Bacteria In The Blood in Reptiles

By PetMD Editorial on Jul. 24, 2008


Septicemia is a bacterial infection of the blood, and it is a commonly diagnosed disease in reptiles. The bacteria can spread to multiple organs throughout the body and cause widespread damage and death if not treated aggressively.

Symptoms and Types

Typical symptoms of septicemia include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Lethargy
  • Convulsions or seizures
  • Weakness or an inability to move
  • Loss of muscle control
  • Patches of red or purple discoloration on the skin or shell


Bacteria can enter a reptile’s bloodstream through localized infections, traumatic injuries, and parasite infestations. Reptiles that live in dirty environments, are fed improperly, do not have access to appropriate temperature and humidity levels, or are otherwise stressed, are at much greater risk for developing septicemia.



A veterinarian will often diagnose septicemia based on an animal’s symptoms, a physical exam, and blood work.


Treatment for septicemia includes systemic antibiotics, providing the sick reptile with an especially warm basking site, and fluid therapy and nutritional support as it recovers.

Living and Management

With prompt and aggressive treatment, many animals with septicemia can recover. Reptiles should be taken to the veterinarian as soon as they become sick or injured because they are very good at hiding the severity of their disease. A reptile that only looks a little “off” may be much sicker than it appears.


Proper husbandry including regularly cleaning and disinfecting your reptile's terrarium, parasite control, and preventing injuries will help prevent most cases of septicemia.

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