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Tail Rot In Bearded Dragons: Identification And Treatment

bearded dragon tail rot

Does your bearded dragon’s tail look a bit dark, or is it deformed? While it could have other reasons, there is a good chance that your beardie is suffering from tail rot.

Tail rot in bearded dragons is a serious condition where the tail gets infected and develops necrotic tissue. There is also no blood flow and nerve function in the tail, which darkens it. When left untreated, the tail will fall off, and the infection may also spread throughout the entire body.

In this article, we are going to discuss what tail rot is as well as how you can identify it. It is tricky to determine whether your beardie has tail rot, so you need to know the subtle signs of a developing one. Keep on reading to find out!

What Is Tail Rot In Bearded Dragons?

Tail rot is a condition in bearded dragons where the tail becomes darker and slowly rot. This happens due to the presence of necrotic tissue or dead tissue.

This will lead the tail to not have proper blood flow. Eventually, the tail will drop, and if left untreated, the infection can spread all over the body of your bearded dragon, which can also lead to death.

The bad news is the tail of a bearded dragon does not grow back. This can impact how it moves, which can make it a bit difficult to chase feeder insects or explore its enclosure.

Nevertheless, tailless bearded dragons can still live a normal life with a bit of assistance.

There are also cases of tail rot in bearded dragons where the tail does not look like it is severely infected, but the vet may rule that it needs to be amputated.

@renee4real

Tail rot in a bearded dragon. VERY SERIOUS IF NOT TREATED RIGHT AWAY. It will continue to spread up the tail and would eventually lead to organ failure and death. If you notice and discoloration, course scales, the damaged area becomes very hard and necrotic. If caught early you can self treat with daily betadine soaks. #fyp #foryou #foryoupage #beardeddragon #ace #beardeddragonsoftiktok #tailrot #amputation #vet

♬ original sound – Renee Lewis
Here you can see what tail rot looks like. Even if the beardie is still active, the tail looks visibly dark and it also has kinks.

Causes Of Tail Rot In Bearded Dragons

In general, tail rot is usually caused by a bacterial infection and trauma to the tail. However, it can also be caused by poor enclosure conditions and even improper handling.

Let us take a look at the possible causes of tail rot in bearded dragons.

Trauma

This is the most common cause of tail rot and it happens when the tail of your bearded dragon gets injured. Injuries can happen when the tail of your beardie gets pinned to something in the enclosure.

This can be decoration, hides, or even food and water bowls.

When they force their tail to be unstuck, it can leave an open wound where bacteria can easily infect it. Trauma can also happen from bites from feeder insects and other bearded dragons.

Another injury that does not initially have an open wound is when a bearded dragon accidentally falls to the ground and hit its tail. At first, there will be no wound but in time, an area of the tail can swell and bruise.

When the swelling does not go down, the area can easily get nicked by objects inside the enclosure. This reduces the inflammation but still leaves an open wound that is susceptible to infection.

Poor Nutrition

This is an indirect cause of tail rot in bearded dragons. Poor nutrition contributes to the development of tail rot in such a way that your beardie does not have a strong immune system to combat an infection.

A slight open wound on the tail of your bearded dragon does not necessarily equate to tail rot. It is only when the wound is exposed to bacteria and gets infected that tail rot can occur.

How do bearded dragons get tail rot?

Even then, it can simply be a regular infection that can be treated at home when your beardie is perfectly healthy.

On the other hand, if your beardie has a compromised immune system, its body cannot handle the infection and it would not heal on its own thus leading to tail rot.

This is why it is important to give your bearded dragon a balanced diet.

They should eat vegetables, fruit, and insects. At the same time, they should also have supplements and food should be dusted with calcium powder.

Tip: Have a look at this article to learn how you provide a balanced diet to your beardie, especially when you are on vacation.

Improper Lighting

This is also in relation to the overall capacity of your bearded dragon to fight infection.

If your bearded dragon does not have UVB lighting or it does not enjoy the full effects of its UVB light, then there is improper calcium absorption.

