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Frilled Dragon - Possible Tail Rot

Discussion in 'Lizards - General' started by sgun020, Jan 1, 2014.

  1. sgun020

    sgun020 Well-Known Member

    Hi everyone,

    I've owned a frilled dragon for almost 1.5 year, he's probably about 2 years old now. I use plantation soil from Exo-terra for his substrate, he has both UVB and UVA, also a night light.

    About 2 months ago, he got a diagonal cut near the end of his tail, I don't know what caused it. I cleaned the area around the wound and dressed it, hoping the tissue would reconnect somehow. The next day the bandage came off, along with the small part of the tail, no blood, but since the cut was diagonal I could see the bone inside. I cleaned again and put antibiotic ointment on it and bandaged it. A few days later it looked better, and I thought of nothing until yesterday.

    Around 1.5 cm from the end of his tail is very stiff, then above it, approximately 2 cms upwards I noticed some swelling...brownish in colour and his tail is limp like there's no bone there, if i hold the tail upwards, it wouldn't hold up straight - made a curve instead. Just to add, there's nothing in his cage that could crush his tail, and his tail never got caught in the door.

    He's still active, eating, basking, etc...when I checked the tail, he wasn't bothered either, more like he couldn't feel halfway down his tail...

    I know I must take him to a vet at this stage, I'd take him to a vet in a heartbeat...however, I live in the northeast part of China, and there are no vets anywhere that specialise in reptiles.

    Would anyone be able to give advice on what I should do or what might have happened with his tail?

    Many thanks in advance.
  2. cassicat4

    cassicat4 Subscribed User Premium Member

    If you could post a picture that would help, but it sounds like ascending/dry gangrene aka tail rot. Is the stiff part a grey or brown in color? I know it can be difficult to tell depending on your dragon's patterning, but the color would be solid and a different shade than the rest of the tail. The limp part that's above the stiff area and is swelling and appears to have no feeling is also indicative of the infection that leads to gangrene in the first place.

    If it is gangrene, your dragon's tail will need to be amputated, and ASAP. Left too long, it and the infection will continue to ascend, and if it reaches the body, it leads to systemic infection and is often fatal.

    I would call around your local vets to see who may be willing to see your reptile. In some cases, if the nearest exotics vet is far away, cat and dog vets can sometimes treat reptiles in consultation via telephone with an exotics vet.
  3. sgun020

    sgun020 Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the prompt reply.

    I'll take a picture on Saturday since my reptiles are housed at another house, my husband takes care of them during the weekdays.

    I think it's a bit hard to tell the colour, since I use soil his tail has always been slightly stained, brownish in colour...the limp part is recent, at first it looked the same, then upon closer inspection, it's slightly swollen. Could it also be because of retained shed? He hasn't shed the lower half of his tail, probably about twice, I've tried soaking everything but nothing works until the cut. He's currently shedding, his body has shed, and upper tail almost shed.

    We called all animal hospitals, and asked independent vets, but none would take him. They asked symptoms, etc so we explained, and they said, let it dry and drop by itself =.=;; They also said we're welcome to do X-ray, just no expert would be able to explain what's happening and treat it, let alone amputating it.

    There are no exotic vets in the city where I live, we even called Beijing with no result. I'm feeling very helpless.
  4. Merlin

    Merlin Administrator Staff Member Premium Member

    A picture will help us see what is going on and then we can better advise you.
  5. cassicat4

    cassicat4 Subscribed User Premium Member

    This^. Based on your description, it certainly could be as benign as stuck shed, but without a picture, we can only guess.

    The problem with dragons is that their tail does not naturally drop or break off like it does with most gecko species, even when infected or injured. It usually takes some kind of force, for example, getting the tail stuck in some decor or tank door, or in the case of a dead tail, if the tail is whipped against the glass, before it can be broken off.

    This is a link to a case study that I read some time ago. It's about an Iguana with ascending gangrene, and includes pictures and descriptions which may or may not help you as well:
  6. murrindindi

    murrindindi Elite Member

    Hi, I`d just like to ask which UVB/ bulbs you`re using and the distance from them to the lizard when basking, also the size and type of enclosure?
    The most important consideration at this time is treating any infection. Amputating a small portion near the tail tip is quite a simple procedure, and if you cannot find a vet to do it, it would be possible that you yourself could (obviously with instruction). I stress this would only be a few cm from the tip, anything more does need a qualified vet.
  7. sgun020

    sgun020 Well-Known Member

    Hi all

    Thank you for your helpful replies.

    at this stage i am concentrating on treating any infection that might have occured, and hoping to lessen the swelling that had turned a small part of the tail greenish...i'm getting some betadine tomorrow from a friend since the ones i ordered are being delivered. i read online that i could use salt soak im exchange, would it be ok to do that today and betadine tomorrow?

    my husband soaked him yesterday and put some topical antibiotic on and around the area,then bandaged it.alto,the dragon,didn't seem to feel the lower part of his tail.

    we use zoomed uvb, exo terra uva and night light...they're about 25~30cms above him,the uvb is fairly recent, approx 3.5 months. we just moved all of o. pets to a different apartment,he's temporarily housed in a 60x45x60 cm cage. i feed him rats twice a month,superworms,crickets...the food are given in a bowl so they can't walk around (superworms/crickets).he doesn't like vegetables or fruits...he also gets his calcium and once a week multivitamin with d3.

    he's very active,likes to climb and jump around,he's timid around other people apart from me.he doesn't seem to like the others much.
  8. sgun020

    sgun020 Well-Known Member


    This is Alto - the white bit above his eye has been there for over a year, he injured himself while climbing/ jumping around, skin didn't grow back.

