Bearded Dragon Pinworms/Coccidia Treatment: “How To”-Guide

New keepers often assume that lizards can’t get parasites or, if they can, that the parasites are external.

Unfortunately, ticks and mites aren’t the only bloodsuckers that can affect your pet beardie.

Three Bearded Dragons
Many different internal and external parasites may plague your bearded dragons.

As with mammals, bearded dragons can get an entire host of different parasites.

Join us as we look at Coccidia and pinworms, two of the most common parasites in beardies. We’ll also look at the best bearded dragon dewormer.

In Short

  • Vigilance is a crucial factor in parasite management.
  • Bearded dragons are susceptible to a host of parasites.
  • You can treat pinworm and coccidia infections in your beardie.
  • Some deworming medicines are easier to administer than others.
  • Panacur is one of the most effective deworming medications and kills most worms.
  • Only buy feeder insects from reputable breeders to help cut down on potential parasites.

Signs of Parasites in Bearded Dragons

There are a host of different signs that your bearded dragon may be suffering from intestinal parasites.

At the same time, some beardies may have a heavy parasite load without showing any outward signs.

We’ll get into other ways of monitoring your bearded dragon’s parasite levels later. For now, let’s discuss some of the symptoms of a harmful infestation.

Pro tip: Mushy poop in a beardie may not be a sign of parasites. If the beardie has eaten water-rich fruits recently, this can also affect their stool.

Colorful foods, like red cabbage, may also alter the stool’s color. Check out our guide to bearded dragon poop to learn more.

  • Weight Loss – In severe cases, the parasitic pressure may be enough to cause the dragon to lose weight. There are ways to help your beardie gain weight if it’s healthy. In dragons with parasites, the animal stays skinny. No matter how much the beardie eats, the parasites may zap too many nutrients for the lizard to do more than survive. If this symptom presents, treat the dragon immediately.
  • Decreased Appetite – If your dragon has a heavy parasitic gut load, eating may become an uncomfortable process. In such a situation, your lizard may lose its appetite.
  • Diarrhea or Constipation – Bearded dragons with more parasites than they can handle may suffer problems with poop. Not all dragons will manifest with full-blown diarrhea, but their stool may be more mushy and less firm. They may also struggle to poop at all.

Pro tip: Mushy poop in a bearded dragon may not be a sign of parasites. If the beardie has eaten water-rich fruits recently, this can also affect their stool. Colorful foods like red cabbage may also alter the stool’s color. Check out our guide to bearded dragon poop to learn more.

  • Changes in Temperament – Beardies with too many parasites often undergo personality changes. If you see unusual bearded dragon behavior (for your dragon), it may be a symptom of parasitic infestation. Watch out for:
    • Irritation in peaceful lizards
    • Lethargy in usually active animals
    • Depression in dragons that are usually happy and content

Pro tip: Bearded dragons may undergo personality changes for a host of reasons. They could be drawing close to a breeding season or struggling to shed. Keep an eye on them to see why their behavior changes.

Testing Bearded Dragons for Parasites

Not every dragon has the same response to a heavy parasitic load.

In some animals, you might notice some or ALL the symptoms mentioned above. Other animals may have next to no external manifestation of a parasitic infestation.

You can consider several different testing options, and each has distinct benefits and disadvantages.

coproparazitological examination by flotation method at the vete
The only way to stay on top of your beardie’s parasite populations and ensure that it remains healthy is to do regular testing.

Paid Testing

Across the world, different reptile vets offer a testing service.

You can order a testing kit for a fee. The set will contain:

  • A comprehensive instruction booklet
  • A test tube (for putting your lizard’s poop in)
  • A detailed form that you’ll need to complete
  • A pre-paid envelope for sending the tube back in

The basic structure usually works as follows:

  1. Read the instructions for details about when to collect stool.
  2. Scoop some of your dragon’s poop into the tube and replace the lid.
  3. Complete the form with your information and that of your animal.
  4. Place the tube and form into the envelope and seal it.
  5. Post the envelope as per the instructions.
  6. Wait for the test results.

Most companies will arrange to have a veterinary video call with you once the results return. Others may only send you a detailed report via mail or email.

Along with the parasitic layout, the report will usually contain a prescription for an appropriate deworming agent.

This method is the easiest and most accurate way to test your beardie for parasites. It may not be the cheapest, though.

DIY Parasite Testing

If you don’t have a problem with handling your pet’s poop, you have another option. Thanks to the availability of so many resources online, you can do the parasite test yourself.

