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Reptiles/Chinese Water Dragon eyes closed


QUESTION: I have a 1.5 year old chinese water dragon. She has been keeping both eyes closed for a while and it has been getting progressively worse over the past few days. Now it is to the point where it seems discomforting for her to open them, and she is now getting lethargic (though she seems to have more pep in the morning). She scratches her head occasionally which makes me think something might be in them. I've also read that UVB light that is too intense may also cause eye problems. Admittedly, I may have too strong of a UVB light, but she has been exposed to this same lighting arrangement for about 5 months and hasn't shown signs of this before.  

The tank is 48" x 12" x 24" (55 gallon), with 2 fluorescent strips that give 10% UVB (the recommendation was 5%).

Heating is fine, humidity is slightly low but there is ample water to swim in. The substrate is essentially a moss mat.

Any advice about what could be causing this and how to treat it will be greatly appreciated!

ANSWER: Hello Lyle,

That is very interesting.  Which UVB light are you using?
How close can she get to it?
I don't think it would be the light after this long, but sometimes when they degrade the emissions being put out reverse meaning the glass allows the UVB to come through more.  
Is she eating anything right now?
Do you have any pictures?
Are the eyes swollen or maybe have retained shed on them?  
What type of basking light do you use, a bright white light?
I would check the tank for mites, just in case there may be some in the moss somehow.  
Are you using a digital probe or temp gun to check the temperatures?  
You can get some sterile saline solution to put into her eyes, daily to see if that helps also.  

Is her head getting ready to shed possibly?  That can cause eye irritations, too.
Let me know how she is doing.


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Basking area
Basking area  
Close up
Close up  
QUESTION: Here are some images, one is a close up of her eye wide open. It doesn't look like there are mites or anything like that. The other is her in the basking area, and a better representation of what her eye has looked like for the past few days, if not fully closed. She can get very close to the UVB light and the heat lamp. Where she is in that picture is about 90-95 deg F. The UVB bulbs I am using are 24inches and made by reptisun. The UVB output for these is recommended for bearded dragons, the lesser output for water dragons, so what I have is higher than recommended. I've only read that higher than normal UVB exposure can cause eye damage from a quick google search, so i'm not sure if anything I read was from a credible source.

Her eating has slowed alongside her eye condition. I hope this is more to do with her not being able to see the food rather that a loss of appetite. She hasn't shed in a few months. In one of the images you can see on the top of her head it looks like skin that never came off from last shed. It has been there since and doesn't show any signs of peeling, or coming off soon.

I've been using visine eye drops a few times since yesterday, and cleaned her cage really well. I also removed one of the light strips, and turned the other one away from areas she can get up really close. She seems more active now, and has spent a little more time with her eyes open (shown in the close up image). I hope its a sign that its getting better, but even then i'm still not sure what was the root cause or if anything I am doing is even having an effect.

Any advice on where to go from here, or what may have caused this is appreciated!

ANSWER: Hello Lyle,

The two 10 tube bulbs may be too strong at 3 inches.  Can you lower the brand to where she doesn't get quite as close?  Well, removing one of the tubes will work also!  Let me know how that does for her.  If it seems to have helped, then it was likely a little strong.  The water dragons are tropical & don't need quite as strong of a UVB output like desert reptiles.
Maybe some retained shed could be causing some problems, too.  I wonder how long the shed has been retained?

To help with her immune system, you can give her some bee pollen to help as well, since she may have been going through some stress recently.  It should also help with her appetite, too.  Is she maintaining her weight?
I would continue to use the saline solution in the eyes also.  Do the eyes seem infected or no?
She is beautiful & her colors don't look too bad right now, either.  

Are you using a digital probe to measure the temperatures?  
If her eyes seem to be infected, you can look into getting some antibiotic eye ointment for her for temporary use.

Let me know how she is doing.


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------


Thanks again for the advice. She is most likely very stressed... There was a week over-lap between when my apartment lease ended and when I moved into a new place, so the water dragon was in a much smaller cage  for that week and didn't eat very well. I've been in the new place for about 2 weeks now. She seemed back to her normal self the day I moved in, but maybe the stress from that week took its toll and is just now starting to affect her. It seems like she is maintaining her weight, but I don't have a scale and she has not been eating well the past few days. She is still lethargic, and I notice today that there is a lot of mucus in her mouth. No discoloration or anything else abnormal whatsoever, just the mucus. I read this could be anything from a respiratory infection to dehydration. Hopefully its dehydration because I simply cannot afford a vet bill!

I don't have a digital probe, just a petsmart thermometer/hydrometer, and I'm not really sure if I would recognize an eye infection if she has one. Her right eye is worse than her left, is closed more often and seems to be a little 'crusty' sometimes (the left eye is just closed a lot more than usual, nothing else seems strange about it). In general, she has always had her right eye closed more often than the left, but never like this. When I bath her she opens it just fine to see what shes doing, but keeps it closed otherwise.

Where can I get this bee pollen? And is there a special eye ointment for reptiles? Or can I get something like that at Kmart?

Hello Lyle,

You can get the bee pollen from most health food stores, or a pharmacy, etc.  It comes in granules, or powder mostly.  It is human grade & all she needs is a small pinch, daily.
I would look into getting a digital probe or temp gun to double check the temperatures.  It is summertime so the temps could be off somewhat.
It is possible she may have the beginnings of a respiratory infection just due to stress, etc.  The bee pollen may help with that, too.
One eye could have gotten more exposure to the light, which is why it was affected more.  

There is an ointment called Terramycin, which is eye ointment used for reptiles & avian species.  You might be able to find it at the local feed supply type of store, or maybe a pet store.  If you can't find it, I sell it on my online store.  
You can try using a warm, moistened chamomile tea bag on her eyes at night, while she is going to sleep which can help soothe the eyes.  

Let me know how she is doing.



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Tracie Kretzschmar


I can answer questions pertaining to health, UVB specifics, overall husbandry care & supplementation, analysis of blood test results, and behavioral problems & handling. I can answer questions pertaining to bearded dragons, leopard geckos, iguanas, uromastyx & ball pythons. I can answer adeno virus related questions in bearded dragons, & then specifically about the testing methods as well. I am beginning an Pogona Adeno Testing Society in 2008 which will help to begin to start some standardization within the bearded dragon colonies of the breeders who choose to test.


I have been working with bearded dragons for over 5 years now, as well as leopard geckos, too. I am currently doing rescues, as well. I hope to be able to educate people prior to them purchasing an exotic pet in order to avoid any health crisis with them.

I have a master's degree in sports medicine & physiology, & 1 year of vet tech schooling, & am currently working on a reptile certification through the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council.

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