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Why Do Bearded Dragons Close One Eye & Keep the Other Open?

Nicole Cosgrove

June 11, 2021

After getting a bearded dragon and studying its behavior for a while, you may notice that it frequently closes one of its eyes. So, unsurprisingly, you’ll be concerned and curious why your beardie is closing one eye but leaving the other open.

It’s not something to worry about in most cases. However, there must be an underlying issue behind this behavior, and it can be minor or severe.

Before you present your exotic reptile to your vet, understand some of the reasons your dragon will open one eye and close the other first.

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Reasons Why Bearded Dragons Close One Eye and Keep the Other Open

1. Disease or Infection

An infection inside the eye or behind the socket can make a beardie close the affected eye. A bearded dragon’s eye can get sick after catching a bacterial or viral infection. Another organism can also infect it.

You may know an eye is infected if you notice a swelling or discharge coming from it. The dragon will close the infected eye to secure the affected tissues.

You may not always see a swelling, though. If this is the case, you may notice that the reptile closes the eye at different durations throughout the day.

2. Responding to Stimuli

Bearded dragons are usually highly responsive to the changes in stimuli that make them feel somewhat not okay. However, as discussed earlier, some causes are minor and nothing to worry about, and this includes stimuli.

Just like humans constrict their eyes to get a better look at something, beardies close one eye to allow them to focus on an object. These pets usually do this when they want to catch their prey.

You can also note the trait when feeding your beardie because it just wants to focus and better visualize the food. It happens mostly when it’s farthest from the food.

3. Dehydration

Dehydration takes a toll on a beardie, and it may close an eye in response. Of course, these pets rarely drink water, so you may not know when it needs it badly. But cues like closing one eye and leaving the other open should give you a clue.

A dehydrated beardie will depict sunken eyes and lethargy due to fewer fluids in the eyes. If you suspect dehydration, try pinching the skin. It’s hydrated if the skin bounces back and dehydrated if it takes longer to bounce back.

You shouldn’t take dehydration lightly because it can be fatal.

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Image Credit: aixklusiv, Pixabay

4. Parasites

Mites and other parasites are common among dragons in the wild. So, it’s possible that they could have infested your reptile friend, especially if it spends any of its time outdoors.

In the wild, these parasites usually stay on the beardie to feed and for protection but leave once they feel full and safe. However, it’s not the same in captivity as these pets tend to stay in the same place, so these parasites take longer to leave their skins.

Mites and ticks usually stay around a bearded dragon’s ears and eyes and appear tiny, red, or black spots. If these organisms remain around the eye, the beardie will act unusual or close them. It’ll close the most affected eye and leave the better one open.

5. Insufficient Lighting

Bearded dragons require properly lit enclosures. You can know the lighting system has a problem by looking at their eyes. These reptiles will close one eye or both to prevent them from getting harmed by an incorrect light setting.

A beardy’s enclosure should have UVB light output ranging between 8 to10 percent. Anything less than eight could mean they aren’t getting sufficient UVB rays, while more than ten could harm their eyesight because the lighting is too much.

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Image Credit: valleyboi63, Shutterstock

6. Objects in the Eye

Decor items like branches and rocks in your dragon’s enclosure can injure the pet’s eyes. It occurs if a branch from the tree breaks, exposing a sharp edge that can scratch the eyes and puncture the cornea. The reptile may close the affected eye.

Besides scratching and punctures, an object can get stuck in your dragon’s eyes. It can be anything from debris, dirt, or a stray substrate.

Your beardie can close one eye to try to remove the stuck object. However, it may require your intervention if the foreign thing is too stubborn to come out.

7. Basking

Beardies bask in the sun to help maintain the correct body temperature. They are cold-blooded creatures, meaning that their bodies cannot control and tune to desirable temperatures independently.

The reptiles bask in the sun during morning hours when it’s cool and sometimes in the day when their body temperatures drop to certain levels.

You may notice your dragon closing one or both eyes when basking, and this is normal behavior for them. It does this to shield its eyes from strong direct sunlight.

