If you’re worried about the toxicity of the Blue-Tailed Lizards that abound in the southeastern United States, we have your answers.
So are those little blue-tailed lizards basking in the sun on our front steps toxic to your dog or cat? The short answer is maybe, but not likely. Blue-Tailed Lizards are neither venomous nor poisonous to us or our pets. But just like any animal, they have bacteria in their mouths and guts that could cause our pets infection and illness from a bite or ingestion.
The Blue-Tailed Lizard
The Blue-Tailed Lizard is also known as the Five-Lined Skink or the Western Skink. It is a black lizard covered with yellow stripes, and a blue tail found throughout the Southeastern United States, including Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia.
These diurnal lizards are easy to spot because of their neon-blue tails, and they love to sun themselves on concrete, brick, and rock.
The stripes running along the length of their body fade as they age, and although their blue tail is a characteristic feature, there are other ways to recognize them.
To identify a Blue-Tailed Lizard, look for a dark band that originates from the side of their head and extends to their hind legs.
When stressed, Blue-Tailed Lizards can shed their tails to escape a predator’s grasp. Their tails grow back but are gray rather than the bright blue tail they had before.
Are Blue-Tailed Lizards Poisonous?
The Blue-Tailed skink is not poisonous to humans since it contains no venom. Although they tend to bite when caught or provoked, the bites are harmless. According to the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, there is no scientific record of a long-lasting injury to adults or children through the Blue-Tailed lizard’s bite.
Currently, there is no scientific evidence that blue-tailed lizards are poisonous to dogs. Curious dogs or those with a high prey drive may encounter a blue-tailed lizard and try to eat it. If the lizard bites your dog, there is no cause for concern. At worst, your dog will receive a small bite wound that will heal with routine care.
However, if your dog eats the lizard, that is a different situation altogether. There isn’t enough evidence to suggest that anything serious will happen to your dog other than a bacterial infection. Blue-tailed lizards, like most reptiles, carry Salmonella bacteria in their digestive tract. Salmonella infection can cause gastroenteritis in dogs with symptoms such as fever, nausea, weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.
If you suspect your dog has eaten a lizard and is showing the above symptoms, consult your veterinarian immediately. Salmonella infection requires prompt treatment, or your pet’s health could be at risk. If left untreated, the bacteria can spread to other parts of the body and cause Sepsis (bacterial infection of the blood). Sepsis is a severe condition that can lead to death.
Many in the Southeastern United States believe the blue-tailed lizard is poisonous to cats. While a highly debated topic amongst scientists, veterinarians, and the general public, there are no conclusive answers. Some locals native to the region report their cat falling ill soon after discovering a blue-tailed lizard in their home. While the species poses no dangers to cats, they harbor certain parasites or bacteria that can cause sickness in cats.
Like other lizards in the Southeastern U.S., the blue-tailed lizard contains liver flukes (Opisthorchis felineus). These parasites live in water, and the lizard usually serves as an intermediate host for this parasite. When cats eat blue-tailed lizards, they become infected with the organism. The fluke travels to the biliary tract and liver, resulting in illness.
Most cats and wild carnivorous animals have liver flukes in areas of the Southeastern United States, such as Florida and Hawaii. Approximately 15-85% of cats with access to lizards contract the parasite. While most of these animals show no symptoms, younger cats are more susceptible to falling ill. Cats between 6 to 24 months can show symptoms such as weight loss and lethargy. Liver flukes can also cause jaundice in cats. In comparison to dogs, liver flukes affect cats more.
As discussed above, lizards such as the blue-tailed skink harbor Salmonella bacteria in their digestive tract. Cats generally have a high prey drive and enjoy hunting. Even if your cat explores a lizard’s living space, she can contract a Salmonella infection since the lizard’s feces also contain the bacteria. The symptoms of a Salmonella infection in cats are similar to the signs in dogs. A mild infection usually has an asymptomatic presentation. In contrast, severe infections have symptoms such as high fever, low appetite, diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal pain.
Some animals are toxic and have very vivid, colorful makings to alert predators that they are harmful if eaten. Other animals mimic this colorful strategy even though they are not poisonous. Blue-tailed lizards are among the latter.
What You Can Do
Whether the blue-tailed lizard is poisonous to cats is uncertain, so it is best to avoid eating them entirely. To ensure your cat does not come in contact with a blue-tailed lizard, keep it indoors and supervise time spent outdoors.
Since lizards are small creatures, they can easily make their way inside our homes. You might think your cat won’t come into contact with a blue-tailed lizard indoors, but they can easily hide in your house and yard. In this case, you must ensure that lizards cannot enter your home or yard. To keep lizards out of your home, use the following tips:
- Fill in any entry points the lizard can access. Their small, flexible bodies can fit into small cracks, so seal those with caulk and use weather-stripping to fill the spaces underneath doors and windows.
- Use natural repellants to deter lizards. They hate the smell of hot sauce and cayenne, so make a spray using these ingredients. Shake it well and spray alongside access points such as windows and doors.
- Keep your garbage disposal, home, and kitchen sink clean. Lizards can enter your house looking for food, so clean up food scraps properly.
- Use plants that lizards dislike in your yard to keep them away. They don’t like the smell of peppermint and eucalyptus plants, so they effectively deter lizards without hurting them.
Consult your vet immediately if your cat shows any signs of toxicity, such as excessive drooling, foaming mouth, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, lost appetite, hyperactivity, muscle tremors, and extreme thirst. If your cat has eaten a lizard before showing symptoms, inform your veterinarian.