Bearded Dragon Care

SUPPORTIVE CARE DURING TREATMENT for COCCIDIA
and OTHER INTESTINAL PARASITES
Written by Denise R. Bushnell in June, 2005
Last updated in May, 2008

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Depending upon the type of parasite that your dragon is harboring in his digestive tract, his vet will usually prescribe some type of deworming medication, and/or an antibiotic to kill off the parasite. Three of the ones more commonly used are Albon, Panacur or Metronidazole (also known as Flagyl or MTZ). These are given by mouth, and are in liquid form.

Unfortunately, these medications, along with a few others, not only kill the parasites and/or the coccidia, but they also kill off all the good bacteria in your dragon’s digestive tract. The medications are necessary, and they do, in most cases, rid your dragon of the parasites, but they usually cause a whole new set of problems instead. This is a case where the cure can do nearly as much damage as the illness itself, without your providing the right sort of supportive care.

Antibiotics and worming medications will totally destroy the good bacteria in a beardie’s digestive tract. These good bacteria are what cause your beardie to feel hunger, and they also help him to digest his food. Because of this, once the good bacteria are destroyed, dragons will often go without eating for so long that they can become extremely undernourished and very weak. If every time someone wanted you to eat, you already felt full, and every time you ate, you got diarrhea or terrible pains in your stomach, I'm sure you wouldn't want to eat either! That's the bad news........the good news is that there are ways that you can help!

There are two products that you can purchase, which will assist you in helping your pet to return to the best of good health. Neither is very expensive, and both will make a world of difference in his or her recuperation from their treatment with antibiotics or worming medications. In fact, I recommend that these two products be kept on hand at all times, if you keep beardies as pets, since you never know when you might need them.

First, I would recommend that you purchase a bottle of Pet Authority brand Acidophiliz+, which is a probiotic. If you can't locate this product at your local pet store, you can purchase it online at ReptileSupply.com. It is listed under supplements, and is about $6.00 a bottle. This is not a medication, but is a probiotic, which is a solution which will replace the good bacteria in your beardie's intestinal tract. After opening it, you must keep it in the refrigerator, or it will no longer be effective. The solution contains living bacteria which are beneficial to your dragon. While the bottle remains sealed, or is kept under refrigeration, the bacteria in the solution remain inert, and it is only when they are exposed to higher temperatures that they begin to grow. When they do become active, and start growing, they need to be in your dragon’s digestive tract in order to feed, or they will die in the bottle, and don’t do anyone any good. Therefore, be sure to keep the solution under refrigeration at all times after opening it.

The Acidophiliz cultures are also available at Health Food Stores, in powdered form, and may be taken by humans as well, and there is also another form of the same culture sold in Pet Stores under the name of Bene-Bac, which is sold for use on birds and other animals. In my opinion, however, these are not a good substitute for your dragon, unless you absolutely, positively cannot find Acidophiliz+, which is formulated exclusively for lizards and other reptiles.. The reasons that I don’t recommend these versions of the probiotic are very good ones.

First, since both of the versions mentioned above are for use with other animals, or with humans, and they aren’t formulated in liquid form, they are of a different concentration, and calculating the proper dosage for a lizard as small as a bearded dragon would be very difficult.

Secondly, the Pet Authority brand of Acidophiliz+ is made with numerous vitamins and minerals that are specifically needed by reptiles, and when your beardie isn’t eating properly already, due to his illness, these vitamins and minerals can be very beneficial for him.

Lastly, Acidophiliz+ is made with extracts of the Papaya and Yucca plants, which makes the liquid particularly palatable to your dragon’s taste buds. Most of them like the flavor of it, and once they taste it, will take it willingly from a dropper or from a feeding syringe. This is much easier on you, and much less stressful for your beardie, if you don’t have to force it down him every time you dose him with it.

The directions on the bottle will say to give 3 drops per day. For your purpose of use, with your bearded dragon, you can disregard those instructions. After being treated with antibiotics, they need a good jolt of it. Give a full dropperful, once a day, about 3 hours before your dragon’s bedtime. After you give him that dosage, he must be kept very warm for at least the next 8 hours. The bacteria in the solution need heat to seat themselves in his intestines and start to grow. While bearded dragons normally only require nighttime temperatures of around 65 degrees, and benefit from a cool down period while they sleep, when you are attempting to replace the good bacteria in their digestive tract, night time temperatures of only a few degrees cooler than their tanks are kept during the day, are much more beneficial for them. These increased overnight temperatures will allow the good bacteria to multiply much more quickly and effectively.

You can raise the temperature in their tanks, while they sleep, in several different ways. The easiest way is by purchasing a Ceramic Heat Emitter to use during the nighttime hours. This piece of equipment will screw into your dragon’s light fixture, in place of a bulb, and will supply him with heat during the overnight hours, without emitting light, which may keep him awake. These are very convenient, but they can be a bit pricey, usually running somewhere in the $30 to $40 range, which may be more than some people want to spend for something that they may only use when their beardie isn’t feeling well.