Blue Tongue Skink Respiratory Infection – Causes, Symptoms, Treatment
Blue tongue skinks are hardy animals. However, even they can suffer with some health problems such as respiratory infection. Normally, Blue tongue skink respiratory infection is the result of low temperatures or poor husbandry and the most common symptom is sneezing.
Catching respiratory infection early on plays a big role in how quickly your skink will recover.
In this article, we are looking at the following topics that will help you find all the information you need to spot the disease early:
- What is Blue tongue skink respiratory infection and is it common
- Blue tongue respiratory infection – causes
What Is Blue Tongue Skink Respiratory Infection And Is It Common?
A common health problems in reptiles is respiratory infection. Blue tongue skinks are no exception. A respiratory infection is also known as RI/URI. This is basically pneumonia in reptiles that is caused by a bacterial infection in the lungs.
Although, Blue tongue skink respiratory infection is quite common, the good news is that is treatable. Even better, it’s easily preventable through small changes in the skink’s care routine.
Respiratory Infection – Causes
Before treating Blue tongue skink infection, it’s important to know what has caused it. If the cause of the disease is not corrected, it will only slow down the treatment and the infection will most likely strike again.
With that said, the causes for Blue tongue skink respiratory infection include:
- Incorrect temperature levels – if too cold, the skink can develop respiratory infection
- Incorrect humidity levels – too high or too low can be equally damaging to your skink’s health
- No temperature gradient can also result in respiratory infection
- Dirty tank – unclean environment can result in bacteria growth and illness
- Vitamin or Mineral deficiency
- Prolonged stress due to the tank kept at a single temperature
Another indirect cause for Blue tongue skink respiratory infection is poor diet. This can lead to low immune system which prevents the body to fight off infections. In addition, prolonged stress exposure can also lower the immune system and make your skink more prone to infections
The main cause for Blue tongue skink respiratory infection is low temperatures in the tank. As these lizards are cold blooded, sudden changes in temperatures such as moving them from a warm to a cold environment or the lack of temperature gradient in the tank can result in respiratory infections.
Blue Tongue Skink Respiratory Infection – Symptoms
In terms of diagnosing Blue tongue skink respiratory infection, it’s essential to know what symptoms look out for such as:
- Sneezing and runny nose
- Excessive salivating
- Heavy breathing such as huffing noises and open mouth breathing
- Lack appetite
- Mouth bubbles such as mucus and froth. In some cases, eye bubbles
- Puffy appearance, swollen body (check picture above)
- Raising head to be able to breathe and open mouth breathing
- Scabby lips
- Watery eyes
Establishing if your Blue tongue skink is in fact suffering from respiratory infection is not as easy. Sometimes, your skink will make noises whilst breathing such as clearing out their throat or even sneeze. This is a perfectly normal behavior.
However, the only way to be sure if your skink is suffering from a respiratory infection is to observe their breathing over the course of few days. If your skink’s breathing remains irregular and they continue to sneeze or display any of the listed symptoms, it can be in fact a respiratory infection.
With this type of disease, it’s important to treat quickly as it tends to spread very quickly and your skink’s health can deteriorate rapidly.
Blue Tongue Skink Respiratory Infections – Treatment
If your Blue tongue skink is suffering from respiratory infection, the good news is – when caught early and with the right treatment, the infection will clear up in a few days.
Usually, treatment for Blue tongue skink respiratory infection is antibiotics prescribed by a vet. However, you can help your skink recover by doing the following at home:
- Increase the temperature
- Include additional supplements
- Change the water in their water dish
- Clean the tank
- Strip down the tank
- Quarantine any tank mates
If you suspect that your skink is suffering from respiratory infection, you should take them to a reptile vet.
It’s important to be honest with your vet, so they can establish what’s caused the infection. This is important because the source of infection will be removed from your skink’s habitat and prevent re-infection.
Normally, the treatment for Blue tongue skink respiratory infection is a course of antibiotics and anti inflammatory medicine.
The antibiotics will kill the bacteria that’s causing the respiratory infection. However, it’s important to note that antibiotics also kill the good bacteria in your skink’s body. Another side effect is lack of appetite and weigh loss.
Therefore, whilst taking the antibiotic, you should also work to improve their immune system and overall health. This can be achieved through combination of good hydration, nutritious diet and supplements such as probiotics – NutriBAC df or ProBio+.
As your skink’s appetite will be lacking whilst being ill, you can administered water, food and supplements through the use of a syringe (no needle) or hand fed.
Increase The Temperature
If your skink is suffering with respiratory infection, you should increase the temperature slightly to help them fight off the disease. Furthermore, warmer temperatures will increase the antibiotics effectiveness.
