What is bearded dragon tail rot?
Should you be concerned about new dark spots on your bearded dragon’s tail?
Any caring bearded dragon owner like you knows how critical it is to watch for new and odd things on your pet.
It may mean the difference between life and death for them.
One thing to watch for is tail rot on bearded dragons.
In this post, we’ll talk about what to look for, how to treat it, and how to prevent it.
Table of Contents
What Is Bearded Dragon Tail Rot?
Tail rot is a severe condition for a bearded dragon. If not addressed with medical care, it could result in the death of your pet.
Tail rot is the development of necrotic tissue in a bearded dragon’s tail.
It will usually start around the tip, where it spreads upward to the rest of the tail. Necrotic tissue is tissue without a healthy blood supply.
Without blood, the tissue cells will die off and rot.
Tail rot is usually the result of a primary infection.
If this infection is not addressed with veterinary care, a bearded dragon’s tail may fall off, partially or completely.
After this point, the infection may kill the bearded dragon, spreading to its other vital organs and tissues.
This is why it is essential to seek medical treatment before tail rot has the chance to spread.
What Are The Causes?
Though tail rot is usually a result of trauma, there may be several husbandry or dietary reasons why a bearded dragon develops a primary infection.
Fighting Or Injury
Bearded dragons are solitary animals.
They are very territorial, especially if they are allowed to cohabitate.
In worst-case scenarios, two dragons in the same enclosure have fought to the death.
Any fight injury to the tail could lead to infection. If you have multiple bearded dragons, keep them in separate enclosures.
An injury to the tail could also happen by accident.
Make sure there is nothing in your pet’s enclosure which could fall on their long tails and potentially pinch or break them.
Secure all climbing logs or hammocks properly, and supervise any time your pet spends outside of its enclosure.
Some insects fed as live prey will also bite the lizard.
Crickets are notorious for biting back.
A bug bite to the tail could also lead to an infection.
Any nutritional deficiencies in your bearded dragon’s diet will mean less immune resistance in their bodies.
This means a higher likelihood of infections of any kind.
Most commonly, bearded dragons receive inadequate or inappropriate amounts of calcium.
A calcium deficiency not only means weak bones.
It could also lead to other grave health concerns like metabolic bone disease.
Not Enough UVB Light
Bearded dragons need exposure to vitamin D3 through UVB lighting.
Vitamin D3 aids in calcium absorption and is an essential nutrient for your pet.
Since a captive bearded dragon does not come in contact with sunlight as often as a wild one, you, as the owner, need to supplement with a UVB bulb replaced every six months.
A deficiency in D3 means a deficiency in calcium, which will mean less immune resistance.
Incomplete Skin Sheds
Shed skin may get stuck on your bearded dragon.
If not removed, the skin may wrap around the tail and constrict blood flow.
This may lead to necrotic tissue if not corrected as soon as possible.
An unclean environment will lead to more pathogen growth in the form of bacteria or fungi.
More pathogens mean more potential infection for your beardie.
Tail Rot Symptoms
When a bearded dragon has tail rot, the tail will look flaky and dry.
It will also be more brittle and less flexible.
It will usually be dark in color as the necrosis spreads towards the body from the tip of the tail.
Dead tissue will usually look dark brown or black.
It is essential to note your bearded dragon may have a dark-colored tail as part of its color variation.
If this tail does not look as if it is drying out or decaying, there is no need for concern.
If your bearded dragon’s tail is usually a light color and has turned dark in places, contact your veterinarian.
In the advanced stages of tail rot, a bearded dragon’s tail may fall off partially or completely.
This is a sign to get your pet to the vet right away.
Unlike other lizards, bearded dragons cannot drop their tails or regrow them.
If you have already seen tail rot symptoms, a dropped tail means the infection is most likely spreading to the rest of the beardie’s body.
Other symptoms include:
- Irritability and aggression
- More puffing out and darkening of their beard, which are signs of stress
- Loss of appetite
- More frequent hiding behavior
- Discomfort when their tail touches another object
Is It Tail Rot Or Tail Shedding?
