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Bearded dragons are hardy creatures, but that does not mean they are immune to diseases. Therefore, it is essential that you know some of the common diseases that can affect your pet beardie. One of such diseases is scale rot.
Bearded dragon scale rot is quite common, making it a cause for concern among beardie keepers. Scale rot should be taken seriously since it can be fatal if treatment is delayed. This disease not only affects beardies but can also spread to other pet reptiles within your household.
For the safety and well-being of your pets, you should familiarize yourself with the signs of scale rot in bearded dragons. Knowing the right treatment strategies for the illness is equally important.
If you are looking to learn more about scale rot, then you are in the right place. This piece covers just about everything that there is to know about bearded dragon scale rot.
What Is Scale Rot In Bearded Dragons?
Medically known as ulcerative or necrotic dermatitis, scale rot is a term used to define infections that affect the bearded dragon’s skin or scales. Scale rot is caused by bacterial and fungal infections. It is also referred to as the blister disease because it causes blisters on the beardie’s skin.
Most skin infections can cause serious health problems in bearded dragons, and scale rot is no exception. Additionally, scale rot causes both stress and discomfort in beardies. Stress is not good for bearded dragons because it weakens their immune system.
As a result, the bearded dragon will be predisposed to other opportunistic infections. This will greatly reduce its chances of survival and may also bring about long-term health complications.
Treating scale rot in beardies can be difficult, especially if the infection is in its advanced stages. And like most bacterial and fungal skin infections, scale rot often starts as a mild blister. As the infection progresses, it will spread to other parts of the body
Severe scale rot can cause blood poisoning and may also affect critical organs in the bearded dragon’s body. The best way to deal with scale rot in bearded dragons is by preventing it.
What Causes Scale Rot In Bearded Dragons?
Scale rot, as well as other skin conditions, is primarily caused by bacteria and fungi. However, it is important to identify all the possible factors that contribute to bacterial and fungal infections in beardies. Most reptile diseases come about due to poor husbandry.
You should see to it that your bearded dragon is getting proper husbandry as this determines its overall health. Below are some of the factors that can cause bearded dragon scale rot.
Bacteria and fungi thrive in warm moist environments. As such, keeping your bearded dragon in an enclosure with improper humidity levels can predispose them to scale rot.
Moreover, bearded dragons are adapted to arid and subtropical regions. This means they have minimal moisture requirements. According to beardie experts, the humidity levels inside your bearded dragon’s terrarium should be kept at 20% to 40%.
When there is an excess of water vapor in a beardie’s enclosure, the substrate will stay wet longer. This provides bacteria and fungi with the perfect conditions to grow and multiply. You should have a hygrometer to measure the humidity levels inside the enclosure from time to time.
Through this, you will be able to make adjustments should there be a need to do so. And since humidity often goes hand in hand with temperature, the enclosure shouldn’t be too warm.
Bearded dragons have a temperature requirement of about 70°F to 75°F at night and 75°F to 85°F during the day. Temperature levels in the basking spot should be kept at 88°F to 100°F to prevent possible health complications.
The Capetsma Reptile Thermometer is equipped with both a thermometer and a hygrometer, making it a suitable option for reptile terrariums.
A lack of vitamin A or C can predispose bearded dragons to scale rot and other infections. Without vitamin A, the beardie’s immune system will be weakened. Consequently, your bearded dragon won’t stand a chance against opportunistic pathogens.
Bearded dragons with weak immune systems are more likely to get sick than their healthy counterparts. On the other hand, vitamin C deficiency can slow down the healing process in reptiles. When wounds are left exposed for long periods, they can easily get infected.
Providing your beardie with appropriate dietary supplements can greatly boost their immune system. This will make them more resilient to scale rot and other illnesses that fall in the same category.
Part of being a bearded dragon keeper is knowing how to clean up after your pet. Fecal matter can contaminate the substrate over time, thus creating a breeding ground for bacteria. With that being said, you should clean your bearded dragon’s enclosure regularly.
In addition to this, you should use reptile-friendly disinfectants during the cleaning process. The F10SC Veterinary Disinfectant is a favorite among reptile keepers and is equally safe for bearded dragons.
Proper disinfection can help you control fungal, bacterial, and most viral infections in reptiles. Also, you should consider changing the substrate after each cleaning session. Ensure that the old substrate is disposed of properly to avoid spreading pathogens to the environment.
Everything inside the terrarium should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected for the safety of your beardie. By keeping the enclosure clean at all times, you won’t have to worry about scale rot.
However, you should keep in mind that even beardies that live in the cleanest enclosures can still catch something. If you notice that something is off with your bearded dragon, you should rush them to the vet before it’s too late.
Signs and Symptoms of Bearded Dragon Scale Rot: What Does Scale Rot Look Like?
Scale rot presents itself in different forms depending on the severity of the infection. Treating the disease while it’s still in its initial stages is very easy. For this to happen, you need to be able to identify the early signs of scale rot in bearded dragons.
