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Baby bearded dragon died unexpectedly from coccidiosis

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dropoint

New member
Hello all, not entirely pleased to have this as my first post in the forum but I'm desperately searching for answers as to what might have brought these parasites into my baby bearded dragons enclosure while she was here for such a short period of time.

Since she had arrived May 13th her behavior was quite strange, but I chalked it all up to relocation stress(almost in transit for 4 days) and the fact that I had unfortunately been using a reptisun 10.0 compact coil for the first 2-3 days. However that was promptly replaced with a 36" sunblaster fixture+reflector and an arcadia t5 12% linear bulb that was mounted inside the viv approx. 12" from her basking spot. Her enclosure was also a large 75g(4x2x2) so I'd used a piece of cardboard to section off about half of it so that the space wasn't so overwhelming for her. Also worth noting that the heat bulb she was using is a Thrive brand 150w on a dimmer to better control temps when the summer heat comes. I had used a temp gun to read surface temps which were kept between 80-95F, and there was a digital thermometer/hygrometer inside at the back midsection to monitor humidity levels.

Since day one, particularly with the reptisun coil, she was lethargic, had minimal appetite and was lacking her vivid colours. After swapping the light set up she seemed to perk up for the first couple days which was very good to see! She looked a lot more alert overall and her normal colouring had finally shown up. On the second day of new lighting she gobbled up somewhere between 20-30 crickets in one feeding. After this though her eating was very sporadic... She would only eat one or two pieces of greens(arugula usually but switched up with collards) only if hand fed. Very rarely would she touch veggies on her own which I know is pretty common for babies.. But what threw me right off was with live feeders. She would typically eat anywhere from 5-6 crickets on a good day though her typical daily intake was only 2-3, all dusted with zoomed calcium(no D3) and the crickets are gut loaded on veggies+repashy beardie buffet. I'd also tried feeding her some BSFL in the first week or so that she was here but had stopped almost immediately because a few times she had the worms come out still alive and wiggling around in her stool.... What an experience that was! I got a feeling something was up when I saw that, but in discussion with the breeder it just kinda sounded like she was just having a hard time adjusting and that her overall health should be okay. Still the minimal appetite+lethargy continued and she would only seem to really perk up when taking her out of the enclosure to bask by my window screen on sunny days. She seemed to really love watching the trees swaying in the backyard and it was kinda the only times she truly looked happy.

Fast forward to Monday last week, I woke up in the morning to see her going to town on her water dish only an hour or so after her lights turned on... I thought this was kinda weird because from my understanding beardies don't drink standing water? But I kinda got excited thinking she just figured it out ya know? That day she was more or less her usual self, not very active though alert looking and had 2 crickets that day.

The next day however was the first day things really struck me as odd and I began to think that something might be up. Tuesday she refused all food, insects or veggies and just kinda basked on her hammock but not how she normally would all propped up on her arms. She was keeping very low but otherwise looked like her usual self. She also didn't have a bowel movement in her water dish or the bath like she typically would that day. I thought this was all really odd, but considering she was part way through shedding her tail+head as well I gave benefit to doubt and thought maybe it's just her being moody as a result.

On Wednesday she looked a bit dehydrated cuz her skin had some tiny wrinkles on her back and her fat pads didn't look quite so round. I kept a very close eye on her that day, gave her two baths of which she took long drinks during both. She also once again refused all food offerings that day but she drank endless amounts of water from her dish too. I actually had to refill it at one point during the day but I figured if she was dehydrated it was likely due to the dry spell we had recently so hopefully all her drinking would've fixed that right up. Still, seeing that was super concerning and I barely slept a wink that night constantly getting up to ensure she was okay.

The next morning when she woke up she looked critical... It was as if she never drank any water the previous day because she just looked 100% dehydrated. I immediately tried giving her some pedialyte+calcium water in a syringe which she licked up a good amount of, but shortly after this she began thrashing about on her basking spot and vomited some kind of chunky, dry-ish dark stuff. I could see in there a bit of the head from a cricket so I assume this was likely one of the two she had ate earlier that week.. Once she threw that up she kinda just seemed to be zapped of energy entirely and remained this way. I tried getting some more fluids into her from the syringe but when I dribbled some in the opening of her mouth she didn't try to lick it up and breathed in a little bit of it! I got her calmed down again and made sure she was breathing normally after this, then I got on the phone and started calling around to all of the vets in my area. Came to find out that many of them don't treat reptiles, or the ones who do weren't taking emergency appointments that day so my was only option was to take her to a general medical clinic for animals where they do not have an exotics specialist on hand, but they had tried administering fluids via catheter and did a fecal exam once she had pooped later that day. It was just over 6 hours after I dropped her off when the vet called me to say that she unfortunately had passed away...