The basking area should be kept at 105ºF and the cool area – 80ºF. Whereas, during the night the temperature should be between 70ºF and 80ºF.
You can achieve higher temperatures through the use of a ceramic heat emitter or even a space heater that’s placed in the same room.
Ensure you are using a thermometer to track the temperature and a hygrometer for the humidity. Tracking it is important as you don’t want to cause them unnecessary stress by making it too hot or too humid.
Include Additional Supplements
During the illness, you can include extra food supplements. This will improve your skink’s immune system and help them fight off the disease.
Change The Water In Their Water Dish
As Blue tongue skinks enjoys soaking in their water dish, you should ensure the water temperature is always kept lukewarm and not cold.
This can help your skink feel warmer when soaking and also reduce the sudden change of temperature which could have caused the infection in the first place.
Clean The Tank
One of the causes for Blue tongue skink respiratory infection is dirty habitat. Therefore, to help your skink recover you will also need to eliminate what’s causing the problem in the first place.
Clean the tank thoroughly by using a reptile disinfectant, such as Zoo Med Wipe Out 1 Terrarium Cleaner. This will clean the tank and reduce the spread of bacteria.
Strip Down The Tank
After you’ve cleaned the tank, the next step will be to strip it down to the bare necessities such as:
- Water and food dish
- Paper towels or no substrate
- Basking rock/log
Remove any decorations until your skink recovers.
Quarantine Any Tank Mates
As Blue tongue skink respiratory infection are highly contagious, it’s important to separate all tank mates.
This will reduce the risk of spreading and re-infection. The quarantine period for each tank make should be for up to 3 months.
Blue Tongue Skink Respiratory Infection – Prevention
Health issues such as Blue tongue skink respiratory infection are easily preventable. Even if your skink has recovered, they can get re-infected if no preventive measure have been put in place.
To ensure your skink doesn’t develop any future health problems, ensure the following is in place:
- Temperature and humidity are correct levels – 90°F to 100°F (warm side of tank) 75°F to 82°F (cool side). On the other hand, the humidity should be kept between 40% to 60%. Too much humidity can result in health problems
- Provide temperature gradient – don’t keep the tank at a single temperature as it can result in respiratory infection
- Good exposure to both heat and light. Very little sunlight can make your skink sick
- Cleanliness. Keeping your skink’s tank clean is essential for their health. You should spot clean daily and deep clean the tank minimum once a month. To clean and disinfect, you can use a reptile friendly spray
- Correct diet. Feeding your skink a well balanced and nutritious diet will ensure they stay healthy and happy. Learn more on what is the perfect Blue tongue skink diet here
- Supplements are important for your skink’s health. You need to ensure that your skink’s insects are getting dusted with D3 and calcium. Furthermore, they should be given vitamin A supplements to avoid developing vitamin A deficiency. Recommended brands include Fluker’s Repta Vitamin Reptile Supplement, a multivitamin
- Ensure you provide UVB lighting. Read more on this topic, here Do Blue Tongue Skinks Need UVB? UVB Light Tank Setup
Just by providing your skink with a nutritious diet and clean enclosure, you’ll be increasing their immunity and reducing their chances of an infection.
Although, Blue tongue respiratory infection is quite common, it’s also treatable and easily preventable.
The key to quick recovery is being able to recognize the symptoms of the infection and act quickly.
Usually, the treatment of Blue tongue respiratory infection include a course of antibiotics. However, there are many things you can do at home to help you skink recover such as giving them probiotic, extra supplements, increasing the temperature and thoroughly cleaning their tank.
A good understanding of respiratory infections in blue tongue skinks is the best way to reduce risk and prevent your skink from suffering with this condition.
Even when recovered, your skink can still get re-infected with respiratory infection. To prevent this from happening, you must ensure their care routine and overall husbandry is up to a high standard.
Related Topics Q&A
What To Include In A Blue Tongue Skink Tank Setup?
Unlike other reptiles such as geckos, Blue tongue skinks’ tank doesn’t need as many decorations. They are not big on climbing, so you won’t need countless logs and vines to keep them happy.
However, you’ll need a safe substrate, basking rock or log, appropriate water dish for them to soak in aswell as drink, heat lamp and UVB light.
Read more on this topic here Blue Tongue Skink Tank Setup – Step By Step Guide
What Can Blue Tongue Skinks Eat?
Feeding your Blue tongue skink a well-balanced and nutritious diet is essential to their health. Incorrect diet can result in many health problems such as respiratory infection and metabolic bone disease, also known as MBD.
In the wild, skinks are opportunistic eaters and omnivores. Their diet consists of both plants and animal products.
When kept as pets, similar to their diet in the wild, they should be fed 50% greens and vegetables, 40% animal products, and 5-10% fruits.
To learn more about skink’s diet, continue reading here