Adenovirus infection in Bearded dragons
Adenovirus infection in Bearded dragons is a life threatening, potential disastrous and emerging disease in these lizards. It is cause by a virus causing major liver disease and death in lizards. Adenovirus infections are not fully understood in Bearded dragons, but is often in conjunction with other infections such as coccidiosis.
What to look out for
It is currently very difficult to distinguish Adenovirus from other Bearded dragon diseases. The only (unspecific) signs include poor doers with poor appetite and/or diarrhoea. Neurological signs such as head tilting and circling has also been reported in confirmed cases. Some Bearded dragons are just found dead. It seems like juveniles between four to twelve weeks are mostly affected.
How is Adenovirus diagnosed?
The only way to diagnose Bearded dragon Adenovirus is via a post mortem (necropsy). Even after death, there is no significant visual or so-called macroscopic lesions visible and microscopical or histopathological evaluation is necessary to see the lesions caused by the virus.
Intra-nuclear cellular inclusions characteristic with viral infections, especially evident in the liver, are only enough for a presumptive diagnosis. A definitive diagnosis can only be made by identification of the specific viral particles consistent with Adenovirus with an electron microscope.
How can I prevent Adenovirus infections?
Because Bearded dragon Adenovirus infection is still largely a mystery, only general recommendations can be made with regards to its prevention or spread between animals. It is assumed that the disease is transmitted faeco-orally, so measures such as hygiene becomes very important. Bearded dragon quarantine is at this stage probably the best way to identify asymptomatic carriers, but it is speculated that even after months of uneventful isolation a Bearded dragon can still be infected and spread the disease as soon as it comes in contact with other animals.
How is Adenovirus treated?
At present there is no treatment for the disease. Symptomatic treatment in sick (but not necessarily confirmed) Bearded dragons, which include antibiotics, force feeding and parenteral fluids (drips) seems to work in the short term and increases the survival rates of some suspected infected Bearded dragons. Treatment should preferably be done under the supervision of an experienced reptile-friendly veterinarian.