Finally once I was on my way to the clinic the vet had finished processing the stool sample she passed earlier that day and they had found isospora amphiboluri +1 & a rare oxyurid called ozwaldocruzia sp. in large quantities. Her stool was also really runny, smelly and contained a very large amount of urate which the vet said was an indicator that her body had begun consuming her muscle/bone mass to feed herself. These are qualities I hadn't ever seen in her bowel movements leading up to this, but while she was here she never really had very firm poops anyways and I kinda figured that was due to relocation stress and the gutloaded bugs+hydration in the vegetables.

I won't lie, when preparing to house a bearded dragon I had been made aware of coccidia but I was not at all aware of the various forms of it, nor the prevention methods necessary to control it at safe levels. I have come to find that isospora amphiboluri is quite common, but that the other one is likely not even an oxyurid like the vet said it was, but a superfamily variety of nematode somehow related to hook worm I think?? I wish I was more of an academic with science stuff but I just never understood it well which is probably why I'm an animator now instead of a teacher.. I've spent countless hours since reading over all kinds of studies on these particular parasites but the ozwaldocruzia one has been hard to find any info on so that's why I'm coming here in hopes that someone can possibly shine some light on the situation.

I had thought that my husbandry in terms of habitat and conditions were textbook examples and yet my poor baby had struggled to thrive. The breeder said she doesn't screen all of her babies for parasites, but she does regular exams on her breeders and other adults to ensure that nothing is transmitted to the hatchlings during birth. The parents of this baby came back 100% clean and she is a reputable breeder so I don't get the feeling that my beardie came with this already. I am terrified to think that when I cleaned up the enclosure from the previous owner that his gecko had something I wasn't able to kill off because regrettably, I only used vinegar+ hot water since it's non-toxic and was recommended online for cleaning up beardie messes.... I wasn't aware that something like F10/zirkon-S and steam cleaning is the only way to actually rid these parasites because often bleach isn't even enough to kill the eggs.

I'm wracking my brain thinking of any other reason for this other than my own stupidity because if I ever plan to house another beardie in the future I want to be certain that this situation never presents itself again. Routine fecal exams will also be a a must because after spending so much time reading into coccidia, it's got me all kinds of paranoid. But with everything that happened in such a short period of time and knowing that the other babies from the same clutch seem to be doing more or less okay, I'm really struggling to come up with a theory that makes sense here aside from her immunity being down from relocation stress and then becoming a host to parasites that were likely already there in the tank to begin with.. Really just want to find some answers because this has been devastating. I would send her for an autopsy but unfortunately I just cannot afford to do such a thing.. She has been buried in my succulent garden though so I just hope now that she can find some peace. Had I been aware of all of the behaviors/symptoms associated with coccidia/other parasites I would've got her tested that very first week she had arrived in order to catch it early and get her the necessary medications. Now I'm sitting here wondering about all the things I may have done wrong despite all attempts to provide nothing but the best care and love possible. Any insight on all of this would be greatly appreciated.
 

CooperDragon

BD.org Sicko
Staff member
Moderator
I'm sorry to hear she didn't survive. Based on your description, your setup is good and was not likely to cause issues. It's possible that a parasite was transmitted through the used enclosure, but I don't know for sure. Certainly a good idea to give it a thorough cleaning and sanitization now though. It's possible that parasites overwhelmed her system but there could have also been something else going on that could cause organ failure or something like that. It doesn't sound like it would be caused by something you did so don't be hard on yourself about that. You gave her the best care you could and sometimes it just doesn't work out. It's hard to say for sure what happened without further investigation so I'm sorry I don't have more answers for you on this.
 

