1. What is coccidiosis?
Coccidiosis describes the infection by microscopic motile parasites called coccidia. The eggs of the parasite (oocysts) are found in the intestine and are passed in the droppings. The main species of coccidia found in bearded dragons is Isospora amphiboluri.
2. What is the route of transmission?
Coccidia are often ingested through food or substrate contaminated with infected droppings. The egg has a hard shell and can survive on the ground for a long time.
3. What are the clinical signs of Coccidiosis?
Coccidiosis is very common in bearded dragons. Clinical sign include:
∑ diarrhoea with or without blood,
∑ weight loss and depression,
∑ poor growth and/or death in both young and old or unwell reptiles.
4. Will all bearded dragons become sick?
Some bearded dragons with coccidiosis may not show any clinical signs. These individuals often act as carriers of the parasite and can be a source of the disease spreading.
Some individuals with coccidia can be clinically unwell and usually have other diseases occurring at the same time. Common diseases include metabolic bone disease, viral disease such as atadenovirus, inappropriate diet and/or suboptimal husbandry conditions.
5. How are coccidia identified in the live reptile?
Faecal smears of the droppings examined under the microscope often display the eggs. Eggs may not always show up in every faecal smear so a more sensitive test, such as a faecal flotation, may be required.
6. What is the treatment for Coccidiosis?
Coccidiosis is treated with medications such as toltrazuril or trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole. The enclosure should be cleaned thoroughly daily and then disinfected. Treatment of secondary infections caused by bacteria may also be necessary. Your vet will choose a treatment plan based on your individual animalís needs.
7. How is Coccidiosis prevented?
Coccidiosis can be prevented by ensuring that enclosures are cleaned frequently and that your bearded dragon has regular faecal checks. This may be performed at the annual health check. Any new reptiles should quarantined until they are examined for coccidiosis.
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