This week I saw a young Bearded Dragon who had lost a piece of his tail. When I first saw him, the damaged portion of his tail was just hanging on and the new tip was exposed.

Many things can result in tail injuries in reptiles.

These include things such as:

  1. Accidental Trauma (Getting caught in a door or piece of furniture)
  2. Thermal Burns
  3. Attacks by live prey, or cage mates
  4. Dysecdysis (Improper Shedding)
  5. Systemic diseases such as hypothyroid among others
  6. Poor husbandry or nutrition
  7. Infections
  8. Parasites
  9. Owner induced trauma

When I looked closely at the portion of tail which had fallen off it became evident that there was some unshed skin still present. The rest of the lizard appeared normal.

This led to a diagnosis of Dysecdysis or Improper shedding. However, this diagnosis is not of a disease state itself but rather a symptom of disease or improper husbandry. It is hard to know what the exact cause of the dysecdysis is without

Reptiles including, snakes, lizards and turtles, shed their skins. This process is called Ecdysis and occurs regularly in healthy reptiles. Once the entire skin is shed the process occurs all over again. The time between shed cycles depends on the age and health of the animal. Young healthy reptiles shed most frequently.

You can tell that your reptile is starting to shed when the skin becomes dull and the eyes whitish. Approximately 1-2 weeks later the full skin will be shed. Once the reptile starts the shed cycle it is very important not to handle them. The new skin underneath is very difficult and prone to damage and their vision is impaired which can make them nervous. After the dull skin stage, the skin becomes shiny and the eyes are clear but the skin is still delicate so continue to avoid handling. Next, the reptile begins to shed. It rubs on cage furniture and snakes crawl out of their old skin while most reptiles loose theirs piece by piece. The skin may have a hint of colour but it is mostly transparent.

If your reptile hasnt lost all of its skin this is called dysecdysis and is a problem. You should seek help from your veterinarian. The retained skin will need to be removed. If it is not removed it could result in more problems as it can harbour diseases. Sometimes medication may be necessary if infections are present or persist.

The most common causes of dysecdysis are problems with husbandry and management and can include:

  1. handling
  2. poor nutrition
  3. low cage temperature
  4. low humidity
  5. insufficient cage furniture

It is very important that reptiles are kept at the right temperature and humidity for them. They require room to move around and the proper nutrition. Each reptile thrives on a different diet. Be sure that you know which one is best for your particular reptile. Speak with a professional to be sure that you are doing the very best for your particular reptile.

If husbandry changes do not fix the problem a visit to your veterinarian is recommended.

Tests may need to be performed to look for disease processes such as

  1. fungal/bacterial skin skin disease
  2. systemic diseases
  3. mites or other parasites
  4. thermal burns
  5. thyroid disease
  6. old scars

The good news for this little guy is that reptiles are very proficient at regenerating their tails. He will grow the tip of his tail back. It might be a slightly different texture or colour but will grow back to a fully functioning tail.