Crested Gecko Tail Drop: Handling Tail Loss

Crested geckos have a wide variety of behaviors, such as changing their colors when they “fire up,” licking their eyeballs, and even dropping their tail.

Many crested gecko owners may be shocked to see their reptile drop its tail and wonder if it causes the animal harm, but it does not.

As a whole, tail dropping is not harmful to a crested gecko because it is a cosmetic issue rather than an injury. A crested gecko will recover from it and learn how to walk and jump normally again. While the whole ordeal may be stressful, a tail loss does not cause any lasting damage, and there is no need to panic.

Keep reading for more information on how to handle tail loss in your crested gecko. 

We will discuss what causes a crested gecko to drop its tail, what you should do when it happens, whether or not the tail will grow back, and how to prevent tail loss. 

We will also provide information on the value of a tailless crested gecko, as well as what to do in a situation where you might have to force your crestie to drop its tail.

crested gecko tail drop

Why Did My Crested Gecko Drop Its Tail?

A crested gecko will drop its tail if it is very stressed or feels threatened. 

Tail dropping is known as autotomy, and it is used as a defense mechanism to distract predators. 

While the predator is focused on the tail flopping around on the ground, the crestie can make a clean escape.

A crestie may see a human as a threat in captivity and will drop its tail to get away. 

Loud noises may frighten a skittish crestie into dropping its tail. 

Sometimes, there seems to be no reason at all for the tail drop.

Items in your reptile’s enclosure may cause your lizard’s tail to get stuck, or an object might fall on the tail, leading to tail loss. 

Be sure to regularly inspect your crestie’s enclosure for any items which may be potentially dangerous for your pet.

Illness or infection may also lead to a tail loss in a crested gecko. 

If you are unsure if your pet’s tail drop was caused by stress, illness, or physical injury, you should seek veterinary care for proper diagnosis and treatment right away.

And take a moment to learn about the common signs of stress in crested geckos so you can spot stress early.

Fracture planes at the base of the tail allow the lizard to contract its muscles to make the tail drop off without causing any harm to the reptile’s body. 

Tail dropping is not a random act where the tail just falls off for any reason. 

Instead, tail dropping is deliberately done by a gecko when it decides it is necessary.

The chance for tail loss varies and depends on the temperament of the crested gecko. 

A skittish crestie is more likely to drop its tail than a calm animal. 

Some signs a crestie is about to drop its tail include frightened, jerky tail movements, and slithering around in an “S” shape.

What Should I Do If My Crested Gecko Drops Its Tail?

The first thing to remember is there is no need to panic if your crested gecko drops its tail.

You do not have to put any antiseptic on the new tail stub because it will heal independently.

If you use a loose particle substrate in your crestie’s enclosure, it is best if you temporarily house your pet in a separate tank with paper towels as a substrate. 

Loose particle substrate may stick to the wound and cause irritation as well as infection.

The “hospital” tank will provide your lizard with an easy to clean, sterile environment. 

This ensures the wound heals without becoming infected.

If the tail stub becomes red or puffy, apply honey or a triple antibiotic ointment to the wound to promote healing. 

If the wound is not healing or it starts to ooze liquid, you should seek veterinary care as soon as possible for proper treatment. 

If an infection is not treated promptly, sepsis will set in and become deadly for your reptile.

Since tail dropping is a stressful event for a crested gecko, you should avoid handling your pet for at least a week or two. 

This will give your crestie time to calm down, so it can resume normal activities. 

Will My Crested Gecko’s Tail Grow Back?

Unlike other gecko species such as leopard and gargoyle geckos, crested geckos do not regrow or regenerate their lost tail. 

A crestie without a tail is known in the reptile community as a “frogbutt.”

Leopard and gargoyle geckos have multiple fracture planes along their tail bones, making it possible for these species to lose pieces of their tail and then regenerate these missing pieces. 

The new tails will look much different than the original ones, and they are usually shorter and wider than before.

If you’re interested in learning more about how crested gecko and gargoyle geckos compare check out our other article.

On the other hand, crested geckos only have one fracture plane at the base of their tail. 

This means they can lose their tail without causing serious harm to themselves, but it will never grow back. 

Once the wound heals, the crestie will be left with only a short and pointy stump.

A crestie without a tail will still live a healthy, normal life and may even breed. 

However, many reptile keepers prefer a gecko with a full tail rather than one with just a stump.

How Do You Prevent Tail Loss In Crested Geckos?

Many adult crested geckos found in the wild have dropped their tail, but this is easily preventable in captivity.

A good place to start is your crestie’s enclosure, as maintaining a healthy environment is very important not only in preventing tail loss but in maintaining your lizard’s overall health.

As mentioned earlier, you should regularly inspect your crestie’s enclosure for any harmful objects which might trap or fall on its tail.

Providing your pet with the ideal temperature, light, and humidity will also help prevent tail loss by keeping the crestie happy and healthy. 

