Atadenovirus | My Bearded Dragon, and Adenovirus

Authored by Pete ‘The Guv’nor’ Hawkins: Chameleon Britain / Bearded Dragons Network / Snake Network

Atadenovirus (Adenovirus)

Adenovirus, A deadly virus that can lay dormant from birth.

Going back 10 years ago, I had a male Bearded Dragon. He was around 4 years old at the time if I remember correctly, I had him from a couple of months old. Throughout his life, in his yearly faecal tests, he’d always have something needing treatment. Coccidia, Flagellated protozoa, Yeasts. Also, due to these treatment’s, he was also on and off food for the majority of time. But I do know, one of the reasons he was always being treated for something, was due to the Atadenovirus. Because other possible causes like my vivaria hygiene, was all up to scratch (So I thought, more on this later), I was using various reptile safe disinfectants.

In his last year, he started to develop a slight head tilt. Which I didn’t really think much of. As it wasn’t noticed until he was walking about. And my Vet at the time was also not concerned. It wasn’t until the twitching started that I went to back my Vet again for advice.

He did tests on the blood. To check various vitamin levels, calcium levels, etc. I can’t remember off the top of my head what all of the results were. But looking back at my own notes in my personal Reptile journals, I have some info;

  • Blood Plasma Protein was all ok.
  • Elevated Lymphocytes (Due to infection)
  • White blood cell count was not right (again, due to infection)
  • Sodium and Potassium levels all ok.

It was clear he was having issues with what turned out to be constant secondary infections due to something more pressing.
This time around, another faecal was taken, and a swab from the mouth, and sent for tests. A couple of weeks later, the results arrived. It was then that we discovered

he was positive for Atadenovirus

What to look out for:

An Adenovirus positive Dragon will often have problematic issues regarding parasites. With medication often only suppressing the issues only for them to flare-up again shortly after.
Loss of appetite, sleeping more, diarrhea, or constipation. Even possible development of a swelling in the belly. Some dragons may develop more serious signs when older, from the virus spreading to the nervous system as my Dragon did. These signs include, Stargazing (Severe tilting of the neck to look straight up) and other neurological related issues.

Living with Adenovirus:

Adenovirus is highly contagious. It’s transmitted via contact; be it direct contact, meaning fecal-oral, as well as from contaminated items such as clothes, hands, and tools

Microscopic view of Adenovirus

Adenovirus under a microscope. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

To be honest, I knew little about it. Only hearing it mentioned in a couple of Reptile meetings. My Vet at the time knew very little also. So, we had to gather information from various sources. The majority coming from other Veterinary colleagues he knew. Over the coming weeks, it seems many people were providing remedies, potions, and tips to aid the problem. But it was all very clear, there was NO cure.

That was 10 years ago. To this day, there is no cure available. Thankfully, information is much better. With various “treatments” commonly used.

Contact and Hygiene

Adenovirus is a highly contagious virus. It can affect all reptiles, it’s transmitted via contact; be it direct contact, meaning fecal-oral, as well as from contaminated items such as clothes, hands, and tools. It’s vital that any Adenovirus positive Dragon is housed separately, and away from others (and other reptiles). Although they should be housed separate anyway being a solitary species.
If housed with another. Take the necessary steps of testing the other (others). I had to really go over and change my hygiene routines regarding my reptiles. I’d always used Reptile safe cleaners, washed my hands, etc. All the basics we know about. But there were certainly other things I was guilty of, which I overlooked.

As per a previous article of mine, here in The Reptile Apartment, “Cross Contamination”, things such as using the same feeding equipment for multiple reptiles, Returning uneaten bugs to the bug keeper. This I was guilty of in the past. I stopped instantly. I also started using a more ‘effective’ environment cleaner which was given to me by my Vet. Also luckily for me. My other reptiles at the time were fine. All tested negative in their years tests. I was very lucky.

I had to completely overhaul my cleaning/hygiene habits. I now follow a strict regime that has kept my reptiles safe, and serious illness free. I purchased separate feeding tongs for each reptile and labeled them. Uneaten bugs were/are disposed of properly, and not returned to the bug keeper.

Quarantine of any new reptile is vital. I quarantine for 3 to 6 months with new-comers, for any illness or Adenovirus signs.

Adenovirus and Keeping it Clean:

Luckily nowadays, there are things you can do to help your Dragon ‘live’ with Adenovirus. It’s certainly not the death sentence it once was. Yet, still incredibly dangerous. There are far more effective reptile safe cleaners available for starters. The pick of the bunch here in the UK being, F10SC Veterinary Disinfectant, and Pro-Rep ProTect, and Tamodine-E.

All very strong, yet safe when used at the correct dosage, of course you can buy it ready mixed too.

It’s something worth paying the extra bit of money for. The cheaper reptile cleaners just don’t kill anything of significance. Thus leaving your reptile at risk of illnesses. Also vital is hand and equipment cleanliness. You can use the above on any equipment, so that’s now covered. But for hands, I use F10 Antibacterial Hand Gel, as well and the F10 Hand Scrub.


A young ‘Stargazing’ Adeno positive Dragon. Courtesy of Google Images.

Quarantine of any new reptile is also vital. Worryingly, it’s so often overlooked by even keepers and breeders with many years experience. I quarantine for 3 to 6 months with new-comers, for any illness, or Adenovirus signs. This in-turn allows for treatments and measures to be made regarding the health and safety of ALL your reptiles.

Now, having spoken to many people regarding the Virus. Some who have experienced Adeno more recent than myself. Some who are dealing with it now. Some Vets, and I’d also like to give a special mention to Mary Pinborough. Founder of Pinmoore Animal Laboratory (PALs) here in the UK. It’s where most Vets, and owners of all types of animal, Including our Reptiles, send their faecal (poo) and blood samples for parasite/illness/virus testing. A valuable, and vital service.

I’ve had many chats with Mary about various things. But she gave me all the updated testing methods for Atadenovirus for this article. So only the facts are given. So, thank you, Mary.

Lots of treatments are used to help “manage” this virus. Many keepers and Vets alike swear they help, so I will list a few used. It’s all about helping the bodies immune system;

  • Colloidal silver. Just 0.5ml daily is said to kill 650 different pathogens, including bacteria, fungus and viruses. Boosting the immune system. Many use it orally with their Adeno dragon.
  • Bee pollen. Kills off harmful bacteria in the intestines. Contains a natural antibiotic and will help flush out toxins.
  • Vitamin C. Extra via Vitamin C rich Veg/Fruits to boost the immune system
  • Alfalfa. This herb is rich in protein, as well as vitamins A, C and K. Also packed with antioxidants and minerals.

Getting regular faecal and blood tests done Via your Vet, or Labs such as PALs, is vital, at least once yearly

It would be nice to eradicate the Virus completely with a Cure for our Dragons (and other reptiles). Hopefully that time will come. As always with things like this, although not a huge widespread problem. It quite easily could be. Being careless regarding hygiene won’t help at all. With the information available via your Exotic Vets, Internet, and of course, various articles (I hope, this one too), keepers now know what to lookout for. Getting regular faecal and blood tests done via your Vet, or Labs such as PALs, is vital. At least once yearly.

Keepers, You know your Dragons. Any unwarranted behaviors, go to your Vet without question.

Information and knowledge is key. So, share information. Help keep our Dragons and other Exotics safe.