Changes In The Toe Or Tail In Reptiles

Here we have summarized some important information about the discoloration of body parts in reptiles for you.

The reptilian tail

The reptilian tail is used for swimming and threat/defensive behavior. Frequent changes are caused by dead tissue (necrosis), infections, injuries, deformities, shedding, or molting disorders (dysecdysis). We explain below what this means in detail and whether there is any reason for concern.

Symptoms & their causes

Infections are usually caused by bacteria, more rarely by fungi. If left untreated, they pose an immediate threat to the reptile: the bacteria can spread from the infection focus rises and lead to bone marrow inflammation and changes in the vertebrae. As a result of these changes, excessive ossification can lead to the formation of bridges between the vertebrae. This severely limits mobility.

Injuries (traumas) to the tail and toes are often caused by bites (partner animals, prey) or defensive behavior. Injuries can be simple, but if left undetected and/or untreated, they can result in infection or autotomy (tail falling off). A recent injury is usually bloody and then turns into a pus-filled or exuding sore (see Infection). So-called avascular necrosis, i.e. an insufficient supply of blood to the bone, often occurs as a result, especially in the green iguana. Tail tip necrosis is described as a dark, usually slowly ascending change. The affected tissue is usually dry and hard. These changes are also associated with pain.

Deformities can be congenital malformations, but can also occur as a result of trauma, infection, or metabolic bone disease (a common metabolic disorder of the bone).

Increases in circumference, i.e. swelling or lumps, etc. are often caused by trauma or infection. A tumor (tumor, cancer) rarely plays a role.

Autotomy is the ability to shed and regenerate a body part in the event of danger or injury. After the tail is shed, a small, usually darker regenerate grows over time, a “new tail”. Instead of the normal vertebral bodies, a cartilaginous tissue forms in it, which is softer and less stable than the original bone. Many lizard species (except monitor lizards, beaded lizards, and chameleons) are able to do this. Since the tail can be thrown off in case of danger or stress, this must be taken into account when handling the animals.

Dysecdysis (sloughing disorder) in geckos can result in stuck patches of skin on the tail and limbs. In the worst case, constrictions can lead to tissue death. The skin renewal process varies depending on the species: Remnants of the skin are not uncommon in lizards in particular and do not necessarily have to be pathological. Be sure to keep a close eye on any leftover skin after molting.

If you notice any changes in your reptile’s tail or toes, please see a reptile-experienced veterinarian. Respond quickly if you are injured or similar. see to avoid worse consequences.


The veterinarian will examine your animal thoroughly and, if necessary, carry out any further tests that may be necessary, e.g. B. a bacteriological (bacteria) or mycological (fungi) test. A change in the vertebral body can be determined on the basis of the changed mobility and an X-ray image.


Superficial wounds can be treated locally with disinfectants. If it is a deeper infection with already dead tissue and a possibly ascending infection, this cannot be solved with medication. A tail amputation is then required.

Depending on the course of the infection/trauma, the ability to perform autotomy can be used. There is also the chance that regeneration will form. Deformities of the tail usually cannot be treated.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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