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What is Septicemia?

It is very important that you note any changes to your lizard’s health, including their behavior, which could indicate that they are possibly sick. Check your lizard over every day and monitor their food and water intake closely. Keeping your lizard’s terrarium clean is also important to keeping them healthy and happy. 

If you are unsure of how to properly care for your lizard, do your research and talk with your veterinarian. An informed lizard owner will be able to quickly identify any potential illness and seek proper veterinary care in a timely manner.

Septicemia is an infection where bacteria have entered the blood. It is a very common illness in lizards and if left untreated, it can spread to multiple organs throughout the body. Permanent damage to your lizard’s organs is possible as is death if not treated quickly and aggressively. 

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Symptoms of Septicemia in Lizards

A responsible lizard owner will know their lizard’s behavior and will be able to identify any changes that could mean that your lizard is becoming ill. Since septicemia is a potentially life threatening illness, early detection is essential in your lizard making a full recovery. If you notice any of these symptoms, call your veterinarian immediately for an appointment.

  • Lethargy
  • Convulsions and/or seizures
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Weakness
  • Unable to move
  • Loss of muscle control
  • Red or purple discolored patches on the skin

Causes of Septicemia in Lizards

Septicemia is a bacterial infection that invades the bloodstream and can be potentially fatal. Bacteria can enter the bloodstream from localized infections, parasitic infections or traumatic injuries. 

Septicemia can also occur in lizards that are kept in a dirty terrarium. Terrariums need to be kept at appropriate temperature and humidity levels for your type of lizard. Failure to do so can cause your lizard to become severely ill. Improperly feeding your lizard, especially bait that is contaminated, can also cause your lizard to become ill and develop septicemia.

When a lizard is kept in captivity, they can easily become stressed. Stress can cause their immune system to become weakened. A weakened immune system leaves them susceptible to a number of illnesses, including septicemia.

Diagnosis of Septicemia in Lizards

Your veterinarian will ask you about your lizard’s environment and eating habits as well as what symptoms you have seen that make you think your lizard is ill. Once they have background information on your lizard, they will do a physical examination. During the physical examination, your veterinarian will palpate your lizard trying to feel any abnormalities that may be causing your lizard’s illness.

A fecal examination and a complete blood count or CBC will be done. Bacteria within the blood will be evident under the microscope and septicemia will be confirmed. In some instances, the exact type of bacteria that has invaded the bloodstream will be identified so the treatments can be tailored to eliminating that bacteria from your lizard’s bloodstream.

Treatment of Septicemia in Lizards

Once septicemia is diagnosed in your lizard, systemic antibiotics will be prescribed. The infection must be treated quickly and aggressively to prevent long term damage and possible death. 

In most septicemia cases, the lizard will need to be hospitalized for supportive care while they are receiving their treatments to remove the blood infection. Supportive care will probably include an incubator to regulate body temperature, intravenous fluid therapy and nutritional support. The veterinary staff will closely monitor your lizard for any changes while under treatment for septicemia.

When your lizard is released from the animal hospital, be sure to continue any at-home care that your veterinarian recommends. All medications should be given as directed and should always be completely finished unless otherwise directed by your veterinarian. Any questions about your lizard’s treatment and at-home care should be directed to your animal hospital.

Failure to treat your lizard for septicemia will result in your lizard’s death. You cannot treat this condition without consulting a veterinarian. 

Recovery of Septicemia in Lizards

Most lizards will make a full recovery with prompt and aggressive antibiotic treatment. It is vital that you seek veterinary care as soon as you notice your lizard is acting sick. Lizards are great at hiding the severity of their illness until it is almost too late. Never wait to see if your lizard will get better when you notice something is wrong with your lizard.

Understanding the proper care of pet lizards is important to keeping your lizard healthy. Cleaning their terrarium weekly will keep any bacteria from excessively growing and potentially causing harm. When you clean your lizard’s terrarium, be sure to use an animal safe disinfectant.