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Iguana Tail Rot: Signs Causes, And Treatments

Iguanas are huge reptiles with long, slender tails. While they may be sharp and whip-like, they may rot and die from a variety of problems. Pet iguana owners are often concerned as to why this is happening and if it is irreversible or treatable. 

Iguana tails may turn black and this article will provide the possible reasons why this is happening and the basic steps in dealing with it. 

This article has been reviewed by Dr. Dilber. Read more about our knowledge control process here.

Signs Of Iguana Tail Rot

The signs of iguana tail rot include the appearance of brown or black areas, dryness, numbness, and fragility in the affected area, feathery, and hard. The various causes include trauma, infection, embolism, dysgenesis, and hypothermia. If the rotten part of the tail is painful, consult a veterinarian immediately. 

What Is Tail Rot in Reptile?

Tail rot or tail necrosis is a common state that pet reptiles develop. If it were left untreated, it can easily spread in the tail and have adverse effects on the iguana.  

The tail is a key indicator for how healthy your pet’s skin may be. A pliable and flexible tail will not have any issues with shedding (the reptile grows a new layer of skin under their old one to rid themselves of parasites) whereas one affected by tail rot might become stiff or bent after movement has been made.

 If you notice dry patches of flaking on your pet’s body where he normally does not show signs of being in good shape then that could mean there’s some sort of problem going on under the surface as opposed to just regular old shedding.

Is Tail Rot Contagious To Other Divisions?

Tail rot is a matter of internal problems. Thus, it is not considered contagious to other divisions. However, the affected part may spread out if not immediately attended to or treated. 

Oftentimes, iguana owners do not notice the signs of tail rotting until they reach the point of breaking. You must be observant and careful when dealing with this. 

Iguana Tail Rot
Iguana Tail Rot

Will Tail Rot Go Away On Its Own?

Unfortunately no. Tail rot is a condition in which the tip of the tail begins to die, which is usually evidenced by the change in color. It can be difficult to spot in its early stages which allows it to further develop if left untreated. It will not go away on its own and must be treated seriously and immediately. 

If it has already progressed or spread throughout the tail, this may lead to the tail falling off or the need to amputate it. Moreover, the iguana may be unable to grow a new tail, and worse, it could lead to more infection, organ failure, and other health complications. 

How Long Can An Iguana Live With Tail Rot?

The average lifespan of an iguana is 12 to 15 years. If it were well-taken care of, it may reach 20 years. However, with tail rot, this may be reduced as this can lead to inflammation and introduction to bacteria and germs. Ultimately, this can lead to serious health risks and death.

Causes Of Iguana Tail Rot

After examining the signs of tail rot in your iguana, the cause may be identified. This may be happening due to the dying or dead necrotic tissue without a healthy blood supply. Tail rot is normally attributable to trauma or infection. 

With that said, what could be causing tail rot in your pet iguana?

Accidents Happen When Your Iguana Hit Its Tail Too Hard

Accidents happen with movement, especially sudden ones. When contained in a cage or enclosure, your iguana may have thumped on a hard object such as the sides of the enclosure or decor. This also happens when it is acting out, not in the mood, or aggressive. Moreover, it might have been stuck between doors or other objects in the tank. 

It might also have whipped its tail during the breeding season. Blood circulation is decreased and hindered which hardens the tail and causes it to turn darker in color. If it has changed into brown or black, the tail may be dying. 

Embolisms: Iguanas Have Stuck Shed On Their Tails Shutting Off The Blood Supply

Embolism refers to the lack of blood flow that may lead to worse conditions. Shedding can disrupt blood circulation in the tail. 

Adult iguanas shed in about every three to four weeks while juveniles do it more frequently. From time to time, they can leave some shed stuck on their toes, around the head, and their tails. The build-up of the shed can affect the circulation of blood causing the darker color and rotting.

Iguanas need high humidity in the enclosure to shed properly. Low humidity can result in retained shedding. To avoid this, you may provide humidity to your iguana by misting them twice a day and bathing them every day or at least four times a week. And to avoid shed piling up on the tail, the iguana may be assisted by removing the layers left.

An unattended stuck shed can cause tail rot in iguanas
An unattended stuck shed can cause tail rot in iguanas

Your Iguana Injure When Falling From A High Structure

Iguanas as natural climbers. They are fond of clambering up on higher heights and jumping without care. This happens more frequently than known which injures their limbs and tails. 

To prevent this from happening, you may set up a vertical cage with accessories that allow it to climb up and down without risk. 

Your Iguana Has An Abscess In The Tail

The tail of your iguana can be infected which initiates the development of a cyst or an abscess. An abscess is an infected area that has swollen. It contains an amassing of pus. It can also be difficult to notice until it has grown larger and more obvious. You will notice it early if you suspect a bump on the tail.

Bacterial proliferation in the open wound can result in an abscess and if it is left untreated, necrosis will occur. 