    Any thoughts on his tail would be appreciated, many thanks.
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2014
  9. Thalatte

    Thalatte Elite Member

    It looks dead to me. The very end looks darkened and like the muscle has atrophied-is this area blackish? Then right above that looks like a section that is starting to rot-it looks darker and sorta speckled.
    I think you should try to find some one that will snip it off for you. Even a regular vet should be able to do this. Or is their a zoo or animal reserve near you? Or an exotic animal rescue? These types of places usually have a vet on staff or one that travels in every now and then to check on their animals and they may see alto.
  10. murrindindi

    murrindindi Elite Member

    Hi again, no doubt the end of the tail is dead tissue, though how far up is a little hard to see,, is there a slight kink in the tail approx 7cm from the very tip?
    If the UVB is a Powersun it needs to be at LEAST 30cm from the surface of the bulb to the closest surface of the lizard when it`s basking (that will usually mean it`s head), even slightly closer can cause burns.
    Can you show a few photos of the whole enclosure?
  11. Merlin

    Merlin Administrator Staff Member Premium Member

    Damaged tail tips often will dry up and fall off on their own. It's infection that you need to watch out for. Take a sharpie marker and mark the highest level of the discoloration and dryness. If it starts to progress up past that point you may have dry gangrene on the tail and the damaged part will need to be amputated.
  12. sgun020

    sgun020 Well-Known Member

    after he got a cut and the tip fell off, it dried out and hardened. i thought it's what it supposed to look like, i didn't realise that the tail was infected.

    the hard part came up to about 2 cms from the tip, above that up to the kink is the mushy greenish part i mentioned in my earlier post, i don't know what it is, i feel like he might have broken that area of his tail, i'm not sure.

    i've been doin soaking and applying topical antibiotic from the tip up to the area slightly above the kink, hoping to stop the infection. i checked the mushy part yesterday and it seemed to be better than the day before.

    we called the zoo and the zoo referred us to some vets, they wouldn't take a look at alto. if i took alto to the zoo then he would be taken away from us, apparently frilled dragon is protected in china,just like savannah monitor.

    at the time i'm trying to stop his infection spreading further, fingers crossed it will work.on top of soaks and topical antibiotic treatment,i give him some reptaid everyday,it's not a medicine,but some have used it with good results. i use reptaid once or twice a month as maintenance for the others too.
  13. sgun020

    sgun020 Well-Known Member

    if i were to amputate the dry part, how would i do it myself? what do you suggest me to do now? i don't want the infection to continue further up, so far it has only been 2 cms.
  14. Thalatte

    Thalatte Elite Member

    The mushy green part is the infection and that is the area that is of concern. That area needs to be amputated just above the green part. Just a topical antibiotic may not be enough he will need some sort of oral or injectable antibiotic to stop the infection from progressing.
  15. mshrmheadcharge

    mshrmheadcharge Moderator Staff Member Premium Member

    You don't do that sort of thing yourself. The animals health and well being are at risk. You can tell the vet you do not know what type of lizard, only that his tail is infected and would they take a look. Most vets will not recognize his species, especially a vet that sees mammals.
  16. murrindindi

    murrindindi Elite Member

    Hi again, I thought that if it was a small kink it may be broken, in which case it could have interrupted the blood supply leading to the tip dying off. As I mentioned earlier, it`s most important the infection is treated, and as suggested the animal needs antibiotics, that is a "must have".
    As a last resort you CAN amputate the tip yourself if the zoo and vets all refuse. The only other choice would be to leave it alone which is not acceptable, unless the tip fell off itself and no further infection was present.
    You must stop soaking the lizard immediately, the tail needs to be kept dry.
  17. sgun020

    sgun020 Well-Known Member

    hi everyone

    everyone that we called refused to take a lizard in, let alone treat one. one did suggest to give alto antibiotics, she suggested to give him some human antibiotics, like the capsule antibiotics for human. i could probably buy the animal liquid antibiotic at pharmacies here but i wouldn't know the dosage and where to inject it,it's risky.

    if there were a vet who would be able to amputate or treat him i would have been very happy, i'm leaving china for half a year next month, i'm hoping to get him healed before next month.

    how to amputate the tip of the tail? just get scissors and snip?
  18. murrindindi

    murrindindi Elite Member

    Hi again, you CANNOT amputate the tip using scissors, nor is it safe to do so until antibiotics have been administered to treat the infection. Antibiotics used for dogs/cats are suitable but you need to know the dosage, that`s usually done by the weight of the animal (also this is a reptile). I would have thought that these days any decent vet would be able to contact someone with more experience for advise (vet`s worldwide via the internet)?
    Can you zoom in to the tail tip by cropping the photos?
  19. sgun020

    sgun020 Well-Known Member

    hi thanks for your prompt reply.

    yea i didn't think it would work with just scissors and snip.

    i think in western countries people would care more about their pets, but in china, animal welfare is not prioritised...also when i called those people, once they knew i wanted to treat a lizard, most turned me down almost instantly without giving different options. that's just the way it works here, unfortunately.

    i will zoom in on the photo tomorrow morning.
  20. murrindindi

    murrindindi Elite Member

    Will you take an accurate weight measurement of the lizard? I will talk to my vet and see if he can give advise on dosage of some antibiotics (they can also be given orally), and if you get some I`ll also need details of them.

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