You can do this by checking your bearded dragon regularly for any abnormalities or changes on the skin and scales. If you notice any of the below symptoms, you should take your pet bearded dragon to a veterinarian.
Scale rot causes the host’s skin to dry out and crack. This will, in turn, cause new infections in the adjacent areas. One can easily mistake this sign for dehydration and may mist the enclosure and the bearded dragon as a countermeasure. This will only make things worse since scale rot bacteria thrive in damp conditions.
Flaky skin is often the first sign of scale rot. You should, therefore, take your beardie to a veterinarian if you notice that their skin is becoming unusually dry.
As the infection spreads, it will cause serious damage to the bearded dragon’s scales. As a result, the scales will lose their natural color. The affected areas of the skin often become darker with time.
In severe cases, discoloration may occur throughout the bearded dragon’s body. The abdominal area is the most affected since it is more likely to come into contact with the contaminated substrate. The skin around the tail region may also turn black.
Loss of Appetite
Scale rot may cause your bearded dragon to lose interest in food and water. Consequently, the beardie may die from starvation or dehydration. Aside from that, a lack of appetite may also cause malnutrition and other dietary complications.
If your beardie has stopped eating like it used to, it could mean they are sick. Nonetheless, bearded dragons can lose their appetite when they are about to go into brumation. The only way that you can determine whether scale rot is the cause is by going to the vet.
Blister and Open Skin Lesions
As sit is with most bacterial skin infections, scale rot can cause painful blisters and lesions on the affected body parts. Bacteria-infested blister sites often have abscesses or clear yellowish fluid.
The scales around the blistered areas may slough as the infection spreads to the underlying skin tissue. In addition to this, the skin may have inflammations as a result of the bacterial infection.
Lethargy is associated with inactivity and it can come about due to several factors. However, it is a common symptom for most bearded dragon diseases.
Still, you should take necessary precautions if your bearded dragon becomes lethargic.
Diagnosis of Scale Rot in Bearded Dragons
If you suspect your beardie has scale rot, a vet can help you perform a diagnosis. The diagnostic procedure for scale rot involves a series of tests that can be done at once. Your veterinary doctor may start by asking a few questions about your pet.
The vet may inquire about your pet’s diet, medical history, environment, and the type of care that they are getting. Additionally, the veterinarian may check the beardie’s skin for pustules, blisters, and lesions. Fluids from blister sites may be collected as samples for further tests.
Through this, the vet will be able to identify the type of bacteria or fungi that is causing the infection. This step is very important since it allows the veterinarian to know the most appropriate treatment strategy. As you know, bacterial infections come in different forms, so treatment may vary from one bearded dragon to another.
Blood tests can also be done to ascertain whether the bacterial infection has poisoned the beardie’s blood. Septicemia can be fatal in bearded dragons if the infection is not treated early enough. Your vet will tell you the best course of action after all tests have been done.
Bearded Dragon Scale Rot Treatment
As stated above, treatment strategies for scale rot may vary depending on how severe the infection is. Treatment can be administered at home or the vet’s. The former can apply if the disease is detected in the early stages.
However, severe scale rot may require advanced treatment and the use of specialized antibiotics. In such cases, your bearded dragon will have to receive the required treatment at the vet’s office.
Treatment often involves cleaning the infection sites with betadine. The vet will instruct you on how you can prepare an antimicrobial bath for your beardie at home. Vetericyn Plus is also another reliable antibiotic that can be used during treatment.
To avoid any complications, you should only use antibiotics prescribed by the vet. Also, ensure that you administer treatment as directed. In cases where the infection has caused septicemia, the vet may administer antibacterial treatment through injections or orally.
Antibiotic ointments may also be used to treat blisters on the beardie’s skin. For treatment to be successful, the bearded dragon must be kept in low moisture conditions to limit bacterial growth.
Preventing Bearded Dragon Scale Rot Recurrence
If your bearded has had scale rot before, there is a high possibility that the illness may reoccur. This can happen if treatment is not done properly or if the bearded dragon is placed in an enclosure that is contaminated.
In the course of treatment, ensure that you keep your bearded dragon in a pathogen-free enclosure. Also, the sick beardie should be housed separately from other bearded dragons to prevent the bacteria from spreading.
As a safety measure, you should schedule regular visits to the vet during and after treatment. That way, you will be able to know whether the treatment is working or not. Apart from that, your vet will help you detect possible cases of reinfection.
Scale rot is both preventable and treatable. Nonetheless, treating the illness can be very difficult, especially if it goes undetected for long periods. As such, you should use the preventive strategy since it’s more effective.
You can do this through regular cleaning and providing a healthy diet. Quarantine should also be considered when dealing with multiple bearded dragons.
By separating the sick beardies from the healthy ones, the diseases won’t spread to the rest of the colony. Ensure that you wash your hands thoroughly after handling your bearded dragon.