Pinworms are one of the most common internal parasites found in reptiles.
Almost all bearded dragons will have pinworm eggs in their feces at some point during their lives.
So, what exactly are pinworms?
Pinworms are tiny parasitic worms, and they live in the lower gastrointestinal tract of bearded dragons and other animals. Pinworms leach essential vitamins and minerals from their host, which often causes malnutrition and other illnesses. Treatment is critical and requires help from a vet.
Many bearded dragons carry a small number of pinworms in their bodies without any noticeable signs or symptoms.
Understanding the signs and symptoms of pinworm infestation in your reptile is crucial so you will be able to seek diagnosis and treatment before your pet becomes extremely ill.
Keep reading for more about how bearded dragons get pinworms and how to spot the signs and symptoms of infestation.
How Do Bearded Dragons Get Pinworms?
A bearded dragon may initially get pinworms from the insects it has been fed.
It is vital to purchase your beardie’s feeder insects from a pet supply store or another reputable source rather than obtaining them in the wild.
Wild-caught insects are more likely to be infested with pinworms and other parasites.
It is possible for insects from feeder farms with rigorous sanitary protocols to have parasites, but the risk is much lower.
Once a bearded dragon is infested with pinworms, they can spread the parasite through fecal transfer.
Pinworms and their eggs may be passed from a beardie’s body with its stool.
If another reptile should contact the contaminated stool, there is a chance it will also become infected with pinworms.
The pinworms enter a bearded dragon’s body when they are accidentally ingested, usually during feeding time.
If you suspect a bearded dragon has pinworms, you should isolate it from other beardies to prevent any possible infestation spread and seek veterinary care for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Dogs, cats, and other pets are also susceptible to a pinworm infection, so do not let them play with your beardie until it is free from parasites.
What Are the Signs My Bearded Dragon Has Pinworms?
Monitoring your bearded dragon’s behavior is very important to your pet’s health.
Knowing what normal behavior is for your lizard will help you determine when something is wrong.
If your beardie is infected with only a small number of pinworms, your lizard will be largely unaffected and is likely to show no clinical signs of illness at all.
Since pinworms steal vital nutrients from the host animal, one of the first signs of infestation in your bearded dragon will be lethargy.
Without the proper nutrients to keep your beardie’s body functioning smoothly, your reptile will lack the energy to play or move around as much.
Another clinical sign your bearded dragon may be infested with pinworms is a loss of appetite.
If your beardie is lethargic, it may also lack the energy to eat.
Pay attention to your reptile’s eating habits, and if you notice a sudden change in how much your pet is eating, it is a good indication of illness.
Once the pinworm infestation has made your beardie sluggish and unable to eat, your lizard will become depressed and lose interest in any type of activity.
You will begin to notice your beardie stays in one spot all day in its enclosure, or your pet may start hiding more than usual.
These behavioral changes are all indications of a parasitic infection or other illness.
If you see any of these signs in your beardie, it is best to consult a veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment.
What Are the Symptoms of Pinworms in Bearded Dragons?
In addition to the clinical signs listed above, a pinworm infestation will also cause your beardie to have physical symptoms.
These symptoms include:
- Bloody stool
- Weight Loss
Diarrhea and vomiting are the two most common symptoms of pinworm infestation, and both will lead to a steady, sometimes rapid, weight loss in your bearded dragon.
Unfortunately, this weight loss, combined with a lack of appetite and poor nutrition, will lead to other illnesses such as metabolic bone disease.
Dehydration is also a severe symptom for your beardie, and it will cause your lizard to have sunken eyes and wrinkly skin.
Bearded dragons are not known to readily drink any available water even when they are healthy, so the best solution is to soak your beardie several times a day in a warm, shallow bath.
Doing this will help replenish the hydration lost due to diarrhea and vomiting.
To prevent any further disease progression, you should seek veterinary care as soon as you see any of the above signs and symptoms.
A pinworm infestation is curable, but metabolic bone disease is not, and it will have lifelong effects on your beardie and may even cause its death.
It’s important to monitor your pets poop to know if something like pinworms has happened so we recommend reading our guide on bearded dragon poop to stay on top of your pets health.
What Is The Treatment For Pinworms In Bearded Dragons?
When you take your bearded dragon to a veterinarian for suspected intestinal parasites, the first thing the doctor will do is test a fecal sample from your reptile.
The veterinarian will view the fecal sample under a microscope, and they will be able to determine the type of internal parasites present in your beardie’s system, as well as how severe the infestation is.
The type of parasite will determine the type of drug needed to cure the infestation.
Your veterinarian will instruct you on the amount and frequency of the dosage.
In addition to the proper medication, there are other precautions you will have to take to ensure your beardie does not become re-infected with pinworms.
You will need to isolate your bearded dragon from other pets until the parasites are cleared to avoid spreading the infestation.
Your beardie’s enclosure will also need to be thoroughly deep-cleaned to ensure no pinworms are hiding there, ready to infect your lizard again.
