Like other reptiles, bearded dragons are prone to a number of illnesses. Unfortunately, some of these illnesses are more serious than others, and adenovirus is one of them. In this blog post, we will discuss what adenovirus is, how it affects bearded dragons, and how to prevent and treat it.
What is Atadenovirus?
Atadenovirus, formerly known as adenovirus and also commonly referred to as ADV, is a life-threatening, potentially disastrous infection in bearded dragons. It is caused by a virus causing major liver disease and death in lizards. Adenovirus infections are not fully understood in bearded dragons but are often in conjunction with other infections, such as coccidiosis.
Besides bearded dragons, atadenovirus can infect many other lizards, such as water dragons, Rankin’s dragons, chameleons, fat-tailed geckos, leopard geckos, tokay geckos, Gila monsters, Mexican beaded lizards, monitors, skinks, and blue-tongued skinks.
ADV is also known to infect a wide range of reptiles, such as snakes, turtles, tortoises, and even a Nile crocodile.
Symptoms of Atadenovirus in Bearded Dragons
It is currently very difficult to distinguish Adenovirus from other bearded dragon diseases. The only (unspecific) signs include poor doers with poor appetite or diarrhea. Neurological signs such as head tilting and circling have also been reported in confirmed cases. Some bearded dragons are just found dead. It seems like it mostly affects juveniles between four to twelve weeks.
There’s a reason why this illness is known as the “wasting disease” or “stargazing disease.” ADV-infected baby bearded dragons often do not survive past three months of age and spend their brief lives striving to grow.
How Bearded Dragons Get Atadenovirus?
The bearded dragon can get the atadenovirus through contact with an infected dragon or by contact with a surface contaminated with the virus. For example, the virus can be spread through fecal matter, saliva, or water that has been in contact with an infected beardie. It can also get infected by humans if they handle a carrier beardie.
How is Adenovirus Diagnosed in Bearded Dragons?
The only way to diagnose bearded dragon Adenovirus is via a post-mortem (necropsy). Even after death, there is no significant visual or so-called macroscopic lesions visible, and microscopical or histopathological evaluation is necessary to see the lesions caused by the virus.
Intra-nuclear cellular inclusions characteristic with viral infections, especially evident in the liver, are only enough for a presumptive diagnosis. A definitive diagnosis can only be made by identification of the specific viral particles consistent with Adenovirus with an electron microscope.
How can I Prevent Adenovirus Infections?
Because bearded dragon Adenovirus infection is still largely a mystery, only general recommendations can be made with regard to its prevention or spread between animals. It is assumed that the disease is transmitted faeco-orally, so measures such as hygiene become very important. bearded dragon quarantine is, at this stage, probably the best way to identify asymptomatic carriers, but it is speculated that even after months of uneventful isolation, a bearded dragon can still be infected and spread the disease as soon as it comes in contact with other animals.
How Do You Treat Adenovirus in Bearded Dragons?
At present, there is no treatment for the disease. In sick (but not necessarily confirmed) bearded dragons, symptomatic treatment such as antibiotics, force-feeding, and parenteral fluids (drips) appears to work in the short term and increase the survival rates of some suspected infected bearded dragons. Treatment should preferably be done under the supervision of an experienced reptile-friendly veterinarian.
Adenovirus infection is a deadly disease found in bearded dragons and many other reptiles. It can often be prevented through good husbandry practices. If your dragon does become infected, early diagnosis and treatment are essential for the best chance of recovery.