The differences between normal skin sheds on their pet’s tail and tail rot may be challenging to discern for newer bearded dragon owners.
Incomplete sheds tend to flake and look as if part of a bearded dragon tail is falling off.
Aside from the lack of other symptoms, if a bearded dragon is shedding, it will still be able to move its tail freely and with flexibility.
A bearded dragon tail with tail rot will be much stiffer, maybe even with a permanent bend or kink.
Incompletely shed skin, however, may wrap around your beardie’s tail and cause tail rot.
A bath in lukewarm water will help loosen this skin and prevent this issue.
Once you have contacted your vet and set up an appointment, your vet will perform a physical exam and possibly other diagnostic tests.
They will not only discern whether this is tail rot or another issue.
Diagnostic tests will also determine whether primary or secondary infections have set into your pet’s internal organs.
If the tail rot is caught in time, your vet may recommend treatment with antibiotics and topical medications.
You will need to be careful with antibiotics, as they can interfere with kidney function in bearded dragons.
There is no guarantee these treatments will work, mostly if the infection has spread to other parts of your pet’s body.
Your vet may need to perform a partial or full tail amputation.
This is an especially good solution if there is only a bit of rot at the tip of the tail, resulting in a minimal amount of tail loss.
Any surgery your pet needs will be concerning, especially if it is an amputation.
However, this may be the only solution for your pet’s case.
After an amputation, make sure to switch out your bearded dragon’s substrate for a paper towel.
This will help prevent any inappropriate materials from getting stuck in the amputation site.
It will also help you monitor for any infectious discharge through the recovery process.
It is crucial to address bearded dragon tail rot as soon as possible since it spreads quickly and may ultimately result in the loss of your pet.
Is There A Home Remedy?
You may have seen a video online of a home remedy for tail rot.
This involves soaking your bearded dragon’s tail in water and betadine solution for five minutes at a time, then putting non-lidocaine Neosporin on the injury site.
If your vet has recommended this practice, we urge you to get the Neosporin without pain relief.
While you may be astounded by these results, the truth is this solution only works on a case by case basis.
Your vet may indeed recommend it if the rot has not spread very far.
However, if it does not work completely within a week or two, a more serious solution will be needed.
We also understand the vet may be costly for you.
As mentioned, tail rot is a severe condition and could result in death if unaddressed.
It will be better for you and your pet if you get to the vet first.
How Do Prevent Tail Rot In Bearded Dragons?
As with most health issues, much of the treatment for tail rot is preventative.
Make sure any bearded dragon you buy is from a reputable pet shop or breeder.
This will ensure your pet has fewer health issues, which may affect their immune systems and make them susceptible to infections.
Do not cohabitate bearded dragons with each other.
This will prevent fight-based injuries.
It is even a mistake to house baby bearded dragons together.
Make sure your bearded dragon’s environment is appropriately sized and well-set-up.
Your pet should be in a tank which is a minimum of 40 gallons.
Minimize anything which could cause injury, including sharp edges and loose fixtures which may fall.
Make sure your pet has a low-stress environment with plenty of mental stimulation.
Supervise any time spent outside of the enclosure.
Clean and air out your bearded dragon’s enclosure regularly and thoroughly to prevent pathogen growth.
Support your bearded dragon’s immune system through their diet and lighting.
They will need calcium through a powdered supplement and vitamin D3 through UVB exposure.
Provide them with a fresh source of drinking water every day.
Lastly, pay close attention to your pet’s tail, the rest of their body, and their normal behavior.
If you are paying attention to your pet, you should notice the symptoms of tail rot or any other health concern before they become significant issues.
We hope we have helped you learn more about bearded dragons and tail rot.
Your bearded dragon may get tail rot for many reasons.
If you are taking good care of your pet and paying attention to them, you should be able to catch tail rot before it becomes a big issue.
Contact your vet if you notice any symptoms.
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