Crested geckos need between 10-12 hours of light daily to maintain a day and night cycle.

You can learn more about using night lights for crested geckos and maintaining a day and night cycle in our other post.

The ideal ambient temperature of the enclosure should be between 72-78° degrees Fahrenheit (26° C) during the day and 69-74° degrees Fahrenheit (23° C) at night. 

Humidity levels should range between 50%-60%, with frequent misting throughout the day to temporarily raise the humidity to 80%90%. 

Invest in a good thermometer to monitor the temperatures and a hygrometer to monitor the humidity levels in your reptile’s enclosure.

If you have more than one crested gecko, it is best to keep them in separate enclosures. This minimizes the chance of tail injury and loss from aggressive behavior.

You should also keep handling your crestie to a minimum, as it does not particularly enjoy it and it may cause it to become stressed. 

Less handling also reduces the chance of accidentally pulling your lizard’s tail off.

Even if you follow all of the steps outlined above, your crested gecko may still decide to drop its tail for seemingly no apparent reason. 

If you are unsure why your crestie dropped its tail, or if you think your reptile may be sick, it is best to seek veterinary care right away for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Is a Crested Gecko Without a Tail Less Valuable?

A crested gecko without a tail is known as a “frogbutt,” and the animal will continue to live a normal and happy life. 

The animal might have trouble walking or jumping normally for a few days, but it will eventually learn how to balance without a tail. 

Your crestie will be back to normal activities before you know it.

The tail loss also does not affect a crestie’s ability to breed, so a breeder will still buy a frogbutt, especially if it has an interesting color morph or pattern.

The only time not having a tail might be an issue for your crestie is if you are selling it as a pet. 

While rare morphs might still fetch a high price, many reptile owners prefer a completely intact gecko.

While not having a tail does not affect the lizard’s health, you may have difficulty finding the crestie a new home.

How Do You Deal With Tail Injuries In Crested Geckos?

If you are housing crested geckos together, there is a chance for them to get tail nips, especially among more aggressive juveniles.

Most of these tail nips, caused by bites from other geckos or accidentally getting caught in a closing tank lid, will heal independently. 

There is a chance of some tail tips becoming necrotic where the tissue dies. 

These tail tips will eventually fall off, and the tail will permanently be shorter than before. 

Other times, the tail will heal, but there will be a noticeable kink where it was injured.

These injuries may even be confused for tail rot, and owners will apply treatments, which are often unnecessary. 

The best thing to do is keep the tail tip moist and free of any stuck shed until it heals.

Injured tails may have issues with shedding skin sticking to the wound or the scar tissue, and you may have to assist your crestie in removing these pieces of skin. 

If the skin is not removed, it may constrict blood flow to the tail, leading to serious problems like tail rot.

What Is Floppy Tail Syndrome?

Floppy Tail Syndrome, or FTS, occurs when a gecko sleeps upside down and its tail hangs over the back or to the side. 

This is very common because many geckos prefer to sleep on the side of their enclosures with their head pointed downward.

While there is some debate about whether or not FTS is strictly a cosmetic concern or a health issue, many reptile owners believe genetic or dietary factors cause it. 

In very severe cases, the hips and pelvis will become twisted. 

This is especially a problem for egg-laying females, as it may cause egg binding. 

Since female crested geckos will often lay eggs without mating, this is also an issue for females who are not being bred.

Floppy Tail Syndrome may be prevented by giving your crestie plenty of hiding places to discourage it from sleeping on the side of the enclosure.

If you notice any symptoms of FTS, you should seek the care of an exotic veterinarian right away to rule out any serious issues with your crestie. 

If the syndrome is very severe, you may need to have your crested gecko’s tail amputated to prevent further complications.

Should I Force My Crested Gecko To Drop Its Tail?

There are a few cases where a tail drop is necessary for the benefit of the crested gecko.

In addition to Floppy Tail Syndrome, a necrotizing tail is another concern which may be improved with a tail drop. 

Bites or other injuries to the tail may cause it to become necrotic or die off. 

This necrosis may then spread to the rest of the body if something is not done in time.

A lot of crested gecko owners believe tail removal is the best solution when it comes to severe cases of FTS with hip deformities as well as tail necrosis.

It is not advisable to induce a tail drop on your crestie without a veterinarian’s care. 

You may end up doing more harm than good if your gecko is surprised and is not ready to drop its tail.

There is quite a difference between cutting the tail, an amputation, and a tail drop, a survival tactic. 

In cases of tail necrosis, amputation should only be done after other healing methods have been attempted. 

Amputation and forced tail dropping are painful procedures for your crestie, and only a veterinarian should perform either of these procedures. 

A reptile vet will be able to use anesthesia and pain medication to make your crested gecko more comfortable.

Tail removal is considered a last resort option for very severe cases, and it is not meant to be used as a preventative measure.

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