Tail rot in bearded dragons can start mild and become very serious if not addressed quickly. The internal infection can spread to the rest of the bearded dragon’s body and harm the internal organs. Listed below are known causes of the condition, as well as treatment, and some notes on prevention. If you catch tail rot early enough, you may be able to save your bearded dragon’s tail.
What Does Tail Rot Look Like on a Bearded Dragon
Tail rot primarily affects the tail, but can also affect toes of bearded dragons. The tail, or toes, will gradually begin turning black and become dry and brittle due to lack of blood flow. There may also be no sensation left in the tail. This is dying tissue and the infection will continue to progress up the tail, and if left unchecked, to the rest of the body.
Can Tail Rot Kill a Bearded Dragon?
Yes, tail rot in advanced stages can eventually kill your bearded dragon. As the infection spreads up the tail, it will enter the body and start to affect the vital organs. The best thing you can do is be vigilant and either catch it early, or make an effort to prevent it in the first place. The sooner you address the problem, the less pain your beardie will have to suffer.
Early Signs of Tail Rot
- Tail not shedding
- Tip of tail turning black
- Dry, brittle appearance
- When shedding, the skin of the tail will slowly turn whitish, or transparent. This is normal and shouldn’t be confused with tail rot
Causes of Tail Rot
There are two main causes for this condition that are known. The first is usually trauma from either bites from other bearded dragons (often when they are housed together as babies), or bites from insect prey left in the cage. Incomplete sheds can also lead to tail rot, as the old skin can remain and slowly cut off blood flow. Rarely, an abscess may cause the same issues.
Some other causes for tail rot are lack of UVB exposure and malnourishment. UVB lighting is of utmost importance to day-active lizards like bearded dragons, and they should receive 12 hours a day. This helps their bodies metabolize calcium and keeps their bones strong and healthy. Don’t forget that these lights need to be changed every 6 months.
Conversely, if fed an improper diet, your beardie may be getting unbalanced levels of calcium to phosphorus ratios. Try to avoid foods in the cruciferous (broccoli, cauliflower, etc) family of vegetables which are known to bind calcium in reptiles. Here is a great feeding chart to follow with nutritional information for bearded dragons.
If you are at all unsure of the cause, or not sure what to do, take your bearded dragon to a qualified reptile vet ASAP.
How to Prevent It
Housing – First and foremost, try not to house babies together. These early life stages are when potential injuries can happen that can eventually lead to tail rot. They are known for biting each other’s tails and toes. Housing adults together can be just as dicey. Though some beardies can get along, it doesn’t mean they will forever. Be prepared with extra setups if you plan to try this. I also suggest supervising them closely.
> Further reading: The bearded dragon tank setup
Cleaning – Whenever I clean my own bearded dragon’s tank, I use a 50/50 mix of water and vinegar to spray down the glass and hides. This is a non-toxic solution that kills most bacteria, but is safe for reptiles. Let the solution sit for a few minutes before wiping down. Just make sure you let it air out a few minutes before placing your lizard back inside.
If you have any concerns over more serious pathogens, you can always do a monthly disinfect with bleach water. Use 1 part bleach to 2 parts water to spray down the tank, and hides. Let sit for 15 minutes, and then rinse very well. I suggest letting the tank and other items air dry for about 2-3 hours before placing your beardie back in. By then, any harmful fumes should have dissipated.
Bedding – For my own peace of mind, I have never used loose substrate or bedding for my bearded dragon. It poses challenges to keep clean and isn’t completely safe if accidentally ingested. Plus, loose substrates can harbor bacteria and fungi that can do more harm than good. I use paper towels, which are easily disposed of when soiled, and inexpensive. Newspapers are another option that is reasonably steril. If you want something nicer looking, you can get a piece of vinyl flooring cut to your tank size, or tiles. Both are cheap and easily cleaned.
> Further reading: What is the best bearded dragon substrate?
Tail Rot Treatments for Bearded Dragons
Let me just say that a home remedy will only be of use if you have caught this early on and if the spread has actually stopped. Anything further should be seen and examined by a vet. More progressed cases will likely require antibiotics that are only available through your vet. Don’t put off getting your beardie seen.
The only method I would suggest using is the one displayed in the video above. Again, this is only if you have caught the disease early on.
- Clean the tail daily in lukewarm water to free it from any debris. (if you haven’t already, I would strongly advise using paper towels as a substrate when treating this condition.)
- Use a small cup/dish and fill with water, then add a small amount of Betadine (just enough to make the water tea colored.).
- Soak the tail ONLY, not the body, in the solution for 5 minutes daily.
- Pat dry with cotton swab and apply Neosporin original formula (*with no pain relief) to the affected area.
- Continue this treatment for a few days and monitor the tail until you notice the tail rot isn’t spreading toward the body.
