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Tag Archives: Reptile Parasites

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New Test for Cryptosporidiosis, an Incurable Disease of Snakes and Lizards

Corn Snake and PreyA decade or so ago, Cryptosporidiosis became recognized as a major concern in captive snake and lizard collections.  Caused by a one-celled parasite known as Cryptosporidium varanii, the disease remains incurable to this day.  At the Bronx Zoo, where I worked at the time, tests showed that many snakes already in our collection, along with wild and pet reptiles, might be harboring Cryptosporidium.  But diagnosis was difficult and errors were common, resulting in the institution of expensive and time-consuming isolation protocols for new and sick animals.  So I was happy to learn of a newly devised test that ensures early, accurate diagnosis of Cryptosporidium…it will surely prove useful to pet keepers and zoos alike.

Crypto and the Pet Trade

A number of factors render Cryptosporidiosis as a major concern, including the popularity of reptile pets and the fact that the parasite can be transferred to people.  While not often of major concern to healthy adults, Crypto, as it came to be known, is a danger to immune-compromised individuals (please see article below).  A recent survey of 672 pets revealed that 1 in 6 of the Corn Snakes and 1 in 12 of the Leopard Geckos tested harbored Crypto in one form or another.  Read More »

Mixing Reptile and Amphibian Species – A Special Concern

Keeping different species of reptiles and amphibians together is an exciting prospect that offers special rewards. However, there are many potential pitfalls. Today I’d like to mention one of the more serious of these concerns – the transmission of parasites.

Particularly troublesome are organisms that are harmless to one animal but deadly to another. The most commonly encountered of these is an amoeba known as Entamoeba invadens. Usually benign in the digestive tracts of turtles and tortoises, it can be fatal to certain lizards and snakes.

Fortunately, this amoeba can be identified via fecal exams, and such should be performed on all turtles to be housed with other reptiles. Animals found to carry E. invadens can be cleared of the parasite by treatment with Metronidizole (a second dose is given after 3 weeks to kill amoebas recently emerged from drug-resistant cysts). Follow-up fecal exams at 4-6 month intervals are a good idea.

Equally important is good husbandry practices – proper temperatures, UVB exposure, etc. – so that your pets’ immune systems will be functioning optimally. As amoebas and other parasites are usually shed in the feces, close attention to hygiene is also vital. You should be especially careful when housing closely-related species together, as a parasite adapted to one will easily infect the other. In fact, micro-organisms that are relatively harmless to one species can easily kill a relative from another part of the world. This is one reason why zoos rarely exhibit, for example, turtles from North America in the same enclosure as turtles from Europe.

Finally, the importance of caution regarding the transmission of micro-organisms between animals and people cannot be over-stressed. This concern applies to healthy individuals and especially to infants, elderly people and anyone with a compromised immune system or similar health concern. Please consult your physician as to appropriate cleaning practices and special situations. I’ll explore this important topic further in a future article, but please forward any questions or comments in the meantime.

An excellent article, Salmonella Hygiene, is available at the web site of the Association of Reptile and Amphibian Veterinarians:
You can learn more about reptile and amphibian health at the very informative web site of the Arizona Exotic Animal Hospital:


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