Reptile Ectoparasite Health Terms Glossary

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Reptile Ectoparasite Health Terms Glossary

Bonus content from the September 2010 REPTILES magazine article "Scourge of Skin."

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Anemia – Below-normal, red-blood cells. Can be caused by blood loss from heavy ectoparasite loads.



Anorexia – Loss of appetite. This is a common presentation for many problems in reptiles of which parasite infestations is one possible cause.

Antiparasitic – An agent that kills parasites.

Ataxia – Loss of muscular coordination as might be observed with insecticide toxicosis.

Carrier – An animal that harbors a disease organism without showing signs of disease. Mice, rats and people can act as carriers of snake mites, bringing it from one cage to another, but will not become infected by the mite.


Commensal – A parasitic organism that causes no harm to the host.

Cutaneous – Of, belonging to, or involving the skin.

Ectoparasite – A parasite living on the outside of another organism. Also called external parasites. Ticks and mites are examples of ectoparasites.

Endoparasite – A parasite living within another organism. Also called internal parasites. Roundworms and tape worms are examples of endoparasites.


Gular – Of or pertaining to the throat. Mites can often be found along the gular fold, a skin fold along the throat of some snake species.

Heartwater disease – A disease of ruminants caused by the organism Cowdria ruminantium. Tick species found on several African tortoise species can transmit this organism.

Host – An organism that harbors and provides sustenance for another organism.

Inclusion Body Disease – A viral infection affecting boas and pythons. Snake mites have been implicated in the transmission of this disease. Symptoms include “star gazing” behavior, seizures and death.


Insecticide – An agent that kills insects.

Paramyxovirus – A group of viruses infecting a wide variety of mammals and reptiles. Snake mites have been implicated in the transmission of the ophidian paramyxovirus. Symptoms range from none to anorexia, loss of muscle control and death.

Parasite – An organism that lives in or on another organism to obtain some advantage.


Quarantine – The act of isolating individuals for purposes of examination and for the duration of the incubation period of most diseases from which they may have been exposed.

Reservoir Host – An animal that provides a parasite with a suitable environment and serves as a source of infection to other animals.

Toxicosis – Any disease due to poisoning.

Stress – A condition in animals in which physiologic effects reduce resistance to disease. Stress may lead to much higher parasite load.


Vent – The external opening of the cloaca, a common chamber for the passage of feces, urine and reproductive material. Ectoparasites can sometimes be found around the vent.

Zoonoses – Diseases that may be transmitted to man from animals.

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