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Dr. Taus
Dr. Taus, Veterinarian
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Experience:  Veterinarian with experience in equine and small animal medicine.
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I have a rescued blue tongued skink that has been very ill.

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I have a rescued blue tongued skink that has been very ill. He was rescued by the Humane Society and has had almost all his toes amputated and has undergone 2 six week treatments of injected fortaz antibiotic in conjunction with betadine swabs of his lips and gums and drops/ointment for his eyes. He has improved and is eating well most of the time. He still has issues with his eyes - bubbling and lids bloody and crusty. This seems to coincide with approaching shed. He also seems to have problems with his nostrils at the same time. I use warm baths to "decrust" his eyes,lips and nose and then fucithalmic gel for eyes. I have been searching online for some information as to what the activity level and behaviour of this creature should be. If he is behaving normally in other respects I am willing to continue to support him through these bad spots but I have no idea what normal for a blue tongued skink looks like. Can you advise?
Hi there,
First of all, it's great that you've been so committed to taking care of this reptile. It sounds like he had quite a rough life before you came along.

Blue-tongued skinks are a fairly sedentary species. They can be kept in enclosures 2.5-3X their body length quite comfortably, and they don't climb much. If your skink is mobile enough to move around the enclosure and maybe root and move his cage "furniture" around a little, that is about all we expect from them. Even a perfectly normal skink is slow and easy to catch with those short little legs. In fact, it's not unusual for a skink that has been handled to sit on your shoulder or other body part for a length of time while you do things like clean the cage, something I would not expect other lizards to do. If handled frequently, they are pretty docile.

I'm not sure how long you've had your skink, but I'd recommend (in addition to all the wonderful care you are already doing)making sure he's getting a balanced omnivorous diet with lots of vitamin A. Include kale, collard greens, and other green veggies, as well as meal worms, crickets, appropriately-sized pinkies, etc. Fruits like bananas and apples are good treats or snacks. You can add a reptile vitamin that you can get at most pet supply stores. Also be sure that he is getting enough vitamin D by providing full-spectrum UVB light during the day. The enclosure should be around 70 degrees at night and around 80 during the day, with a hot spot for basking around 90 degrees to make sure he can digest his food properly.

Soaking in room temperature to warm water twice a day for 15 min or so at a time when he is approaching shedding can also help soften the old skin and help it let go.

If you are already doing these things, kudos to you! Just wanted to give you the rundown if you need it.

I hope this is helpful. If so, please rate me positively, and don't hesitate to let me know how I can help further. Best of luck to your lizard as he recovers.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

I have been feeding him chopped greens (kale, beet greens, dandilion greens,arugula, chard, red and green romaine), grated carrot, snap peas and several types of squash and other veg. For protein he likes quail eggs, ground turkey, chicXXXXX XXXXXver, canned snails(for reptiles).His favorite treat is blueberries. I tried to feed him live worms- silk, wax, butter, horn- but he made it very clear that he was not interested. He found more ways of spitting them out than I had for cramming them in so I gave up. When I first got him several months ago it was hard to get him to eat at all and since cat food was his favorite, I disguised the good stuff with cat food.He just gets the cat food as a treat now and will eat his healthy meals quite happily without it. I have reptile vitamins and calcium but hesitate to use as instructions refer to dosage for 1/2 pound of food and Mr.Skink eats 1 or 2 tablespoons prepared one meal at a time.. He usually eats every day and has gained 43 grams. At 21 inches- 12 of body, 9 of tail- he weighs 554 grams. Can I trust him to eat what he needs or do I need to be concerned that he will become overweight? He is much more active than he was. Used to hide and sleep pretty much all the time. I moved his terrarium (36 x 18) into the family room where he could get more attention and he comes out of hiding more. Likes to be on my shoulder and seems to enjoy being outside in the sunshine so I take him out in the backyard when it is warm. I was hoping his eyes and nose would improve more but I am beginning to think this is as good as it will get. Just when I think it is improved he has a relapse. Can I keep using the eye gel indefinately? He finished the injected antibiotics in July and has only been eating well for a couple of months. How important is it that he eat bugs?

Everything you're feeding him is great. It's tough to get them too fat on the fruits and veggies-- what I'd be careful with in amounts is the protein sources. The chicXXXXX XXXXXver and eggs are going to be much more calorie dense than bugs are. If that's what he likes, especially with the struggles you've had getting him to eat, that's fine. The cat food should definitely be for treats, not a staple item.

