Bearded Dragon Tail Rot: Causes, Symptoms and Care

Tail rot is a serious condition that is caused by trauma to the tail such as getting crushed, pinched, cut or even getting bitten by another lizard. A low blood supply to your dragon’s tail or an internal infection that spreads due to trauma can cause tail rot too.

Other reasons include your dragon experiencing calcium deficiency due to malnourishment which makes their bones weak or sometimes not getting enough exposure to UVB rays to properly digest any kind of calcium they’re getting.

This condition makes their tail turn dark in color (blue, purple, black). Usually starting at the tip of the tail, it rots away the necrotic tissue and the tail even resembles a branch as it gets very dry. They can end up losing their tail and unlike other lizards, they’re incapable of growing it back. Therefore this should be treated seriously in the early stages to avoid bigger health issues.

How to identify tail rot among bearded dragons?

It is often tricky to know that your bearded dragon is suffering from tail rot as their tail is normally darker in color. Sometimes the color change may also be a sign of dehydration but a blackening of the tail is a very obvious sign of tail rot.

A decayed, dry tail with a coarse texture or brittle appearance, or a tail that is not shedding properly can lead you to the possibility of tail rot.

Symptoms of tail rot in bearded dragons

When it comes to tail rot, there might be some physical signs as well as behavioral symptoms that may cause tail rot among bearded dragons. Have a look at these signs:

Physical signs

Discoloration of a tail:

An infection in your dragon’s tail due to any sort of injury can lead to discoloration in your bearded dragon’s tail. The necrotic/dead tissues in bearded dragons sometimes obstruct the supply of blood in one or more areas of the body and start damaging the tissues resulting in changes in the color of the tail.

Dehydration:

Dehydration causes their tail to feel extremely dry and makes some of the scales on the tail to flake off.

Decay and separation:

In the worst case scenario, the necrotic tissues damage the tail so badly that the tail completely separates and falls off. It is an extremely painful experience for your bearded dragon that may lead to behavioral changes as well.

Behavioral symptoms

When your bearded dragon is suffering from any disease, you might start noticing a change in his behavior as well. Some behavioral changes that might be caused by tail rot include:

Loss of appetite:

It is a common factor when your bearded dragon is not feeling well, he may refuse to have any meals or eat very little during meal times.

Aggression:

Bearded dragons are docile creatures that love to hang out with their owners and the people around their surroundings. An onset of aggression and irritability can easily be a sign of a disease your dragon might be suffering from.

Discomfort:

If you notice that your bearded dragon is showing signs of discomfort when its tail moves or touches something that could also be a sign of tail rot.

Hiding/reclusive behaviors:

Bearded dragons love to hang out and move freely in their cages. They love to socialize. If you notice that your bearded dragon is not moving as much as he did before and is spending a lot of time hiding in one corner of the cage then it might be a sign of tail rot.

Read more on Sick bearded dragon signs.

Causes of tail rot in bearded dragons

Tail rot may occur due to several reasons:

Fights and trauma:

Bearded dragons are solitary animals that like living alone and don’t want to share their enclosure with other bearded dragons. If they are housed with other dragons then they might be very aggressive.

Fights will be common in bearded dragons that are housed together in one enclosure which is why during a fight, their tail might be bitten or scratched. An injured tail may later on develop tail rot.

Incomplete shedding:

Sometimes your bearded dragon may not shed completely and a part of the skin may get stuck at the tail which might stop their blood circulation. When the tail receives no blood, it starts to die and spreads the infection to other parts of the body.

Make sure that your dragon is well hydrated by keeping the proper humidity level (30%-40%) and also try to give them a nice warm bath to aid in shedding.

Read more on Bearded dragon shedding.

Incorrect lighting:

Bearded dragons in the wild get all the natural sunlight they could ever want. Domesticated bearded dragons also need sunlight for the digestion and absorption of calcium. Proper full-spectrum lighting (UVA/UVB light) is essential for your bearded dragon to get enough amount of vitamin D3 to absorb calcium. Therefore to supplement them, install a high quality UVB light in the enclosure.

Read more on Bearded dragon lighting.

Inadequate diet:

Proper diet and nutrition play a big part in bearded dragon’s overall health as it might help in fighting diseases and infections all over the body. Make sure that your dragon is enriched with high-quality food and proper supplements such as calcium and vitamin D3.

Poor nutrition can lead to a lowered immune system therefore your bearded dragon might catch infections easily such as tail rot.

Learn more about Bearded dragon diet.

Poor maintenance:

Proper care and maintenance of the enclosure of your bearded dragon should be your top priority. Many factors should be kept in mind while taking care of the enclosure as an unhygienic enclosure might lead to skin infections easily.

Don’t forget to maintain the correct temperature, humidity, and lighting for your dragon’s habitat. Keeping the dragon in the good health is the best remedy against tail rot and other diseases.

Treatment of tail rots in bearded dragons

Some home remedies might be the best way to deal with tail rot but it’s always better to take your bearded dragon to the vet especially in cases of serious infections.

Home remedy for tail rot:

It is extremely important to know that once you notice the signs of tail rot among your bearded dragon, you might use some home remedies to treat it but you should also try to contact your vet as soon as possible. If the tail rot is serious in your bearded dragon, then your vet may start him on antibiotics and other medications.

Make 1 part Betadine to 5 parts of water mixture. Try to soak the tail gently in this mixture for 5 minutes. After soaking, wipe off the area with a clean paper towel. Once the tail has completely dried, apply a small amount of Neosporin (the kind without pain relief – pain relievers are known to be toxic to lizards) to the affected area. 

This remedy can be performed 2 to 3 times a day for almost 2 weeks. If you see no change in your dragon’s condition then it is better to consult your vet immediately.

Veterinarian treatments for tail rot:

Tail rot is extremely serious and if you notice that it is getting worse day by day then you have to take your bearded dragon to the vet immediately for proper treatment. Your vet may help you in two ways; either by giving antibiotics or by amputating the tail.

Antibiotics:

It is important to note that in case of a serious tail rot infection, your vet should first conduct a test that might pinpoint the cause of infection before giving antibiotics. Bearded dragons have a delicate nature and the use of antibiotics may damage the bearded dragon’s kidneys.

Try to keep your bearded dragon very well hydrated while on antibiotics to help the kidneys with proper filtration.

Amputation:

Depending on the severity of the tail rot, the vet may recommend amputation to make sure that the decaying tissue does not progress to the rest of the body. Although it might sound extreme it is the only possible way out to save your dragon.

The vet will perform an x-ray of the tail to determine the amount of tail that needs to be removed. He will then amputate a half-inch of the tail that has been affected. This might stop the spread of the infection in the full tail.

In either case it is advisable to give your bearded dragon an immunity booster as well which will help in keeping its immune system strong during it’s recovery.

Wrapping up

Tail rot is a serious ailment for bearded dragons caused by trauma and constriction of blood supply to the tail. It can lead to death if not properly treated on time. Some home remedies are available to treat this but if the condition does not change it is better for you to consult a veterinary doctor and start using antibiotics before the condition gets worse.

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