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coccidia in bearded dragons

Coccidia is a common ailment among reptiles and other animals. Many concerned owners are seeking information on how to spot symptoms of coccidia accurately, and how to treat this infection. Coccidia in bearded dragons may turn deadly if your reptiles don’t get help quickly.

Some signs of coccidia in bearded dragons include smelly diarrhea (with or without blood or mucous). Dehydration, lethargy, weight loss, as well as loss of appetite are other signs of coccidia in bearded dragons. Urgent medical attention is needed to prevent this infection from taking hold of your bearded dragon.

What causes coccidia in bearded dragons? What should I do if I notice that my reptile has coccidiosis? These and more will be discussed in this post.

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What is Coccidia?

Coccidia are microscopic intracellular parasites that live and reproduce with in animal cells.

Most captive breed bearded dragons are host to coccidia. However, bearded dragons will usually show no symptoms as long as their immune system is strong enough to fight it. The damage done by coccidia could spread if a bearded dragon suffers several issues with its immune system.

Coccidia usually progresses to an infection (coccidiosis) when the immune system of the bearded dragon becomes too weak to fight off the damage inflicted.  Rapid reproduction of coccidia is a major cause of this infection in bearded dragons.

The infection is rampant among juvenile bearded dragons. However, older bearded dragons could suffer from this infection due to stress, overcrowding and poor nutrition. If not treated with urgency, coccidiosis can be deadly.

Mode of Transmission

As stated earlier, a bearded dragon can have coccidian and remain asymptomatic.

Here’s how bearded dragons become infected with coccidia:

When food comes in contact with contaminated surface and is ingested by the bearded dragon, it becomes sick with coccidiosis.

After ingesting contaminated food, the oocyst enters the gut. After which the oocyst wall is broken down, releasing sporocysts inside which are sporozoites. The sporozites proceed to attack the epithelial cell of the bearded dragon.

In the cell, the sporozites develop into merronts. Merolites (nucleuses of merronts) infect other cells, damaging them in the process. As this continues, they develop into either male or female gametes.

These gametes reproduce, forming zygotes. The zygotes proceed to build a wall around themselves, becoming oocyst. Once oocysts are created, the process starts all over again.

What are the Major Causes of Coccidia in Bearded Dragons?

Stress

A stressed bearded dragon has an increased chance of suffering from coccidiosis. Some dragons may not be comfortable in their captive environment, which increases the chances of stress. These dragons may resort to irregular movements around their tank and may unknowingly spread coccidia in their habitat.

Inadequate housing

A small tank isn’t advisable for any bearded dragon. It is important for owners to ensure proper housing for their bearded dragon at all times. Smaller spaces increases the chances of your bearded dragons spreading coccidia across their tank.

Poor dieting

Wrong diets could be a major driver of coccidian in bearded dragons. Your bearded dragons should receive numerous nutrients in their meals to ensure they maintain proper stomach health. Serving your bearded dragon the wrong food could lead to an increase in coccidian reproducing in its stomach.

Swift diet changes

Changing your bearded dragons’ diet on short notice could be another driver of coccidia. Ensure you maintain a strict diet template for your bearded dragon. However, if any food needs to be added or removed from your bearded dragon’s diet, consult your vet first.

Poor sanitation

Improper sanitation is another major reason why bearded dragons suffer from coccidia. Unsanitary surroundings littered with fecal matter are perfect for coccidian reproduction. Your bearded dragons stand a higher risk of infection if it lives in an unhealthy environment.

Overcrowding

Packing two or three bearded dragons into a tank is never a great idea. If one of your reptiles currently suffers from advanced coccidia, the other bearded dragons will surely contract it. Each reptile should remain in its tank fitted with its own accessories for climbing, feeding, heating, etc.

Even if there are at least half-a-dozen possible causes of coccidia in bearded dragons, you can manage most of them. That’s why we’ll get to see what you can do to help your bearded dragons beat coccidia.

Signs and Symptoms Of Coccidiosis

Diarrhea

The first sign of coccidiosis is usually diarrhea. In this case, the poop is not only watery; it smells bad and may have mucus in it (bloodless diarrhea). However, severe diarrhea could accompany coccidiosis in bearded dragons. Severe coccidioisis is usually accompanied by bloody stool along with other symptoms of bloodless diarrhea.

Dehydration

Constant dehydration is a major sign of coccidia in bearded dragons. Several dragons could grapple with being regularly dehydrated due to this infestation’s sudden spread. Rehydrating your bearded dragon helps, but you need to make an appointment with the vet immediately you notice this symptom.

Weight loss

Bearded dragons could suddenly start to lose weight when there is a digestive issue or infection to handle. One of the main reasons for weight loss in bearded dragons is coccidia. Since some bearded dragons may not want to eat any food, the chances of emaciating become much higher.

Stunted growth

Inadequate consumption of food directly affects bearded dragons and limits their likelihood of growing. Juvenile bearded dragons are more likely to suffer from growth deficiencies since they’re in a transitional stage.

Lack of appetite, digestive problems, and other issues combine to make growth difficult for sick bearded dragons. Coccidia aggravate the likelihood of growth deficiencies, so you need to monitor this symptom closely.

