Praziquantel is the only drug shown to be effective and safe for use in reptiles with tapeworms or flukes.
Cestode parasites are more commonly known as tapeworms, and trematode parasites are more commonly known as flukes. Praziquantel is the only drug that has been shown to be effective and safe for use in reptiles to treat these parasites.
Praziquantel is a prazino-isoquinoline derivitive that is the current treatment of choice for cestodes and trematodes. This is a very versatile drug, as it can be given PO, SC, or IM.
The mechanism of action against cestodes isn’t entirely known, but it appears to impair the suckers and stimulate motility of the tapeworm, which serves to dislodge the worm. Irreversible focal vacuolization and disintegration at specific sites of the tapeworm’s integument (destruction of the outer membrane) is likely the cause of death. Trematodes appear to be directly killed by creating an influx of calcium into the worms.
Praziquantel is dosed at 5–8 mg/kg PO, SC, or IM once, then repeated in two weeks. Praziquantel has a very wide margin of safety in mammals but should be used in reptiles only with great care and in doses calculated on accurate weights. Doses greater than 20 mg/kg have caused seizures in ball pythons (R. Monheim 1993, pers. comm.) and reticulated pythons (Klingenberg 1994). The main caution is to avoid use in extremely weak and debilitated reptiles.
Excerpt from the book Understanding Reptile Parasites by Roger Klingenberg with permission from its publisher, Advanced Vivarium Systems.