TREATING FOR INTERNAL PARASITES
Written by Zoe Stevens
Treating for internal parasites
Most of our captive reptiles host a certain amount of harmless gastrointestinal parasites. Broadly treating your entire collection for internal parasites without cause is not something I recommend as it upsets the gut flora.
There are times, however, when treating for internal parasites is advised. If your reptile is ill, wild caught, was recently exposed to an area that might have many parasites (such as a pet store that sells lots of wild caught animals), if a fecal exam has turned up positive, or if your reptile was exposed to a source of mammalian parasites (such as a live rat or raccoon) you may opt to treat for internal parasites.
I must stress that I am not encouraging you to proceed with treating your reptiles without veterinary assistance. If you overdose or neglect other areas of treatment by not seeing a veterinarian, you could end up with a dead animal. Follow your vet's advice and only proceed with your own treatments if you are confident in the diagnosis and your abilities, and at your own risk.
There are several dewormers you may hear about, such as Flagyl, Panacur and Safe-Guard. Flagyl is the brand name of metronidazole and actually treats protozoa. I do not recommend you proceed with dosing Flagyl unless under veterinary supervision. The medication recommended to treat a broad range of intestinal parasties is Fenbendazole, which goes by the names of Panacur and Safe-Guard (for ease I will use "Panacur" from now on). It is commonly used as a dewormer for large mammals (cats, dogs, livestock) and is relatively safe. It usually comes in a 10% concentration in a liquid/cream format and that is what I will be referring to below.
Panacur treats aelurostrongylus, hookworms, roundworms, whipworms, pinworms, paragonimiasis, strongyles, strongyloides and taenia tapeworms (not all of which are reptile parasites).
- Panacur or Safe-Guard in cream format, 10% concentration
Depending on your location, you may be able to obtain this directly from a vet or farm supply store without a prescription. You can also find it online at pet care supply websites and on e-bay for about $5 or $10 for more than enough to treat a small or medium sized collection.
- Several 1mL graduated needles with syringes
1mL should be enough for most animals but if you are dosing extremely large reptiles (large boas and pythons, monitors, etc), you may require larger needles. These can be obtained at the pharmacy counter and are usually a dollar or two each.
- A scale, accurate within a gram
I have seen dosage ranging from 25 mg / kg to 100 mg / kg, and from two to four treatments (once weekly). I personally prefer to dose 25 mg / kg once a week for four weeks. Stronger concentrations may adversely affect internal organs and you have less of a margin for error if you overdose on 100 mg / kg than 25 mg / kg.
Weighing and calculating:
Begin by weighing all of the animals you wish to treat, in grams. Weigh twice to ensure accuracy.
To determine the dosage, calculate:
#grams x 0.00025 = #ml
Adjust the formula as required if you are weighing in kg. If you choose to dose at a higher rate, compensate for that, as well (e.g., grams x 0.0005 if you are dosing at 50 mg / kg).
Since, at 25 mg / kg, you're dosing at a fairly low rate, always round up. For example, if your animal requires 0.1224 mg, round up to 0.13 mg.
If you stink at math as I do, do your math several times to ensure you are dosing properly.
If your reptile is eating dead rodents, your task is simple. Just inject the dose into the dead rodent's abdomen and feed.
If your reptile is not eating whole, dead rodents, you will have to dose manually. Gently but firmly hold the lizard or snake behind the head and hold the syringe (without the needle) against the mouth. Most animals will open their mouths at this point and you can depress the plunger, releasing the contents of the syringe into the reptile's throat.
You may want to hold on to them for a moment to ensure they don't drool the Panacur out of their mouths.
Repeat as necessary, according to your treatment plan.
Panacur is pretty safe but it is not a benign product and can cause organ problems even if you dose correctly. Make sure you know what you are doing, and if you are treating without veterinary assistance (which can sometimes be cost prohibitive - my last vet was going to charge me $80 per reptile to deworm my collection), ask questions and research before you proceed.