AHBD

BD.org Sicko
Hi there, so sorry to read about this tragedy. :( It is VERY significant that she was in transport for so long. That would certainly elevate any parasite levels or add to the burden on her body. Where from and who shipped her to you ? Do you know what the temps. were in the departure state as well as yours ? How big + what age was she ?
 

dropoint

New member
Original Poster
CooperDragon":2b44qa0l said:
I'm sorry to hear she didn't survive. Based on your description, your setup is good and was not likely to cause issues. It's possible that a parasite was transmitted through the used enclosure, but I don't know for sure. Certainly a good idea to give it a thorough cleaning and sanitization now though. It's possible that parasites overwhelmed her system but there could have also been something else going on that could cause organ failure or something like that. It doesn't sound like it would be caused by something you did so don't be hard on yourself about that. You gave her the best care you could and sometimes it just doesn't work out. It's hard to say for sure what happened without further investigation so I'm sorry I don't have more answers for you on this.

Really glad to hear that the set up is sounding correct at least.. I tried my best to get as much info as possible on the best lights and diet I could provide in order for her to grow up super healthy and happy.

Funny you mention it, because I had began to suspect an organ problem at one point due to one the strange behaviors I'd noticed while she was here. She would do this droopy eye thing with her lower right eyelid quite a bit... Kinda like the lower eyelid muscles would just let go all of a sudden but then regain control a few moments later. When I looked it up at the time, most searches showed this to be a sign of kidney failure in beardies. But it was also said that this could simply be a genetic trait that's sometimes present in a beardies features despite complete health. When I read all of that I double checked the photos from the breeder, and her right eye in one of the photos did look somewhat similar to what I was seeing at the time with the droopy lid thing, but not as pronounced. So I once again gave benefit to doubt and hoped it was simply a genetic thing :/ Of course, can't be 100% sure if this was a contributing factor either, but I thought it was oddly coincidental and now with her passing away so suddenly I did start to consider this as a possibility that might've sped along the process with the parasites.

Trying not to beat myself up about it but I just hate the thought that I may have helped introduce those parasites to her system by plain ignorance/misinformation, and most importantly that it seems to have gone unchecked for so long despite signs that should've raised a lot of red flags to both myself and the breeder. Just feels really preventable you know? I've read other similar stories online of sudden deaths of babies and it's honestly so tragic no matter how it happens.. I just wish I had some concrete answers after all of this, but I truly appreciate you taking the time to read and provide your insight regardless.
 

dropoint

New member
Original Poster
AHBD":2r6bk1t8 said:
Hi there, so sorry to read about this tragedy. :( It is VERY significant that she was in transport for so long. That would certainly elevate any parasite levels or add to the burden on her body. Where from and who shipped her to you ? Do you know what the temps. were in the departure state as well as yours ? How big + what age was she ?

I agree that it was a too long of a time in transit, especially since at the time of shipping she was only 5 weeks old.. I'd come to find that it's usually recommended to only ship the hatchlings once they hit 12 weeks or older so this was also very eye opening. Though I'd also read that this isn't a rule of thumb, just a general practice and entirely up to the breeders best judgement on whether they are developed enough to handle shipping.

When in contact with her she has had nothing but good news from everyone else that had been in touch regarding babies from the same clutch. One of the siblings though is showing similar eating habits to my baby with only eating 2-3 dusted crickets daily. But apparently he's quite alert and active despite the small appetite? Not sure what to make of that one situation but it sounds like the parasites hadn't come from her breeding facility though she is going to be testing some of her babies and adults in the meantime just to be certain on her end.

But honestly I don't want to mention her name or business on the forum as this is only the 4th time this had happened to any of her babies over 13 years apparently. So I do not want to potentially give her name a bad rep with this situation since I still don't even know exactly where these parasites came from. She has been more than helpful in assisting my efforts to try figuring this out, and is continuing to do so.