You’ll need the following tools:

  • Paper towel
  • Rubber gloves
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Feces from your dragon
  • A well-controlled gag reflex
  • A flat object, like a popsicle stick
  • A high-powered loupe or microscope
  • Sample covers or see-through packing tape
  • Glass microscope slides, or an alternative (see-through packing tape works)

To check your beardie’s parasites, do the following:

  1. Wear rubber gloves to protect yourself from salmonella and other diseases.
  2. Place your microscope slide where you’ll be working.
  3. Use the paper towel and rubbing alcohol to clean the slide.
  4. Let it dry.
  5. Using your popsicle stick or a similar flat object, spread a small amount of the dragon’s poop on the slide (professionals mix the sample in a chemical solution before this step).
  6. Cover the sample with a microscope sample cover or some see-through packing tape.
  7. Slip the slide into your microscope, or position it under your home.
  8. Switch on the magnification device’s light and zoom till you get a clear image.
  9. Identify the different parasites and parasite eggs that you find.
  10. Make notes of what you find, and decide if treatment is necessary.

You can use photos from various online parasite guides to help you determine what all the various microorganisms are.

Finding some ova (eggs) and activity in the sample is normal. However, if you see many (more than ten ova in a single viewing area) parasites, you need to consider parasite treatment.

If you see signs of harmful parasites, like hookworms, you should treat the dragon no matter how many there are.

This technique isn’t the most accurate method out there, and many parasites may look alike. If you’re concerned about your beardie’s health, pay for a professional test.

Coccidia in Bearded Dragons

Studies show that Coccidians are some of the most prevalent parasites in lizards. In some species, scientists found Isospora oocysts in up to 100% of stool samples.

Coccidia in Bearded Dragons
Coccidia is a common pest of bearded dragons and usually only becomes problematic in times of stress.

These parasites are usually harmless, as long as the dragon’s immune system is working well.

Unfortunately, when the parasitic populations become too large or the lizard’s immunity buckles, the coccidia infection can become a life-threatening disease called coccidiosis.

Coccidiosis is usually triggered by stress, which makes the beardie’s immune system more susceptible to disease.

Symptoms include:

  • Apathy
  • Weight loss
  • Runny stool
  • Dehydration
  • Bloody stool
  • Slow-growing animals

Bearded Dragon Pinworms

VCA vets say that pinworms are one of the most common parasites found in beardies.

However, bearded dragon pinworms rarely pose an issue unless the dragon becomes stressed or the worm population is vast.

Bearded Dragon Pinworms
Pinworm eggs are typical in stool samples.

Pinworms are commensal parasites. They take from the host without giving benefit or harming the host animal.

As such, these parasites are rarely harmful. However, if the parasitic load becomes too great, or the dragon’s system can’t handle them, it can cause a severe problem.

Symptoms of pinworm infection include:

  • Apathy
  • Weight loss
  • Runny stool
  • Loss of appetite

Bearded Dragon Roundworms

Roundworms are less common than pinworms in reptiles, but they’re still a regular occurrence. As with pinworms, they’re not usually a problem right away.

Bearded Dragon Roundworms
Roundworms aren’t as common as pinworms, but they have a worse effect on your dragon.

If your dragon has too many roundworms, then they may consume more nutrients than the animal can spare.

Symptoms of a roundworm infestation include:

  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Weight loss
  • Runny stool
  • Dehydration
  • Loss of appetite
  • A bloated abdomen

Bearded Dragon Flatworms

Flatworms, or hookworms, are some of the most dangerous species of common parasites.

These grotesque parasites have a head full of tiny hooks, which they use to attach themselves to the gut walls of vertebrates.

They then siphon nutrients from the body of their hosts.

Tapeworm in human intestine
Hookworms attach themselves to the gut wall and siphon off nutrients through their hooked heads.

These worms are more dangerous in some ways since they connect to the animal’s bloodstream.

Some lizards may also be sensitive to the worm’s mouth enzymes, and these worms may release toxins if they suffer stress.

Symptoms of a hookworm infestation include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Dehydration
  • Loss of appetite
  • Personality changes

Bearded Dragon Parasite Treatment

The most reliable way to rid your bearded dragon of parasites is through prescription medications.

Attention Please! 
Expert’s Word of Advice: Despite our team’s long professional experience and meticulous research nothing can substitute for individual professional advice from a veterinarian. Nothing contained in this article should be considered or used as a substitute for, veterinary medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. 

When it comes to treating internal reptile parasites, there are many options. Your vet may prescribe any one of the following or something else:

  • Ponazuril – used to treat Coccidia – 30 mg/kg every two days for four days
  • Toltrazuril – used to treat Coccidia – 5-15 mg/kg once every fourteen days (some concerns about the safety of this drug)
  • Oxfendazole – used to treat nematodes – a single dose of 68 mg/kg
  • Fenbendazole – used to treat roundworms – between 25 and 100 mg/kg every 14 days for two to four doses
  • Trimethoprim-sulfa – used to treat Coccidia – 30 mg/kg per day for between 10 and 28 days

Dosage Chart by Body Weight

To get the appropriate dosage, multiply your reptile’s weight by:

  • 00015 for a 15 mg/kg dose
  • 00025 for a 25 mg/kg dose
  • 0003 for a 30 mg/kg dose
  • 0005 for a 50 mg/kg dose
  • 001 for a 100 mg/kg dose

We’ve constructed a ready-made list of some standard dosages to help you administer the right amount of oral medication.

