Why Your Bearded Dragon’s Tail Is Turning Black
What is Tail Rot?
Tail rot is a potentially life-threatening condition in bearded dragons in which their tail begins to rot from infection. If left unattended, the infection can spread, resulting in a total loss of the tail or even death if the infection reaches vital organs.
Tail rot is necrotic tissue from lack of blood flowing to the tail. The causes of tail rot could be from:
- Shedding difficulties
- Tail nipping
- Blood clots
The Signs Of Tail Rot
Since tail rot is necrotic tissue, the skin and scales around the area will look black. There are bearded dragons who have dark scales naturally. This does not mean that they are suffering from tail rot. These little guys, for example, has dark scales naturally on their tails and are not suffering from tail rot.
Tail rot is generally easily identifiable. The tissue will rot off in small chunks and cause the bones near the area to be brittle. Any part infected with the tissue could snap or break off if left untreated. As you can see here, the tissue is slowly thinning and the tip of the tail is very fragile.
Causes of Tail Rot
One of the causes of tail rot is difficulty during shedding. If the shed does not come off properly, the skin can turn necrotic. This will usually happen if the humidity levels in the terrarium are poor and if they are not on a good diet.
Bearded dragons need the proper amount of UVB light and calcium in their terrariums. If this is missing, shedding won’t be healthy, and they are at risk for infection.
The right humidity you need to help your bearded dragon shed is between 30%-40%. Anything more than that is way too much and will affect the shedding process negatively.
● Tail Nipping
While tail nipping is the main cause for missing tails and legs, these wounds could become infected if untreated.
Bearded dragons can get tail rot from wounds that were not treated. It is very possible that a bearded dragon had part of their tail nipped or had some sort of trauma, and the wound was left untreated.
Nipping happens a lot in pet stores when too many bearded dragons are placed in a small enclosure. If the food is scarce, there will be a lot of competition and aggressive behaviors. Biting off toes and tails is going to be inevitable.
Hypothermia can also cause tail rot. Even though bearded dragons are cold blooded animals, they can still catch hypothermia.
When bearded dragons go into hypothermia, they move a lot less and will just be stuck on their bellies. This eventually leads to dehydration.
A dehydrated bearded dragon will not be able to shed. Lack of proper shedding, like I mentioned earlier, could result in necrotic tissue.
● Blood Clots
Blood clots are another cause of necrotic tissue. Blood is not circulating properly because of an untreated wound. If blood cannot flow to the rest of the tail, it will die off.
The infected part could potentially snap off too. Once the tail snaps off, the wound is going to be open to bacteria and debris. This wound is going to be painful for your bearded dragon too. Not treating a snapped part of the tail can cause the tail rot to be more severe.
How To Treat Tail Rot
Now even though you unknowingly brought a beardie home with tail rot, you can still save its life. Taking it to the vet is the best way to save your bearded dragon. Tail rot can be life-threatening if left unattended.
If necessary, you can expect the cost of surgery can range from $40-$300 depending on the severity of the infection. The vet will typically laser off the infected part off.
In the event that the vet is not available, there is an at home remedy that you can do to carry your bearded dragon over until the vet visit. The remedy is just to soak the tail in Betadine and water. You can find Betadine at a local Walgreens, CVS, Walmart, etc. Simply put the solution in a shallow bowl.
You will need to fill the bowl with 3 parts water and 1 part Betadine. A five minute soak will do and then dump the mixture out.
Lightly pat the infected area dry with a paper towel and place your beardie back in their tank. You should do this twice a day until you can go to the vet.
How To Prevent Tail Rot
In order to prevent tail rot at home, make sure you are monitoring the humidity in your terrarium. Bearded dragons need their terrariums to be at the proper humidity in order to have a healthy shed. The ideal humidity level in their terrariums should be around 30%.
I personally recommend this gauge because it provides a very accurate reading of the temperature and humidity compared to other gauges that I have tried.
Make sure all of the shed has come off too. You can spray the rocks in their terrarium with water and that will rub their shed off.
If you buy a baby bearded dragon that still has all of its toes and tail, the chances of it having tail rot are slim to none. It is possible to bring home a bearded dragon that has their tail nipped and it was treated.
In the off chance your bearded dragon cuts themselves or gets a wound at home, you need to treat it immediately. The vet will clean and treat the wound properly and this can prevent tail rot.
Keep the tank temperature warm enough as well. Proper humidity is not the only factor that will prevent tail rot. The tank needs to be between 90-100 degrees for most of the day to prevent hypothermia.
You might want to go to a breeder at an expo who is more of an expert on bearded dragon care rather than the general pet store as well if you want healthier bearded dragons.
Another way to prevent tail rot is to take your bearded dragon to the vet for an annual checkup.
Tail rot is very serious and is one of the biggest killers of bearded dragons. Baby bearded dragons especially are heavily impacted by tail rot because of their small bodies.
Poor terrarium conditions and lack of treatment will cause the necrotic tissue to spread quickly. Go see a reptile vet near you if you are suspicious of tail rot, and consider regular health exams for your beardie as well!