Bearded dragons are beloved pets for their exquisite appearance, friendly attitude, and easiness of adapting to a captive lifestyle.
They don’t need much to be happy with their lives in captivity, so long as you provide them with a natural-looking habitat, good food, and a bit of love when necessary.
However, bearded dragons are also known for more problematic reasons. One of them is their vulnerability to diseases, especially eye-related ones.
Eye infections are, unfortunately, quite common among bearded dragons, so let’s talk about the causes, prevention methods, and potential remedies to consider!
Causes of Eye Infections in Bearded Dragons
There are quite a few tell-telling factors that can lead to eye infections in bearded dragons. These include:
Poor Hygiene and Sanitation
Bearded dragons require a clean and sanitized habitat to remain healthy over the years. Habitats that are kept in poor conditions become hazardous to the reptile’s health due to the accumulation of bacteria, fungi, mold, and viruses.
In most cases, the quality of the ecosystem degrades due to the lack of proper cleaning and maintenance, which, when combined with a warm and humid environment, can lead to health problems.
Bearded dragons can face a variety of health problems due to improper living conditions, eye infections being only one of them.
They can also struggle with respiratory infections, which are even deadlier, skin conditions, and digestive issues due to parasitic infections.
This means that bearded dragons require regular cleaning and maintenance to stay healthy long-term. We’ll discuss what that entails a bit later on, so keep reading.
Bacterial or Viral Infections
Bacterial and viral pathogens are common in a poorly-maintained ecosystem, but inadequate enclosure hygiene isn’t the only one responsible for the problem.
Infections can also occur from outside sources, with the culprit sometimes being the keepers themselves. You, yourself, can infect your bearded dragon unwillingly simply by not ignoring the safety standards when interacting with your lizard.
You should always wash your hands with water and soap to eliminate the risk of infections and even wear sanitized gloves if your dragons are already sick. Other sources of infection include contaminated plants or other decorations and even sick bearded dragons being placed in the same tank as the healthy ones.
Being aware of these issues and learning how to prevent them is key to keeping your pet dragons healthy over the years to come.
This is even more important if you consider that most of these dangerous pathogens cause transmissible diseases, some of which you can contract yourself. Salmonella is one such example.
To put it simply, environmental factors like excess humidity and temperature can promote bacterial and fungal growth, which can affect your reptiles severely over time.
Bearded dragons require specific living conditions to stay healthy and comfortable in their new home. If humidity levels increase too much, which usually happens due to the lack of adequate ventilation, health issues will begin to occur.
Bacterial formations are the first on the line, spreading through the substrate and accumulating on food leftovers and fecal matter. Even a clean and well-maintained ecosystem will develop a bacterial problem, depending on the environmental parameters.
So, you should always monitor and adjust your beardie’s living conditions adequately to prevent such issues.
If you’re not accustomed to bearded dragons or reptiles in general, it may sound weird that nutritional deficiencies can lead to eye infections.
However, this is true, and there are 2 triggers to blame here:
- Vitamin A deficiency – Vitamin A is critical for reptiles’ eye and skin health. If your beardie has an inadequate diet, it risks experiencing eye problems like swollen eyelids, ulcers, and even blindness. The area can also become severely infected due to its sensitivity to pathogens.
- Lower immune system – Your beardie’s immune system depends on its diet’s quality more than you know. A reptile experiencing nutritional deficiencies will also struggle with a weaker immune system, which makes it more vulnerable to health issues and infections. Not to mention, eye infections are the least of your problems. Nutritional deficiencies are linked to calcium deficiency, which is a known trigger of Metabolic Bone Disease. This is a far more severe health problem than any eye infection.
Beardies require a stable and healthy diet with adequate supplementation to stay healthy and active. So, you better check with your vet to optimize your reptile pet’s diet properly.
Some bearded dragons are simply more prone to eye infections and various health issues in general due to faulty genetics. These reptiles require extra care because of it, and only a vet can shed light on this matter more conclusively.
The idea, to begin with, is to avoid acquiring a lizard with genetic problems and weaknesses from the get-go.
This means researching the market thoroughly and prioritizing finding a healthy specimen with no medical history. You should also research the lizard’s parents if possible, as this will add an extra layer of certainty.
This line of reasoning alone shows that you should prioritize private beardie breeders over standard reptile shops.
Now that we’ve determined some of the basic causes let’s look into the main symptoms to consider.
Remember, dealing with these health problems early on is the best approach to preventing more extensive health complications along the way.
So, let’s look into it:
- Swollen eyelids – This is typically the first sign of infection, although you can’t really tell the causes based on this symptom alone. Swollen eyelids can be indicative of a variety of health problems, including viral, bacterial, or nutritional in nature. It’s up to the vet to decide one way or the other based on a more extensive diagnosis.
- Red or purple eyes – Always look for signs of redness or any color change in the tissue around the eyes. The color change is usually accompanied by swelling as well, making the diagnosis process easier.
- Discharge or mucus around the eye – Infections often lead to the discharge of mucus, which can be of different colorations. Whether green, translucid, or white, any liquid discharge is a bad sign because there shouldn’t be any, to begin with.
- Cloudy or opaque eye – The eye may change its clarity and become cloudy or even opaque. This should be worrying enough for you to contact your vet with the unfortunate news. The sooner the treatment begins, the higher the chances of full recovery.
