When you buy a leopard gecko from the pet shop, one of the things you’ll be warned against is leopard gecko tail rot. Tail rot in leopard geckos is a common occurrence that, if left to continue, can cause major problems to the gecko. Solved early, however, your leopard gecko will be in good condition in no time.
Some of the causes of tail rot in leopard geckos include blood clots in the tail, trauma to the tail, insect bites, tail infections, hypothermia and a few others. You can tell that the gecko’s tail is rotten when it has no feeling in the affected area, there’s a change in color in the rotten area and there’s a leathery look to the tail.
Symptoms of Tail Rot in Leopard Geckos
To know whether your leopard gecko has tail rot, look out for the following signs and symptoms:
1. Change in color of the rotten area
Among the signs of tail rot is color changes in the rotten area. This is because, as stated above, the fungus can cause rotting of tissue and discoloration caused by bacterial colonies on necrotic tissues
If you notice that your gecko’s tail has changed colors from its usual brown to purple or black then it might be a sign that there’s something wrong with his/her body.
It may not always be an indication of tail rot but if this was accompanied by other signs such as puffy skin folds along the leopard gecko’s back or swelling around its eye sockets then these could also be symptoms of illness which means it would have to see a vet for further diagnosis.
2. Breaking of the tail
Another sign that your Leopard Gecko might have tail rot is if you see that the gecko’s tail has a break in it. This can happen for many reasons, but one of them is from some kind of infection or injury to the tail.
The most common cause for this symptom is due to poor-quality housing conditions; low humidity levels and temperatures may lead to skin dryness which causes shedding problems.
A poorly maintained environment will also delay natural healing on broken tails, as well as increase the risk of secondary infections such as bacteria and fungi attacking wounds left open because there isn’t enough moisture present around them.
Another possible reason why your leopard geckos’ tail may be breaking off could be an environmental change, like when they’re relocated into a new cage.
READ MORE: Leopard gecko humidity guide
3. Drying of the tail in the rotten areas
A drying tail is another sign that your leopard gecko may have a rotting tail.
If your leopard gecko tail has been rotting, it is important to dry the tail before you try and treat it. If left untreated, the tail will continue to rot away until there is nothing left for treatment. To keep your leopard gecko’s tail from decaying further, make sure that his/her enclosure remains as humid as possible when they are not shedding their skin or eating in order to retain moisture in the air around them.
You can also place damp paper towels over areas of a rotten leopard gecko tail that have dried out. This helps keeps those parts moist during healing time while preventing other parts from drying up due to lack of humidity in the area where he/she eats and sheds its skin.
4. Leathery look around the rotten areas
When the tail begins to rot, the outer layer of skin may develop a leathery look. The tail will have an unsightly, rough appearance with raised scales and new patches of dark-colored skin that are lighter in texture than the rest of the skin on its body.
In addition to this leopard gecko tail rotting symptom, you should also be aware that white lines or bumps could appear around the margins of these lesions—where it meets healthy tissue—which is called “intergranulary banding” or “spreading granulation tissue.” This can happen when bacteria spreads while eating away at healthy cells underneath dying areas. Healthy appearing flaky scales from other regions can also detach themselves from their stalks.
These stalks, which are called “pedicles,” are the point of attachment for scales to skin. If they shrink too much as a result of this process, then your gecko’s tail will stop growing and fall off altogether.
5. Lack of feeling around the rotten area
If your leopard gecko has no feeling around the area of its tail that is rotting, it could be a sign of a major problem. The lack of feeling might mean damage to the nerves in and near this area or part of the body that is causing numbness.
If your leopard gecko has lost any function such as movement, sensation, etc., contact your veterinarian immediately.
There are many causes for these symptoms; with some being more severe than others. Your vet will be able to determine whether there’s an issue with just one nerve or if there might be an injury between multiple parts of the body resulting in paralysis. Treatment options vary depending on what caused your geckos’ condition but may include surgery or medications prescribed by your vet.
Causes of Leopard Gecko Tail Rot
Some causes of tail rot in leopard geckos include the following:
1. Blood clots in the tail and restricted blood flow
One cause of a rotting tail in leopard geckos is a blood clot. Blood clots can form when the animal’s tail becomes restricted, often while it sits in its cage for hours on end with few to no chances for movement.
Restricted blood flow means that their tail has become numb or cold and they may not be able to feel anything from it at all. This condition could result in an open wound where bacteria enters and begins attacking the tissue.
This causes them serious pain as well as infection-related issues such as septicemia (a type of severe bacterial infection).
2. Trauma to the tail
Trauma to the tail is not a common cause of tail rot, but it can happen. Leopard geckos use their tails to hold onto surfaces such as plants and branches while they climb; this may lead to injury or infection if the surface is dirty or sharp. Trauma from biting insects or other leopard geckos are also possible causes of trauma-related tail rot.
Traumatic injuries that occur on top of an area where there were already signs of infection will often lead to secondary infections in the surrounding tissue due to bacteria entering through wounds created by bites or scratches.
