sometimes, the skin on the eyelid may get stuck, so your beardie will keep the affected eye shut. The skin left behind may even get wedged underneath your bearded dragon’s eyelid, making it even harder for them to open their eye.

Problems with shedding are most often associated with dehydration. Dehydrated reptiles tend to have longer sheds with skin that doesn’t come off easily. If you think your bearded dragon has some shed, skin stuck onto their eyelid, don’t peel it off.

Instead, try raising the humidity in their enclosure temporarily or giving them a warm water soak.  And, if you think the skin is wedged beneath your bearded dragon’s eyelid, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible!

Reason 5: They’re Dehydrated

Dehydration is usually a secondary effect of some other primary issue.

Dehydration can cause your pet reptile to keep their eyes closed to try and maintain some level of moisture. Dehydration can manifest in other ways and may appear as wrinkly skin, sunken-in eyes, and difficulty pooping. Reptiles that are dehydrated, may also have low energy levels and will close their eyes to nap more often.

As we mentioned, above dehydration is usually a secondary problem from something else. Dehydration most often occurs because of husbandry mistakes. Always make sure that your bearded dragon has access to freshwater and that you’re not feeding them any dehydrated food.

Reason 6: Their Enclosure Isn’t Humid Enough

Low humidity levels are a cause of dehydration and a reason why your bearded dragon might be closing their eyes.

All reptiles require a specific level of humidity for their comfort and health. Bearded dragons specifically need about 35 to 40% relative humidity in their enclosures. When humidity levels aren’t adequate, you’ll notice your pet make all sorts of adjustments to be more comfortable.

In dry environments, you might find your bearded dragon sitting in their water dish or digging into their substrate. You may also notice that they’ve started closing their eyes more often. That’s because your bearded dragon’s eyes are dry and irritated, and closing them helps keep things moist. So, closed eyes could just mean that the air around your bearded dragon is not humid enough.

If you need help raising the humidity in your reptile’s enclosure, read our article all about it here.

Reason 7: The Lights Are Too Bright

Even though bearded dragons are diurnal, certain lights can still be too bright for them in captivity.

Bearded dragons require proper lighting to maintain their health. Usually, this involves some form of UVB and UVA lighting. Excessively bright lights can cause bearded dragons to close their eyes. This can happen especially if your bearded dragon is kept in a room with fluorescent lighting.

While fluorescent lights are sold as safe for reptiles, some brands of fluorescent lamps have been proven to be dangerous. These lights were shown to emit a hazardous form of short-wave UVB. These light waves were shown to cause eye problems, such as photo keratoconjunctivitis. Even though manufacturers say they have addressed these problems, it may be safer to keep fluorescent lights away from your bearded dragon.

Not only will you be protecting their eyes, but they’ll probably be more comfortable having their eyes open in general.

Reason 8: There’s Something In Their Eye

Old shed skin isn’t the only thing that can get in your bearded dragon’s eye and cause it to keep it closed.

Occasionally, small pieces of debris may get stuck in your pet’s eye and cause irritation. This debris can be from anything found in your bearded dragon’s enclosure. There might be a little piece of substrate, food, or even dust stuck in their eye.

If your bearded dragon does have something stuck in their eye you’ll likely see other signs of this that include squinting, eye, watering, or discharge from the affected eye. Most likely, your bearded dragon will only be keeping one eye closed at a time. Ideally, your beardie will be able to blink the debris out of their eye. If not, you’ll need to visit the veterinarian for help with this problem.

Reason 9: They’ve Got An Eye Infection

Eye infections are not uncommon in bearded dragons and can cause them to close their eyes.

Bearded dragons keep their eyes closed when they’re infected because their eyes become painful and uncomfortable. Signs of an eye infection, include redness, swelling, discharge, or a cloudy appearance in the eyes of your pet. Eye infections can also cause blepharospasms, or uncontrolled eye movements like twitching and excessive blinking.

Though there are several kinds of eye infections, your beardie can contract in captivity. Some of the most common are conjunctivitis uveitis in keratitis. Eye infections are only treatable with medication prescribed by your veterinarian.