- Sunken eyes – Sunken eyes are also pretty clear indicators of a health problem, including an eye infection. However, you should always corroborate this symptom with others for a clearer picture. That’s because the sunken eye effect can have multiple causes, including benign ones. For instance, bearded dragons can experience sunken eyes when dehydrated or even when tired and getting ready to sleep. They may also suck their eyes in their sockets when eating to protect them.
- Rubbing or scratching the eye – This behavior typically occurs before any other symptom, and it signifies local discomfort that the reptile is trying to ameliorate. Keep an eye on your beardie’s behavior, and don’t overlook any repeated scratching or rubbing, no matter the area. Beardies also rub and scratch their bodies incessantly when experiencing skin parasites or even during shedding to help with the process.
- Reduced appetite or lethargy – Any health issue, especially an infection that can cause significant discomfort, comes with reduced appetite and lethargy. This is because the lizard is experiencing significant physical discomfort. At this point, you should act fast because something as mild as a local infection can lead to nutritional deficiencies due to the lizard not eating anymore.
As you can see, there are multiple symptoms to consider, and you should always corroborate several of them just to make sure.
More importantly, you should always act fast to prevent the situation from worsening.
Treatment of Eye Infection in Bearded Dragons
Once you’ve determined that your lizard has developed an eye infection, it’s time to act fast.
Here are the best approaches to consider:
- Professional diagnosis – You must first determine the cause of infection because there are a number of potential pathogens that could be at fault. Each of these comes with its own profile and medical resistances and weaknesses, which you can exploit to your advantage. Get your vet on the line and take your beardie to a comprehensive clinical assessment.
- Antibiotics – Antibiotics are necessary to counteract the infection and destroy the agent responsible for it. However, the type of antibiotic to use depends on the nature of the pathogen. Only a vet can prescribe adequate medication to ensure the best result. Not to mention, antibiotics are indiscriminate and will kill both the beneficial and the bad bacteria in your lizard’s body. This can lead to digestive problems because the antibiotic eradicates the digestive fauna. The vet may recommend probiotics, in this case, to replenish the supply of good bacteria and prevent this problem.
- Antivirals – These are necessary if your bearded dragon is dealing with a viral, instead of a bacterial, infection. Whatever applies to antibiotics applies here, as well. Consult your vet for adequate administration of antiviral medication to prevent overdoses or using the wrong type for the job.
- Nutritional supplements – These are necessary in case the lizard’s problems stem from nutritional deficiencies. Depending on the severity of the issue, you may need to administer vitamin A to reduce inflammation and promote healing, but only a professional vet can recommend the proper course of action. You should rely on a specialist to approximate your lizard’s nutritional problems and come up with the right approach.
- Eye drops or ointments – These are generally recommended to reduce inflammation and can be of an antibiotic or antiviral nature, depending on the nature of the condition.
- Surgery – This is a last-case scenario for more severe cases where nothing else would work. Surgery is typically a last resort only when the infection has begun affecting the tissue surrounding the eyes. In this case, surgical intervention may be necessary to excise the affected tissue and prevent the spread to the bone, at which point the lizard’s condition will aggravate significantly.
As you can see, I’ve mentioned the need for a vet’s expertise and assistance at pretty much every point. And I want to stress the same in the closing note as well.
Prevention of Eye Infection in Bearded Dragons
It’s naturally preferable to prevent your beardie from contracting an eye infection, to begin with. The reason should be fairly obvious.
But how exactly can you prevent an eye infection?
- Maintain good hygiene and sanitation – Remove fecal matter and food leftovers and spot-clean your beardie’s habitat regularly. By regularly, I mean daily if necessary. Don’t worry, the entire process shouldn’t take longer than a couple of minutes at a time. A worthy sacrifice if this can eliminate your beardie’s risk of eye infection. Not to mention, maintaining the lizard’s enclosure in good condition is necessary for the reptile’s overall health as well.
- Provide a balanced diet – Bearded dragons are omnivorous and require a diverse and balanced diet to thrive. Four aspects should interest you in this sense: meal frequency, meal size, meal diversity, and food supplements. These vary depending on your lizard’s age, size, and preferences, but you should also consult an expert reptile nutritionist as well. You want to optimize your beardie’s diet from a nutritional standpoint to prevent deficiencies over the years, which can only happen with an expert’s help.
- Stabilize environmental parameters – Keep the temperature and humidity stable and prevent unsafe fluctuations. If temperature or humidity gets too high or too low, your beardie will experience health problems, eye infections being the mildest ones. Have measuring equipment in place, like a thermometer and a hygrometer, to detect unsafe parameters in time and adjust them accordingly.
- Quarantine newcomers immediately – Never bring in any new bearded dragons without placing them in quarantine for one or two weeks. This is to detect any potential infections or parasites that could transmit to your healthy specimens.
- Take necessary precautions – Clean and sanitize your hands before and after handling your pet beardie. Many people overlook this aspect constantly, not realizing the dangers associated with it.
- Regular vet checkups – Finally, you should always take your beardie to regular vet checkups, even if the lizard appears as healthy as ever. One or two in-depth investigations per year should be enough to gauge your beardie’s health status and prevent any potential issues along the way.
Bearded dragons can live for 15 years in captivity, but they require personalized care, a nutritious diet, and regular health inspections for that.
Keep them in a clean and well-maintained ecosystem, prevent stress-related triggers, and take your lizard to the vet in case of worrying symptoms.