Reptile Disease and Prevention

Reptiles have an amazing ability to hide diseases. Their ability stems from having to survive among predators that pick on weak prey – especially the sick. Hey, it is easy food. The best way to see if your reptile is sick is with quarantine and a fecal exam. From there we can determine the possible disease, which I have given basic information for below.

Quarantine


 Prevention begins at the start. With all new additions to the collection, a quarantine must be performed. I recommend quarantine to anyone who keeps reptiles and amphibians – for your safety and the safety of the animals.

 Quarantine helps prevent the spread of disease to an otherwise disease free collection using isolation. Any new addition purchased online, at a show, pet store or from a reputable breeder should be placed in a sterile cage. All decor should be plastic, and the substrate should be a paper towel. You want to create a hospital like setting in the sense that everything can be cleaned and is less likely of harboring disease.

 After setting up the quarantine cage, find a veterinarian in your area that is experienced with reptiles -- an exotic vet. See if they can perform a fecal exam on a newly acquired reptile. These exams are relatively inexpensive and the start to quarantine. With the results, you can determine the course of medication if any through the veterinarian.

 Quarantine the animal in another room away from your collection, crickets, and insects that can fly from your quarantine cage back to the collection. Duration of quarantine should last roughly three months. By this time any disease that can be harboring itself in your newly acquired reptile will have potentially exposed itself through some of the symptoms.

Alternatively, you can have a sample mailed to this testing facility, Reptile Fecal Exam by LiveWellTesting.com

Cleaning a quarantine cage & transmission


Keeping a sterile environment is key and one thing to consider is cross contamination. If you only have one animal in quarantine, then it is simple. Wear gloves, not only does it keep critters from getting under your nails but is a great reminder tool to not touch your face or phone (for you generation Y kids). I place my geckos into a clean deli cup that is often used for shipping or sales at reptile shows. Remove any feces and used toilet paper. Wash with a liquid soap, nothing fancy, maybe Dawn and rinse well before the disinfectant is applied. Using F10 or Nolvasan as a disinfectant, you will want to follow the directions and disinfect the quarantine cage including any plastic hides or foliage. F10SC is great and can be used to soak the cage or as a spray. Always properly rinse the disinfectant and allow to dry before putting the geckos back in the cage. Remove your gloves and wash your hands and forearms. If you have another cage to do then just repeat.

Entamoeba invadens


 The black plague of Crested Geckos, OK not the but the emphasis should be put on prevention. The spread of Entamoeba invadens is through carrier species that are normally not affected to the same degree as Crested Geckos. Entamoeba invadens are believed to be from Amphibians such as frogs or even turtles. The capability of spreading the disease from one gecko to another through feces is another potential carrier.

 Crested Geckos do no fare well in a vivarium mixed with amphibian species for this reason. Cages with amphibians should be housed in another room away from any Crested Geckos. Washing hands before and after handling or cleaning an amphibian enclosure or suspected carrier gecko such as a new addition are recommended. Using F10 or Nolvasan or the generic version Chlorhexidine, as a cleaner for cages and decor is highly recommended for routine cleaning.

 The symptoms of Entamoeba invadens include rapid weight loss, lethargy, and swollen vent at late stages.

 

Nematodes


Nematodes are parasitic organisms that will infect the intestinal tract. Either wild caught or captive bred are both susceptible. Contact with a carriers feces is generally the route of transfer. Symptoms will include; loss of appetite, lethargy, weight loss, anorexia, and diarrhea. Although, not all infected reptiles will show symptoms and can be a carrier without knowing. A fecal exam done by a veterinarian is recommended to rule out Nematodes.

  • Pinworms have a direct life cycle. Pinworms are a common form of intestinal parasite often picked up by infected feeders such as crickets. It is generally normal flora of the gut in reptiles and in adult form present to the eye.
  • Roundworms have an indirect life cycle requiring a live prey item to reproduce. A large load can be present in a stressed gecko. Roundworms are present in feces to the eye.
  • Hookworms have a direct life cycle being able to pass through skin, contaminated food and water. Hookworms can cause bloody stool from attaching themselves to the intestinal lining to feed off blood. Hookworms can be present from the esophagus to the rectum. This nematode is unable to be seen with the naked eye.

 

Coccidia


 Often associated with crickets, Coccidia is easily transferred through feces in the form of oocysts or eggs. A cricket may consume, travel through or otherwise become a carrier and “recycling” crickets from one enclosure to the next can be a means of transfer. This single-celled intracellular parasite can only be identified through a fecal exam much like Nematodes. Symptoms include lethargy, anorexia, dehydration and secondary bacterial infections. Prevention is done through proper cage cleaning with Chlorhexidine and routine fecal exams.

Flagellates


What is becoming more common as I am writing this is Giardia in geckos. Stagnant water such as that in a mister or water bowl makes perfect conditions for Giardia. Recyclable Gecko Dishes trashed or water dishes disinfected regularly will prevent a Giardia infection in geckos. Also, disinfecting your mister.

Pneumonia


 A severe respiratory tract infection that affects the lungs. Observed to affect captive reptiles more than wild caught and is a result of husbandry practices. The enclosure may be too high in humidity allowing for bacteria to thrive. Symptoms include a gaping mouth, sneezing, mucus from the mouth and a wheezing sound during breathing. Prevention should start with the right husbandry practices including a humidity cycle through the day. Infection is highly contagious so be sure to keep suspected reptiles separate from other reptiles. Seek a veterinarian for help.

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