Calcium is vital not only for good bone health but for the proper functioning of the other body systems of your bearded dragon.

Without UVB lights, the nutrients that come from the food of your beardie will not be properly absorbed as your beardie cannot digest properly as well.

Tip: If you are confused about what UVB lights to get for your bearded dragon, have a look at our recommendations here.

Poor Enclosure Maintenance

How do I treat tail rot in a bearded dragon?

A filthy tank is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria and parasites that is just waiting for the opportunity to infect an open wound. Keep in mind that bacteria grow in hot and moist environments.

Therefore, the high temperature of the tank during the day paired with poop, stale substrate, and an unclean water bowl is a haven for bacteria.

You should never leave uneaten food inside the enclosure since when it becomes spoiled, bacteria and parasites can quickly develop.

The same goes for the water bowl, which you should clean every day. Further, it is ideal to remove poop when you first see it, as your beardie might drag it around.

The substrate should also be replaced at least every month. As for the glass surfaces, they should also be sanitized to prevent the growth of bacteria.

Tip: We created a guide on how to properly clean up bearded dragon poop here!

Embolism

An embolism can form when blood flow is cut from a certain part of your beardie’s body, which in this case is the tail. This can happen when the tail gets stuck in tight spaces or when it is caught at a bad angle during handling.

Usually, an embolism happens due to improper handling. During handling, your beardie may suddenly become uncomfortable, and it may squirm around.

As we do not want our beardies to fall to the ground, we try to hold them firmly in place as we try to find a safe spot to lay them down.

In the process, the tail can get trapped on our arms or hands, which restricts blood flow. If we are not mindful, we might have caused a slight kink to the tail unknowingly.

Further, if you have children and they also play with your beardie, it is possible that they tightly tied something on its tail, like a rubber band or a hair tie.

Other pets, like cats and dogs that are already bonded with your beardie, can also step or lie down on the tail, especially when they sleep beside each other.

Incomplete Shed

It is possible for your bearded dragon to suffer from tail rot when it has an incomplete shed. When the skin that was left is at the tail, it can constrict the flow of blood, leading to tail rot.

If the stuck shed on the tail is not removed for a long time, the tail no longer gets blood and the tissue inside will soon die. This is why it is important to check your beardie if it had a full shed.

In such a case that you notice a stuck shed on the tail, it is wise to check the shed if it is constricting the tail.

Do not attempt to remove it, as this is also not good for your beardie. Instead, you can give it a soak or keep it hydrated to aid with the shed.

how to treat bearded dragon tail rot at home
It looks like this bearded dragon has a stuck shed on its tail. You can see that the tail looks pale and dark compared to the other parts of the body. When this is left for a long time, the stuck shed can start constricting the blood flow of the tail.

How To Identify Tail Rot In Bearded Dragons?

As we mentioned earlier, it is a bit difficult to determine whether your bearded dragon has tail rot. It is not enough that the tail looks dark and stiff as these may also point to their natural defense mechanism or other illnesses.

Here are the tell-tale signs that your bearded dragon has tail rot.

  • Dark tail

Usually, the dark-looking tail will start at the tip and fade away towards the upper part of the tail. The darkness of the tail can be the colors: black, dark brown, and purple.

This is easily noticeable when the tail of your bearded dragon is not naturally dark.

However, some tails of bearded dragons are dark which makes it difficult to see if they have tail rot. Some owners check the tail against the light, and if it looks brown or light brown then it is not tail rot.

On the other hand, if the tip is pitch black then it is possible that it is tail rot.

  • Deformity in the tail

After the first few weeks that the tip of the tail becomes dark, it will eventually show signs of deformity. You will notice that the tail will look thinner. The thickness and the thinness of the tail will also be uneven.

You may also see sharp ends of the tail as well as kinks. This happens due to the dying tissue that is slowly changing the shape of the tail.

In the close-up of the tail in this video, you can see the unevenness of the tip of the tail. There are times that the tip looks stubby as opposed to sharp.
  • Dry Scales

This is the easiest way to identify tail rot as you can see it clearly when you look up close. The scales of the tail become extremely dry and brittle. Some owners have described it as the texture of a pine cone.

