Common Parasitic and Fungal infections In Birds, Reptiles & Amphibians

Important tip:Whilst some over-the-counter products can be effective in the treatment of mites, careful application is needed to avoid toxicity or damage to feathers in birds.

There are several species of mites that can affect birds.  Some of these are much more common in poultry species, such as Dermanyssus and Ornithonyssus, whilst Cnemidocoptes, more frequently known as the scaly face and leg mite, is seen in both companion parrots and chickens.
The scaly face mite is most commonly seen in budgies. The mite causes a scaly overgrowth of the bird’s cere (the skin over the top beak) that, if left untreated, can lead to serious beak and nare deformities. However, if treated promptly, these mites can be treated effectively in most cases. If a bird has frequent relapses of scaly mite, the patient’s diet should be checked for vitamin A deficiency and their environment assessed for any stressful factors.
Unlike the scaly face mite, some of the other mites that affect chickens are blood-sucking species. Both Dermanyssus and Ornithonyssuscause anaemia (blood loss) in affected chickens but are rarely the sole problem in the chicken. Some affected chickens have underlying diseases that prevent them from effectively grooming or live in environments with high numbers of these mites. Dermanyssus mites in particular have an unusual lifestyle, where they only feed on the chickens at night and are often missed by day-time examinations.
Effective treatment of poultry mites requires managing the environment and the patient. If you are worried about your bird please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.


In general, flagellates can live in the intestine of snakes without causing any problems. However, there are a few cases where flagellates can cause disease: 1. if they exist in high numbers 2. If aggressive species such as Entamoeba invadensare present.Entamoeba invadensis able to burrow into the intestines of affected snakes, which causes ulcers and haemorrhagic enteritis (intestinal inflammation). The parasite is also able to migrate to the bile duct and cause hepatitis.
In cases where treatment is needed, some medications can be very effective, though fluids and environmental treatment are also often needed.

The most common mite that affects snakes in Ophionyssus natricis, also know more simply as the snake mite. At low numbers these mites can cause problems with shedding, but high numbers can lead to severe anaemia developing and even the transmission of bacterial infections. The adult mites can be recognized as small black dots most frequently attached to the scales behind the spectacle (eye) or jaw of the affected snake. Treatment involves improving husbandry and treating both the environment and the snake. 

There are a number of different nematodes (roundworms) encountered in Australian snakes: Strongyloidesand Rhabdias are the two that we will be looking at today. Strongyloidesare the more commonly known intestinal worms that can cause inflammation at high numbers, whereas Rhabdiaslives in the respiratory tract. Snakes affected by lungworms can develop severe pneumonia and treatment requires regular fastidious cleaning of the snake’s environment as well as worming medications.


Coccidia is a normal organism of the intestines in many lizard species, and is an example of an opportunisticparasite. This means that coccidia often doesn’t cause any disease unless the lizard has a poor immune system, concurrent disease or lives in an environment with poor hygiene (i.e. where the faeces are regularly cleaned and removed). In cases where coccidia does cause disease, typically in bearded dragons with poor hygiene, the affected lizard has stunted growth and is smaller than other dragons of a similar age.


Important tip:Ivermectin is toxic to turtles and should never be used.

Parasitic infections are generally uncommon in most turtles. Occasionally turtles will develop fungal skin infections, particularly if they live in tanks where the water quality is not ideal. Turtles also require time out of their water, and if warm basking areas are not easily available, fungi will often grow on their shells.

Frogs & Axolotls

Important tip:To keep your frog healthy, first treat the water.

Chytrid fungus or Batrachochytrium dendrobatidisis the cause of a worldwide decline in frog numbers. The fungus can cause a fatal infection of the skin that upsets the normal water and electrolyte balance, causing severe dehydration. Some frogs will develop spots on their skin, unusual posturing (they appear ‘twisted’) and inflammation of their hind limbs. The fungus is highly contagious and if this disease is suspected, aggressive anti-fungal medications are generally started. Whilst Chytrid can affect axolotls, it isn’t as commonly seen.

Saprolegniafungi can cause disease in a wide range of amphibians and fish. Like coccidia in lizards, this fungus is opportunistic, meaning it affects amphibians that are otherwise unwell. It causes white fluffy growths on the skin of infected animals, typically around the mouth and feet. Infection is more common when water quality isn’t ideal.
Once the infection develops, axolotls and frogs can become inappetant and if not treated, can die. The treatment involves correcting husbandry, starting antifungal medications and short, frequent salt water baths.