The eye of a frog is an incredible feat of biological engineering.
Frogs have great peripheral vision, enabling them to see predators or prey outside of their line of sight. Some frogs have excellent night vision – a valuable adaptation for nocturnal species. Research has shown that frogs can detect a single photon of light!
That’s not all – frogs also use their eyes to eat! When frogs blink, their eyeballs press against the roofs of their mouths, helping to force the food down their throats.
Frogs’ eyes – even the act of closing them – have many important functions!
But what if a frog keeps its eyes closed? If you’ve seen your frog keeping its eyes closed for a long period of time, you may be wondering:
Why isn’t my frog opening its eyes?
Frogs may keep their eyes closed when resting, to help themselves blend in, or to keep their eyes moist in environments with low humidity. Frogs may also refuse to open their eyes because of debris, discomfort, or an eye infection. In some cases, closed, swollen eyes can be a sign of a vitamin deficiency.
If you’re wondering why your frog won’t open its eyes, you’re in the right place! There are several reasons why a frog keeps its eyes closed for a long period of time, ranging from normal behavior to severe illness.
Understanding what behavior is normal for your frog is the first step in identifying when something is amiss. Let’s learn more about why frogs sometimes won’t open their eyes!
7 Reasons Your Frog Is Not Opening Its Eyes
Most frogs will likely close their eyes from time to time. They blink to keep their eyes moist, clear their eyes of debris, and swallow food.
What if your frog doesn’t immediately open its eyes again? Should you worry?
Closed eyes can be a normal aspect of frog behavior, or it can mean that something is wrong. Let’s explore some of the reasons why your frog might keeping its eyes closed.
Reason 1: Resting
We don’t yet know much about frog sleep. Some research suggests that they never enter a period of true sleep – they are always alert and ready to escape danger. While they may not experience sleep the same way other animals do, frogs still have periods of rest.
If you see a frog with its eyes closed, partially burrowed, or with its limbs tucked in, it is probably resting. Some frogs “nap” with their eyes closed, as you can see in the video below.
If you see your frog in a stance similar to this black-eyed treefrog, it is likely resting peacefully.
Not all frogs close their eyes when they sleep. Frogs have a third eyelid, called a nictitating membrane, that is transparent. The nictitating membrane enables frogs to see when underwater or keep their eyes from drying out resting on land. If you see a resting frog with a hazy or web-like material covering its eyeballs, this may be the nictitating membrane.
Reason 2: Camouflage
While some frogs, like the Vietnamese mossy frog, have cryptically colored eyes that match the frog’s camouflage, other frogs are not so lucky. The red-eyed treefrog’s deep scarlet eyes don’t exactly help it blend into the forest!
Some frogs keep their eyes closed during periods of inactivity so that their vibrant eyes do not alert predators to their position.
Reason 3: Low Humidity
Another reason your frog may not be opening its eyes is because the humidity in its environment is too low. While frogs may use the nictitating membrane to prevent desiccation, they may also close their eyes entirely.
If you notice your frog is keeping its eyes closed often, check the humidity of its enclosure. Your frog may be trying to protect its delicate eyeballs from getting too dry!
Humidity is critically important for the health of frogs and other amphibians. It helps to moisten their highly permeable skin, which they use to breathe and drink. When their skin is dry, the frog faces greater danger than dry eyes – it may dry out entirely!
Reason 4: Debris
Frogs may also close their eyes to protect them from getting damaged or irritated by debris. This is especially true for frogs that burrow.
If you notice your frog is keeping its eyes closed even when it is not actively burrowing, there is a possibility that a bit of substrate or other debris got into its eyes.
If this happens, you can gently rinse the frog’s eye with dechlorinated water. If this does not rectify the problem and you notice swelling or discharge, it may be time to take your frog to the vet.
Reason 5: Discomfort
Your frog may be keeping its eyes closed for a reason entirely unrelated to its eyes. Frogs, like other amphibians and reptiles, often shut their eyes tightly when experiencing pain or discomfort.
The frog’s eyes may be perfectly fine, but something else is bothering it. If you notice that your frog is not opening its eyes often, closely monitor its behavior. Is it eating? Defecating? Is it bloated? Is your frog active and alert? Is there anything that suggests an injury?
Unfortunately, frogs cannot tell us what is wrong. You should always become familiar with your pet’s behavior so that you can identify what is normal for your individual and species.
Reason 6: Eye Infection
Frogs may also keep their eyes closed if they have an eye infection. Ocular infections in frogs can be caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungi.
The painful inflammation from eye infections may cause a frog to hold its eyes shut, as well as extreme pupil dilation regardless of the amount of light present. In addition to inflammation, eye infections can also cause swelling, discharge, or cloudiness.
If you suspect your frog has an eye infection, take it to the vet! The veterinarian will be able to identify what kind of infection your frog has and how to treat it. They may also give you instructions on how to safely keep the eye clean.
You can prevent eye infections by keeping your frog’s environment clean and ensuring that the humidity (and other parameters) of its enclosure is acceptable for the species.
Reason 7: Vitamin Deficiency
A frog may also hold its eyes closed due to a lack of vitamin A, or hypovitaminosis A, as well as too much vitamin D or E. Frogs must obtain vitamin A from their diet, so captive frogs are at high risk of this condition if not given a multivitamin regularly.
Symptoms of vitamin A deficiency include swelling or white bumps around the eyes. However, the frog’s eyes aren’t the only parts of its body that can be affected by hypovitaminosis A. It can also cause problems in the epithelial cells of the kidney, bladder, mouth, and reproductive organs, specifically those cells that secrete mucus.
Low vitamin A can also lead to low fertility rates, low viability of offspring, and kidney malfunction.
As you can see, closed or swollen eyes are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the effects of vitamin A deficiency. This condition can be quite serious and requires veterinary treatment.
Luckily, hypovitaminosis A is easily prevented through a well-rounded diet and supplements. Consult your veterinarian about the best diet and supplementation regime for your frog!
It Probably Isn’t Trying To Communicate With You
Closing their eyes is a sign of submission or contentment in some animals. Many cat owners have had entire conversations with their pets by blinking slowly. Several animals (cats, dogs, birds, and even bears) view prolonged eye contact as a threat.
Why Do Frogs Close Only One Eye?
Frogs may keep one eye closed for the same reasons they keep both eyes closed! It could be because there is something in their eye, or they may have an infection.
They may close one eye for a short period of time if that eye is facing a bright light source. Some owners have noticed their frogs appearing to sleep with one eye open, but this does not seem to be common. Frogs are more likely to have both eyes partially closed than they are to completely close one eye and not the other.
My Frog Won’t Open Its Eyes! Should I Be Worried?
It is normal for frogs to close their eyes when resting. If your frog is keeping its eyes shut beyond what is normal, this is a sign that something else may be going on. It may be as simple as debris in its eyes, or your amphibious friend may be suffering from a medical condition.
Observe your frog’s behavior closely and keep an eye out for other symptoms. If you notice discharge, swelling, difficulty eating, or anything else out of the ordinary, contact your veterinarian.
Why is my frog not opening its eyes? Well, as you have learned, it can be a variety of reasons! Your frog may just be resting. However, it is also possible that something is causing your frog discomfort; it could be debris, an infection, or even pain somewhere else in its body.
Closed eyes aren’t an automatic cause for concern in most frogs. However, when they are accompanied by other symptoms, it may be a sign that something is amiss with your little friend.
As always, if you suspect that your frog is suffering from any of the conditions we discussed, contact your veterinarian immediately!