When you hold the dry part of the tail, it is as if the scales are ready to break off. Another indication of dry scales is that it has a grainy appearance.

Keep in mind that healthy scales should look glossy and firm. The color of the tail, even if it is dark should also be bold and not faded.

  • No tail response

Some owners have tried stimulating the tip of the tail and checking their bearded dragons if they have any response.

This is usually done on bearded dragons with naturally black tails; the owners cannot be sure if the tail is darkening due to tail rot.

In general, bearded dragons that are already used to handling have a reaction when someone or something gets a hold of their tail.

They can look at it or remove the tail away from the grasp. On the other hand, if your beardie has tail rot, it will not react to the stimulation of the tail.

This may happen as they are starting to lose the feeling of their tail. In such a case that they react defensively when their tails are held, it is also a sign that the tail is injured so at least you can mend the wound so that it will not progress to tail rot.

  • Loss of the tail

We have mentioned earlier that it can be difficult to immediately see that your beardie has tail rot. Many owners have experienced waking up to see that the tail of their beardie has already dropped.

When this happens, you need to go to the vet immediately. It is possible that the infection has found its way to the body of your beardie as it already succeeded in killing most of the tissue on the tail.

how to stop tail rot bearded dragon
This beardie lost a part of its tail.

Symptoms Of Tail Rot In Bearded Dragons

Let us now move on to the symptoms of tail rot in bearded dragons. It is also important to take note of the behavioral changes of your bearded dragon so that it will aid you in determining if it really has tail rot.

Be on the lookout for the following behavioral changes when you first see that the tail of your beardie became dark.

Loss Of Appetite

It is possible that your beardie will start to refuse food. A good way to check is to offer its favorite treat and see if it refuses to eat.

If you feed your beardie live feeders, you will notice that it is also not inclined to chase after the insects due to loss of appetite and it is also difficult for it to move rapidly due to its tail.

Lethargy

Tail rot is an indication that your beardie’s body is fighting an infection. Therefore, it will become lethargic. It may not choose to bask and just stay in its hide.

If your beardie has been hiding for an extended period of time, this is a huge sign that it is ill.

Irritability

As your bearded dragon is uncomfortable and it cannot function normally, its defensive mechanisms start to kick in as they feel vulnerable due to illness.

You may notice that they hiss at you more and their beards will puff more than usual and it may also get dark.

Discomfort When Touching The Tail

The tissue inside the tail of your bearded dragon does not die immediately. Following the presence of the wound and the infection therein, your beardie will experience pain on its tail.

So when the tail touches an object in the enclosure or when you hold the tail, your beardie may react negatively due to discomfort and pain.

The good news is you are able to catch the progression of tail rot early, so something can be done.

As opposed to what we discussed earlier, where your beardie no longer reacts to any stimulation to the tail, this entails that the tail rot is well underway and there is already dead tissue inside the tail.

How To Treat Tail Rot In Bearded Dragons

Tail rot can be treated at home, especially if you caught it early and the infection is just mild.

On the other hand, if the progression of tail rot is fast and you can already see the symptoms that we discussed earlier, you need to go to the vet.

Home Remedy For Tail Rot In Bearded Dragons

If you notice early on that your beardie may have tail rot, but it is still behaving normally, you can try home treatment. Here is what you can do:

  1. Hold your bearded dragon and gently clean the affected part of the tail with warm water.
  2. Prepare a solution of 1 part betadine to 3 parts of warm water.
  3. You should then soak the tail in that solution for at least 5 minutes. Make sure that the affected part of the tail is completely soaked. Even the unaffected parts can be soaked.
  4. Dry the tail gently with a paper towel.
  5. Once the tail is dry, you can apply a thin layer of Neosporin on the affected part of the tail. Make sure that the Neosporin does not have a pain killer just like this one, as painkillers do not benefit bearded dragons.
  6. You should clean and soak the tail of your bearded dragon twice a day and this should be done every day for a whole week.

