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10 Signs Your Blue Tongue Skink Is Dying

is my blue tongue skink dying?

Blue Tongue Skinks make for a great pet because they are low maintenance and friendly. But a blue tongue skink requires certain conditions to live in, and if they are not met, they may even die. 

Some of the common signs that may signify a dying blue tongue skink are: 

  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Impaction 
  • Stool issues
  • Metabolic Bone Disease
  • Breathing issues 
  • Dehydration 
  • Soft Tissue Wounds
  • Internal and External Parasites

If you doubt that something may be wrong with your pet, read on to know about the signs and what you can do in detail. 

What Are the Signs of a Blue Tongue Skink Dying?

Reptiles are generally found in the wild, so they hide pretty well not to be caught by a predator whenever there is any injury.

Moreover, they are good at hiding any discomfort or pain, so it’s natural to assume that your reptile is not showing any signs of weakness. 

They have adapted themselves to the wild, but when they are in captivity, then the same habits resurface again. But if you have had a blue tongue skink for a long time, then you know their routine.

So, it’s easy to spot any irregularities and signs that you may think are worrisome. 

So let’s see what the signs are in detail: 

1. Lethargy

Blue tongue skinks are generally very active and agile. They would move about their tank, eat regularly, and always be alert and responsive to a slight movement. All the skinks’ species are active in this form. 

Although they have short legs, they will appear tall because of their strong posture. 

However, if your skink is sick, they will prefer to hide from everyone. The safest place will be their resting space or underneath the bushes. They don’t want the humans (or other animals) to spot their weakness, so this is very natural. 

Instead of moving about in the tank, they would remain stationary for hours. There will be no movement in the tank. Moreover, if you spot them, they will look slouched instead of an alert posture. 

This is a significant first step to recognizing any issues in your pet. If they are slithering like snakes, they cannot get up, or their strength has waned, something is wrong. 

2. Loss of Appetite

Blue tongue skinks love to eat, and since they are omnivores, they leave nothing behind. They would eat plants, insects, animals, etc., to satisfy their hunger. So, if they stop eating or are eating less than they usually do, this should also be alarming. 

We understand that their appetite can become a bit less some days, but if it’s happening for a couple of days, you need to contact your vet.

To avoid unnecessary trips, we recommend booking an online vet. You can do so at Vetster, for example. Check them out here!

At this point, you also need to check if their shedding period, brumation, or breeding period is at its peak. The loss of appetite happens during that time, so keep a check on the other signs. 

Tip: If your blue tongue skink is not eating at all, read our article on how to get it to eat again here!

signs of a dying blue tongue skink
Healthy blue tongue skinks flick their tongue frequently.

3. Weight Loss

An average blue tongue skink weighs about 10-18 ounces. It’s always best to keep track of their weight weekly and if you see a drop, then inform the vet.

A slight weight drop is never an issue, but a significant weight drop causes a huge problem. Sometimes, lizards don’t eat for weeks, which can trigger weight loss. But if that’s not the case and still the weight loss is happening, contact your vet. 

Some more appearance signs may warn you about weight loss. For instance, the tail where they store the most fat starts thinning. There is a reduction of weight from the ribs as well. 

Although this happens regularly, sometimes the weight reduces suddenly, which is a matter of grave concern. 

4. Impaction 

Impaction is basically constipation and there are several causes for it. Some blue tongue skinks don’t poop for a day or two but if this is unusual for your pet then you need to get it checked. 

Impaction is serious among reptiles and if it remains untreated then it can become lethal all too sudden. This condition takes place because your pet has ingested some substrate particles that are blocking the digestive tract.

It may also take place when a reptile has eaten large-sized insects or due to too low temperatures.

In normal quantities, substrates are not harmful to the body but substrates like sand in large quantities can form lumps in the tract. It can lead to a swollen abdomen, blood in feces, and a lack of droppings. 

5. Stool Issues 

If there is any issue in the body regarding parasites or infection, then the first impact is on the stool. A healthy stool looks brown and has no odor at all. 

On the other hand, an unhealthy poop may look yellow, green, too mushy, long, or have a foul smell. Any of the above-mentioned is a sign of an issue in their stomach. 

5. Metabolic Bone Disease 

Unfortunately, curved or swollen limbs are pretty common in captive reptiles, resulting from a lack of calcium and/ or Vitamin D3. Usually, in the wild, a blue tongue skink knows its needs, and they live and have its diet accordingly. 