Reason 10: Their Eye Might Be Injured

Though we’ve already talked about debris and infection in your bearded dragon’s eyes, there are other injuries that can occur.

Any sort of injury or irritation to the eye will cause your bearded dragon to keep their eyes closed. Typically, an injury will result in your bearded dragon only keeping one eye closed and not the other. The most common eye injury that your bearded dragon can sustain in captivity is a scratch from a foreign object.

If your bearded dragon is just closing one eye, that may be a sign that the eye has an acute injury.

Reason 11: They Could Be Vitamin Deficient

Vitamin A deficiency is a common issue in bearded dragons and can lead to eye problems, including difficulty keeping the eyes open.

The best way to prevent vitamin deficiency is to ensure that your bearded dragon is receiving a balanced diet. A balanced diet for a bearded dragon should be rich in vitamin A and should contain helpings of fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, and bugs every day. You may also consider adding a vitamin supplement to your bearded dragon’s food if your veterinarian recommends it.

If you need to brush up on your bearded dragon cuisine, this video gives a great overview of what they should be eating in captivity.

Reason 12: It’s A Congenital Defect

In rare cases, bearded dragons may have congenital issues that cause them to close their eyes frequently.

If this is the case with your pet, it’s probably something you’ve noticed since you brought them into your house. These congenital defects can range from structural abnormalities to retinal issues. Congenital defects can cause discomfort and you should talk to your veterinarian to make sure that your bearded dragon isn’t in any pain because of something they were born with.

Reason 13: There’s A Subcutaneous Abscess

The last thing that might cause your bearded dragon to close their eyes is an abscess.

Even though it sounds bad, don’t panic! It’s not likely that your bearded dragon has a subcutaneous abscess. But, if they do, a subcutaneous abscess is a pocket of infection and pus beneath the skin. In the eye area, this will cause your bearded dragon to keep their eyes closed nearly 24/7.

These abscesses can cause pain and discomfort throughout the body of your pet, which causes your bearded dragon to close either one or both of their eyes. A veterinarian can diagnose and treat abscesses appropriately with antimicrobial therapies.

Frequently Asked Questions

We’ve given you plenty of explanation as to why your bearded dragon is closing his eyes. Now it’s time for you to take that information and try to figure out what’s going on with your scaly friend. Here are a few more answers to specific questions about bearded dragons closing their eyes.

Why Do Bearded Dragons Close Their Eyes While Being Petted?

We mentioned briefly that bearded dragons usually close their eyes while being petted to protect themselves. Your pet is just making sure that you don’t accidentally scratch their eye while petting them.

Why Do Bearded Dragons Close Their Eyes While Eating?

Bearded dragons usually close their eyes while eating for the same reason that they close their eyes while being pet. Bearded dragons close their eyes as a safety measure against flying pieces of food. Insects, especially have a tendency to move around during meal time and may end up in a beardie’s eye if they’re not careful.

Why Do Bearded Dragons Close One Eye?

When bearded dragons only close one eye, it usually means that something is going on with that eye specifically. That eye may have a little bit of skin stuck onto it, it may be injured, there may be debris in it, or the eye may be abscessed. Generally, if your bearded dragon is only closing one eye, you’ll want to make a trip to your veterinarian.

Why Will My Bearded Dragon Not Open His Eyes?

If it’s been a long period of time, and your bearded dragon still won’t open his eyes, something is wrong.

Bearded dragon should open their eyes for most of the day. If your bearded dragon goes a whole day without opening his eyes, they’re probably sick or injured. In this case, it’s definitely time to see a vet, and the sooner the better.

Final Thoughts

There are so many reasons why your bearded dragon might be closing their eyes. Some of these reasons are natural and instinctive, like sleeping, protection against objects and lights, and mild discomfort.

Closed eyes can also point towards dehydration or problems with shedding. Occasionally, a closed eye could mean that something is medically wrong and you’ll want to get your bearded dragon’s eyes checked out at your veterinarian’s office.

We hope there’s nothing wrong with your bearded dragon and that they’ve already started to open up their eyes a little bit more!