Bearded Dragon eye irritation due to sand
Please don’t use sand in your bearded dragon’s main enclosure. They may live in sandy habitats in their native Australia environments, but keeping them in sandy cages in captivity is different. A bearded dragon we saw recently illustrates the importance of this beautifully.
This bearded dragon was having trouble seeing because her third eyelid, or nictitating membrane, was inflamed and covering her cornea. It was inflamed because she had gotten a large amount of sand into her eyes. At Olathe Animal Hospital, we see many exotics, including bearded dragons, and this is a fairly common problem, unfortunately. She was treated with copious amounts of saline flushed into her eyes to remove the sand and sent home with eye drops to help reduce inflammation and infection.
A recheck exam is absolutely essential for eye problems. If your pets eyes are not getting better, or are getting worse, they must be reexamined before permanent damage is done. This bearded dragon came back for her recheck one week later and was looking much better! Some inflammation was still present, and a repeat saline flush removed an additional couple grains of sand.
The sand was removed from the beardie’s enclosure and replaced with spongy shelf liner topped with clean paper towels. This is easy to clean, non-irritating, and no risk of ingestion. Alternative bedding/substrates includes: reptile carpet (indoor-outdoor style carpet), newspaper, or butcher paper.
Beardies do love sand, especially digging in the sand, so offer a separate enclosure with sand for supervised playtime. Do not feed your bearded dragon in a sandy enclosure because the risk of ingesting the sand is too serious. Sand impactions can and do kill reptiles.