Parasites: Can they be prevented?

I have never had a problem with any parasites (Thank God!)
However, hypothetically would a terrarium that has artificial plants have a less likelihood for the chameleon to develop parasites than a fully planted terrarium?

My logic being that the plants can hold bacteria, especially if the chameleon manures on the plants/soil. This can potentially later develop into parasites, correct?

I was thinking that even though live plants are a much better option for the chameleons physiological/psychological health. Maybe artificial plants/vines/trees are cleaner in terms of the chameleon/cage health and sanitation.

Can anyone please share their experience or advice, if anything I'm saying could be true. Because if it is I may possibly replace my live plants with artificial ones, just for extra precautions.

-PS: I understand that live plants hold humidity for longer periods of time. But my cages are hybrid-breeder cages from dragon strand: keeping humidity hasn't been easier.
 

nightanole

Chameleon Enthusiast
Nope. The parasites come from the prey. Either the prey came with parasites, or it was introduced via feedings or even just being there.

What you are saying is illogical. The cham cant infect itself. Either the cham is infected, in which case its poop would have parasites that would infect the prey, and in turn infect other chams if they ate the prey. But the cham cant infect itself with its own poop.

A parasite has its own life cycle. It has to infect a bug, have a host eat the bug, live and make eggs inside of the host, and have the host poop out eggs/larva to infect more bugs. Very few parasites can go from host to host without a live transport.
 

Lathis

Chameleon Enthusiast
Another thing to note: Not all parasites require a third-party host - called a "vector". Depending on the parasite, a chameleon can RE-infect itself after treatment if the parasite can survive on cage accessories that come in contact with fecal matter, which then comes in contact with drinking water. Many parasites can survive in the environment for weeks or months, laying dormant or as eggs or larval cysts waiting for a new host. Many chameleons also carry a natural parasite load that is kept in check by their immune system - sickness, bad cage hygiene, or poor nutrition could depress the immune system and allow the parasites to "over populate". Hence the importance of regular fecal checks, even when your cham is healthy.

Cage cleanliness is very important for interrupting the parasite life cycle. Neither natural or artificial plants are going to be "better" for this, in my opinion - both can be difficult to properly sanitize. I'm going through this right now with my Jax. In combination with anti-parasite medicine, I took down his entire cage to sterilize what I can and toss everything else. It's a lot of work. I have a huge pothos that I wanted to keep, but I am going to take cuttings and grow new vines.

I like natural plants for a lot of other reasons, too, including help with humidity. Having natural vines and branches to climb is important - plastic vines are never going to give you the variety of diameter and material density that a plant can - more natural for nail and foot health. Back when I had birds, I read a lot of information about the importance of perch variety/material and how it relates to overall health and mental wellness. I don't imagine that it is much different for arboreal lizards.
 
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jajeanpierre

Chameleon Enthusiast
Nope. The parasites come from the prey. Either the prey came with parasites, or it was introduced via feedings or even just being there.

What you are saying is illogical. The cham cant infect itself. Either the cham is infected, in which case its poop would have parasites that would infect the prey, and in turn infect other chams if they ate the prey. But the cham cant infect itself with its own poop.

A parasite has its own life cycle. It has to infect a bug, have a host eat the bug, live and make eggs inside of the host, and have the host poop out eggs/larva to infect more bugs. Very few parasites can go from host to host without a live transport.
I don't think you are quite correct. Many parasites have a life cycle that goes from shed egg to intermediate host before it finally ends up in the gut of the host. That intermediate host could very well be the chameleon itself.

Lots of parasites can go from the gut of the infected animal and reinfect the same animal. Sometimes they use the animal's own digestion to break out of the eggs. Other parasites can hatch in the environment and then pierce through the skin where they end up in the lungs and are swallowed. Others eaten as larvae which then pierce through the gut and end up in the lungs where they are swallowed. It all depends on the life cycle of the parasite involved.

I think cleanliness is the key--pick up immediately. I keep live plants although I am sure it has complicated everything. I regularly remove the top layer of the soil.

I've been working to eradicate a multitude of different parasites in my collection of newly imported wild caughts. My vet believes it will be a never ending process that I will only be able to control. She believes that I can eliminate them today, but at a later date the encapsulated parasites might hatch out and reinfect them. Of my 8 heavily infected animals, I now have only one that shows just a very few giardia. Her treatment has been curtailed by her being gravid at different times. Hopefully I can rid her of parasites with this final series of treatments.
 

fluxlizard

Avid Member
But the cham cant infect itself with its own poop.
this is not strictly speaking truth.

It is true, the original parasite has to come from somewhere external. But once the life-cycle is within the chameleon, the chameleon can and will re-infect itself with it's own poop. Happens all the time with lizards. Take pinworms as an example- the little cysts stick to everything when excreted from the poop. Let's say the lizard poops and the poop slides off a branch hits some leaves falls and onto the soil. Let's further say, you have pretty good husbandry and go along and pick that poop up, and your mister hits the branch and the soil. Some cysts are likely to remain even then- they are incredibly sticky. And then when you go and move your lizard a few days later, your hand brushes against the limb and leaves the poop was on and picks up a few cysts even though there is no longer any outward sign of poop and you have long forgotten it was there. Then you go and put your hand in the roach tub and some cysts brush off in there. Now you've got cysts in your roaches. These can spread them to other cages. Or you can directly when you go from cage to cage cleaning and feeding. And the cysts still on the branch and soil can be picked up on the lizard's tongue when he shoots it to catch a free-roaming insect crawling there. Or when he tongue flicks the branch.

So yes, the lizard can re-infect himself and the numbers of parasites within him will increase. Happens all the time. One reason you want to do your best to keep the cage clean- lessens the numbers and chances (but never eliminates them with normal husbandry). Dirty cages create possiblities of super infections of many parasites, including things like salmonella and coccidia etc. Especially when combined with poor husbandry so the lizard's immune system is compromised.

All that said, healthy happy lizards kept in reasonably clean conditions have an immune system that keeps a moderate level of parasites in check and prevents super-infections that have an noticeable effect on the lizard and require treatment. I use live plants and feel the benefit to the lizard psychology outweighs the disadvantages and risks. A healthy lizard well kept will benefit from the plants.
 
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