Flagellates in Bearded Dragons
Falkor’s fight against the protozoa
For the past few weeks we noticed that Falkor was acting odd. He didn’t bask very much, choosing the lay flat on the dark side of his terrarium. He would let the crickets climb over him when it was feeding time, and would only eat if an insect happened to get in the way of his mouth. This inst typical bearded dragon behavior, and so we started to worry about him. Finally, the lethargy became too worrisome, so we took him to the vet.
Dr. Mike Corcoran, DVM, at Arizona Exotic Animal Hospital was very patient with Falkor, who decided he wasn’t going to give a fecal sample no matter how hard the Dr. tried to convince him to give some up. Nothing worked, not even a warm water soak for approximately 20 minutes. Falkor can be so very stubborn sometimes.
After some discussion and observation, Dr. Corcoran decided to treat Falkor for flagellates, a protozoan parasite that can infect the gastrointestinal track of a bearded dragon. Flagellates are fairly common in bearded dragons. The infection can present by the lizard showing lethargy, weakness (laying flat), and lack of appetite. It can only be confirmed by a clinician and a fecal smear. Dr. Corcoran was not able to confirm the infection with the fecal smear, but decided to treat for flagellates as it was a likely cause of the symptoms.
Coccidia could have been another likely choice, but Falkor had been treated for a cocciidia infection as a hatchling. With a coccidia infection, the dragon must be treated as well as the environment. This requires that the terrarium be cleaned out thoroughly every day, and making sure to remove any fecal matter immediately. Coccidia can be transferred between animals, so its likely you will need to treat any other animals that come in contact (directly or indirectly) with the infected animal. Without having a fecal sample to confirm, Dr. Corcoran chose not to treat for coccidia at this time. He advised that if Falkor still exhibited symptomatic behavior to gather a fecal sample and bring it in for a test.
We started treatment last Thursday, and Falkor has already shown good improvement. Instead of laying flat on the dark side of the terrarium, he can now be found on the log closest to the light, happily soaking in its rays. He is more active now, searching around the area looking for overlooked insects and munching on greens. He still lays flat at times, but now it is at least on the light site of the cage where he can get some rays. He still hasnt pooped yet, but he is beginning to eat normally so I expect a present from him any day now.
Thank you Dr. Corcoran for your patience and kindness and for helping bring Falkor back to health.