Bearded dragons can contract a variety of health problems and injuries, depending on the situation. One part of the body that’s more subjected to injury risks is the tail because of its length and flexibility.
Today, we will discuss the main tail injuries in bearded dragons and how to discover, diagnose, treat, and prevent them. Let’s dive right in!
Causes and Types of Tail Injuries in Bearded Dragons
Interestingly, there are multiple health issues and injuries that involve the tail. Figuring out the nature of the disorder is critical for establishing the right treatment approach.
The following are the most common tail injuries in bearded dragons to be aware of:
Tail rot has the same causes as mouth rot. This is a bacterial or fungal infection that creeps into an open wound and begins to destroy the soft tissue.
These infections can start off small, from a simple cut or scratch, and advance fast, putting your beardie’s life at risk.
The infection can also spread rapidly and affect other areas of the body as well, causing fever, vomiting, and a collapse of the entire immune system.
Your job is to prevent this issue by preventing injuries or, at least, by detecting the injury or the infection in its early phases. This prevents complications and allows you to set up a fast and decisive treatment plan.
Tail Tip Injuries
The tail tip is the most sensitive part of the tail because of its thinness and frailty. Bearded dragons injure their tail tips all the time in the wild, and these small injuries can become infected quite fast.
The risk of infection is even higher in captivity due to the lizard living in a closed environment that requires frequent maintenance.
The warm and humid ecosystem, combined with poor enclosure hygiene, speeds up the risk of infection. You should always assess your beardie’s physical condition to detect any cuts, slashes, bruises, or scratches in time before they can get infected.
Tail injuries can occur for a variety of reasons, including rough handling, inadequate layout, fights between bearded dragons, etc.
Tail fractures are, naturally, more severe problems that cause pain, local discomfort, and loss of tail function. The tail tends to fracture near the tip, where it’s thinner, but it depends on what has caused the fracture in the first place.
Bearded dragons use their tails for balance and movement and can experience injuries, especially in a small and cluttered environment.
Your beardie should have sufficient space for climbing and moving around the habitat to prevent hindered movement.
You should also remove or avoid any heavy, sharp, or rugged decorative elements that could slash, puncture, or crush the lizard by tipping over due to lack of stability.
Tail prolapse is mostly known as a cloaca prolapse. The cloaca is situated at the base of the lizard’s tail, and it’s the region responsible for eliminating fecal matter.
The cloaca can experience a prolapse for a variety of reasons, including constipation, injury, infection, parasites, and even obesity. Metabolic Bone Disease can also trigger this effect, aside from other, even more, dangerous symptoms and health complications.
You should be able to observe the prolapse quite easily, as the cloaca will become inflamed, red, and protrude outwards. This is a worrying symptom, and you should investigate it immediately to determine the cause.
If it’s a bacterial infection, the vet will recommend antibiotics to deal with the pathogen fast.
Tail necrosis is a severe condition that can lead to a life-or-death situation. The most common factors include unaddressed infection, circulatory problems due to other health issues, and dysecdysis (abnormal or incomplete shedding.)
The latter is among the most widespread reasons behind tail necrosis, and we’ll discuss this in more detail shortly.
You can diagnose necrosis by observing the affected tissue. The most revealing signs include local discoloration, yellow or greenish discharge, and a foul odor emanating from the area.
This is a sign that the tissue has begun to die, so you need to act fast. Necrosis causes extreme bacterial spread and can lead to death if it reaches the bloodstream.
The condition may be reversed and treated with antibiotics and other medication, but don’t get your hopes high.
Amputation may be necessary in many cases where the limb can no longer be saved.
Tail Burns from Heating Source
Bearded dragons demand a stable temperature gradient throughout the tank. The basking spot is especially important for them because it allows the reptiles to regulate their body temperature properly.
This aids in digestion, a stronger immune system, and an overall increased level of comfort.
The problem is that the basking light should deliver temperatures around 95-110 F, depending on the lizard’s needs and the layout.
This temperature is the one at ground level, but the basking light is higher up. The closer the light comes to the substrate, the higher the temperature.
Accidental burns can happen in this case, whether it’s because you’ve placed the light too low or because it loses stability and crashes on your lizard.
The intense heat can cause burns that lead to physical discomfort and an even higher risk of infection.
And that’s not even the main problem. If the temperature is too high in your beardie’s habitat, the reptile risks becoming dehydrated and even experiencing respiratory and skin infections.
Symptoms of Tail Injuries in Bearded Dragons
Fortunately, you have a variety of signs that could suggest tail-related problems.
- Visible cuts or scratches – The lizard’s tail is sensitive and can sustain injuries due to coming in contact with sharp or pointy objects. You should be able to observe visible cuts, scratches, and punctures on the tail if you look close enough. And looking close enough, you should because some of these injuries are small or difficult to observe due to their placement.
- Changes in color or texture – Changes in color suggest an infection or even necrosis. In that case, you should pick up the lizard and inspect the tail more closely. Squeeze it gently to feel its hardness, as this can also indicate the nature of the problem.
- Loss of mobility – You can tell that something’s wrong if your beardie doesn’t seem to use its tail properly. The tail should swing freely and appear flexible and mobile at all times. Bearded dragons don’t generally hold their tails rigid. If your dragon does, it may be because of a local injury or discomfort.
