HomeAsk A Vet

Gecko Lizard Diagnosed With Cryptosporidiosis

Is there a cure for my reptile's ailment? I'd like a second opinion.

Lizard Eye Problems With Redness And Cloudiness
The Vet Report: Don’t Diagnose Your Herps Via The Internet. Find A Good Reptile Vet
Lizard Prolapse

I wrote you a month or so ago about the gecko with a possible liver disease. Since then we have found out that diagnosis was only partially true. While she does have a disease it is not just a liver disease. It is cryptosporidiosis.

My question is this. Do you know of any possible cures for this disease in geckos? Our vet, along with a specialist in this disease, have said it is incurable in geckos. Our only chance is that they (all three of our geckos have it now) rid themselves of this as they age and their immune system gets stronger. The problem is they are not eating as they should, and I am afraid they may not outgrow this at all.


Any information you can give would be greatly appreciated.

Cryptosporidium sp. is an apicomplexan single-celled protozoan organism. It has been diagnosed in many species of reptile and it usually colonizes the stomach mucosa, but may be found in other areas of the gastrointestinal tract. It can be difficult to diagnose due to fluctuations in the shedding of the oocysts in the stool.

It is true, especially in snakes, that some can be found harboring the Cryptosporidium organisms, and shedding oocysts intermittently for years, but not become clinically ill. Some may shed oocysts sporadically in the feces, and yet remain clinically healthy.

Others harboring the organism, unfortunately, usually suffer from weight loss, and may develop secondary bacterial infections in the GI tract. Snakes often regurgitate three to four days after ingesting prey.

This organism also occurs in mammals, and can cause great economic losses in calves and also causes serious problems in some AIDS patients. In mammals and birds, there has been some limited success in reducing the effects of cryptosporidiosis by the use of the medication, paromomycin (Humatin, Parke-Davis), given at the dose of 300-800 mg/kg PO every 24 hours, for as long as needed. This has been shown to reduce the clinical signs, but has not been shown to eliminate the organism.


In geckos, and other reptiles, cryptosporidia does not appear to be self-limiting (which is what I think your vet might have meant when he/she said that they might “outgrow” this infection). This is not likely to occur, especially if they are not eating well, which is not going to help the situation.

My advice to you is to keep your geckos’ stress level down as much as possible, treat any secondary infections and try to provide the highest level of nutrition possible. Keep them in strict quarantine and practice the best sanitation. While no evidence has been shown that this organism can be transmitted to humans, treat all infected animals as if they can possibly transmit something to you!

This is a truly crummy disease that we need to learn much more about, as it is widespread, insidious and is potentially fatal in herps. Because this disease is being studied in humans, as it is causing problems in HIV-positive and AIDS patients, much of what is being learned about the disease in humans will most likely be able to be applied to Cryptosporidium-infected herps.

Margaret A. Wissman, DVM, DABVP has been an avian/exotic/herp animal veterinarian since 1981. She is a regular contributor to REPTILES magazine.


Need a Herp Vet?
If you are looking for a herp-knowledgeable veterinarian in your area, a good place to start is by checking the list of members on the Association of Reptilian and Amphibian Veterinarian (ARAV) web site at www.arav.com. Look for DVMs who appear to maintain actual veterinary offices that you could contact.