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Atadenovirus In Bearded Dragons Is Relatively Rare
It is relatively rare due to having a high mortality rate. Most infected individuals will die and therefore not live long enough to pass it on. However, it is highly contagious. If you suspect you have a sick bearded dragon with atadenovirus then it is vital that you quarantine them. You should also keep them away from other reptiles as it is contagious across species.
If you have an adult bearded dragon that hasn’t been around any other reptiles recently then atadenovirus is a highly unlikely diagnosis.
If you’ve recently bought a baby from a pet shop it is possible that they’re infected if they’re showing the signs listed below. Pet shops don’t practise good hygiene between colonies and the spread of disease between baby bearded dragons is therefore a much higher possibility.
- Weight loss
- Weakness / Lethargy / Depression
- Failure to thrive
- Stargazing – where the dragon continually stretches its neck upwards to “gaze at the stars”
- Flipping onto their back randomly
With the exception of the last two symptoms, the others are of course common across many different sick bearded dragon symptoms. The latter symptoms indicate some form of neurological impairment and are commonly found among atadenovirus positive animals. They’re also quite late stage symptoms of atadenovirus and the outcome is not going to be good.
Atadenovirus In Bearded Dragons, Prevention
Atadenovirus is spread in infected faeces between reptiles. Many different reptiles can be infected including water dragons, bearded dragons, chameleons, geckos, monitor lizards, turtles and tortoises and even snakes.
It is highly contagious among species and of course, being a virus, it’s incredibly small and you won’t be able to see it.
If a reptile survives an Atadenovirus infection (most won’t) it can go on to become a carrier of the disease and can silently spread it to others.
Prevention of the spread of atadenovirus is therefore of top priority. If you mingle with multiple reptiles (whether for work or lesiure) you should always practice excellent hand hygiene. Wash your hands with soap and water regularly and always after handling a reptile before handling another reptile or touching any other surface. Wash hands in warm soapy water for 20 to 30 seconds at a minimum and ensure you cover all fingers, thumbs and backs of hands and wrists.
When bringing a new reptile into your house or into your bearded dragon’s environment, quarantine them first. Of course, we don’t recommend cohabiting bearded dragons with any other reptile, including other bearded dragons. But any newcomer should be quarantined in a completely separate room for a month or so before being trusted to be a non-carrier. If the newcomer displays any symptoms of illness then it may be a good idea to contact your reptile specialist vet for advise.
Treatment is limited to supportive care only. There is no cure for atadenovirus. The aim of supportive treatment is to provide the bearded dragon with as much support as you can to allow its immune system time to fight off the infection. It will never fully fight it off, the virus will merely go dormant if the sick bearded dragon manages to survive that long.
If your bearded dragon is exhibiting symptoms that you suspect may be due to atadenovirus you should contact a specialist reptile vet immediately. By the time the symptoms present (particularly stargazing and flipping over randomly) the disease is probably too late to be treated. However, it may not be, so speak to your Vet.
Do not just take your bearded dragon to the vet however. Ring them first. Discuss the symptoms over the phone and make an appointment. The vet may need to make special precautions to avoid contaminating other reptiles nearby. The last thing they’ll want is to spread the disease to previously uninfected patients.
Note: Featured image for this article does not depict a bearded dragon with atadenovirus. We do not have such a picture as none of our bearded dragons have ever suffered with this disease. The featured image is therefore a stock image that we have also used elsewhere.