yellow fungus in bearded dragon
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Yellow Fungus in Bearded Dragon

Fungi are notorious for causing diseases in animals and bearded dragons are no exception. Most commonly the skin of the dragon is affected by the fungus. “Yellow Fungus in Bearded Dragon” Fungal infections are more prevalent in dragons who are in captivity. Yellow fungal disease (YFD) is the most in captive dragons because it causes yellow to yellow-brown skin color. Sometimes it is also called CANV after the name of the fungus that caused it, Chrysosporium anamorph of Nannizziopsis vriesii. But now it is believed that the most common cause of YFD in bearded dragons is  Nannizziopsis guarroi

Also read: Bearded Dragon Mouth Rot (Causes, Treatment, Symptoms)

Now bearded dragons become one of the most loved and adopted pets, so it is important to study the fungal diseases not only for the health of the dragons but also because they can be contagious to human handlers. With proper care, these infections could be avoided and with early diagnosis, these can be treated easily.

Causes

The major pathogens which might be responsible for the fungal infections in bearded dragons are fungi of the genera 

  • Nannizziopsis
  • Paranannizziopsis
  • Ophidiomyces

The primary pathogen responsible for “yellow fungus disease”, an emerging disease in reptiles is

  • Chrysosporium anamorph of Nannizziopsis vriesii (CANV).

These fungal infections are contagious and can be easily transferred from one animal to other. Most of the affected dragons get diseases from other affected dragons. Young bearded dragons are more susceptible to fungal infections than older dragons. Fungal spores are also spread by air. So, there are the following ways of spreading the infection

  • By direct contact with fungi
  • By contact with other affected dragons
  • By contaminated cage
  • By air

Fungal infections in the dragons are associated with stress, often seen in dragons kept in crowded environments and unsanitary conditions. It is often seen in those dragons which are present in groups, raised in groups, shipped in groups, or displayed for sale in groups.

It is also believed that injured dragons are more susceptible, especially those with injured toenails, and minor bite wounds associated with dragons under crowded conditions result in damage to the skin which provides an opening for the fungus to infect the dragon. Fungal infections of the dragons are regarded as opportunistic, caused by saprophytic organisms, and often associated with

  • Inappropriate environmental conditions
  • Poor nutrition
  • Immunosuppression.

Symptoms

The early symptoms of fungal infection are

  • Shedding of scales.
  • Roughened appearance.
  • poor appetite
  • weight loss
  • Itching 
  • Dull appearance 
  • Stressed

At beginning of the disease, shedding is slow but in some dragons, it may result in a shedding storm where the dragon seems to be shedding all the time. But with time, infection becomes devastating and some serious symptoms begin to appear

  • Small yellow to brown crust on the surface of a few scales.
  • Well-demarcated dark yellow-to-brown focally extensive ulcers on the Palmer and dorsal aspect of the legs.
  • The underlying skin becomes thickened.
  • severe orthokeratotic hyperkeratosis with multiple underlying extensive ulcers.
  • granulomatous dermatitis which often extends into underlying muscle and bone causing myositis and osteomyelitis.

Diagnosis 

Mostly, the fungal infections in bearded dragons are difficult to diagnose. Fungal infections in most cases remained underdiagnosed as they are often difficult to clinically differentiate from bacterial infections, which are more common. A skin infection may or may not be a fungal infection. For a more accurate diagnosis take the help of a laboratory. The key to diagnosis is skin biopsy and culture.

You may also read: MBD in Bearded Dragons (Treatment, Signs, and Causes)

It is important to keep in mind that the fungal infections are difficult to identify on culture as they may be confused with other microorganisms. Therefore, it is important to inform the laboratory of any suspicion of fungal infection when submitting a biopsy for culture. For the tentative diagnosis history of illness is an important factor.

Treatment

The use of antifungal drugs is common for the treatment of fungal infections in bearded dragons. But these infections are the result of a poor immune system and unhygienic conditions, so along with using antifungal drugs use of immune boosters is also necessary. Most commonly used antifungal drugs are

  • Voriconazole
  • Amphotericin B
  • Terbinafine
  •  Itraconazole

These antifungal medicines are mostly in paste form. This paste is need to be applied with help of a cotton swab carefully. But before applying the paste debridement of the affected area is needed. As a result of fungal infections, the crust is formed which needs to be removed because the dead skin contains a fungus that is out of reach of the antifungal medication given to the dragon. Systemic antifungal drugs are also available in the market which can either be given orally or could be administered to muscle.

Home Remedies

If the disease is in its early stages, it can be managed at home by giving the dragon immune boosters and a proper hygienic environment. At the start of infection, you can also use mild antifungal creams at home but if the condition becomes worse then spot self-medication and call the veterinarian.

Advice 

As these infections are the result of poor nutrition, low immunity, poor hygienic conditions, and poor management. Always give your pet a healthy and nutritionally balanced diet. Give him immune boosters. Keep its environment especially its cage clean. Most importantly, if any affected dragon comes in contact with your dragon then immediately disinfect the cage of your pet and bathe your pet. If the disease begins to start then call your vet. If the dragon shows any symptoms of developing a fungal infection then immediately 

  • Isolate your pet from other pets.
  • Quarantine it.
  • Call the veterinarian.

FAQs

Q):- What does bearded dragon fungus look like?

A):- The classical appearance of an N. guarroi infection is a crusty yellow lesion, and it is sometimes called “yellow fungus disease.”

Q):- How do reptiles get fungal infections?

A):- Reptiles get these infections

  • By direct contact with fungi
  • By contact with other affected dragons
  • By contaminated cage
  • By air

Q):- How do I treat fungal infections in bearded dragons at home?

A):- By providing immune boosters and a hygienic environment, the condition becomes better, but if it goes on spreading then call the veterinarian.

Q):- Are fungal infections zoonotic?

A):- Humans also get fungal infections but the spreading of fungal infections from the dragons to humans has not been studied yet. But if your beard has a fungal disease then take precautionary measures.

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