Though the baby was shipped from BC, Canada to my home here in NS. So she made a solid trip coast to coast... She was supposed to arrive guaranteed on the 2nd day at 12pm but was delayed a whole day further. To top it all off, both the breeder and my own efforts to complain with UPS dispatch about the fact that they've delayed a shipment of a live animal seemingly did nothing. The customer service rep told us both that the local truck driver was informed to deliver the parcel ASAP because it was already late a whole day+its a LIVE ANIMAL. Still he ended up arriving around 5:30/6 pm which is the usual time that particular driver makes deliveries for my area. :/

Right off the bat I knew she was very stressed because when I opened the box, she was in her little container with paper towel but was clinging to it underneath on her back looking up at me.... With how well everything was packaged it didn't seem like she would've been jostled around easily. THe temp in the box was also surprisingly still warm after arriving late so I was relieved to know she was at least kept somewhat comfortable. Overall she was very strange though in the sense of displaying known signs of stress during her time here, which is why I think it was easy to look up my concerns online and lean heavier on the idea it was just relocation/she was a quirky dragon. Never once except for her last day here did I see her black beard.. She was just so sweet, relaxed and bonded with me super quickly! She seemed to really enjoy her nighttime cuddle before being tucked into the burrito every night.. One night I actually got home late after a bike ride so her lights were already out at this point and she appeared to have fallen asleep on her basking rock. It was well over an hour since I'd got home when I was getting ready for bed and I saw her still laying there but with eyes wide awake looking straight at me with that "beardie stink eye" hahaha :p I knew just what to do so I scooped her up and started tucking her in. As soon as that first bit of the blanket was over her head she was out like a light... She was truly the sweetest thing and I miss her dearly.
 

AHBD

BD.org Sicko
Oh, that's too young to ship although it also depends on the size of the baby. When I was raising babies some of them actually hatched at nearly 5" and were in the 6.5" range by 5 weeks. How big was your baby and how big were the crickets you fed her ? As for the coccidia, the babies could get it if they are fed crickets and no one can really say that none of their dragons has it unless they've all been tested. You didn't do anything wrong, very hot water and vinegar should have killed any potential coccidia in your tank but the key is the water needs to be super hot. As for the breeder, did she refund your money ? A good breeder would at least refund your shipping cost, whether the delay was their fault or not. BTW, do you have any pics of your baby ?
 

dropoint

New member
Original Poster
AHBD":auwhpv9n said:
Oh, that's too young to ship although it also depends on the size of the baby. When I was raising babies some of them actually hatched at nearly 5" and were in the 6.5" range by 5 weeks. How big was your baby and how big were the crickets you fed her ? As for the coccidia, the babies could get it if they are fed crickets and no one can really say that none of their dragons has it unless they've all been tested. You didn't do anything wrong, very hot water and vinegar should have killed any potential coccidia in your tank but the key is the water needs to be super hot. As for the breeder, did she refund your money ? A good breeder would at least refund your shipping cost, whether the delay was their fault or not. BTW, do you have any pics of your baby ?

I had felt similarly but trusted the breeders judgment that it would be okay to ship her at that age. Unfortunately in my excitement I hadn't measured her up until 2 weeks after she arrived but when she got here I would guess that she was about 6.5". When she passed away though I took her measurements to see if she had much progress during this time and she was a little over 7", so she seemed to be growing a little, but definitely not standard growth rates...

With the crickets, she was only ever given 1/4" size, maybe a few that were a bit larger but nothing bigger than the space between her eyes as all people recommend. I also didn't know about the feeders carrying coccidia until the vet told me when I brought her in. She also said that pinworm is pretty common with crickets though thankfully that never showed up in the fecal exam.

Part of my issue with the cleaning is that knowing all of this now, I definitely didn't use hot enough water at the time.. I had cleaned the viv outside on a day that it was only probably only 6 degrees celsius and had to keep running buckets of water from inside because there's no hose access at my apt building. So although it was pretty hot water while inside my place, it definitely wasn't hot water by the time I was done going through the viv. It really just feels like a series of really crap situations that led to all of this... The breeder hadn't offered to refund shipping but she has been very kind and offered to send another baby from her clutches free of charge when I'm ready to house another one.

I have some pics of her, mostly from the breeder, but very few of them sadly.. Didn't want to stress her out with a camera in her face early on so I did my best to hold back on the pics. Snuck a really cute one on my phone of her snuggled into my shirt collar before her bedtime though haha. I'd post it here but not sure how the image attachment works? I think I'd need to post them on some other site and link first. I'll post some when I get a moment to do that. Thank you for your insight so far though! It's confirming some of the things I was concerned about, especially in regards to her young age/small size and the fact that this all kicked off with a much longer transit time than anticipated :/
 
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