Bearded dragons can experience a ton of health problems for a variety of reasons. Some of these relate to their eyes and can be quite severe, often leading to blindness and even more extensive health issues.
Today, we will discuss blindness in bearded dragons, trying to shed light on the potential causes, risk factors, and the treatment and prevention methods available. Let’s check it out!
Common Causes of Blindness in Bearded Dragons
Bearded dragons can experience eye problems that are prone to degenerating into partial or complete blindness for a variety of reasons.
- Trauma – Trauma to the head or eyes can cause damage to the optic nerve or retina, leading to partial or complete blindness. This can occur from fighting with other bearded dragons, accidents, or injury from running or rubbing against hazardous objects in the enclosure. This is why it’s so important to consider your beardie’s habitat so carefully.
- Infection – Eye infections, such as bacterial or fungal infections, can cause inflammation and scarring of the eye tissues, leading to vision loss or blindness. These health issues can be triggered by poor hygiene, overcrowding, or exposure to contaminated water or food. More importantly, such infections can spread to other areas of the body and even other beardies, leading to an even larger health emergency. Depending on the triggering pathogen, infections can also worsen fast and even cause death if untreated. Not a comforting prospect if you ask me.
- Metabolic Bone Disease – Metabolic Bone Disease is a common condition in bearded dragons caused by a lack of calcium or vitamin D3. This can lead to weakened bones and deformities that can affect the bearded dragon’s vision and mobility. Nutritional deficiencies, in general, are also dangerous in this sense, especially when discussing vitamin A. Vitamin A is responsible for eye and skin health, so it’s directly related to the issue. This is why it’s vital for your beardie to have a balanced and nutritious diet, along with optimized supplementation, depending on the vet’s recommendations.
- Cataract – Cataract causes the lens of the eye to become cloudy, leading to vision loss or blindness. This can occur in bearded dragons due to aging, genetic predisposition, or injury, as there are several factors involved.
- Retinal degeneration – Retinal degeneration is a condition that causes the cells in the retina to break down, leading to partial or complete blindness. This usually occurs due to aging and genetic problems, with few other factors having any meaningful impact.
- Eye tumors – Tumors in or around the eyes can cause pressure on the optic nerve, leading to vision problems. Some of these problems are reversible, while some are not, depending on the situation. These tumors can be caused by genetics or environmental factors such as exposure to toxins or radiation.
Fortunately, many of these issues are easily corrected and detectable, so long as you know what you’re looking for. We’ll discuss this point in more detail shortly.
Symptoms and Signs of Blindness in Bearded Dragons
Bearded dragons exhibit several signs of problems related to their eyes or vision.
- Bumping into objects – Blind bearded dragons may bump into objects, such as walls or decorations while walking or moving around their enclosure. This clumsiness isn’t natural for healthy adult dragons, so it should immediately ring an alarm bell.
- Difficulty finding food – Blind bearded dragons may have difficulties finding their food, even if it is placed in their usual feeding spot. They may also have difficulties locating water and other necessities in their immediate vicinity. These reptiles also use their olfactory senses to navigate the ecosystem in search of food, but they rely on their vision heavily during that as well. You can tell if your beardie is having problems in this department.
- Lack of reaction to visual stimuli – Blind bearded dragons may not respond to visual stimuli, such as movement or changes in light. This is a pretty good indicator that something’s off. You can test your beardie’s reaction yourself by shining a bright light directly into the eyes, but only briefly. You don’t want your beardie to become stressed out. Also, move your hand close to its face. The reptile should react even if it’s tired, lethargic, or not in the mood for play.
- Unusual behavior – Blind bearded dragons may display unusual behavior, such as pacing, circling, or turning in circles. They may also become more withdrawn or show signs of stress. All of these behaviors indicate that something’s not right with the dragon’s sight, although other health problems may be at play too.
- Sunken or cloudy eyes – Blind bearded dragons may have sunken or cloudy eyes, which may indicate eye infections or other eye-related health problems. Make sure you assess this symptom accurately. As you know, bearded dragons can also have sunken eyes when resting, dehydrated, or eating and sucking them in to protect them.
- Reduced activity – Blind bearded dragons may become less active and show a lack of interest in their usual activities, such as basking, exploring, or interacting with their owners. This is normal in the short term but unnatural when going on for prolonged periods of time.
As you can see, there are quite a variety of hints and symptoms to consider that should paint a clear enough picture.
How to Prevent Blindness in Bearded Dragons
Preventing the problem in the first place is naturally preferable to treating it after it happens.
This said, here’s how you can minimize the risks of your beardie experiencing eye problems or even blindness:
- Provide proper nutrition – Bearded dragons require a balanced diet that includes calcium, vitamin D3, vitamin A, and other essential nutrients. Proper nutrition can cause health issues like Metabolic Bone Disease, which can lead to vision problems and blindness. You might want to discuss your beardie’s nutrition with your vet for a clearer view of the matter and understand whether the reptile needs adequate supplementation.
- Maintain proper lighting – Bearded dragons require proper UVB and UVA lighting to maintain their health. Ensure that their enclosure has appropriate lighting and replace bulbs regularly to ensure they are emitting proper levels of UVB, as these can degrade in quality over time. Proper lighting is critical for your reptile pet’s overall health, as it allows for proper rest, helps with digestion, improves nutrient absorption, and promotes physical and mental health.
- Keep their enclosure clean – Dirty enclosures can increase the risk of eye infections and numerous other health problems. Keep their enclosure clean and sanitized regularly to prevent bacterial or fungal growth, which can degenerate into eye, skin, or respiratory infections, often with dire consequences. This means that spot-cleaning your reptiles’ habitat daily or every couple of days is just as important as the generalized maintenance job taking place once a month.
