It is not uncommon for reptiles to be presented with trauma to either the tail or one of the digits of the feet. In most cases they are brought in by their owners after the disease is well established and it is impossible to salvage the traumatized area. This page shows a case in a Leopard Gecko (do you recognize him? His picture is at the entrance to the reptile section).

Gecko walking over a paper towel


This is the tail upon presentation to our office. Initially we treated it with antibiotics to save it but the problem progressed and we were worried about infection spreading to the rest of the body.


The tail is necrotic and cannot be saved. It will need amputation.

We perform preanesthetic blood panels in reptiles just like in any species. There is a vein in the tail that gives us the amount of blood we need with minimal trauma to the animal, especially when the tail is infected. In this picture we are taking a blood sample from this vein, even though it might look like we are taking the blood sample from its abdomen.

Taking a blood sample from the tail vein

We use the ventral tail vein and a very tiny needle to get blood from a reptile like this

Blood panel showing an elevated white blood cell count (WBC)

This elevated white blood cell count of 25,800 (normal for this lab is up to 15,599)  is typical of what we might see in an infection like this

In many reptiles we take blood samples from the ventral tail vein. Looking at the following picture of a snake, which does not have much of a tail to take a sample from, can you guess where we obtain the blood for a blood panel?

Taking blood from a snake directly from the heart

If you guessed the heart you got it right!

Nurses looking to find the heart of a snake

The most difficult part of a snake blood sample is finding the imperceptibly beating heart in the first place.!

Since there is a tail amputation, and the blood supply is minimal due to the infection and necrosis, we did not need to use general anesthesia, and the procedure went final with local anesthetic.

Tail tip partially amputated

The amputation goes rapidly because there is minimal blood supply to the tip of the tail due to the infection.

Open end of the tail showing only healthy tissue

Before we begin the process of suturing the opening our surgeon is making sure we have removed all of the infected tail and there is adequate blood supply to allow the skin edges to heal

Sutured end of tail

These stitches will be kept in for 3-4 weeks because reptile skin heals much slower than mammal skin

Face of gecko in nurse's hand

Our little friend is waking up from anesthesia. He feels lots better now that the infected tail is gone.

This would have been an ideal surgery to perform with our laser if the tail had not been so necrotic and lost its blood supply.  Click here to learn more about laser surgery and to see pictures of its use.

Return to Reptile Diseases Page.