Illustrated Articles

Parasites

  • The bearded dragon is a well-known lizard currently considered one of the best pet lizards. If they are well looked after, with a good diet and proper environment, bearded dragons are reasonably hardy animals. Common health conditions of pet bearded dragons include metabolic bone disease, infectious stomatitis (mouth rot), parasites, respiratory infections, and adenovirus infection.

  • Cheyletiellosis in rabbits is a condition caused by the common rabbit mite, Cheyletiella parasitovorax. This mite’s effects are sometimes called "walking dandruff" because they are large, whitish mites that crawl across the skin and hair of a rabbit and cause excessive flaky skin. Other clinical signs of cheyletiellosis include itching, scratching, and hair/fur loss. This species of mites can live in the environment for a short time and affect people and other animals, so it is important to follow your veterinarian's recommendations for treating the environment and all pets in the household.

  • Coccidial organisms, including Eimeria, are parasites that can infect rabbits, especially young and recently weaned rabbits. These host-specific organisms live in rabbit intestines and can infect the liver. Healthy, mature rabbits housed in good environments may only be transiently affected, while young, immunocompromised rabbits kept in poor environmental conditions may succumb to infection and die. Many rabbits that have this disease do not show any or signs, but if they do, they may have infrequent or intermittent watery, mucousy, or possibly blood-tinged diarrhea. Diagnosis involves examining a fecal smear under a microscope or performing a fecal float test. If your rabbit's diarrhea progresses to moderate to severe in intensity, your veterinarian will hospitalize your rabbit to provide supportive care until it is well enough to go home.

  • Turtles commonly suffer from vitamin A deficiency, respiratory diseases, abscesses, shell infections, shell fractures, and parasites. Vitamin A deficiency (hypovitaminosis A) occurs as a result of feeding turtles an inappropriate diet. Symptoms include a lack of appetite, lethargy, swelling of the eyelids, swelling of the ear, kidney failure, and respiratory infections. Respiratory tract infections are most often caused by bacteria. Abscesses are treated surgically and may also require antibiotics. Shell infections can be challenging to treat. Gastrointestinal parasites are treated with appropriate deworming medications. Seek immediate veterinary care if there is any deviation from normal in your aquatic turtle.

  • Common conditions of pet snakes include infectious stomatitis, parasites, skin infections, inclusion body disease, respiratory disease, and septicemia. Infectious stomatitis may not be a primary disease but may be secondary to an injury to the mouth or to husbandry issues such as poor nutrition, improper environmental temperature or humidity, or overcrowding. Both internal parasites and external parasites may cause diarrhea, breathing difficulties, regurgitation, swelling of internal organs, itching, skin irritation, anemia, mouth infection, and weight loss. Cryptosporidiosis can cause thickening of the stomach muscles, impaired digestion, vomiting, and weight loss. Dermatitis is often seen in snakes kept in environments that are too moist and/or dirty. Inclusion body disease is a serious viral disease in which affected snakes cannot right themselves when placed on their backs, may appear to be star gazing, and may be paralyzed. Most respiratory infections in snakes are caused by bacteria but may also be caused by viruses, fungi, and parasites. Septicemia in snakes occurs when bacteria and their toxins proliferate in the blood stream causing lethargy, lack of appetite, open-mouth breathing, red discoloration to the scales, and death.

  • Common conditions of pet rabbits include upper respiratory tract infections, internal and external parasites, dental disease, GI stasis, uterine problems, and pododermatitis. Upper respiratory infections are often caused by bacteria including Pasteurella multocida. Rabbits can become infected with various intestinal parasites, as well as external parasites such as ear and fur mites, fleas, and occasionally ticks. Rabbits’ teeth are continuously growing but chewing food, as well as chewing on wooden blocks, branches, and toys, helps them wear their teeth down at a rate equal to their growth. Occasionally, tooth or jaw trauma or disease causes misalignment of the upper and lower jaws and overgrowth of teeth results. Regular yearly check-ups enables early diagnosis and treatment of some rabbit diseases. Whenever a rabbit stops eating, for whatever reason, it is important to take her to see your veterinarian immediately for an evaluation.

  • The ear mite is a surface mite that lives on cats, dogs, rabbits, and ferrets. It is usually found in the ear canal but it can also live on the skin surface. Mites are barely visible to the naked eye. Clinical signs of infestation vary in severity and may include ear irritation, leading to scratching at the ears or head shaking, dark waxy or crusty discharge from the ear, areas of hair loss resulting from self-trauma, a crusted rash around or in the ear, and an aural hematoma. Your veterinarian will advise you about which insecticidal products are suitable. Your veterinarian may want to re-examine your pet to ensure that the mites have been eliminated after the initial treatment has been performed.

  • Encephalitozoonsis is a parasitic infection that can affect the kidneys, eyes, and nervous systems of rabbits. Many infected rabbits do not develop clinical signs until they are older or if they become stressed or immunocompromised. Common signs that may develop include heavy white plaques/growths inside one or both eyes, head tilt, eye twitching, and tremors or seizures. Treatments are available, though not all rabbits respond.

  • Ferrets are commonly affected by ear mite infestations. Many ferrets show no symptoms of infestation but you may notice your ferret shaking her head or scratching herself. Treatment for ear mites must be done under the guidance of a veterinarian familiar with ferrets.

  • Flea infestation is a common problem in pet ferrets, especially in ferrets that go outdoors or live in a house with dogs, cats, or other animals who have fleas. Affected ferrets may or may not be itchy depending on the sensitivity of the individual animal to flea bites. Early in the infestation, there may be no signs that your ferret even has fleas. Young ferrets with heavy infestations may even become anemic as the fleas feed over time. Some topical medications used to treat fleas in dogs and cats appear to be safe in ferrets but should only be used under the guidance of a veterinarian familiar with ferrets.