Bites should be washed with soap and water immediately after contact, followed by treatment with topical antibiotic ointments for at least one week following exposure. The wound should then be covered loosely with a piece of sterile gauze or a bandage to keep the site clean and prevent further injury.
Leopard geckos will often self-amputate their tails during times of stress, such as when they are being pursued by predators (such as snakes). This is an instinctual behavior in order to escape from danger; it does not mean that there has been trauma elsewhere on the body. In these cases, it may be necessary for humans to assist leopard geckos with reattaching their tails if possible.”
Hypothermia can also lead to leopard gecko tail rot. Hypothermia in leopard geckos occurs when the leopard gecko suffers from a prolonged period of low environmental temperatures and may lead to hypoglycemia or tail rot as well.
If your leopard gecko has suffered any of these conditions, you will need to take it in for treatment immediately. The veterinarian should be able to help you decide which type of antibiotic would work best for your reptile friend.
In most cases, Leopard Geckos can recover from this illness with proper care over time. Make sure that they are warm enough at all times during their recovery process.
4. Infection in the tail
Tail infection is often the result of an injury to the tail. In leopard geckos, this can happen if they are mishandled or caught by a predator like another animal or human. This leaves them susceptible to infection from bacteria in their environment – which is why it’s important for owners and handlers alike to be extra careful when handling any pet lizard with a damaged tail.
5. Insect bites
When insects attack leopard geckos, they can produce some nasty bites. The leopard gecko’s skin is not as thick and tough as human skin so insect bites are more likely to cause damage or infection. Scorpion stings will also be very painful for the animal because it lacks pain-sensing nerves that would help indicate when something is wrong with its body.
A common culprit in leopard gecko tail rot cases (particularly on baby animals) is a bite from an assassin bug which feeds on blood using needle-sharp teeth and claws to pierce through their prey’s hard outer layer of scales. They inject venom into the wound area after piercing it, causing inflammation around the site of injury, lesions where those needles have pierced through tissues, and allergic reactions like hives.
6. Abnormal shedding
When it comes to shedding, leopard geckos are not the most unique reptiles. They shed their skin in a process known as molting or sloughing to help regulate body temperature and increase the growth rate of new skin cells.
However, when shedding takes place at an abnormal time, it can be cause for concern. Abnormal shedding can be caused by a number of factors such as leopard gecko tail rot, skin parasites, and infections.
Leopard gecko shedding occurs at least once per month. One may notice shedding after molting appears as clumps when they are left alone for periods of time. This is normal behavior but if it stops suddenly or continues for more than four days without any change, that person should contact an exotic veterinarian immediately because there could be something else going on like leopard gecko tail rot.
7. Cyst or abscess
A cyst or an abscess may form if the skin around your leopard gecko’s tail is damaged or infected.
Cysts are fluid-filled sacs that can be caused by underlying infections while abscesses are pus-filled pockets of infection in the tissue. These cysts will often grow rapidly over a short period of time, but they’ll go away when they burst or drain (which happens eventually).
You want to keep an eye on these cysts because you never know what might happen. In some cases, the bleeding stops once it empties out all its liquid content into other areas which could result in more serious conditions such as dehydration or shock.
Leopard Gecko Tail Rot Treatment
If your leopard gecko has a rotting tail, the chances of stopping the rot are quite low. Thankfully, there are a few solutions you can rely on in this case.
Some of the treatment methods for a rotting leopard gecko tail include the following:
Surgery is one of the most effective treatments for leopard gecko tail rot.
However, it is not an easy or cheap option to choose and will mostly be beneficial only when the rotting area of your pet’s tail doesn’t exceed a certain size.
Surgery costs anywhere from $400 to over $1000 depending on how much needs to be amputated, and you’ll need at least one follow-up surgery after that too if the problem persists.
Surgery is often recommended in cases where there are multiple cysts (more than two) because this indicates inflammation which can lead to more serious conditions such as gangrene or death due to shock or dehydration.
If you do opt for surgery, make sure you find a vet who specializes in reptile care as they have the best knowledge on the subject.
After the surgery or even without it, you’ll need to start treating your pet with medication.
Preventative antibiotics are often recommended as they will help keep the infection from coming back.
If you do choose surgery, many vets recommend giving post-surgery antibiotic injections every day or two for a few weeks after the initial procedure – even if there is no sign of inflammation.
A common drug used in reptiles is Baytril which comes as an injectable, liquid suspension, oral paste (prolonged release), injectable solution and topical spray so it can be customized based on what’s needed.
Baytril should only be given periodically during the course of treatment because it could become toxic over time due to leopard geckos being sensitive creatures.
Will my leopard gecko tail grow back?
If the leopard gecko tail was not completely severed, over time it should regrow but the process can take months and may never be as long or thick again.
In some cases, leopard geckos will have a shorter tail that is permanently damaged due to infection so they need periodic vet visits for antibiotic injections with Baytril.
A leopard gecko’s ability to regenerate its tail depends on how severe the damage is – if only one of two vertebrae were cut off in an accident then there would likely be no lasting effect because those bones are still intact. More serious injury could result in permanent loss of function.
READ NEXT: Best Substrate for Leopard Geckos