If you have ever spent time watching your pet snake, you may have noticed that its eyes appear unmoving. You may have also wondered why these animals never seem to close their eyes; surely they get very dry and uncomfortable?
A question that we are often asked is do snakes blink?
No they don't because they don't have eyelids and the very act of blinking involve rapidly moving the eyelid up and down to hydrate the eye. Without an eyelid, an animal cannot blink.
But what confuses a lot of pet owners and animal lovers is what snakes have in place of an eyelid. Are they merely wandering around with extremely dry eyes or do they have another method of protection? Let's find out.
As humans, the concept of having no eyelids can seem a little weird; heck, it might even freak some people out. But one of the first things that we need to understand when caring for animals is that they are vastly different to us.
This is what makes exotic pet care so interesting; we get to meet animals whose way of life and physiology is so different from our own and we develop a newfound respect for nature.
Where snakes are concerned, you will notice a lot of physical differences compared to other creatures, a lack of eyelids being one. But rather than just having exposed peepers, snakes have an alternative solution.
These animals have one clear scale over their eyes. This protects the eye from dust, debris and injury without interfering with the animal's vision. Pretty cool, huh?
Not only this but having this scale in place serves as a way of keeping the eye moist, which is essential to its function; just think how scratchy it feels when your own eye dries out.
This clever snake adaptation is known as a brille or simply, spectacles.
Now that we know that snakes do not have eyelids, it would seem unreasonable to assume that these animals have the ability to close their eyes and sleep. But surely, it must be difficult trying to sleep with the eyes open?
While your pet snake may appear to have open eyes while he is getting forty winks, he won't be able to see you. It is right that a snake would have just as much trouble as you or I sleeping while being able to see everything that was going on around it.
For this reason, snakes are able to shut off the retina while they sleep. This stops light getting in and while they may appear alert and awake, your snake is likely catching up on some zzz's.
Many new snake owners become incredibly worried when they notice that their pet's eyes have gone a milky white color. This is typically displayed as the eyes looking cloudy and for many creatures, this could signify problems with the eyes.
However, in snakes, this is a very normal and healthy thing. Young snakes will shed their skin around four times a year, whereas adults might only shed once or twice. But however frequently this happens, the eye scale will be coming off too.
Snakes shed their skin for two main reasons; the skin doesn't grow and the snake has outgrown it and to remove any harmful parasites. Since the spectacles are part of the snake's skin, they will be shed.
As they lift away from the eye, it may appear as though the snake's eyes have changed color. This is because when shedding takes place, the snake will secrete a fluid under its old skin that is creamy in color. Once the skin is completely shed, your pet's eyes will return to normal.
The only time that you should be concerned about white or cloudy eyes is if they do not disappear after the snake has finished shedding or if they occur when the skin is not being shed. In this instance, it could point towards an eye health issue.
One of the most common problems is that the eye caps, or spectacles do not come off with the rest of the skin. To avoid this happening, you should always make sure that your snake's enclosure is humid enough as any dryness could cause the eye caps to be left behind after shedding.
Furthermore, you may wish to gently attempt to dislodge the spectacles but we would advise the utmost caution in doing this. If they do not show signs of movement with even the slightest touch, we would recommend taking your snake to a vet for treatment.
Since snake's eyes are totally different from our own, learning about them raises more questions. For example, upon finding out that snakes do not have eyelids, many people question whether they cry.
Snakes, much like many other types of reptiles do produce tears as a way of keeping the eyes moist. However, unlike humans, these tears have no way of coming out of the eyes. This is owing to the placement of the eye cap which prevents any tears from being emitted from the eye.
While you may then wonder where these tears go; don't worry, the snake has got this covered. Behind the eyes lie a pair of ducts which are used to drain the tears into the mouth.
Snakes are fascinating in so many ways but one of the things that really grabs your attention is the fact that these animals never seem to close their eyes. Not even to blink.
You could sit watching a snake for hours and he would stare back at you, unblinking; a lot of people find this cold. However, the snake isn't doing this to appear menacing or frightening; it simply cannot blink.
Snakes do not have eyelids so they cannot blink or close their eyes in the way that we would. However, they do have clear scales covering the eyes for protection and are able to close their retinas to sleep.