Reptiles are as susceptible to internal parasites infections as any other animal. Tongue worms are one type of parasite which can be seen in various reptile species. These worms are classified as pentastomes and were first diagnosed in poisonous snakes from the tropical climate.
Since the tongue worms can infect any tissue in the reptile’s body, the signs in the reptile will depend on the organ and tissue infected. However, pneumonia is commonly associated with these type of of infections.
If you suspect your reptile has tongue worms, it is important you take it to the veterinarian quickly for a diagnosis, as these parasites can also be transmitted to humans.
Your veterinarian will begin treatment by prescribing antihelminthic drugs. These drugs work by paralyzing or destroying the worms, but do not completely eliminate the parasites from the reptile’s body. As a follow up, the veterinarian may perform endoscopic surgery to locate the tongue worms inside the reptile’s body and mechanically remove them.
If the tongue worms infection cannot be treated, the veterinarian will advise terminating (euthanizing) the infected reptile to prevent the spread of infection to humans and other animals.