But when captured, or away from their natural habitat, such issues are common to arise. Unfortunately, this could also be a sign of Metabolic Bone Disease, whose primary cause is a lack of calcium or vitamin D3. 

If your pet has fallen prey to this disease, there is no going back as you cannot reverse it. If caught early, they can live with it but the curved bones will stay that way.

So, you should look out for swollen or curved limbs soon so that you can treat them early. Otherwise, it will get challenging to save them. 

Make sure that you have a proper UVB lamp like the Reptisun 10.0 and that you dust the feeder insects with calcium.

The video below shows you what Metabolic Bone Disease does to your skink.

What MBD in blue tongue skinks looks like. If left untreated, this disease will lead to death.

6. Breathing Issues 

This is the most confusing sign of all as you don’t understand the breathing patterns of a blue tongue skink. 

Their normal breathing is primarily shallow and deep. You’ll notice a movement in their neck area in the former and the front and behind the leg area in the latter. They might hiss, huff, or sneeze occasionally but nothing more. 

The only cause of concern should be if the blue tongue skink is breathing with their mouth open all the time. The breathing becomes labored and rapid with crackling sounds. Moreover, a discharge from the nose and eyes will also accompany it.

The video below shows you how a form of breathing problems in blue tongue skinks looks like. If you see something like that, get your skink to the vet immediately.

This blue tongue skink has severe breathing problems.

7. Dehydration 

Dehydration in a reptile is a serious concern because it affects their mouth and their eyes. 

Blue tongue skinks have wide alert eyes to notice all the small movements. But when they are dehydrated, their eyes will seem droopy and have slight haziness.

Moreover, this will be accompanied by sticky mucus in their mouth. So, if you find any such sign, you should first check the humidity and temperature of the tank and then give them water. 

8. Internal and External Parasites

This issue mostly arises in wild blue tongue skinks because of their environment. Mites or ticks might attach themselves to their skin and damage them from the outside. 

Sometimes, the internal parasite infection is to such an extent that even after a good treatment, they may die suddenly. They may even have internal parasites such as tapeworm, roundworm, or lungworm.

So monitor your skink closely for bloody feces, lethargy, loss of appetite, and other such symptoms.

9. Soft Tissue Wounds 

This problem is most common after the shedding period. If the humidity and temperature in the tank are not optimal, then the blue tongue skink can suffer from dysecdysis. In this, the shed sticks to their feet or eyes and causes them harm. 

The lizard may rub itself hard on a surface, causing a soft tissue wound in such a situation. The skin after shedding is delicate, and if rubbed hard, it could lead to an injury. 

Moreover, reptiles heal slowly, due to which this condition can develop and even cause a risk to their mortality. 

What To Do if You Find Out Your Blue Tongue Skink Might Be Dying?

Your first response should always be to take your blue tongue skink to the vet and ask them for help. They might tell you if your pet can be saved or not. Some treatments for the lizards can help and prolong their lives. 

On the other hand, if the vet says that the mortality chances are low, it is always better to euthanize them. It may seem cruel to some, but this will ease pain and suffering. 

There is no coming back from diseases like parasite wounds or a bad case of metabolic bone disease in lizards. But this doesn’t mean that you give up all hope instantly.

Give them some time to heal. However, if you find that the situation is just getting worse, then it’s time to put them down. 

is my blue tongue skink sick?
A healthy blue tongue skink. Clear eyes, eyes and nose without any discharge, good posture, and tongue-flicking.

Can Blue Tongue Skinks Die Suddenly?

It’s rare for any animal to die so suddenly, there are usually underlying causes for this to happen. Maybe the blue tongue skink was not showing you the signs of weakness or you did not have enough knowledge about this. 

But the major issues usually arise from their habitat. If there is even a slight difference in the humidity or temperature levels of the tank, then your pet can die suddenly. 

Let’s look at some of the issues: 

1. Improper Humidity 

The Northern and the Indonesian blue tongue skinks are the most popular varieties that are kept as pets. They both have different humidity requirements for the tanks and if they are not met, then things can take an ugly turn. 

You should always research well in advance about the heat, temperature, humidity, and light so that your pet does not suffer. 

Most of the time, the issues lie in the vivarium temperature and humidity levels which may cause your skink to die suddenly. 

The table below gives a better idea about the humidity requirements for various types of blue tongue skinks.

