Dry Gangrene of Tail and Toe
©1996, 2002 Melissa Kaplan
The tissue, starting at the end of the tail, begins to die, turning dark brown or black, becoming very hard and brittle, shrinking inwards, collapsing in on itself. The bony processes of the tail vertebrae are easily visualized as they create ridges under the skin of the tail.
Sometimes the crush injury or severe infection may occur towards the middle of the length of the tail. As the infection progresses, the tail feels mushy in that area. As the blood and nerve supply are disrupted in this area, the mushy area spreads down towards the tip and up towards the body. The tip may take a long time to start showing signs of dry gangrene, but the tail should be dealt with, usually by amputation, long before it gets to the point of dying and becoming brittle.
The dead, brittle section may be knocked off when the iguana whips its tail against something. Waiting for detachment to happen on its own, however is not a good idea.. If not amputated, it may continue to spread farther up the tail. This may happen rapidly, in a matter of days or weeks, or slowly, over the course of several months.
The tail must be severed in the healthy tissue. If the cut is made in the dead tissue or close to the demarcation between healthy and dead tissue, too often there is enough bacteria left in the end of the stump to continue the gangrenous process. This results in more of the tail dying and further amputations. While it is always sad when an iguana loses any part of its glorious tail, it is better to chop off what needs to be chopped off at one time, rather than subjecting the iguana to further infection and the stress of repeated surgeries.
These toes, too, should be amputated. This will prevent the spread of any infection and will eliminate the risk of the toe being caught in something and literally being ripped off. Iguanas do very will minus a few toes, and often times removing a source of infection will speed overall recovery.
Retained Shed and
What many people fail to realize is that it is more common for retained shed on the toes and tail to cause a similar engirdlement and tissue death. Human hair may cause similar problems, especially with older and larger iguanas whose scales on the bottoms of their toes become quite rough and flared.
Don't Let Things
Get Out Of Control
There's an old joke about yachts: if you have to ask how much they cost, you can't afford one. Pets are the same: if you have to wonder and worry about how much it might cost, then it is not the right time for you to have one. If you cannot afford the proper care, including veterinary care, for your pet, find someone who is qualified to care for them properly before a major problem develops. If a problem gets out of hand and you can't find anyone to take the pet and you can't borrow the money needed to get the necessary treatment and care, then talk to your vet about humanely euthanizing the pet. In the long run, it is far kinder than letting it linger, in pain, until it finally dies.
Scott J. Stahl, DVM, Dip ABVP
"Trauma to lizards' tails may result in vascular compromise and necrosis. Bacterial and fungal infections (often resulting from invasion of opportunistic organisms after some initial trauma) may also lead to necrosis. Amputation of a portion of the tail is often the most effective treatment. It is important to know the species of lizard that you are performing the surgery on as some lizards will regenerate their tails and others will not. Lizards that will regenerate their tails (iguanas, geckos, and some skinks) should not have their tails sutured as this will impede tail regeneration. Also, the amount of tail that must be amputated and/or the site of the amputation is also a factor in management. For example, if the lizard is mature and the amputation is very proximal it may be necessary to suture the skin. The tail should be examined closely to discern where the healthy tissue ends. The tail amputation site should be a safe distance proximal to the line where the healthy tissue stops." (From Capsule)
Melissa Kaplan notes: I've never seen stitches impair a green iguana's regeneration. Rather, age and size, and possibly social status if the iguana is a member of a group of iguanas, seem to be the determining factors.
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