The pinworm infection will not be considered cleared until your bearded dragon has two or three fecal samples without the presence of pinworms or their eggs.
Giving your beardie a probiotic (here’s the one we recommend) both during and after deworming treatment will lessen the harsh side effects of the medication and help your pet recover more quickly.
How Do You Prevent Pinworms In Bearded Dragons?
Even with strict preventative measures, you will not be able to completely ensure your beardie doesn’t get pinworms, but the risk will be much lower than if nothing was done at all.
The most important method of prevention is to keep your bearded dragon’s enclosure clean.
Every day, you should be removing any feces and uneaten food.
Wash any food or water dishes with soapy water, and be sure to thoroughly rinse them.
Every two weeks, it is best to perform a deep cleaning of your pet’s enclosure.
This involves removing everything from the enclosure and washing it all with soapy water.
This would also be an excellent time to replace the substrate.
Another healthy habit to prevent pinworms is always washing your hands before and after you handle your beardie.
This not only prevents you from transferring any parasites to your pet, but it also prevents them from infecting you as well.
Following these prevention methods will greatly reduce the risk of pinworm infestation in your beardie, other pets, and yourself.
Can I Get Pinworms From My Bearded Dragon?
Yes, it is possible to contract pinworms from your bearded dragon.
However, the type of pinworm affecting reptiles is different than the human pinworm, and the reptile variety is not likely to survive or thrive in the human body.
Children are more susceptible to these diseases because they are more likely to put their fingers in their mouth or bite their fingernails.
A good hand washing habit will not only protect you from getting sick, but it will protect your bearded dragon as well.
Should I Also Worry About Coccidia In My Bearded Dragon?
Coccidia is another intestinal parasite commonly found alongside pinworms.
This parasite is transmitted in the same way as pinworms through eggs in the reptile’s fecal matter.
Coccidia infection in low numbers does not cause any issues with beardies.
Still, it will trigger the coccidia parasites to multiply and become an infestation if the animal gets too stressed.
Symptoms of coccidia infestation are similar to those of pinworm and include:
- Lack of appetite
- Weight Loss
Once again, if you notice any of these symptoms in your beardie, you should seek veterinary care right away for proper diagnosis and treatment.
The most common medications to clear coccidia infestation are Sulfadimethoxine and Ponazuril.
These two deworming medications work in different ways to clear the infection.
Sulfadimethoxine is a coccidiostat, meaning the drug slows the reproduction of the coccidia parasites and allows the body’s immune system to destroy any remaining parasites.
Ponazuril is a coccidiocidal, which means the drug not only stops the reproduction of coccidia worms, but it kills the remaining population.
The coccidia parasite affecting bearded dragons, Isospora amphiboluri, is host-specific.
This means the parasite will infect bearded dragons and other reptiles, but not humans.
Even though you will not get coccidia from your beardie, it is still best to wash your hands both before and after handling your reptile.
You should also provide your beardie with a probiotic while the coccidia is being treated to lessen the harsh side effects of the medication and help your pet recover faster.
You will also need to thoroughly clean your beardie’s enclosure to prevent reinfection.
Keep your reptile from becoming too stressed during this time to facilitate the healing process.
Check out our separate post on coccidia in bearded dragons where we have gone into great detail on the subject.
Do Bearded Dragons Get External Parasites?
Mites and ticks are the most common external parasites found on bearded dragons.
Both of these parasites are easily transmitted from one pet to another and through the environment.
Your bearded dragon may have mites or ticks when you bring them home, and since the parasites are so small, you likely would not know right away.
Mites and ticks are arachnids, and they suck your reptile’s blood and transmit various diseases through bacteria and viruses.
These parasites cause weakness and anemia in bearded dragons.
If your bearded dragon has a mite infestation, you will see them crawling on your reptile’s body, especially near the eyes and ears, where the scales are thinner.
Mites will also hide in skin folds in the neck and armpits.
The signs of mites on your beardie includes:
- Itching and rubbing
- Tiny red dots, which indicate bite marks
- Mite poo on the skin, which will resemble ash or dust
Treatment for mites is done through topical, oral, or injectable medications.
Be sure to closely follow your veterinarian’s dosage instructions to avoid causing your pet any harm.
In addition to medication, you will also need to thoroughly clean your beardie’s enclosure to ensure it is free of any mites or their eggs.
We have a post covering bearded dragon mites in detail you can read for additional information.
Ticks are usually visible, and if you see one, you should remove it very carefully using tweezers.
You will use tweezers to grab the tick near the mouth where it is attached to your beardie.
Once you have grasped the tick, you will pull straight out very slowly.
Once the tick is removed, use rubbing alcohol to kill the tick and clean the bite on your reptile to disinfect the wound.
If you are not comfortable doing this, you should seek the help of a veterinarian who will remove the tick.
Your veterinarian will also be able to advise you on a topical medication such as ivermectin or Permethrin if one is deemed necessary.