In such a case that you do not see any improvement on the tail after a week and you can see that the dark parts of the tail are still spreading, you should go to the vet.

It is possible that the infection did not cease, and your beardie needs to get antibiotics or surgery.

Here is the process of the home treatment. Note that the antibiotic ointment should be prescribed by the vet.

Medical Treatment Of Tail Rot In Bearded Dragons

Even if we offered a home treatment above, especially if the tail rot is just starting or it is mild, we still recommend that before doing home treatment, you should still consult a vet.

In this way, you are sure that it is fine to just stick with home treatment and that your beardie does not need medical intervention.

On the other hand, you should immediately go to the vet when your bearded dragon is already showing symptoms of tail rot and the tail is darkening with a fast progression.

The worst-case scenario is that your beardie needs to amputate its tail to be rid of the infection.

  • Topical medications and oral antibiotics

When you get to the vet, the vet will assess the condition of the tail as well as request diagnostic tests of the other internal organs of your bearded dragon.

If the infection can be treated with medicine, your beardie will be given antibiotics and topical medication.

  • Amputation of the tail

It is also highly possible that the infection is rapid, and the only way to save your beardie from further infecting this body is to partially amputate the tail.

In this case, the infection is stopped by cutting off the affected part of the tail and even some parts that are unaffected so that there will be no reinfection.

An amputation surgery may cost $300-$400, depending on the vet clinic. Usually, this price already includes diagnostic tests and after-care medications.

You can see here the process of amputating the tail. It will take several weeks to heal, and you also need to get the stitches out and also keep up with after-care home treatments.

How To Prevent Tail Rot In Bearded Dragons

As you may know by now, it is costly to get surgery for the tail rot of your bearded dragon.

At the same time, it is stressful to deal with home treatments for the tail rot of your beardie, while at the same time, you are dealing with an ill bearded dragon.

Therefore, it is best to take precautions so that you can prevent your bearded dragon from having tail rot. Take a look at some of our tips

Secure The Enclosure

Make sure that there are no sharp corners inside the enclosure where the tail can get injured. At the same time, you should not house two bearded dragons in one enclosure, as that will ensure a fight.

Further, you should not expose your beardie to other beardies when you take them out of the enclosure, even if both of them get along with each other. This minimizes the risk of fighting and potential injury.

Additionally, do not leave uneaten food inside the enclosure, and regularly clean the water bowl. Spot clean the poop as well as the glass of the enclosure to prevent the spread of bacteria.

Practice Proper Handling

is bearded dragon tail rot contagious

You should never force your bearded dragon to be held when it does not want to. During handling, always be gentle and do not squish its tail.

Always handle your bearded dragon near a solid surface so you have an area to put it down when it suddenly climbs out of your arms.

Do not let your children or other pets play with its tail or lie on its tail. Supervise your pets when they are sleeping with your bearded dragon.

Better yet, do not let your bearded dragon fall asleep near your other pets even if it is comfortable doing so.

Provide Proper UVB Lighting

Make sure that the basking spot is exposed to the full UVB output of your UVB light. You can use a UVI meter just like this one to see if the basking spot is in the right area.

Bearded dragons are in Ferguson zone 3. On the UVI meter, the basking spot should be within 2.9-7.4.

Give Your Bearded Dragon A Balanced Diet

It may be fun to just give your bearded dragons a salad, but remember that their diet should also consist of feeder insects.

Do not forget to dust their food with calcium powder. You should also not overfeed your beardie so that they can digest properly.

Supervise The Shedding Of Your Bearded Dragon

During shedding, you should always observe your beardie if it is having a full and successful shed. You should not remove the shed if it has a stuck shed, rather you can give your beardie a soak.

You should also make sure that during this time, your beardie is hydrated.

Conclusion

Tail rot can be difficult to identify and this usually results in the partial amputation of the tail of your bearded dragon. Proper care and maintenance are key to preventing the development of tail rot.

If you suspect that your beardie has tail rot, observe its tail and behavior. Consult your vet to know if you can do a home treatment or if your beardie needs medical intervention.

Pierre And The ReptileCraze Team
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