If it were left untreated, the abscess will disrupt the blood flow to the tail which causes rotting. The abscess shall be cut open to remove the pus. The wound must stay clean until it is completely healed.

Your Iguana Is Biting Its Own Tail

If you notice your iguana gnawing on its tail, it may be feeling itchy or preparing to shed. However, if it is biting so much that it is wounding its tail, then it could cause harm. It could be due to an infection, mites, or stress. 

Male iguanas tend to bite on their tails during the breeding season while females do this when they are preparing to lay eggs.  

The wound must be sanitized with antibiotic ointment and the tail covered. This would prevent further biting. The current conditions of your pet must also be evaluated to determine what may be causing its stress.

iguana biting the tail of another iguana
If an iguana bite its own tail or got it bitten by an older lizard, that can cause tail rot if the wound isn’t treated on time

How To Treat Tail Rot In Iguanas

Although tail rot can be prevented, it will be difficult to reverse once it has reached the advanced stage. If left untreated, this can eventually lead to the death of the iguana due to infection and health complications. 

If the affected area cannot be treated with medications, it has to be amputated to prevent infections and the development of serious health threats. 

Here is a to-do list for the treatment:

  • The tail may fall off by itself if it has been injured and has turned black. However, it is recommended to avoid waiting for it to happen and remove the tips immediately. If you notice that the black-colored area is collapsing, you may help by breaking it at the fracture point. Ensure that it is bendable and dry.
  • If a huge part of the tail is injured, it will eventually turn dark. To avoid the expansion of the gangrene, part where blood circulation is hindered, you must go to the veterinarian to cut off the dying tail.
  • Amputations must occur from slightly above the dead tissue, approximately one to two mm higher. Cutting at the infected area would allow it to spread.
  • Never try to amputate the tail by yourself as this poses high risks and pain for the iguana. 
  • If a cyst or an abscess is present, it must be cut open first to wash out the pus with antibiotics.

First, Disinfect The Tail Wound

The cases that can be done at home are the minor ones including slight discoloration and minimal injury. You may prevent further infection and worsening of wounds by attending to the affected area immediately. 

The treatment of the tail rot can only be done at home when the discolored or injured area is falling off. You may aid by breaking it off at the fracture point. You must remember to always disinfect the wound for healing. 

If you have determined what may be stressing your iguana, you may make the necessary adjustments. You may also adjust its enclosure to avoid falling incidents and accidents within. You may also prevent biting by covering the tail. 

However, if the tail rot has expanded and has gotten worse, a veterinarian must be attending to the needs of your iguana. 

Last update on 2022-12-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

See A Veterinarian And Surgery Your Iguanas

If the home remedies did not work or if the tail rot has spread or developed, your pet iguana must be taken to a veterinarian soon. 

If the infection can be managed without cutting off the part, it may be treated with antibiotics. You must obtain a proper diagnosis as antibiotics can be harsh on the pet’s organs. You must keep it adequately hydrated so it can process the medication better. The vet may also advise an immunity booster to avoid appetite suppression. 

Once necrosis starts, it affects neighboring cells and has no treatment. The only option is to cut the necrotic part. The vet may also resort to surgery if the tail rot has spread out and seems dangerous for the iguana. Expect half an inch or more to be removed.

However, it also depends on you as you will be consulted if you are comfortable with the length. The vet may administer anesthesia for the amputation or abscess removal in sterile conditions.

Ensure You Keep The Incision Healthy So The Tail Can Regrow

Unlike the other animals, iguanas do not show signs of pain. It is still vital to support their recovery from surgery and help relieve the pain by giving medications such as meloxicam, tramadol, and ceftazidime. 

You must ensure that the enclosure or the iguana’s general environment is extremely clean to prevent wound infection and has a raised temperature that the iguana prefers. 

The iguana must be provided with complete, balanced, and nutritious meals to avoid deficiencies. The conditions must be improved by reducing the factors that can cause stress in your iguana. This may include reducing noises and keeping its environment peaceful. 

pet humidifier for stuck shed
In case of stuck shed, you can use a humidifier like this to mist and soften the shed to come out without leaving wound on your pet.

Will Your Iguana’s Tail Grow Back?

With good housing conditions and proper care, most iguanas grow back their tails. However, this depends on the age and where it was detached. Younger iguanas are more likely to grow them back. 

The new-grown tail will look dissimilar to the old one in terms of color and shape. The size of the regrown will be smaller than the lost one. And the color will be darker like gray or black.

It is more likely to grow back its tail if it was severed at the fracture point.


Iguana Tail Rot is an often fatal condition that can be prevented if you are aware of the signs, causes, and treatments. It’s important to know how to identify this infection before your iguana gets too sick or dies. 

To help prevent it from happening in the first place, make sure you provide a warm environment for your pet iguanas. If they seem lethargic or have trouble moving their tail, take them to see a veterinarian as soon as possible so they can receive treatment and hopefully recover quickly!

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