Signs Of Tail Rot In Bearded Dragons And Treatment

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Unfortunately, tail rot in bearded dragons is extremely common and most likely something you have not even been made aware of. While purchasing your bearded dragon(s) you may have been simply told to keep an eye out for tail rot with no further explanation as to what it is, what it looks like, or how to prevent and/or treat it.

Though it is extremely important to keep an eye out for tail rot, it is also extremely important to know and understand what you are keeping an eye out for. So, what is tail rot and what does it look like?

Tail rot is the result of trauma to the tail and ultimately setting up an infection. Tail rot will be most noticeable by the blackened color of the tail and the overall dehydrated and decaying look.

Tail rot is very serious and can be deadly for your bearded dragon and expensive to treat, but medical intervention will be necessary to one degree or another.

Tail rot is an extremely serious situation for your bearded dragon to be in. It is highly possible to overlook if you are unsure of what you are looking for or if it is your first time caring for and/or owning a bearded dragon. Some owners may not even notice until their bearded dragon’s tail has completely fallen off due to the necrosis of tissues in the damaged tail.

In order to prevent further spread of the infection throughout your bearded dragon, it is highly important you contact a herp vet as soon as you notice the signs of tail rot. Once the infection begins to spread throughout your bearded dragon’s small body, organ failure can occur causing a shutdown of your bearded dragon’s main organs, ultimately resulting in the death of your bearded dragon.

So, what are the signs of tail rot and what can you do for it?

Symptoms Of Tail Rot In Bearded Dragons

Symptoms 1: Physical

When it comes to tail rot, there are several common and physical signs you can look for and some behavioral symptoms that may occur as well. It is important to remember that at the first sign of tail rot that you notice, you need to contact your local herp vet for further advice and a possible treatment plan.

Some physical signs of tail rot will include:

  • Tail Discoloration: Tail discoloration occurs from infection in that region of the tail and necrotic tissue causing the tail to appear black. Once you notice any “bruising” or discoloration to your bearded dragon’s tail, you need to contact your local herp vet for advice and treatment.
  • Dehydration: Dehydration of the tail will cause the tail to feel extremely dry and possibly cause some scales to flake off.
Dehydration of the tail
  • Decay and Separation: The necrosis in the tail will eventually progress to a point where the tail will completely separate from the body. Unfortunately, some owners do not notice that their bearded dragon has tail rot until the tail completely separates and falls off.
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Tail rot is an extremely painful experience for your bearded dragon and although physical symptoms may be easier to notice, behavioral symptoms can tell you just as much if you know what to look for.

Symptoms 2: Behavioral

While the physical symptoms of tail rot may be more noticeable, it is just as important to take note of any changes in behavior as well. Your bearded dragon’s behavior can tell you a lot if you know what you are looking for as bearded dragons use different behavioral techniques in order to communicate with, not only other bearded dragons, but their owners as well.

Some behavioral changes to look for that might be caused by tail rot include, but may not be limited to:

  • Appetite Loss: If your bearded dragon is suffering from tail rot, he or she may begin to refuse meals or eat very little during meal time.
  • Aggression: Bearded dragons are extremely docile creatures that love hanging out with their owners, so an onset of aggression or irritability can be easy to spot and concerning as well.
  • Withdrawing: As noted above, bearded dragons love to hang out with their owners, as well as socialize, so if you notice your bearded dragon spending a lot of time hiding in their enclosure, this could be a sign of tail rot.
  • Discomfort: While this one is behavioral, it can also be a physical sign as well. If you notice your bearded dragon showing obvious signs of discomfort or pain whenever their tail bumps or touches something, it could be a sign of trauma and/or tail rot.

If you notice any of these signs or symptoms of tail rot, especially if your bearded dragon’s tail has completely fallen off, contact your local herp vet to have your bearded dragon checked out and gather a treatment plan to move forward with.

Treatment For Tail Rot In Bearded Dragons

Home Treatment For Tail Rot:

Home Treatment For Tail Rot

It is extremely important to note that once you notice signs of tail rot on your bearded dragon, you should contact your local herp vet as soon as possible to gain further insight into a treatment plan for your beloved companion. Tail rot is very painful and can be deadly for your bearded dragon, while there is home treatment, nothing will beat getting advice or treatment from a veterinarian as your bearded dragon may require antibiotics and/or other medications due to a possible infection.

If you are set on trying an at home remedy before you take your bearded dragon to the vet, you could try a Betadine and water soak for your bearded dragon’s tail. You will start by filling a shallow dish with 3 parts water and 1 part Betadine, stirring the mixture until it resembles a dark tea.

Submerge the entire affected area of the tail in the solution and allow it to soak for 5 minutes. Once you have reached the 5 minute mark, whether in one sitting or through several attempts with a squirmy bearded dragon, dispose of the solution and gently dry your bearded dragon’s tail by dabbing a soft cloth along their tail; be especially cautious as their tail will be in an extremely fragile state due to the tail rot and could potentially break.

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Once the tail has completely dried, apply a small amount of Neosporin to the affected area, but be sure to use an ointment without pain relief ingredients such as Lidocaine. This remedy can be performed 2 to 3 times a day for at least 1 week, preferably 2 weeks.

If you have reached the end of the 2 week mark and see no change in the condition of your bearded dragon’s tail, immediately contact your local herp vet for further treatment and assistance. 

Veterinarian Treatment For Tail Rot: 

Tail rot is extremely serious and should be handled as such, if you have tried the at home remedy and have noticed little to no change or you feel that the tail rot has progressed to a point that veterinarian assistance is needed, it is important to contact your local herp vet as soon as possible in order to immediately start treatment for your bearded dragon. Once you have reached the point of contacting your local herp vet, there is not much that can be done outside of two options: 

  • Antibiotics: It is important to note that due to the delicate nature of your bearded dragon’s internal organs, antibiotics can cause damage to your bearded dragon’s kidneys, so be sure to ask for tests that can pinpoint the infection instead of using generalized antibiotics. Tip: be sure to keep your bearded dragon very well hydrated while on antibiotics to assist their kidneys with proper filtration. 
  • Amputation: Depending on the severity of the tail rot, amputation may be the only choice moving forward. Your vet will perform an x-ray of the tail to determine the amount of the tail that needs to be removed and will generally amputate a half inch to a full inch above the rot in order to guarantee a complete removal of the affected tail. 

tail rot amputation

It is important to contact your local herp vet as soon as you notice signs of tail rot in order to give your bearded dragon the best chance at keeping his or her tail and life.

Final Thoughts: 

Tail rot is a very serious ailment that can befall your bearded dragon and should be treated as such. If you notice any signs of this disease, contact your local herp vet as soon as possible for advice and treatment details.

Your bearded dragon depends on you as their owner to take care of their well-being and tail rot could potentially result in death for your bearded dragon if not treated at the first sign of the disease. Keep a lookout for key signs that will be able to alert you to the possibility of tail rot, whether it is physical or behavioral, your bearded dragon will let you know.