Atadenovirus in Bearded Dragons
Atadenovirus is a viral infection most commonly seen in bearded dragons. It can cause inflammation of the digestive system, liver, kidneys, and nervous tissue as well as suppress their immune system. Common symptoms are loss of appetite and lethargy. Because it can affect the immune systems ability to fight infections, some may have problems recovering from other infections and illness or have recurrent problems with parasites. In rarer cases where the virus infects nervous tissue it may cause difficulty walking, controlling the limbs, or "star gazing" (constantly looking upward).
Treatment is aimed at supportive care during bouts of inflammation with hydration and assist feeding until they return to normal. Most dragons will recover with proper care, but rarely too much damage is caused by the virus and they do not recover. Those with neurological symptoms tend to end up with some degree residual effects and mild handicaps, but still can lead happy lives in most cases.
Most bearded dragons either hatch already infected with it from their mother or catch it at a very young age, but it can be contracted at any age. Once infected, they remain infected for life and can spread it to other lizards that aren't infected. Because of this we recommend positive animals either being an only bearded dragon or only live with others that are already positive. They should never be used for breeding. Many bearded dragons will go on to live perfectly normal lives, with possibly occasional bouts and flare ups of symptoms.
Given the health implications and contagious nature of this virus, we recommend all bearded dragons be tested. A DNA probe test called a PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) is the test of choice to determine if a bearded dragon is a carrier for this virus and it only requires a swab from the dragon's cloaca or feces.