Vitamin A deficiency, in particular, has a great effect on skin and eye problems in reptiles. I have always used the calcium and vitamins in small sprinklings over the meals (like you would use salt or pepper)-- you aren't in much danger of overdosing this way.

Your skink is on the large side in terms of length for a blue tongue, and he's about the weight I'd expect him to be in health. At this point, I'd focus on having him maintain weight. If you weigh him regularly (every 2-4 weeks) and find that he is continuing to gain weight, adjust your serving sizes.

You can keep using the eye gel indefinitely, and if he's had problems shedding, this may be as good as it gets for him. But I would consider having your local vet do a culture of the affected area when it's at its worst-- they may be able to suggests other treatments.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

I am a little afraid of other treatments! The vet here recommended and I bought treatment with nebulized F10. One treatment left both me and Mr. Skink in bad shape. I had touch of asthma reaction and serious sinus inflammation. Poor Mr. Skink had bleeding eyes and a wheeze that terrified me. I thought I was going to loose him. He was down and out for 6 days, did not eat and only waking up when I cleaned face and put drops for nose and ointment for eyes.The very experienced vet had never had this happen befor so I don't blame her. The equipment was clean, the dosage correct and the only thing I can identify that might have contributed was application. The nebulizer was applied by holding in front of his face instead of fogging into an enclosure. He was in my lap, hence my exposure. Have you had experience with this treatment?

He sheds quite nicely with lukewarm bath. Last time his feet shed the cutest intact booties! Even his head is doing better now that I have a technique- when rest of him has shed I very gently tease off skin of his face with very wet, soft cloth. Last time the eye came off in one piece . He seems to like participating in this and will rub against the cloth himself. It can sometimes take a couple of days- I don't rush it.

After a shed he is a brand new skink -even his eyes stay bright and clean for days and his nostrils are bigger.

Will he shed less often now that he will be maintaining rather than gaining weight? Or is it even growth related?

Thank you for the information you have already provided me. It is reassuring to know he is a good size and I will monitor his weight. Also planning to buy fresh Herptivite and will start to use consistantly. Good to know he is naturally a laid back creature. I have been trying to encourage him to get some exercise (retired physical therapist -can't resist the urge)

but will present opportunities and let him choose how active he wants to be. He is reasonably quick on grass and carpet but on hard surfaces gets stuck with legs whirling!

By the way, he did have complete blood panel done in April and everthing came back normal. This was done as part of the very expensive decision to pursue treatment instead of euthanizing. I am worried about winter which will start here in a couple of months. Outdoor opportunities will cease to exist and indoors will be harder to regulate temperatures for him.

I am also using unconventional ground cover in his house. Because things got stuck to his face with Care Fresh and other substrates and he sometimes had loose stools I resorted to using flannette dish towel size blankets. It is easy to see when he has soiled and very easy to clean up.

I process much like human diapers and he seems happy to hide himself under them or inside his hide box. Do you see any problems with doing this?

I promise to close this question with a creditable rating soon!

Do you have any successful experience with feline sebaceous cell dysplasia? If so, I would start a new question.

When I've nebulized before, I've just used saline. I've never had adverse reactions with it, but I've not used the F10, either. When I say other treatments, I mean a liquid antifungal or antibiotic, but I would only go that route if I had cultured his skin and proven that was the problem and had reason to believe the medicine would work. Otherwise, I wouldn't risk upsetting his system with it. If he's a healthy lizard most of the time and has trouble shedding, and you are able to help him through that, that may be enough. He may shed less often if he's skeletally mature and not growing, but he will continue to shed probably at about the same rate he has been since his skeleton reached his adult size for the rest of his life.

In the winter, you'll need to be careful that his enclosure his heated and that he gets UVB light so he can make vitamin D. I like to use either a heat lamp directed at the cage or a heated reptile block in the cage to maintain the cage temperature and provide a hot spot for basking. A lamp with a full spectrum bulb (you can get these at the pet store) left on during daylight hours will give enough UVB light. It's ok (good in fact) if the whole cage isn't the same temp, but he does need a spot that gets up to about 90 degrees to digest his food properly.

The blankets are a great idea for a substrate. I actually prefer a solid substance like a blanket, paper towel, or ceramic tile to sand or other substrates because it reduces the chances of substrate being swallowed during feeding and causing an obstruction.