- Swelling or inflammation – Any swelling or inflammation should be clearly visible at the tail’s surface. If there is no visible sign of open injury, the cause may be a fracture. It’s best to consult your vet, in this case, to figure out the exact problem.
It should be noted that these symptoms each suggest different problems and may require different approaches.
In some cases, your beardie may exhibit several symptoms, depending on the nature and severity of the condition.
Treating Bearded Dragon Tail Injury
There are several steps to consider here, based on the type and severity of the tail injury:
- Clean the wound – If the injury occurs while you’re watching, clean the area with an antiseptic or even with water to remove debris and dirt. Avoid hydrogen peroxide, as this can damage the lizard’s skin and sensitive tissues around the injury. The cleaning part is necessary to reduce the risk of infection.
- Control the bleeding – If the lizard is experiencing bleeding, your priority is to stop it. Hold a piece of cloth over the injury and apply pressure for several seconds to a minute. This should stop the bleeding if the situation is mild, to begin with. If the bleeding is severe, keep pressure on the wound and call your vet for further instructions.
- Secure the lizard – Make sure that the lizard’s environment is safe and clean. Remove the source of the injury and try to clean up the reptile’s enclosure as best you can to lower the risk of injury during the recovery period.
- Manage the pain and discomfort – Your beardie may experience significant pain or discomfort, depending on the location and severity of the injury. Call your vet to help you out with some pain medication.
- Call the vet for an immediate appointment – If the injury is more severe than you’d like, I recommend calling the vet and letting the expert handle the situation. It’s not worth trying to handle the situation yourself and risking complicating everything.
Prevent Bearded Dragon Tail Injuries
Preventing your bearded dragon from experiencing any injuries is the best move for obvious reasons.
But how can you achieve that? Fortunately, I have a list of tips for you to write down, such as:
- Provide a safe and appropriate enclosure – Stay away from any sharp, pointy, rugged, or unstable decorations that could crush, slash, or puncture your pet. Keep in mind that bearded dragons like to explore their habitat and might destabilize various decorative elements that could injure them in the process.
- Proper hygiene and cleaning – Keeping your lizard’s enclosure clean and well-maintained will reduce the risk of subsequent infections considerably. The cleaning job itself should be divided into 2 main categories: spot cleaning and general cleaning. You can perform spot cleaning daily, which involves removing feces and food residues and cleaning the walls of moisture and dirt. The general cleaning job refers to in-depth sanitation. This entails removing everything from the enclosure, replacing the substrate, and cleaning and sterilizing everything.
- Minimize stress – The more stressed your beardie is, the higher the chances of erratic behavior. For instance, scaring your beardie can cause it to dash through its habitat, causing injuries in the process. A stressed lizard is also more prone to infections and other health issues due to its low and ineffective immune system.
- Avoid territorial behavior – Don’t keep more than one bearded dragon male per enclosure to prevent territorial and domination fights. Even if you only have females, though, you still need to reduce the risk of confrontations. To achieve that, increase the enclosure’s size and add more hiding spots for a plus of safety and comfort.
- Avoid rough handling – You should always handle your beardie gently because these are sensitive and vulnerable animals. Rough handling can cause them to experience issues like tail injuries and stress.
- Monitor your beardie’s health status – Monitoring your beardie constantly reduces or even prevents the risk of more severe health problems. This allows you to detect any injuries in time, so you can act before the situation aggravates.
- Prevent rough play – Sometimes, even peaceful and playful beardies can injure each other by mistake. Supervise your pets and intervene if they seem to engage in rough play with a high risk of injuries. Separate them temporarily to defuse the situation and keep an eye on their interactions for a while. Housing the reptiles in a larger and more diverse ecosystem can also mitigate some of these tendencies.
Fortunately, you have quite a few tools at your disposal, which you should make use of daily. It’s always preferable to prevent unpleasant situations than to only act once they’ve happened.
Can Bearded Dragons Regrow Their Tails?
No, they cannot. Not only that, but bearded dragons cannot even practice autotomy (the act of dropping their tails willingly as a defense mechanism against predators.)
This doesn’t mean that they cannot lose their tails, though, because they can. Injuries, rough handling, predators, or accidents can all lead to the reptile losing part of its tail.
This is not only unfortunate but dangerous as well. To understand why, consider how autotomy functions. Lizards that practice autotomy possess special muscles that constrict once the tail has been lost and seal the blood vessels in the region.
This evolutionary feature prevents uncontrollable bleeding and speeds up the healing process.
Unfortunately, bearded dragons cannot practice autotomy, so they do not possess this anti-hemorrhage ability. If your beardie loses its tail for whatever reason, it needs your help to contain the bleeding and avoid subsequent infections.
The wound will heal with time, but the tail won’t grow back, which means that the lizard’s movement prowess will be diminished.
However, bearded dragons can live healthy, long, and fulfilling lives even after losing their tails. It’s all up to the quality of care following the event.
Bearded dragons use their tails for a variety of purposes and activities, and losing them will diminish their ability to function at the same level.
Be wary of the risks and health issues that could impact your beardie’s tail structure, and always have your vet on the line to handle the issue together.