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Anna, Reptile Expert, Biologist
Category: Reptile
Satisfied Customers: 11065
Experience:  Have owned turtles, snakes, amphibians, and lizards. Study and provide habitat for wild herps.
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I have an iguana question. We have a 2-3 year old red iguana.

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I have an iguana question. We have a 2-3 year old red iguana. We noticed last night that there is an area on the top of his upper tale that is blackish, flaky, and almost looks like a burn. He seems to have lost a few spikes in the area. It was actually one week ago that we had him out for a complete cage clean out and we know it was not like that. What could this be and how should we do for it?


My name is XXXXX XXXXX I'm a biologist with a special interest in reptiles. I'm sorry to hear of this incident.

There are a couple of possibilities for what this might be. This usually means the tail has gotten infected. A condition called dry gangrene is common. Sometimes it's the result of a minor injury, but often no original cause can be found. Because the infection can keep spreading up the tail to the spine (which is life-threatening), it's best to have it treated by a vet. This link will take you to a directory of reptile vets:

You can read more about tail infections (scroll down) on this page:

If you happen to use a heated rock in the cage, this may be an actual burn. Even if a heated rock is maintaining the temperature it is set on, burns can result. Sometimes a lizard can go for years without a problem, but often it's only a matter of time before a burn occurs. A burn would cause the skin to blacken on the part of the body that was on the rock too long. That could include the upper side of the tail if the iguana leaned against the side of the rock. Pet stores recommend these rocks, and at first glance they seem like a good idea. Pet store staff get their information from literature put out by the manufacturers of heated rocks, and they care about profit, not the animals' welfare. Here is a nonprofit site where you can read the truth:

Regardless of whether this is infection or a burn, veterinary care will be needed. There is no effective home remedy for either condition. If you have more questions, let me know in a REPLY. I hope your iguana will heal uneventfully.


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