In this post, we will explain what are the most common types of bearded dragon parasites, how they can infect your pet, what are the signs and symptoms of infection, and how you can prevent and treat them.
There are two types of parasites i.e. external and internal.
External Bearded Dragon Parasites
External parasites are those that live on the skin or scales of your bearded dragon. The most common ones are mites and ticks, which are bloodsucking arachnids that can transmit diseases (bacteria, viruses, and protozoans) and spread from one bearded dragon to another. They can also cause skin irritation, anemia, dehydration, weight loss, and stress.
Signs of external parasite infestation
- Small black or red dots on your bearded dragon’s body or enclosure
- Scratching or rubbing against objects
- Loss of appetite or lethargy
- Pale gums or eyes
- Scabs or wounds on the skin
How to prevent external parasites
- Quarantine any new bearded dragons for at least two weeks before introducing them to your existing ones
- Clean and disinfect your bearded dragon’s enclosure regularly
- Avoid using substrates that can harbor mites or ticks
- Check your bearded dragon for any signs of parasites regularly
How to treat external parasites:
- Consult a reptile veterinarian for diagnosis and medication
- Remove any mites or ticks manually with tweezers or a cotton swab dipped in alcohol
- Bathe your bearded dragon in warm water with a mild reptile-safe shampoo
- Apply a topical anti-parasitic product as prescribed by your vet
Internal Bearded Dragon Parasites
Internal parasites are those that live inside your bearded dragon’s digestive system. The most common ones are pinworms and coccidia, which are microscopic organisms that can cause diarrhea, dehydration, weight loss, poor growth, and reduced immunity. They can also infect other reptiles through contact with feces or contaminated food or water.
Signs of internal parasite infection
- Loose or foul-smelling stools
- Blood or mucus in the stools
- Loss of appetite or weight
- Bloating or swelling of the abdomen
- Dehydration or sunken eyes
How to prevent internal parasites
- Feed your bearded dragon fresh and clean food (avoid wild insects)
- Provide clean water daily (use filtered water if possible)
- Clean and disinfect your bearded dragon’s enclosure regularly (especially the food and water dishes)
- Avoid overcrowding or stress in your bearded dragon’s environment
How to treat internal parasites
- Consult a reptile veterinarian for diagnosis and medication (usually oral dewormers)
- Collect a fresh fecal sample from your bearded dragon for testing (preferably before giving any medication)
- Follow the instructions of your vet on how to administer the medication (usually for several days)
Protozoans, nematodes, and trematodes are some of the most widespread parasites.
The worst of the parasites will be mites. They are external parasites that feed through the skin of your bearded dragons anchoring themselves in hook-like mouthparts and legs.
After these parasites have taken their blood meal they will drop off your lizard and lay their eggs in the substrate and furnishings of your vivarium, bringing around a whole new wave of vicious blood-sucking mites.
The best way to rid your bearded dragon (hopefully not your whole collection) of mites, take your bearded dragon and bathe him thoroughly until you are certain its ridden of mites, take its house and do the same.
Note: Once your beardie is in quarantine remove all substrate, making sure it’s properly disposed of outside, All furnishings that can be discarded throw away.
The remaining stones, branches, and housing, etc should be put in a 1/10 bleach to water solution for 12 or more hours and leave to air for a few days to destroy all eggs and mites. Use the same solution to clean the vivarium letting it soak for the same time than air out for 2-3 days. After this time return everything to the vivarium while looking for any signs of mites, That should have got rid of them.
To prevent bearded dragon parasites like mites make sure you clean your vivarium regularly and when doing so look for signs of mites, you should check your bearded dragon when you handle it as well.
If you have a lot of reptiles checking them regularly is vital to ensure parasites don’t spread through your entire collection as ridding all reptiles and enclosures will be a long, arduous task.
Internal parasites can cause many problems, but luckily enough they usually come from dirty surroundings or from other animals. Usually, other reptiles have worms when they are imported from the wild and passed to others by being housed in the same enclosures.
Bearded dragon parasites like internal ones can’t be cured by sterilization, the symptoms of internal parasites are; bloated body, diarrhea, and blood in feces, vomiting, unexplained weight loss, sluggish and laziness, discoloration, and if you actually see the worms in the feces.
If you see any of these symptoms in your bearded dragon, take them to a reptile vet as soon as you can as internal parasites can cause your lizard serious harm. Your vet will prescribe medication in the form of oral medication or injections.
Cleaning out the cage as soon as you start the medication is essential.