Crested Gecko Mites – Treatment & Prevention
The most common diseases that crested geckos face include Metabolic Bone Disease, digestive problems like compaction, respiratory or skin infections, etc. Few people ever think to include mites in the category of problems that their geckos can face. Yet, these are a very real threat.
Today, we will discuss crested gecko mites and skin parasites and assess their impact on the gecko’s overall health.
What are Reptile Mites?
Reptile mites are tiny skin parasites that specialize in reptile parasitism. There are little over 250 species and subspecies of reptile mites, so there’s plenty to choose from.
The good thing is that only several of these are widespread among the gecko community, especially Ophionyssus acertinus, also known as the lizard mite. These generally infect lizards but can also transmit to other reptiles like snakes under the right circumstances.
It’s naturally more difficult for captive geckos to get infected with any skin parasite due to the animal living in a closed system. But it can happen, usually via adding contaminated plants or decorations to the gecko’s ecosystem. Not to mention, many gecko keepers take their geckos for a stroll in their backyard, which presents an even higher risk of mite infestation.
Signs of Crested Gecko Mites
You should easily notice the signs of mite infestation, as these skin parasites are visible with the naked eye. Given that these parasites cannot pierce the gecko’s more hardened skin, they usually gather around the mouth, corner of the eyes, nostrils, and even the vent. Basically, wherever they can find softer and easier-to-pierce-through tissue.
If your gecko is experiencing a generalized infection, it may also showcase patches of mites in other areas of the body, especially between the toes. As the infection progresses and the mites multiply, the gecko will also exhibit more advanced health issues.
These include lethargy, lack of appetite, losing weight, color fading, and even skin or blood infections. The risks are even higher when housing one or more geckos, as the mites can lead to and transmit more dangerous diseases.
Getting Rid of Crested Gecko Mites
If you’ve determined the presence of mites in your gecko’s enclosure, consider the following 2 approaches:
– Treating Your Crested Gecko
The treatment itself refers to 3 basic approaches:
- Quarantine – First, you should remove the gecko from the environment. The enclosure is already compromised, given that the parasites have most likely laid eggs everywhere. Place the gecko in a temporary habitat with optimal temperature and humidity. You don’t need to overdecorate the setup, because geckos will only remain here for a short while.
- Clean the gecko – Generally, soaking the gecko carefully in a lukewarm bath should get the job done. These parasites can’t swim or breathe underwater. The problem is that most of the parasites will be located on the gecko’s mouth and face, and you can’t submerge the animal. In that case, you need to use a cotton swab or another smooth, soaked material to clean the gecko’s face and remove the parasites. Never leave your gecko unattended in the cleaning bowl, as it can drown fast.
- Using a cleaning solution – There are some antiparasitic solutions, some in the form of sprays you can use to eliminate the organisms. Most gecko keepers use a mix of water and betadine at a 2:1 ratio to clean and disinfect the animal. Betadine is both antiparasitic and microbicide, so it also cleans and disinfects any open wounds.
You should always inspect your gecko thoroughly to ensure no mites are left on their body. If necessary, change the water bowl several times if they become overwhelmed with mites. This is often necessary in cases of more severe infections.
– Disinfecting Crested Gecko Enclosure
Once you’ve cleansed and disinfected your gecko, it’s now time to do the same for its main enclosure. Consider the following steps:
- Separate the decorations – Remove all of your gecko’s decorations and separate them based on the material. That’s necessary due to the treatment and cleansing methods you will be using. Wood decorations need to be baked in the oven, while rocky decorations are best boiled. The thermic treatment will eradicate any trace of parasites or bacteria, no matter in which creases they may be hiding.
- Strip the enclosure clean – Remove plants, remove and discard the substrate (preferably burn it). Make sure that the contaminated components don’t leak any mites anywhere in your house or on you.
- Clean the enclosure – This should be done in three phases. The first phase uses water and soap to remove all the dirt, muck, and mites themselves. Most of the mites will drown, while those that survive will die because of the exposure to the soap. The second phase consists of using a bleach solution to wipe the glass and any other decoration that you couldn’t remove. The bleach will kill off whatever the soapy water couldn’t.
- Spray the enclosure – We’re talking about using a reptile-friendly disinfectant, just in case. This isn’t generally necessary, given that you’ve already cleansed the habitat with 2 different solutions, but it can’t hurt either.
Once the cleaning process has completed, give it time to dry out, reintroduce the decorations, and add the gecko back in. Also, make sure you monitor the gecko over the following several days to convince yourself that the mites are all gone.
Prevention of Crested Gecko Mites
The most important prevention method refers to ensuring proper environmental hygiene. You should always clean your gecko’s habitat daily, weekly, and monthly, depending on the case. It’s not that the gecko itself will produce too much waste, but rather the fact that there are always problems in moist and warm environments.
Every piece of food leftover or rogue feces can become a Mecca for various parasites and bacteria.
Then, you need to learn how to prevent cross-contamination. This is only a problem if you have multiple terrariums with several reptile species that can transmit parasites between each other. If that’s the case, always wash your hands thoroughly or use disposable gloves when switching from one species to another.
Also, monitor your reptiles daily to identify mite infestation in time. This allows you to quarantine the infected one and exercise extra caution to prevent contaminating the rest.
Can Mites Kill a Crested Gecko?
Yes, they can. The main danger is associated with a severe infestation, leading to excessive blood loss and anemia. The gecko will lose weight and experience nutrient deficiencies due to the parasites consuming its nutrient-rich blood. If the infestation is advanced, the gecko can die within days.
Another common danger is the passing of blood parasites and even diseases from one gecko to another. This particularly worries people with more than one crested gecko in the terrarium.
Are Reptile Mites Dangerous to Humans?
Reptile-specific mites aren’t transmissible to humans, generally speaking. However, there have been reports of skin irritations caused by organisms from the Ophionyssus genus.
The parasite may not infest the gecko but can transmit diseases and cause infections due to creating open wounds. It’s best to prevent that by using gloves when handling mite-infested geckos.
Parasite mites are uncommon among single-gecko owners because the gecko has no way of getting infected in the first place. Unless you take your gecko out for a walk, of course. Even so, it pays off to exercise caution and always monitor your gecko for signs of infection.
Like always, good enclosure hygiene and regular maintenance are key to keeping your gecko healthy and happy.