- I would still be very wary of keeping the housing VERY clean for the following weeks just to be sure it doesn’t start again. Keep the vet’s number handy if you notice things not looking good.
Surgery & Cost
The amputation of the tail will vary depending on which veterinarian you choose. Though the average pricing seems to run around $100 – $200. This includes any medications that will be going home with your pet.
Did you enjoy this article? Did this help alleviate some worry about your beardie’s health? If so, comment down below and let me know what you think!
As a bearded dragon owner myself, I hate to see them suffer at all. If education can prevent it before it starts, that’s what I’d like to continue to do with the articles I write. There are unfortunately a lot of preventable mistakes in reptile keeping, but by building on our collective experiences we can make the changes our beardies need us to.
You as a fellow reptile owner should also be willing to share and learn for the sake of your bearded dragon’s well being. We all hope to have many wonderful years with these cheeky lizards, and when we face serious health concerns, it’s heartening to know we can help each other with knowledge and support.
Be sure to drop a comment and let me know what you beardie owners think!
23 thoughts on “Tail Rot in Bearded Dragons: All You Need to Know”
I am treating my Bearded Dragon for tail rot. And I’m noticing after I do badadine dip and apply the neosporin her black part where the tail rot is is coming off and her tail is looking white. Is this normal?
That’s a question for your vet, but it sounds normal to me.
(And it’s Betadine, by the way).
Best of luck nursing your pet back to health!
What treatment were you doing?
We recently got a baby dragon from petsmart who appeared to have a bit of tail rot on the very endthe day of purchase. Started soak treatment with Betadine and Neosporin 3x a day. After a few days the condition appeared to have spread up the tail some more. Took him to the vet she confirmed it was tail rot an the rotted part will fall off within a week or two to also continue our soaking treatment we have been doing previously. She stated if condition continues to get worse we can bring him back in for a injection. I asked for a possible amputation to stop the spread all together for his safety (was not happy with the idea but wanted the infection gone to help him) she didn’t really talk about that all too much only that the fact the rot will fall off. Someone please help what more should I do. I hate to see his tail continue to get worse an lose more then he already is. I wish we had another vet who cared for exotics because I feel like we should of been given medicine or something to help him out more.
With the rate of spread of the tail-rot I would say your dragon should definitely have had an antibiotic injection and likely amputation as well. However, without seeing it for myself I cannot be certain of the extent of the infection. Continue with the bathing and neosporin but try your best to seek a secondary veterinary opinion asap.
I know this was forever ago but I worked at Petsmart and if any animal you get has health problems within two weeks of purchase, they will pay for all of the vet bills. Just for future reference 🙂
This is not true. Return with valid receipt (within 14 days) for money back with the option of repurchase after animal is recovered. The store will provide vet services once they own the animal. They will not reimburse customer for services.
Hi! Thank you for the information! I’ve just given my sweet girl the first treatment and I’m making an appointment for her vet. How many times a day should I do this?
I would suggest doing this treatment twice a day but highly recommend getting her to the vet as soon as possible. She may require antibiotics and the sooner you start them the less the tail rot will spread.
Thanks so much for the help! Hopefully this will work for my bearded dragon; I noticed the tail rot very early on. Such a well written article (:
If my baby bearded dragon has tail rot, and it just started today should I use the method above? Or contact a vet and see how to amputate the tail?
If this is not something that you have experienced before I would suggest taking your beardie straight to see a vet. The sooner you get him to the vet the more of the tail you will be able to save. This condition can be life threatening if left untreated.
I noticed my beardie bit his tail this morning I’m guessing his tail was taking to long to shed so he tried to get it off I assume. I immediately went and bought some Betadine and neosporin to treat it and noticed now his tail is getting darker but isn’t black on the bottom yet. Idk if he has tail rot or not yet but will be seeing a vet Monday to find out. I also started putting Aloe Vera on the rest of his tail to get the rest of the shedding on it off. Bearded dragons actually biting themselves are common in which I had no idea, I feel like I’ve failed my little guy so my advice is to watch for this so you won’t be my shoes plz.
Earlier today I was in the process of giving my beardie’s tail a gentle toothbrush cleaning in the sink (poop). I was holding her in my hand, and when I want to close the drain she moved at the same time and her tail got pinched in the stopper. She jumped and I feel terrible.
I tested the pressure of the stopper with my pinky after, and it hurt me so it had to hurt her.
I got home from work 5hrs later and while the tip of her tail is usually black, the bottom was now black going up to mid way. I already ordered Betadine and will make a vet appointment.
But I am wondering if tail rot could come on so fast?
Any advice is greatly appreciated, i’m always worrying about this girl!
I’m sorry to hear about what happened with your beardie. It sounds like she may have developed tail rot, which can happen quickly if the area is not treated properly.
I would recommend taking her to the vet as soon as possible so they can prescribe the proper medication. In the meantime, you can try using Betadine to clean the area and prevent further infection.