- Prevent injuries – Bearded dragons are prone to eye injuries, which can cause vision problems and blindness. Keep their enclosure free of sharp objects or decorations that can cause injuries, especially if said items aren’t really necessary. You might as well remove them and sacrifice some of the enclosure’s aesthetics to prioritize your beardie’s health instead. Also, monitor your bearded dragons during playtime or when interacting with other pets to prevent any injuries resulting from fights or rough play.
- Schedule regular veterinary check-ups – Regular veterinary check-ups can identify and treat eye problems before they aggravate. A veterinarian can also advise you on the proper nutrition, lighting, hydration, housing, and other aspects of bearded dragon care that will come in handy over the years.
While these are great recommendations to consider, keep in mind that there are some instances where you can’t do much to prevent your dragon from experiencing eye problems.
One such case is where your dragon has genetic problems that you cannot possibly detect in time or prevent, for that matter. Your vet should be able to provide more insight into this aspect.
Treatment Options for Blindness in Bearded Dragons
Say you did your best to keep your beardie safe, but you couldn’t prevent the eye problem after all. What now?
Well, now is the time to consider the following treatment options, in no particular order:
- Environmental modifications – Rearranging the enclosure and providing objects that have different textures, shapes, and smells can help blind bearded dragons navigate their environment more easily. This can include providing different types of branches or perches to climb on or using scent markings to help them locate food and water. This tip relates more to the notion of palliative care but can also work during the treatment phase when your lizard requires a safe and comfy habitat to recover.
- Hand-feeding – Blind or partially visually impaired bearded dragons may have difficulty finding their food and water bowls. Hand-feeding them can help ensure that they are being properly fed and hydrated.
- Medication – If the blindness is caused by an underlying condition such as an infection or inflammation, medication may be prescribed to reduce inflammation and manage symptoms. In this case, it falls to your vet to handle the problem professionally via targeted medication.
- Surgery – In some cases, surgery may be necessary to tackle cataracts or other eye-related health problems that are responsible for your beardie’s condition. You should take your beardie to the vet to figure out whether surgical intervention may be the right approach.
- Assistive devices – Specialized devices such as ramps, stairs, or platforms can help blind bearded dragons navigate their enclosure. These devices can be made from a variety of materials, such as PVC pipe or foam, and should be soft and padded to prevent injuries.
In essence, the ideal treatment option is the one that’s tailored to your unique situation.
Tips for Caring for a Blind Bearded Dragon
If your beardie’s blindness is untreatable and irreversible, it’s time to consider resorting to personalized care to help your pet adapt to the situation.
This notion includes approaches like:
- Creating a comfortable environment – Provide a soft and padded enclosure with easy access to food and water. Use textured items such as perches or branches to help reptiles navigate their environment easier. The idea is to craft a safe, comfortable, and conducive layout to provide the dragons with improved quality of life.
- Adjusting feeding – Blind bearded dragons may have difficulty finding their food bowl. Hand-feeding them can ensure that they are getting the proper nutrition and hydration. Offer a variety of foods that are easy to digest and ensure adequate nutrition in the long run.
- Providing optimized lighting and heating – Blind bearded dragons require proper lighting and heating to preserve their physical and mental health. Ensure that their enclosure has appropriate lighting and heating and it offers beardies easy access to a fitting basking spot. The lighting schedule should rely on 10-12 hours of light during a 24-hour period.
- Monitor their behavior – Blind bearded dragons will inform you of their condition via several symptoms, one of them being their abnormal behavior. Monitor your lizards’ behavior regularly and look for tell-telling signs like lethargy, aggression, hiding behavior, refusing food, etc.
- Provide comfort measures – Provide soft bedding, warm water soaks, and gentle massages to ease any discomfort or pain. Offer the lizard plenty of opportunities for rest and sleep and eliminate triggers that may cause the animal to become hyperactive.
- Consider euthanasia – If the bearded dragon’s quality of life has deteriorated significantly and the animal is suffering, euthanasia may be a compassionate option to end the torment. I advise discussing this option with your vet.
These approaches may improve your pet’s quality of life significantly in a situation where nothing else can be done.
Cataracts vs. Blindness – What is the Difference?
Cataracts and blindness are both conditions that ultimately affect the eyes, but they are not the same thing.
To put it simply:
Cataract is a condition that causes the eye lens to become cloudy, making it difficult for light to pass through to the retina. Cataract can cause vision problems and may lead to blindness if left untreated. In bearded dragons, this condition can be caused by aging, genetic factors, or untreated injuries.
Blindness, on the other hand, is a general term used to describe a complete or partial loss of vision. Blindness can be caused by a variety of factors, including trauma, infection, metabolic bone disease, cataract, retinal degeneration, and eye tumors.
Blindness will severely impact the bearded dragon’s ability to navigate its environment, find food and water, and interact with its surroundings.
While cataracts can cause vision problems, they do not always lead to blindness, especially if adequate treatment is provided.
However, the treatment’s efficiency depends on factors like the lizard’s age and health status, the condition’s severity, and any other complications that may arise along the way.
Blindness, however, is a more serious condition that can significantly impact the bearded dragon’s quality of life and may require specialized care and accommodations to ensure the lizard’s well-being.
The cases where bearded dragons simply lose their vision completely and instantly are very rare and typically relate to severe injuries. In most cases, loss of vision is a gradual process that’s often the result of a lack of adequate treatment.
This means that you can prevent your bearded dragon from becoming blind or even partially blind.
You just need to provide your pet with personalized care and assistance and take it to the vet in case of more serious injuries or health issues.