Bearded dragons are naturally hardy animals, and with the correct care, you can expect them to remain healthy and thriving. However, this doesn’t mean that they can’t develop health problems. Many owners can confess that their bearded dragons have encountered at least one illness.
Tail rot is a common illness in bearded dragons. As it develops, it can be mild and easy to treat. Unfortunately, if left untreated, it can be fatal.
Bearded dragon tail rot is an illness that many owners and prospective owners should be aware of. Fortunately, in this article, you’ll learn what tail rot is, how to recognize it, what causes it, how to treat it, and how to prevent it.
So, keep reading.
What is bearded dragon tail rot?
As the name suggests, “tail rot” is a condition in bearded dragons where the tail begins to die or rot. This condition results from a bacterial infection on both the scales and the tail tissue. It can affect beardies of all ages and species.
Side note: Small amounts of bacteria are common in a bearded dragon’s enclosure. In small amounts, bacteria don’t pose a threat to healthy beardies as long as they are well taken care of. However, with poor husbandry, bacteria can multiply to unsafe levels.
Tail rot makes a bearded dragon’s tail darken in color (purple, blue, or black) due to a lack of healthy blood supply.
What does tail rot in bearded dragons look like?
There are several symptoms of bearded dragon tail rot. Recognizing these symptoms before the condition progresses can save your beardie’s tail and life.
We can classify the symptoms as physical and behavioral.
- Color change: The tail may turn black or brown
- Appearance: The tail may appear dry, brittle, and flaky with a coarse texture.
- Smell: The tail may emit a foul-smelling odor, like rotting fresh.
- In some cases, the tail may completely fall off.
- The beardie may become easily irritable or aggressive.
- Lack of appetite
- Weight loss/the beardie may appear thinner
- Pain or discomfort when something touches the tail
- Lethargy (less activity)
- Hiding for prolonged periods
- Diarrhea or constipation
5 Causes of tail rot
So, what causes bearded dragon tail rot? Typically, bearded dragons get this condition mainly from trauma, but many other factors can cause it.
Trauma or injury
This could be from bites (by other beardies or aggressive live feeders), cuts, or injuries from objects or decor in the enclosure.
Bearded dragons are solitary animals, meaning they like living alone. If they are housed with other beardies (especially two males) in the same enclosure, they may be aggressive or territorial toward each other. As a result, fights may occur, causing tail bites or scratches. These injuries may provide an entry point for bacteria, leading to tail rot.
Bearded dragons should eat a balanced diet of insects, vegetables, and fruits for the best health results. But even with a varied diet, they need vitamin and mineral supplements to stay healthy. The most important supplement is calcium with vitamin D3, which boosts the immune system and helps in proper bone and cartilage growth.
Calcium deficiency can make a beardie weak and lead to tail rot as well. Therefore, to prevent this issue, always offer high-quality nutrition that provides all the nutrients a bearded dragon needs to stay healthy, not forgetting calcium supplements and multivitamins as required.
Providing full spectrum lighting (UVA and UVB) for bearded dragons is essential for their overall well-being and health.
Although you provide them with a calcium supplement, UVB is still essential to aid in the synthesis of vitamin D3, which helps in calcium absorption. It is, therefore, important for them to receive 12 hours of light exposure each day.
Without sufficient UVB light, bearded dragons may develop metabolic bone disease and tail rot as well.
Don’t forget to replace UVB lamps every 6 to 12 months.
Improper or incomplete shedding
Since their skin is not elastic, bearded dragons shed their skin as they grow. This process is known as molting and can happen weekly or monthly, depending on the age of the beardie.
Shedding is essential since it eliminates parasites, mites, and dead skin cells. However, problems can occur when some parts of the skin, especially around the tail, don’t come off completely. The skin can dry up and constrict the tail. This restricts nerves and blood supply, causing tail rot.
It’s worth noting that you should never try to pull or peel off the skin. Instead, provide frequent baths and ensure that you keep the enclosure in the ideal humidity range (40-60%.)
A dirty tank with leftover foods, poop, and old substrate can promote the spread of bacteria and parasites, making bearded dragons more susceptible to infections.
For both your beardie’s health and your health, it’s important to keep their enclosure clean. Therefore, you should clean their enclosure regularly. Spot clean the tank every day, even if it doesn’t look dirty, and deep clean the tank once a month to prevent bacteria from multiplying to unsafe levels.
In addition, ensure you maintain the ideal temperature, humidity, and lighting range in the enclosure.
Can bearded dragons die from tail rot?
If left unchecked, tail rot can spread throughout the body and affect vital body parts such as the kidney and liver. When it affects other parts of the body, it causes secondary infections, which can cause septicemia.
Septicemia is a condition that occurs when a bacterial infection enters the bloodstream from elsewhere in the body, in this case, the tail. It’s dangerous because bacteria and toxins spread throughout the body. This secondary infection can be deadly.
How to treat bearded dragon tail rot?
When it comes to bearded dragon tail rot, there are two treatment options depending on the severity and stage of the infection; home remedies and vet care.
But we recommend taking your beardie to the vet no matter how fast you catch it because, in some cases, tail rot can spread quickly and cause other serious health problems. A vet can examine the condition and give advice accordingly.
The home remedy works best for mild cases and when the infection is detected in its initial stages. Here’s how it works:
- Clean the tail with lukewarm water to clean out dirt and debris.
- Use a small water bowl and mix three parts of water with one part of the betadine solution. Then stir the solution until it turns to a tea color.
- Soak the infected part of the tail in the mixture and hold it there for five minutes.
- Use a paper towel or clean cloth to dry the tail. Remember to be very gentle, as the tail is already fragile and brittle.
- Once the tail is dry, apply a little Neosporin (the kind without pain relief- those that provide pain relief can be harmful to lizards) to the affected area.
- Repeat the process two to three times a day for one to two weeks.
If symptoms persist, seek medical advice.
When to consult a vet
Since tail rot is a painful, degenerative condition, the best thing you can do when the home remedy doesn’t seem to work is to take your pet to a vet immediately.
Also, if physical symptoms are accompanied by behavioral symptoms such as lethargy, aggression, and loss of appetite, it could mean that the condition is in its advanced stages and will need immediate medical attention.
The vet will most likely perform a physical exam and even do some tests to check if the condition has affected other body parts.
Depending on the severity, your vet might administer some topical medications and antibiotics or recommend amputation of part of the tail. Amputation can eliminate the rotting tissue and prevent further progression of the infection.
Does a bearded dragon’s tail grow back?
Short answer, absolutely not.
A bearded dragon may experience tail problems due to stuck sheds, the tail falling off due to tail rot, or when it’s surgically removed.
Unlike other lizard species, such as the leopard gecko, if a bearded dragon loses its tail for whatever reason, it will never grow back. Bearded dragons can’t regrow their tails. For this reason, they can still operate at full capacity and survive without the tail.
Tail rot is a common condition in bearded dragons that results from a bacterial infection. It is mainly caused by trauma or injury to the tail and poor husbandry.
Unfortunately, it spreads quickly and causes other serious health problems, which can be deadly if left untreated. The good thing is that it can be treated with home remedies such as soaking the tail in a water-betadine solution and applying an antibiotic ointment. However, it’s ideal to first consult with your vet before the condition progresses.
Luckily, there are ways to prevent tail rot in bearded dragons, including not housing multiple beardies in the same enclosure, offering proper nutrition, providing a safe and clean enclosure, and scheduling regular vet checkups.