It's great that his bloodwork was good and he's an active little guy! I'm so glad you're committed to taking good care of him. 90% of reptile problems come down to husbandry, housing, and diet.

My experience with feline sebaceous cell dysplasia depends on what you consider success. I can give you some tips on managing the symptoms, but it's not something I've typically been able to bring into full remission or cure. I'm happy to answer any questions you have.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

I bought new vitamins and a new UVB bulb for his light today. I will keep a journal of weight and condition of eyes and nose to get a clear picture of timing and circumstances of flare ups. I am hoping good nutrition and lighting will help but will certainly consider further testing .

He has a basking lamp at one end of his terrarium and I have created a spot on top of his hide using slate tile and a ramp of wired together wood logs. Elevating the spot has made it easier to hit a good temp. I will start generating possibilities for winter heating.


Little Dude cat was also a rescue. He was brought to the Humane Society covered in black gooey substance. They cleaned him up thinking he had gotten into something. Because he had sores on his feet and face I fostered him while he healed. The black stuff came back and I ended up adopting him because he required so much care that he could not be put up for adoption by the general public. His face and feet have been biopsied and the diagnosis of sebaceous cell dysplasia made.

Current status: every 7 to 10 days his feet and face become black enough that I have to take him in the shower with me and wash him up with Pyoban shampoo followed by pet conditioner. If I do not do this the sores between his toes recur. The skin around his mouth and eyes becomes inflamed and weeps even with showers and removal of black from eyes and mouth is needed between showers. I decided to do this in the shower after a bathing episode that resulted in a deep infected cat bite! He complains loudly in the shower but does not fight the process. I also clean ears of copious amounts of black goo.

He has no undercoat, just scruffy coarse guard hairs and suffers from bouts of what I am guessing is severe itchiness - licks frantically at his coat , scratches and cries out.

He eats, drinks, plays with the dog and usual cat toys but there are times I wonder how much he suffers with this condition.

Is there anything I can do to improve his situation?

The Pyoben showers are a great start to work loose all the crusts and dead skin that tend to form with this disorder. In between, sometimes wiping the worst affected areas with Benzoyl peroxide solution (Stridex pads from the drugstore) can help with some of the goo.

It's super easy for these cats to get skin infections, which also are itchy. If the weeping from the skin has an odor is green or yellow or thick, an antibiotic may be needed.

I often find that with bathing and management, cats will have a decent quality of life, but will always have some crusts or signs of disease. You also may not be able to achieve a normal haircoat with him. Most skin diseases in cats have some allergic component, so you could also consider a limited ingredient cat food. Be careful-- food companies are aware that these diets are popular right now. You would want a product like Royal Canin duck and potato or rabbit and green pea, with only a short ingredient list and nothing that his immune system has seen before (corn, chicken, fish, etc).

If it's financially feasible, you might consider asking for a referral to a dermatologist. This disorder is rare and they may have options that your regular vet does not carry (staph phage lysate, immune modulators, etc) that may improve his signs. Sometimes combination therapies succeed where topicals and bathing alone fail, or at least they can put you in a better position to successfully manage using bathing alone in the future.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

LD has been to a couple of different vets- I can't remember if any were dermatologists - some were when he was a foster under Humane Society. I will get his medical history straight to provide better foundation for questions- will have to trace the records.

He is currently eating ACANA Pacifica fish formula food- fish, vegetable and no grain.

There is no sign his lesions are infected. He is an indoor cat - my city has a cat bylaw.

He had a bout of cystitis recently ( tested and no infection) and was treated with medicam. Currently on v-amitriptyline for litter box related issues.

There was some question of putting him on corticosteroids when first diagnosed but he already has a voracious appetite- practically chews one's hand off when filling bowl- so can't imagine him on roids!!

I try to keep on top of his medical care but there seems to be very little experience with this condition locally.

It is an exceedingly rare condition in cats, which is why I'd recommend a board-certified dermatologist. Most veterinary colleges have one on staff. VCA specialty centers often have them too. Dermatologists only see skin cases, so if your cat's general care was being managed by the vet, it's unlikely that the vet was a dermatologist. Which is not to say they were incapable of managing the condition, but a dermatologist is going to have more specialized experience with rare, specific skin conditions like your cat's.

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