Tail rot is something that is incredibly common to a bearded dragon, but absolutely shouldn’t be left alone. The longer your bearded dragon has tail rot, the more difficult it will be to treat. It can lead to even worse conditions if you don’t get them looked at, which is a huge risk even with how common it is.
So how can you tell if your bearded dragon has tail rot? How do they contract it? Is it treatable? We have all the answers and more to how you can identify, treat, and prevent tail rot in your beardie so you never have to worry about tail rot getting out of hand.
What Is Tail Rot?
It sounds self-explanatory doesn’t it? In a way it is, because essentially it is a condition that causes the tail to begin to rot away on the body of your bearded dragon. This is caused by necrotic tissue spread by infection or even trauma related to the tail and is showcased as a greying or blackening of the tail as it begins to rot.
The tissue will start to darken because there is no new blood coming into the area that is beginning to die or has already died. This can lead to severe results like the trail becoming so bad that parts of it fall off or the entire tail. In some cases if left untreated for too long the infection will spread and can lead to death.
What Causes Tail Rot?
As we’ve touched on a little, tail rot can begin to spread if the tail becomes injured or infected. But there are multiple things that can cause tail rot that you might not have thought of. It is a fairly common infection that can worsen with neglect or lack of proper care.
They can get into fights with other beardies, or they may have something in their environment that has scratched their tail. Any bites or scratches can easily become infected and tail rot isn’t far off once that’s begun to set in. It is important to treat any injuries right when they get them, so the injury doesn’t get infected and problems like tail rot don’t have a chance to develop.
If your little dragon has a poor diet, they can struggle to stay well. Calcium is a much-needed supplement in their diet and if not given enough they can develop problems with their bones that can lead to issues like Metabolic Bone Disease and Tail Rot. If they aren’t given enough calcium supplementation, or they are lacking in proper lighting to give them Vitamin D or help them digest their food they will start to weaken.
The weakening of their bones and cartilage can lead to prolonged problems and when the structure of the tail weakens you may see the skin begin to darken and rot away. This is why when you get one, you need to ensure you have the right diet plan and the right lighting for their terrarium so the environment helps to keep them healthy and strong.
All bearded dragons shed their skin at one time or another, but if the shedding process is difficult or doesn’t go according to plan your beardie could be in a world of trouble. If their shed gets stuck, it is easy for infection to develop between the layer of dead and new skin that can cause necrotic damage and eventually rot. This can also lead to the rotting of their feet if the problem gets bad enough without treatment. If you’re struggling to get all of the shed off of your bearded dragon, there are things you can do to make the process easier.
If your bearded dragon’s terrarium is left to get dirty and isn’t picked up properly, the disease will no doubt spread. Uneaten food, droppings, soiled substrate, and even pieces of their shed can litter the terrarium and cause infections. It is important to regularly clean their enclosures as well as your beardie to ensure that disease doesn’t have a chance to take root.
Symptoms of Tail Rot
You may not immediately notice the symptoms developing in your little one if you’ve never seen tail rot before. It can be a little tricky to identify unless you’ve got a clear idea of what it looks like. The most tell-tale signs are:
Your beardie will always be scaly, but if their tail is starting to look shriveled or too dry and flaky then there is cause for alarm. Sometimes a bath and a conditioning product will help, but if you notice this along with other signs it is time to see a vet.
Darkening or Blackening
If the tail is beginning to darken or even blacken in places, that is surely cause for alarm. This is a sign that the flesh is not receiving fresh blood anymore and has thus begun to darken.
Further Decaying and Detachment
If no fresh blood can get to the affected area, the tail will begin to fully decay and then eventually detach from the body. At the first signs of darkening, you should try and get your beardie into the vet, but there are also options you can do from home to ensure that it does not worsen or spread.
You may also notice other symptoms along with these more obvious signs like:
Change In Appetite
The trauma to their tail may honestly lead to a lack of appetite. Their body won’t feel right and thus eating might be a struggle for them. This will often be accompanied by lethargy due to the lack of energy.
Change In Behavior
Your normally cheerful and friendly dragon might find its mood suddenly dampened. They may even begin to be aggressive or annoyed and if agitated enough could scratch or bite you. If they are feeling particularly lethargic or upset they may even start sleeping or hiding more where they won’t be bothered.
Some tell-tale signs of pain would be avoiding touching their tail to anything, or showing signs like glass-surfing, waving, or bobbing to show there is something wrong.
How To Treat Tail Rot
Seeing your vet is the most practical path for tail rot treatment, especially if the condition has progressed to the point of blackening or detachment. At that point, your vet may believe that amputation is the best course of action to ensure your little buddy can stick around for a long while and can cut off the rot at its source. They will also likely prescribe an antibiotic to ensure the rot is completely gone and will not continue to spread.
Before the progression gets worse, they may also recommend an antibiotic that you will have to give your beardie daily to stave off infection. A first-aid medication may also be recommended so that you can sanitize and medicate the area properly. This will likely be a germ-fighting solution known as Betadine.
A popular treatment plan is to dip your beardie’s tail in a 3 to 1 solution of water to Betadine for five minutes to help kill off any bacteria. You’ll then want to dry the tail completely and carefully so you don’t hurt or damage the tail that is already suffering from rot. Then you’ll want to dab on an antibacterial cream that doesn’t contain any numbing agents.
You will want to double and triple check with your vet to ensure these options are good for your pet and inform them of any issues you note while conducting treatment. The treatment plan should be conducted for about two weeks, but maybe less if their symptoms aren’t as severe. Once again, note any changes and relay them to your vet so you can stay on top of any issues that might arise besides tail rot.
Make sure they are drinking and eating all right as well, you’ll want to keep them in the best condition you can while conducting treatment. This also goes for after potential surgery as they will be vulnerable and need plenty of rest and proper care. In order to prevent this from happening again, you’ll need to ensure your beardie’s conditions and nutrition are up to snuff.
This includes regular cleaning of their environment, ensuring the lighting is proper and making sure they are getting enough calcium in their diet. You may also want to keep your bearded dragon away from other bearded dragons as trauma from bites or scratches can lead to tail rot easily. Most of all just keep your beardie happy, healthy, and safe so tail rot can be easily prevented. Click this next link, if you’re looking to learn more symptoms of common illnesses that a beardie owner should be aware of.