Hello, my dragon’s tail has a black line going up the tail. Nothing on the tip. He is old. Do you think it’s tail rot?
Hi Dora! It’s possible that your dragon has tail rot, but it’s hard to say without seeing him in person. If the black line is getting bigger or if your dragon is showing any other signs of illness, it’s best to take him to a Veterinarian.
Hey my bearded dragons tail has been taken longer to shed its shedding is off its tail now but the tip of his tail is black I bought Betadine and neosporin and it hasn’t spread anymore but I was wondering how long to I keep it up with betadine and neosporin
It’s important to note that Betadine and Neosporin should only be used as short-term treatment for minor wounds or infections. If your bearded dragon’s condition persists or worsens despite treatment, it may indicate a more serious health issue that requires more advanced medical care.
Additionally, it’s important to ensure that you are using these treatments correctly and in the appropriate dosage. Overuse or misuse can lead to adverse effects on your bearded dragon’s health.
I strongly encourage you to schedule an appointment with a reptile veterinarian to address your bearded dragon’s tail condition and ensure that they receive proper care and treatment.
My bearded dragon had about 1 inch of tail rot 4 days later it doubled in length .I didnt know what it was , i looked it up , i got betadine mixed it with water
(tea colored) instructions said to soak the tail for 5 min.a day For 7 days. For 2 days i soaked it for 10 min.a day as im reading more it says dont soak more than 5 min.a. day in can be to much and toxic to your bearded dragon.so i didnt soak the tail for the next 2 days and then after that on the 5th. day i soaked his tail for 5 min. It stopped the spreading .
In the meantime i have called 38 veterinarians and nobody could help me .I called U.C.Davis they gave me an app.on Sept. 12.22
They charge $ 140. Just to get in the door they couldnt tell me what was wrong they would have to do tests. They wouldnt prescribe any medicine. They said i would have to pay $1.500 .I asked them if i should keep using betadine they said no dont use it.
I was talking to a vet on the phone when i got back home. The vet said as long as my dragon is still eating good and the tail rot hasnt. spread he would probly be okay. This happened in the beginning of Sept.
and on Dec.30 his tail fell off all by itself.he seems the same and i was gonna soak it in betadine for a week .if you can reply back with some info i would really appreciate it. Thank you Michelle
Thank you for providing the details of your bearded dragon’s tail rot. It sounds like you have done a lot to try and help your pet, which is commendable.
Given that your lizard has now lost its tail, I would suggest that you monitor its health very closely for any signs of infection or other issues. It is important to make sure your dragon has a healthy diet and adequate hydration, as well as access to warmth.
It may be beneficial for your dragon to receive some nutritional support, such as vitamins and minerals which can help with healing. If there are any changes in his health or the tail rot progresses significantly, I would recommend consulting a veterinarian experienced in exotic animals as soon as possible. They may be able to prescribe antibiotics or other medications if necessary.
I hope this helps and that your dragon recovers soon.
My beardie was about two months old when I got him and it has now been one month. Over this time he has shed a couple times, of course, but I noticed that last time when the shed was coming off his tail, the very tip was not coming off, and waited to see when it would, knowing a person should not peel off shed for the lizard, as this can be hurtful to them. However, the very tip of his tail didn’t shed for another two weeks, and I was concerned because it looked like it was getting dark and this made me uncertain if he was developing tail rot. To help, I have been soaking him in a bath in just warm previously boiled water (sometimes to bathe and sometimes just the tail) and also purchased a generic povidone-iodine solution (10%). Is this just as effective as Betadine? Everywhere I have researched it seems just about the same, especially because it contains the same amount of the exact active ingredient. I suppose I have some questions to go along with my post today:
1) As mentioned above – may I use the povidone-iodine solution in replacement of the name brand Betadine?
2) Does stuck tail shed contribute to tail rot?
3) If the colors aren’t very dark and do not progress up the tail, my lizard will be okay to stop treatment after a week or two of extra soaking care, correct?
and 4) Will I have to now keep a close eye on the tail tip moving forward or will it likely regain strength and health?
Thank you kindly!
● Yes, you can use povidone-iodine solution as a replacement for Betadine. They contain the same active ingredient and work similarly for cleaning and disinfecting wounds.
● Stuck shed can potentially contribute to tail rot if it restricts blood flow to the tip of the tail. It’s important to facilitate proper shedding by providing adequate humidity and bathing.
● It’s hard to say without examining your beardie, but if there’s no progression of the dark coloration or other signs of distress, your beardie might be okay after a week or two of extra care.
●Always keep a close eye on any past health issues. In this case, monitor the tail tip’s condition and coloration. If it appears normal and healthy after treatment, great! But vigilance is important.
Remember, if you have any doubts or see any signs of worsening, it’s always best to consult a reptile vet.