Most wild animals have, and cope with, small numbers of parasites. However, these parasites often build to pathogenic levels in captivity. While your veterinarian must perform tests to determine whether or not your bearded dragon has parasites, it is important to observe your pet for symptoms that may indicate their presence. Anorexia, weight loss and improperly formed stools are common symptoms associated with parasites, but depression and irritability can also signal their presence.
Healthy bearded dragons are among the most voracious pet lizards in the world. Fast growing juveniles should eagerly chase crickets or mealworms, even when fed two or three times per day. Adults should eat a large serving of vegetables every day, and some supplemental insects several times per week. Like the juveniles, they should aggressively seek out and consume their food. A high parasite load can eliminate this high food drive, causing your pet to eat little, if any, food. Parasites cause anorexia by irritating the lining of the intestinal tract, reducing the beneficial gut flora of their digestive tract or by becoming so numerous that they take up significant space in the digestive system, causing the animal to feel full.
Weight loss is a sign of a serious parasite problem, and usually accompanies inappetance. It is important to weigh your bearded dragon regularly and be alert for the first signs of weight loss. Always be sure to weigh your bearded dragon on an empty stomach to get the most accurate results. One of the first visual signs of weight loss is the increased visibility of the lizard’s hip bones.
Bearded dragon stools should be firm and have a definitive shape. Typically, the lizards excrete some feces, which is generally brown and often contains visible insect exoskeletons, and a small bit of urea, which is a white semi-solid mixture excreted instead of urine. While you are unlikely to observe living parasites in bearded dragon feces, loose, watery, mucus-laden or bloody stools may indicate a parasite infestation.
Irritability, Depression and Lethargy
Parasite issues can cause your bearded dragon to feel unwell, which may have effects on his personality. Your bearded should engage in his normal daily routine; he should bask, drink water and eat regularly -- if he does not, a trip to the veterinarian is in order. Likewise, if your bearded dragon is normally amenable to handling, but instead greets you with a flared beard and gaping mouth, he may not be feeling well.
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