Blue Tongue Skink Variety Humidity 
Northern Blue Tongue Skink40-60%
Classic Indonesian Blue Tongue Skink60-80%
Halmahera BTS80-100%
Merauke BTS60-80%
Irian Jaya BTS 60-80%

To solve the humidity issue, you can either keep a bowl of water or occasionally spray some water to maintain humidity but this will not keep the humidity stable. It’s better to buy a humidity control device to monitor the levels. 

2. Heat and Light 

Along with humidity, you should also keep the heat and light in check. The daytime temperature should be around 85-95 degrees Fahrenheit and nighttime, around 70-75. 

According to Laurie Hess, UV light is good for the lizards as it benefits them. The UVB light replicates the light of the sun which makes them active and indices appetite too. 

Failure to maintain the heat and light in the tank can lead to the sudden death of your pet. 

3. Disease and Illness

As mentioned above, the most fatal diseases for blue tongue skinks are metabolic bone disease and parasite infection. Parasites can infect the skin and internal organs to the point that it will take only a few hours to kill your pet.  

How To Differentiate Between a Dead, Brumating, and a Sleeping Blue Tongue Skink?

Many people find themselves confused between dead, brumating, and sleeping blue tongue skink. The below differences will help you differentiate between these three:

Brumating Blue Tongue Skink

A blue tongue skink brumates during the winters, and it starts preparing a couple of days before. It stops eating and becomes lethargic. 

So, you’ll find that during the months of December or January, blue tongue skinks become less active, eat less, and sleep more. Over time, they’ll sleep all day long for 4 to 6 weeks as well.

Additionally, before the brumating period, many owners take their blue tongue skinks to the vet and get them checked for parasites. This way, their pet can brumate in peace.

Another thing to note is that when your pet is brumating, you can always see them breathing even if they are hiding in their tank.

They will come out of their hiding, move around a bit, and then go back to sleep. It may look like your pet is dead but keep a check on their breathing. 

In all, if your blue tongue skink is sleeping a lot during the brumating period, there’s nothing to worry about as it’s natural. 

The video below shows you a couple of blue tongue skinks but also other lizard brumating. This should give you a good idea of what to expect of a brumating blue tongue skink.

The brumating black blue tongue skink can be seen at 3:53.

Dead Blue Tongue Skink

As we said, it is easy to mistake a brumating skink for a dead skink but there are a few differences. First, you should always keep a tab on their appearance. If they do not move at all, then check their breathing. 

Then, see if they are limp and seem heavier than normal. Sometimes, brumating skinks do not wake up even after you hold them. Hence, if it does not respond to you, move around, seem heavy, and is not breathing, then it is dead.

It is always sad to see your beloved pet die but you have to check for the symptoms, take them to the vet soon to eliminate this risk.  

Sleeping Blue Tongue Skink 

You can see the breathing movement in a lizard while it’s sleeping. Plus, if you move closer to them, they will become startled. This is how you can differentiate between the three distinct situations. 

What To Do After a Blue Tongue Skink Dies?

When your blue tongue skink dies, remove them from the tank otherwise, it will smell terrible. Moreover, you can bury or cremate them.

You can ask the vet for the grounds to bury them because you have to get permission for that. There are separate cremating spaces for animals where you can get the ashes in return too. 

Can You Bring a Dead Blue Tongue Skink to the Vet To Find Out the Cause of Death?

You can bring a dead blue tongue skink to the vet to know the reason for their death. They will perform necropsy that will help determine the cause. 

It’s essential to get one done for the reptiles if you want to adopt more reptiles in the future. After all, knowing the real reason for their death is important so that you can eliminate all the risks if you choose to get a new skink. 

Moreover, it will help prevent the same mistakes and let you know if the disease was transferrable to other pets or not. It can also give you closure around the sudden death of your pet. 

What To Do With an Old Blue Tongue Skink Tank if You’re Getting a New Blue Tongue Skink?

Preferably, you should get a new tank if you have not gone for necropsy because you don’t know the reason for their death. If it was due to some infections, you shouldn’t use the same tank again.

If it died due to natural circumstances, then clean it properly. It’s always good to go for a new tank because a new reptile will not feel comfortable with the smell around him.  

Final Thoughts 

It’s always a sad affair when your pet dies. But it’s essential to know the signs so that you can prevent that from happening. If you detect any issue early, it is still treatable. 

We hope this article helps you analyze the signs and know your pet a bit better. 

Keep in mind that bringing your blue tongue skink to a vet immediately is always the best way to make sure your skink is okay. If you don’t live near an exotic vet, we recommend you check out Vetster. They are affordable, have great service, and offer 24/7 appointments.

Pierre And The ReptileCraze Team
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