Bearded Dragon Eye Bulging

(aka Eye Popping, Eye Stretching, and the ever descriptive Freaky Eye Thing)
Written by Alex Sleeis on February 20, 2006
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Many people have come here freaked out because of a behavior that their bearded dragon displayed. Okay, there are many that freak their new owners out, but this one in particular even freaked me out when I first saw it. This is the behavior commonly referred to as "Eye Bulging." People are often concerned that this is some sort of eye problem or an eye infection.

I have yet to see any definitive answer as to exactly what this is, so I will tell you the dominant explanations, and offer my opinion. Keep in mind that my opinions are not that of an expert, just someone who, at the time of this writing, has cared for his own three dragons for the last seven years.

One belief is that bearded dragons bulge their eyes as a form of yawning. While I can't prove or disprove this to be true specifically, I am less inclined to buy into it. For one, we don't even know for sure (last time I checked) why WE yawn. In my case, I tend to yawn more when I'm hungry and also when I'm tired. But others yawn during other times and for other reasons. Many believe that we yawn due to insufficient levels of oxygen in our blood. I am inclined to believe this for many cases, but it doesn't address how yawning seems to be somewhat reliably contagious.

The prevailing belief is that bearded dragons bulge their eyes in order to stretch the skin around their eyes during a time of shedding. This is the explanation that makes the most sense to me. Although I have seen my dragons do this when they had already recently shed, I did notice them doing it more often when they were ready to shed. I have seen this much more frequently when my dragons were younger, although they still do it on a rare occasion as adults. This may also support the shedding association, since beardies shed much more often during their first year of life.

First two photos provided by Cougarman75

Image Image

The following photo, provided by Xta, is of FlapJack with what she calls "Explody eye", which I think does an excellent job at showing just how this can look pretty scary.


So, if you see your bearded dragon doing this, don't freak out! It's common and normal, and as far as we know, not harmful to your beardie... just to your nerves!