Why are internal parasites a problem in captivity?
Many different kinds of parasites make up a normal part of the natural flora found in a leopard gecko. In low numbers and assuming the gecko is otherwise healthy and is receiving proper husbandry practices, treatment may not be warranted/necessary.
Problems in captivity tend to suppress a leopard gecko’s immune system, thereby making the gecko more susceptible to health problems resulting from the internal parasites that it may be harboring. Potential contributing problems in captivity could include:
Inappropriate heating and lighting.
Inappropriate hiding areas.
Problems with the substrate.
The other major problem in captivity is unclean cages which could result in a much higher load of parasites. Once the parasite becomes present in higher loads, it may result in health problems with respect to the leopard gecko. This is why regular cleaning and disinfecting is critical to maintaining a healthy gecko.
In the wild, a leopard is not confined to a small environmental area which means the concentration of parasites tend to be quite low for the most part.
Basic Terminology In order to understand the nature and role of specific internal parasites with respect to leopard geckos, it may be beneficial to have an understanding of some basic terminology.
Dead end host
This type of host will only provide nutrients and protection from the environment (shelter) for a parasitic organism but it will not provide them with a place to reproduce.
A host that provides the parasitic organism with nutrients, protection from the environment (shelter) as well as a place to reproduce.
Direct life cycle
These are parasitic organisms that do not require an intermediate host (ie multiple hosts) in order to reproduce.
This is a living organism (such as a gecko or an insect) within which a parasitic organism can live.
Indirect life cycle
Some parasitic organisms will only require a single host in order to complete their life cycles (ie reproduction).
Some parasitic organisms will require more than one host in order to complete their life cycles (ie reproduction).
Common Symptoms There are a variety of symptoms that your leopard gecko may exhibit if it is infected with internal parasites. Ultimately the types of symptoms will depend on the type of parasite itself. Common signs of internal parasites include:
Vomiting and/or regurgitation
Failure to grow
Possible Causes There are several different types of internal parasites that could cause healthy problems in leopard geckos. For a more in-depth discussion (including diagnosis, specific symptoms, treatment etc...) of each parasite, please choose from the type of parasites below:
- Ascarids (Roundworms)
- Filarial nematodes
- Hepatic worms (Capillaria)
- Stomach worms
- Raillietiealla spp.