Weight of Dragon (in grams)

30 mg Dosage

50 mg Dosage

100 mg Dosage

50

0.015

0.025

0.05

100

0.03

0.05

0.1

150

0.045

0.075

0.15

200

0.06

0.1

0.2

250

0.075

0.125

0.25

300

0.09

0.15

0.3

350

0.105

0.175

0.035

400

0.12

0.2

0.4

450

0.135

0.225

0.45

500

0.15

0.25

0.5

550

0.165

0.275

0.55

600

0.18

0.3

0.6

650

0.195

0.325

0.65

700

0.21

0.35

0.7

Cost of Bearded Dragon Parasite Treatment

The price range for bearded dragon parasite treatment medication is as varied as the available treatments. At the time of this article’s creation, one could expect to pay the following:

  • $13 for 25 ml of Ponazuril
  • $97 for 50mg of Oxfendazole
  • $99.99 for 200ml of Toltrazuril 5%
  • $8.70 for 30ml of Panacur Oral Suspension (Fenbendazole)
  • $12.99 for 20 160mg tablets of Trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole

The cost will vary based on the exact product your vet prescribes.

Panacur for Bearded Dragons

Panacur has long been a trusted medication for treating reptile parasites. It’s effective for many pest animals, like hookworms, pinworms, and hepatic worms.

You can buy liquid Panacur or buy it as a powder. 

As with any medication, you should rely on your veterinarian to provide a prescription and dosages.

One dose is rarely enough to eradicate all worms, and you may end up poisoning your dragon if you self-prescribe.

The typical dosage varies between 50 mg/kg (for younger animals) and 100 mg/kg (for larger reptiles).

Fenbendazole for Bearded Dragons

Solid and liquid Panacur are only some of the deworming agents which contain Fenbendazole for bearded dragons. This substance is considered one of the most effective medication types.

For the most part, you can buy these liquid Panacur alternatives labeled as generic Panacur. They’re effective, though they may cost much less.

Unlike many other medications for deworming lizards, Fenbendazole is effective for treating more than roundworms.

You can use this product to treat reptiles with flatworms, pinworms, hookworms, threadworms, and even hepatic worms.

How to Deworm a Bearded Dragon

Now that you know which medications are available and what you’re fighting against, let’s discuss tactics.

Trying to deworm an irritable dragon requires foresight and preparation.

Deworming Methods

There are several different ways to get deworming medication into your dragon, though it depends on the type of medication.

The most common types of medications are:

  • Tablets
  • Powders
  • Liquid suspensions

The best ways to administer them include:

  • Using a Syringe – This might not be the easiest way to give your beardie medicine, but it’s one of the most effective.
    1. Hold the dragon as you would when lifting it at any other time.
    2. Use the syringe to place a tiny drop of liquid on the lizard’s lips. If it licks it off, you should be able to squirt the rest of the medication into the dragon’s mouth.
    3. In rare cases, the lizard may refuse to take the liquid. In that case, lift the edge of one of the dragon’s lips, and spray the medicine into that cavity. The lizard will swallow.
  • Direct Feeding Medication – This approach may work if your dragon is particularly cooperative and generally willing to eat.
    1. Offer the lizard the right amount of a tablet, and see if they’ll swallow it. This technique rarely works well.
  • Mixing the Medication with Food – With some lizards, this will be the easiest approach for getting your dragon to take medicine.
    1. If you can (some medicines don’t work when mixed), mix the medication with something the dragon loves to eat (a bit of pureed puppy food or fruit might work).
    2. Offer the lizard the mixture, and they should eat without a problem.

Probiotics

As with any strong medication, it’s always a good idea to counterbalance the adverse effects of deworming medicine with probiotics.

You can buy a pre-formulated probiotic to help re-establish beneficial gut bacteria.

Probiotics may be more critical in deworming, as the worms and Coccidia can negatively affect gut bacteria.

A more natural probiotic option is to feed the beardie some plain, cultured yogurt. The beneficial bacteria in the culture will help the lizard re-establish a healthy gut.

Many keepers suggest using soy yogurt as it’s dairy-free.

Side Effects of Bearded Dragon Dewormer

Deworming your pet lizard is necessary, but there may be side effects for the first few days after you treat them.

The side effects of treating your beardie for worms are much the same as the symptoms of a worm infestation. Possible problems include:

  • Irritation
  • Vomiting
  • Runny stool
  • Loss of appetite

Side effects are rare, but it’s easier to expect them than to have them catch you by surprise.

If your lizard shows any signs of adverse effects, keep a close eye on them and ensure they drink enough water.

Any ill effects should clear within a week. If symptoms persist longer, arrange to see your vet.

Bearded Dragon - Pogona vitticeps
Trying to deworm a somewhat grumpy bearded dragon can be a daunting experience.

You can manage your beardie’s parasites and keep it fit as an ox! Remember to ensure that you source your dragon’s diet from reputable suppliers.

We hope that this article about how to deworm your dragon has answered all your questions.

If you’d like to share a question or concern, please feel free to leave a comment below.

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