Bearded dragons drop their tails as a defense mechanism when they feel threatened by a predator. However, the loss of the tail intends to distract and confuse the predator. Which in turn allows the bearded dragon to escape the predator’s threat.
Can a bearded dragon lose its tail? Yes, a bearded dragon can lose its tail. Generally, they do not lose their tails. Except by accident or due to disease that gives rise to tail rot. Likewise, in the wild, bearded dragons can lose their tails to escape predators. However, they do not regrow their tails. Hence, they will remain tailless for the rest of their lives.
Below are some of the information that will address tail loss among bearded dragons:
- Bearded dragon tail rot
- How a bearded dragon get tail rot
- What tail rot on a bearded dragon looks like
- How to prevent bearded dragon tail rot
- Ways to tell if my bearded dragon has tail rot
- How to treat bearded dragon tail rot
- At-home remedies
- Betadine & water soak
Bearded Dragon Tail Rot
Tail rot is a serious condition in which the tail of a reptile begins to actually rot away, due to an internal infection. The tail will fall off if not attended to. And can even spread the infection up into the body. As a result, damaging internal organs.
So, if you leave the tail without treating it, it rots. Thus, apart from being extremely painful and uncomfortable, it can eventually lead to death.
How a Bearded Dragon Get Tail Rot
In short, bearded dragons typically get tail rot when the tail experiences some type of trauma. If the tail is
- crushed, or
- bitten by another bearded dragon, it can potentially get tail rot.
Also, if you malnourish your bearded dragon, and they are not getting enough calcium, their bones can become weak. Which could lead to tail rot as well?
In addition, bearded dragons that don’t receive sufficient UVB exposure can also experience tail rot. As they will not be able to properly digest calcium. Hence, it weakens their bones.
What Tail Rot on a Bearded Dragon Look Like
Tail rot appears as if your bearded dragon’s tail is
- decaying, and
- dried out.
Typically, tail rot starts at the tip of the tail and works its way up. Now, you should not confuse tail rot with dragons that naturally have a dark tail. As this is fairly common and totally normal.
Therefore, a naturally dark tail will not appear decayed or dried out.
How to Prevent Bearded Dragon Tail Rot
Assuming your bearded dragon was healthy when you adopted him or her. The main thing you can do moving forward to avoid tail rot is to make sure their enclosure and diet are spots on.
If bearded dragons don’t receive enough nutrients and UVB, their bones can become weak, leading to issues such as tail rot.
Also, if your dragon’s habitat and their diet are good, then that’s more than half the battle to preventing tail rot. However, something else to be aware of is the potential for injury to your dragon if you house them with another dragon.
Often times many people will house dragons (especially babies) together.
When this happens, bearded dragons can actually become aggressive and bully one another. Often times, biting each other in various places, especially the tail.
So, as a general rule of thumb, just house your dragons separately. Even if they were from the same clutch.
Another cause of tail rot is a process of shedding that doesn’t come off properly from the dragon’s tail. Rather than pull off shed thinking you’re doing your dragon a favor, just leave it to drop on its own.
Lastly, because tail rot commonly occurs after trauma to the tail. Make sure there isn’t anything in your bearded dragon’s vivarium that could potentially harm or pinch their tail.
Also, secure all loose fixtures and make sure dragons have plenty of room to move about.
How to Tell if My Bearded Dragon Has Tail Rot
If your bearded dragon is suffering from tail rot, then the first obvious sign will be the darkening of their tail. However, many bearded dragons can have dark tails naturally. But those that develop a blackening of their tail are most likely either stressed or suffering from tail rot.
In addition, bearded dragons with tail rot may also stop eating. Thus, show black beard more frequently than what you often see. So, if your bearded dragon’s tail is looking different and he or she is also acting differently. Take action right away!
How to Treat Bearded Dragon Tail Rot
If you suspect your bearded dragon has tail rot, the best thing you can do is to take them to a respectable reptile vet as soon as possible.
The vet should be able to tell definitively if your dragon has tail rot just by looking at the condition of the tail. And may even run some tests to be certain of the nature and source of the infection.
Upon diagnosis, the vet will either prescribe your pet antibiotics to try and kill off the infection. Or otherwise, recommend surgery, in which they will amputate part of your dragon’s tail.
However, there is no guarantee that these remedies will work. But it is better to try them than nothing. Also, if the remedies do not seem to be providing some relief within one to two weeks. Take your dragon to the vet. No ifs end or buts about it. They need medical help.
Although never my first recommendation. Here are some remedies you can try in case getting to the vet is not possible at the moment.
Betadine & Water Soak
Find a shallow dish that will allow you to submerge your dragon’s tail. A good rule of thumb is to be able to submerge the tail about an inch above the visible tail rot to ensue. Therefore, fill it with 3 parts water and 1 part Betadine.
Mix it until you have a mixture that resembles tea. Then, grab your dragon and sink the rotting parts of their tail (plus that extra inch) into the mixture for 5 minutes.
If your dragon is squirmy, you’ll want to try doing this in sessions until you hit that 5-minute mark.
After you reach the 5 minute mark, dump out the mixture. And very gently (remember, the tail is already very weak and brittle) dry the tail of your dragon with a paper towel.
After the tail is dry, apply a little Neosporin (do not get the kind that provides pain relief) and place them back in their habitat.
Repeat this process 2 to 3 times a day for at least one week, but ideally two.
After trying any or some of the above remedies to no avail. Or if the tail rot is severe, then you will need to take your pet to a respectable reptile veterinarian.
The vet may decide to either put your dragon on antibiotics or amputate the tail depending on the severity of the rot itself.
Many of the antibiotics can be quite harsh on your bearded dragon’s delicate internal organs, such as their kidneys. Because of this, it is good you ask your vet first about the possibility of running a test or two. In order to determine what the actual source of the infection is.
Rather than just load your bearded dragon up with an antibiotic that might not even work.
Once your vet determines the cause of the infection and prescribes the medication. Make sure your bearded dragon stays hydrated as this will help keep their kidneys to better process the strong medication.
In addition to this, it is advisable to offer a probiotic, if your dragon suffers from a repressed appetite after or during treatment.
Although the thought of such a small, delicate creature undergoing surgery is by no means comforting. Often times, surgery is the only cure for your bearded dragon’s tail rot.
However, in terms of what you can expect. A vet will typically want to amputate part of your dragon’s tail if the tail rot has progressed enough.
Also, in bearded dragons where you noticed tail rot early and is seemingly afflicting just the tip of the tail. An amputation is a good option. Because it allows for minimal tail loss while cutting off the infection before a further spread.
Typically, you can expect them to amputate anywhere from half an inch to an inch above the rot. However, your vet may advise that he amputates more of the tail depending on what they see in an X-Ray.
Often times, bearded dragon’s bones in their tails can appear wavy or curved in an X-Ray. But this isn’t always a sign of concern.
So don’t necessarily let your vet insist on cutting off more than what you’re comfortable with.
Likewise, wavy bones often occur from fractures due to low calcium or insufficient UVB exposure as a youth. And are not necessarily related in any way to tail rot.
In terms of what you can expect when your dragon comes out of surgery. Definitely, you should prepare to see them in a lethargic state for a few days and a little awkward when moving about.
You will also likely have to continue giving them some medication here and there. Followed up with another trip to the vet to remove any stitches and check on the tail.