Kinks and Bends in Tails
©2001 Melissa Kaplan
Kinks and bends in lizard tails may be congenital, appearing at birth/hatching or shortly thereafter, or may appear later as a result of some sort of change in the tail itself.
Bends and Kinks
Breaks and Lacerations
Sometimes, the tail may break inside along a fracture plane but not detach and drop off. The result, when the area heals inside, may be a kink or bend or bump in the tail in that area.
Other times, as described in my Tail Loss And Breaks article, there may actually be a cut or tear through a significant amount of the skin and muscle tissue of the tail; there may or may not be an actual fracture in the tail vertebrae. If the owner gets the lizard to the vet right away, stitches to rejoin the laceration usually will save the tail; there may or may not be a slight bump there when the tail completely heals. However, if the laceration is not caught in time and enough of the blood supply is cut off from the distal (farthest from the head) end, the end will die from the lack of blood supply, shriveling up similar to what happens in cases of dry gangrene. Eventually, depending on how much tissue was initially severed, enough tissue will die so that only a small section of tissue and skin connects the dead or dying piece to the rest of the tail. If the connecting pieces is very small and fine, it will eventually break when the tail comes into contact with a hard surface.
If this happens, the new tail stump needs to be watched carefully to make sure that there is no infection in what is now the new tail tip. If, as a result of the tissue damage at the time of the initial injury, infection sets in, an abscess could form at the tip or dry gangrene could set in. This would result in a swelling, possibly oozing, area at or near the tail tip, or the process of dry gangrene, with the tail tip shrinking in on itself, becoming hard and brittle, with this process moving up the tail as the infection spreads. If an abscess or dry gangrene occur, the iguana must be taken to the vet to be treated appropriately. Otherwise, the local infection could spread into a systemic infection or, in the case of dry gangrene, continue undeterred up the tail, and along the way cause a systemic infection.
Note that in the case of some partial tail breaks, the tail "thinks" that part of the tail has broken off and so starts growing a new tail. But, since the original tail still exists and remains healthy, the lizard ends up with two tails - the original and the new one. While I don't have the reference handy, I do recall hearing or reading about one case where a lizard had three tails, the original and two new ones as a result of two different accidents involving the tail.
Deformities may also be the result of traumatic accident. Adam Britton, a zoologist currently working for Wildlife Management International in Darwin, Australia, sent me a photo of a wild blue-tongue skink he examined. The skink had sometime previous suffered a traumatic spinal injury, but despite the dramatic deformity that resulted from it, was flourishing and so returned to the wild.
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