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Image Credit: Wattlebird, Shutterstock

8. Low Humidity

Beardies can also close one of their eyes due to low humidity levels within the enclosure. The ideal humidity levels for the chamber should range between 30-40%. Lower or elevated levels can throw off its heat regulation system and cause various illnesses.

For instance, low humidity can cause dysecdysis, which is abnormal skin shedding. So, the reptiles will close their eyes to help with the shedding.

High humidity causes skin blistering, which can be so unbearable that you may need to seek vet services.

9. Stuck Shed

A beardie will often look for any object to help rub and remove their old skin when shedding. However, the pet may not be good at it and still have old skin attached to some parts of their bodies.

These reptiles usually have a hard time shedding areas around the eyes. So, they may close their eyes if there are still bits of old skin around them to try to shed it off.

Always check for a stuck shed around their eyes if you notice your beardie closing the eyes.

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Image Credit: TeerasakPhotography, Shutterstock.

10. It Could Be Scared

Bearded dragons also close their eyes when something gets too close to them, just like humans. So, if you are petting your dragon close to the eyes and it closes the eyes, it means it’s scared that your fingers might poke their eyes.

It’ll close one or both eyes as a natural defense to protect them from harm. You may notice the pet open them back up as you draw your hands or pet back further from the eyes.

It’s just a natural response and nothing to worry about.

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How to Address a Bearded Dragon’s Eye Problem

1. Clean the Enclosure Regularly

You can only get rid of the debris and dirt in the enclosure if you clean it regularly. Get rid of any loose object that can injure or get stuck in your pet’s eyes.

2. Set the Enclosure to Correct Conditions

First, supply your bearded dragon with the needed light on the enclosure by installing artificial lighting. Be on the lookout for manufacturers that sell lights that may not be friendly to a beardy’s eyes.

However, while the lights could be within the eight to ten percent UVB range, they might be too strong for a small enclosure or too dim for a large tank. Therefore, it’s vital to consider the tank size when installing lights.

Also, ensure that the humidity levels in the enclosure are at the correct ranges at all times. The best way to do it is to use a reptile hygrometer, which you can get in your local pet store or online shops.

A reptile hygrometer will alert you when the humidity levels fall out of recommended range, thanks to the alarm system it comes with.

You can raise the humidity levels by:

  • Using a larger bowl or keep an extra bowl in the enclosure. It’ll increase the evaporation rate and help raise humidity levels in the tank.
  • Mist branches and leaves in the enclosure to help retain moisture. This will help raise humidity levels in return. Just be careful not to overdo it and cause molding, though.
  • You can buy a reptile fogger to spray mist at certain times of the day if you are a busy owner. These foggers have digital timers, so you can set them to spray at specific times.

You can lower humidity levels by using a fan. To do this, ensure it’s at the lowest setting and place it in a way that allows it to blow air in the tank directly. However, it would be best to keep an eye on the humidity levels while at it. It shouldn’t fall below the recommended range.

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Image Credit: Oksanna Briere, Pixabay

3. Inform Your Vet

Some issues like infection and eye problems can be too challenging to deal with on your own. Take the reptile to the vet if you suspect the eye could be infected. Unfortunately, some infections can damage the retina or cause blindness.

The doctor may recommend antibiotics, or reptile eye drops to help treat the infections. The eye drops can also help remove foreign objects in the eyes.

4. Pet Carefully

Be careful when petting your beardie. Do it reassuringly, so it doesn’t get scared. You can also help it remove the stuck shed around the eyes.

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Summary

Your beardie will close one eye and leave the other open if foreign objects fall in the eye or the lighting and humidity levels in the enclosure aren’t friendly. Anything can cause this behavior, even some serious ones like eye infections.

What you can do if you notice the behavior is to pay attention to its surroundings. If there’s anything you need to adjust, do it. But if it’s due to an eye issue, ask the vet to help.


Featured Image Credit: KobchaiMa, Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.