What can cause a lizard to lose its tail?
A few weeks back, my frilly lost part of his tail and has been acting very odd ever since. He'll eat, but only about two large crickets every two days (he's still a little guy). He lays around all day, hardly moving at all. He also does an odd thing with his head at times. It looks like he's head bobbing at something, although slower than a normal head bob, and he also shakes his head from side to side. He's in a 10 gallon now, but will be getting a larger cage in a matter of days (it’s being built as I type). Could the cage just be too small? Can I expect him to get active when his large cage has many places to climb and explore?
When I pick him up, he's totally still. He won’t move a muscle. And if I try to put him on a branch, he doesn’t want to grab onto it. When I give him a bath he makes a weak attempt, if any at all, to keep his head above water. What could be wrong with him? Stress may be a factor here, being that I made a newbie mistake by keeping his cage in plain view of my leopard gecko's cage. On the care guides I've read, before and after I got my frilled, they say other herps can stress them. Maybe this is playing a part in his behavior? Thanks for any help.
Oh, and I've started to put mealworm guts on his lips so he can lick them and when he does this, I put a bit of the worm into his mouth and he'll take it. That's how I feed him now.
As you can see in the attached pictures, he's just laying on my hand. That's how he lays in his cage all day. His eyes are always alert and clear, and wide open (as you can see in the pics). And when he does go for crickets I hold down for him, he does it with vigor.
I am very worried about your frilled dragon. You didn’t say why he lost part of his tail. If it wasn’t from trauma (for example, closing the tank lid on the tail), chances are it was caused by infection. I don’t think the cage size has anything to do with it. While he may be somewhat stressed, there is something much more serious going on here.
Without medical intervention, I doubt that he will be more active in the larger cage. I am very concerned that he won’t move when you pick him up and that he barely tries to save himself from drowning (he appears to be too ill to care to try to save himself, which is NOT good!).
He might be suffering from metabolic bone disease, as one sign of that is the reluctance to move or walk. You didn’t say if you have a full-spectrum light on his tank or if he gets direct sunlight (not filtered through glass or plastic) for his ultraviolet needs.
While I cannot diagnose his problems in this column, I am suspicious that he might have a bacterial infection and/or metabolic bone disease. Please take him to a vet experienced with herps ASAP to have him examined. Once he has been diagnosed, follow the advice of your vet for his treatment and follow-up care. You have one sick little dragon, and I hope you can work with your vet to bring him back to good health.
Margaret A. Wissman, DVM, DABVP has been an avian/exotic/herp animal veterinarian since 1981. She is a regular contributor to REPTILES magazine.
Need a Herp Vet?
If you are looking for a herp-knowledgeable veterinarian in your area, a good place to start is by checking the list of members on the Association of Reptilian and Amphibian Veterinarian (ARAV) web site at www.arav.com. Look for DVMs who appear to maintain actual veterinary offices that you could contact.