Mites, like ticks, are eight-legged bloodsucking organisms. They carry and transmit diseases from one reptile to another. Mites can usually be found roaming the body, tucked under the edges of scales and congregating around the eyes, ears, and any place on the body where the scales are thinner. If you can see them from about three feet away, or your hand comes away with several mites on it, then you have a severe infestation. Beardies who are moderately to severely debilitated may require fluids and nutrient supplementation to help restore fluid balance and provide energy for rapid recovery.

Mites are difficult to kill because the chemicals that we use to kill mites will also kill the Dragon. Mites can be drowned, but if you are not careful, the mites can just scurry up the Beardie's body and emerge from the water, hanging out around the eyes and nose. Favorite hiding places of mites include the neck folds, head, armpits and ears. Some Beardies will let you fully submerge them in water and some may have to have water poured heavily or sprayed over their heads and necks to flush away the mites.

In my opinion, the mite treatment products available at pet stores are ineffective. There is no easy way to get rid of mites. It requires a two-phase attack: you must aggressively treat the environment as well as the reptile. Another problem with eradication attempts is that many people think that simply cleaning and disinfecting the environment will eradicate the mites. It won't. It will get rid of the loose feces and may wash away many of the exposed mites. It will disinfect the bacteria left behind where the mites were squashed or defecated. It will likely not kill the nonfeeding morphs, larvae, and laying females hidden away in deep crevices.

To treat an infected Dragon, first place him in a warm, shoulder-deep bath of diluted Betadine (povidone-iodine): add enough Betadine to water to make it the color of medium tea. Pour the bath water over the lizard, being careful around the eyes. The water will flush most of the mites off and drown them while the Betadine, a topical antiseptic, helps treat all the mites' bites. You may wish to bathe the lizard in a plain water bath first to allow it to drink first, adding the Betadine after it has done so. If the Beardie defecates in the water, drain the tub, clean it, and draw a fresh Betadine bath.

While the enclosure is being fumigated, remove the soaking Beardie from the tub or holding area. Saturate a clean soft cloth in diluted Betadine and run it around the joints between their legs and body, through the folds of skin around the neck, jowls, and dewlap. Use a cotton-tipped swab to apply the diluted Betadine around the eyes and nose. Do not put the medication into the Beardie's eyes.

Let the Beardoe soak again in a fresh, warm water, or rinse it off and keep it in a warm place until the tank is done. If the reptile is badly chewed up by the mites, more Betadine should be added to the water and these medicated baths should be repeated at least every couple of days while the bites heal. Watch the Beardie and check the tank carefully for the next two months. If there is any reappearance of the mites or traces of mites (such as their ashy feces), repeat the above procedure. If you don't see a reappearance, you may wish to repeat the procedure in 6 weeks just to make sure that you have caught all the eggs, especially in a wooden tank.

To clean the tank: remove and dispose of all the substrate in the beardies enclosure (bag it in a plastic garbage bag and get it out of your house). Vacuum the inside of the enclosure thoroughly, especially in the angles of the walls. If the tank is made of wood or ungrouted melamine, lightly scrape the inside angles with the edge of a blunt knife, then vacuum again. You are trying to get up all the loose eggs, mites and mite feces (the white dust in the bottom of the tank).
If you have a glass or Plexiglas tank, wipe all surfaces down with hot soapy water. Wooden enclosures may be sprayed with soapy water. Remove all soap residue. For good measure, take the time to thoroughly disinfect glass tanks by swabbing them down with a bleach-water solution (1/2 cup bleach per gallon of water), let the solution sit for ten minutes, then thoroughly rinse out the bleach residue. Disinfecting does not kill the mites, it's purpose is to kill potentially harmful organisms that may be spread around by the mites.

If you have wooden cage furnishings such as branches, caves, or rocks, bake them in the oven, set at 200-250º F for 2-3 hours (depending on thickness, and longer at the lower temperature); check on them during this time to make sure they do not start to scorch or burn. Rocks may be boiled, completely submerged, for 20-30 minutes. If the wood or rock furnishings are too big to place in the oven or in a pot, soak them in a bucket or bath tub in a solution of bleach and water (use one half cup bleach for each gallon of water) for eight hours or so, to thoroughly saturate into crevices. Rinse thoroughly, spraying fresh water into all the crevices, until they are well saturated and flushed free of any bleach residue. Let dry thoroughly, preferably in the sun, for at least 24 hours. Wash all bowls with the bleach-water solution, rinse well and let air dry. If you have heating pads inside the tank, unplug and remove them. Clean with soapy water, rinse off the soap, then spray them down with the bleach-water. Let them sit for at least ten minutes, then rinse clean and set aside.
Disconnect all light fixtures and wipe them down with a damp cloth to remove any adventuresome mites and their feces.
Take a "No-Pest" strip (Vapona strip) or cat flea collar out of the package and place onto a piece of foil on the floor of the enclosure. Leave a bit still inside the packaging so that you can slide it back in when done. If the enclosure is a large one, you may need to set out several such strips or collars. If using a flea collar, stretch it out. You may need to cut them into pieces to prevent it from curling up again when you let go of the ends. Close the tank and seal it up as air-tight as possible to keep the toxic pesticide fumes inside the tank where they are needed. Cover large, screened areas and ventilation panels or holes with waste paper or plastic, taping it in place. Tape over the seams and any gaps between the doors and tank. Leave in place for three hours, longer for large enclosures. Vacuum all around the enclosure and wipe down any cabinets, etc. If there are any curtains on windows near the tank, check them carefully for mites, too. Either vacuum or, if heavily infested, take them down and place immediately into large plastic garbage bags, seal the bags, and take to the cleaners. When done vacuuming, immediately dispose of the vacuum's bag in the garbage outside your house. When the time is up, unseal the tank, dispose of all the paper, tape, and strips or collars into a plastic bag for immediate disposal into the trash. Leave the tank open and air it out for several hours. If possible, open a window in the room and turn on a fan to help air out the fumes. The fumes may be undetectable to you but not to your Beardie, so you want them flushed out of the environment.

Put new substrate and any new furnishings into the enclosure. Simple substrates, such as paper towels, are best used for the next couple of weeks. This will enable you to easily see if additional mites have hatched or migrated into the tank from the surrounding area. Drapes and upholstered furnishings near heavily infested reptile tanks should be checked and, if necessary, removed for thorough cleaning. Replace the water bowl, hide box, into the tank. Reinstall and turn on the heating and lighting, warm the tank back up, and place the beardie back inside.


This information should be used only as a reference tool and should not be used in place of vet assistance. My views and opinions are the result of hours of dedicated research. But remember, I am not a professional. If you have a sick beardie and don't know what to do, don't play God, take him to the vet immediately.
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