Anorexia

The prolonged eating disorder linked to anorexia could become evident in bearded dragons plagued by coccidia. Reptiles could turn their noses up at every food you offer due to this ailment. Coccidia aggravates the likelihood of anorexia taking hold as it discourages digestion.

Reptiles suffering from anorexia usually have to deal with extreme digestive issues too.

Vomiting

Bearded dragons could suffer consistent bouts of vomiting when coccidiosis is advanced in their system. Indigestion may become aggravated in bearded dragons and cause these reptiles to vomit insects and other foods whole. Constant vomiting could result in a wide range of health challenges for your reptiles.

How to Treat Coccidiosis In Bearded Dragons?

To treat coccidiosis, the vet will assess the level of infection by placing a fecal sample under a microscope. The test, called a fecal flotation, helps the vet to get an accurate count of oocysts. Other techniques like the nested polymerase chain reaction can also aid in the diagnosis.

To treat coccidiosis, the vet will administer coccidiostat or any other remedial medication. Medications help stop reproduction among existing coccidia in the body of the host beardie.

Coccidiostat is mostly used to treat mild cases of coccidiosis. After stopping the reproduction of the coccidia, the immune system of the host is left to fight off and kill the already existing infestations.

Another medication used in treating coccidiosis is coccidiocidal. This stops reproduction, as well as kill existing coccidia in bearded dragons.

What Can You Do to Help Your Bearded Dragon Beat Coccidia?

While your vet does most of the work, there are things you can do to help your bearded dragon. Some of the things you can do are:

Monitor and take note of every symptom

If your bearded dragons begin to exhibit some strange behavior, you need to take note of everything you see. Monitoring your bearded dragon’s actions, physical appearance, diet, feces, and other elements will make illnesses easy to spot.

Keeping record makes it easier for your vet to provide treatment if he has detailed information to work with.

Follow instructions

Follow instructions given by your vet on medications, how to use them, and in what dosage. Do not change medications or administer un-prescribed drugs to your pet. Administering drugs without approval from a vet could lead to several side effects and may be fatal.

Keep the tank clean

Regularly cleaning your reptile’s tank is necessary to make sure your pet gets well, and stays well. Cleaning regularly with bleach will disrupt the life cycle of oocyst, preventing reinfection. However, you’re advised to dilute bleach before using it to clean your bearded dragon’s tank. Opting to use concentrated bleach could be deadly to your reptile.

Keep your pet hydrated

Coccidiosis will leave your pet dehydrated. Helping your pet take in as much water as possible will help it heal.

How Can I Prevent the Spread of Infections in Bearded Dragons?

If you have more than one bearded dragon, the following tips will help you prevent a spread of infection:

Isolation and quarantine

Sick bearded dragon should be isolated to protect others from the infection. New bearded dragons should be kept away from others for a minimum of 25 days. The prolonged quarantine period is to ensure that there are no signs of infection, before allowing it mix with others.

Regular checkups

Never miss any vet appointment, and schedule periodic checkups for your bearded dragon to make sure it is healthy.

Do not overcrowd your reptile

Do not put more than one bearded dragon in a tank. Ensure to use a tank big enough for your reptiles and provide it necessary accessories that mimic its natural environment. Never put two adult males in the same tank, as they will fight and hurt themselves. Also, don’t put an adult an baby bearded dragon in one tank.

Can I Contract Coccidiosis From My Pet?

Coccidia affects a wide variety of animals, birds, reptiles etc. but there is no known case of transmission to humans. But always endeavor to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after handling your bearded dragon.

FAQs

Can coccidia kill a bearded dragon?

Coccidia can be fatal in bearded dragons if no medical care is provided immediately after diagnosis. Ensure your bearded dragons get regular medical check

Can humans get coccidia from bearded dragons?

Humans are not at an increased risk of coccidia from bearded dragons. However, you need to maintain personal hygiene by washing your hands and maintaining your immediate environment.

What is used to treat coccidia in bearded dragons?

Ponazuril is one of the most potent medications for treating coccidia in bearded dragons. Several means of treating coccidia are available, but some of these medications may not have a high level of efficacy.

How does coccidia affect bearded dragons?

Coccidia affects bearded dragons diet and causes changes in their overall appearance. The feces of bearded dragons and physical ability will also take a hit if these reptiles suffer from coccidia.

How do you know if your bearded dragon has coccidia?

Signs of coccidia in bearded dragons

Can humans get parasites from bearded dragons?

Humans can contract salmonella and a few other infections from bearded dragons. However, captive bearded dragons that have access to better care rarely carry any disease.

Final Thoughts: Coccidia in Bearded Dragons

Coccidia in bearded dragons should be handled swiftly and effectively to save the life of the affected pet.

As soon as you notice signs of coccidian in your bearded dragon, take it to the vet, and follow the doctor’s instructions flawlessly. Endeavor to record each symptom as well as change in your bearded dragon, to assist the doctor in diagnosing this infection as quickly as possible.

Isolate sick beardie to protect others from the infection, and clean the tank regularly with bleach to break the life cycle of oocyte.

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